Colour Carnival impress with sophomore EP ‘Panic Sold’

words fae Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)

Edinburgh-based psych rock outfit Colour Carnival are one of the more eclectic acts to emerge from Leith Recording Company in recent months. Whilst their debut Count The Flies puts out a feast of different sounds for listeners to gorge on, it felt at times that certain elements didn’t quite belong on the plate. Their latest EP, on the other hand, constitutes a significant step forward for the three-piece group in their effort to distill down a myriad of influences into a slicker, more cohesive package. Panic Sold glides between various styles in a manner which is not only effective, but begins to build the foundations of their very own unique sound.

Ready For This kicks off with a blistering drum intro and some neat, intricate clean guitar work before giving way to crashing cymbals and distortion. The rhythm section of Graeme Jarvie and Michael Stuart does a great job of controlling the ebb and flow, especially as the structure is fairly freeform; in fact, none of the tracks on the EP are really your bog standard verse/chorus affair. It’s encouraging to see that Colour Carnival’s songwriting is already fairly accomplished at this early stage of their career, by and large avoiding pitfalls such as repetitive melodies or tired indie rock cliches.

Moral Rachet continues to impress as it begins with jabs of jarring, dissonant guitar and weaving basslines as Simon Anderson takes aim at the hypocrisy of the gun lobby – “hit me with your moral ratchet / candle vigils, thoughts and prayers” – before bursting into life midway with an almost palpable release of tension, providing a wonderful contrast to the anxiety of the first half. It’s a sign that they’re able to experiment and incorporate the odd tastefully deployed guitar solo without giving off the impression it’s been thrown in ‘for the hell of it’.

Penultimate track Run Its Race suddenly takes the EP in a new direction, and is testament to the band’s ability to switch it up. There’s some really nice touches throughout – the guitar hook is pretty damn catchy, plus the seemingly innocuous synths during the verse actually work to great effect. It’s undoubtedly a highlight and you’d be hard pushed to find a better starting point for the curious or the uninitiated.

The step-up from debut to sophomore EP is marked, and if Colour Carnival continue on this trajectory, they’re looking like a very hot prospect indeed. Once they smooth out some of the rough edges production-wise, such as the occasionally muddled vocals, they look more than capable of serving up a slice of brilliance on their next outing.

‘Panic Sold’ is set to be released June 29th. You can listen to it and buy a digital copy here.

Track Review: Motion – Of The Night

By Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)

Scotland has something of a pedigree when it comes to post-punk. Two prominent indie labels, Fast Product in the capital and Glasgow’s Postcard Records, formed during the peak years of the movement spanning the late 70’s/early 80’s, not to mention a wealth of acts including Simple Minds and Cocteau Twins. It comes as no surprise, then, that some of the most compelling artists to emerge from the country in recent years happen to fall under that very same banner.

Enter Motion. The Edinburgh-based psych rock outfit proudly wear their influences on their sleeves, bonding over a shared love of The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Stone Roses. Make no mistake though, they’re out to forge their own legacy. Last year’s Motion EP relied rather heavily on the shoegaze template but it demonstrated plenty of promise and featured some solid tracks, particularly Everything – a marriage between Kitchens of Distinction’s wall of sound and the ominous basslines of Peter Hook.

Their latest single Of The Night isn’t a radical departure from the EP; instead, it’s a subtle evolution, one which begins to take them in a new direction. They’ve cleaned up the production, scaled down the reverb and in the process managed to set themselves down the path towards establishing their own sound. The vocal delivery is reserved, perhaps borderline deadpan, yet the guitar is summery and infectiously upbeat, meshing together to create a satisfying contrast of textures.

All three musicians are adept at laying down the foundations of a track, this much has been apparent since last year’s material – engaging melodies and tight drumming. Of The Night signals their first conspicuous effort to go further and introduce more diversity, more developments in between choruses. It always helps to have a killer riff to bounce off, though, and Band’s is truly an earworm; it’s safe to say it will hang around in your memory for a good while. One point worth mentioning is that, although not necessarily a negative, the lyrics are relatively straightforward. With time, though, their songwriting will surely continue to develop and greater expression will follow suit.

Album Review: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Murder of the Universe

By Rory McArthur (@RoryMeep)

Where to begin with this one? Coming hot on the heels of their impressive exploration into microtonal tuning, Flying Microtonal Banana, Australia’s longest band name have only gone and released their most ambitious, totally insane record yet – if you’re familiar with King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, you’ll know that that statement is not one to be taken lightly. Across the 10 albums of the bands ever-expanding discography, alongside the aforementioned micro-tonal experiment, you’ll find infinitely looping psych punk, blissed out jazz influenced projects, a narrated western themed album, surf rock, flute led folk, and even a song dedicated to Vegemite. Somehow not content with covering all this ground in little over 5 years, Murder of the Universe, Gizzard’s second 2017 release, sees them add 3 chapters and 21 tracks worth of apocalyptic doom psych to the mix. Colossal sounding, and more conceptual than ever before, the Aussies have concocted a truly unique addition to not just their own discography, but to the current music scene in general.

‘The Tale of the Altered Beast’ serves as our opening chapter, kicking the album off as it means to go on, with 20 minutes of frenetic fantasy punk. Some of the heaviest music the band have recorded to date curls around ominous narration from Melbourne singer-songwriter Leah Senior, working in tandem to tell the tale of the titular beast and his victims. The story is an unsettling one, weaving themes of temptation with outright sci-fi bombast to craft something truly menacing. Suitably, the instrumentation gives off a twisted vibe as well, lending the classic Gizzard freak-outs some added heft: synths sound chunkier, bass lines shimmer with pure electricity, and vocals from Stu Mackenzie stutter with arpeggiated intensity. The narration does occasionally get in the way of the music, but more often than not, this particular creative risk pays off handsomely.

Ramping up the fantasy a little, on chapter II the record takes a sharp and strange turn. Perhaps out doing the first chapter in terms of instrumental heft, the medieval chug of The Lord of Lightning provides MOTU with its undisputed centrepiece. A true ‘turn-the-speakers-up-to-11’ moment, the track is easily the most immediately arresting thing on the record, with usual Gizzard hallmarks wading through sonic swamps, slowing everything down occasionally to provide a truly devastating impact. The rest of the chapter is admittedly more of a slow burn though. Although not necessarily a criticism, the remainder of the tracks definitely require multiple listens, to really strip away the layers upon layers of sludge and appreciate the twisted fun of the narrative. Perhaps an extra track would not go amiss either, but the immersive darkness of the soundscapes created make for an enthralling listen regardless of faults. Plus there’s throat singing, and that’s just cool isn’t it?

By the time the third and final chapter rolls around, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the peak of the weirdness is behind you. But ‘Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe’ has other ideas. Sounding like the robot from Radiohead’s Fitter Happier joined a metal band, the chapter is sheer madness from start to finish. The sludgy sci-fi punk of Digital Black and Vomit Coffin play like tectonic plate movements given melody, cracking around the synthesised tones of the titular confused cyborg. Han-Tyumi, (an anagram of humanity, make of that what you will), is a little bit lost in the world, bless him, and soon enough decides that vomiting is the only way to regain his humanity. The result is an oddly gripping experience, likely to alienate some listeners, but equally as likely to inspire declarations of genius from fans. It brings the album to a close in appropriately dramatic fashion, leaving quite the impression long after Han-Tyumi sputters out his final ‘life and death / murder of the universe’, as he’s slowly swallowed up by the cacophony of sound.

So far so good then for Gizzard’s audacious five albums in a year plan; two albums down, two downright triumphs. MOTU is far from problem free, but all in all the sheer madness of the project makes it impossible not to admire. Each listen reveals hidden treats buried in the lo-fi production, dragging you back in every time you think you’re done. That said, it is certainly not an album for everyone. Some will undoubtedly feel a little short-changed, due to a lack of ‘proper’ songs and some of the more ambitious musical choices, but you really do get the impression that the people who dig this record will dig it, a lot. It’s really not difficult to picture particularly dedicated fans shooting homemade movies based on The Lord of Lightning vs. Balrog, and holding listening parties all dressed in wizards robes.

One can only guess at what lies ahead in the apparently jazz influenced follow-up release, Sketches of Brunswick East, but if it’s as unique and self-assured as this, we’ll be in for another treat of an album.

8/10


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Track Review: Motion – I Can Hear You Coming Closer

By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr

Chucking indie rock , dream pop and shoegaze into their filthy little cauldron, the Edinburgh based act Motion have finally came out their chambers to deliver their latest single I Can Hear You Coming, a track that is set to appear on their yet to be titled debut EP.

The band have been relatively quiet info, whether or not this is intentional or not is yet to be seen, with the only thing known about them is that they’re comprised of former Kitch members Paul Band and Robbie Thompson as well as Lee Shand. While they may be scare on details, their music does a fine job of speaking for Motion with I Can Hear… kicking off with an unmistakable Dandy Warhols meets DIIV vibe radiating off this glitzy, submerged intro.

https://soundcloud.com/motionmusichq/i-can-hear-you-coming-closer-1

As the track proceeds, the aforementioned shoegaze influence becomes more and more prevalent with the vocals just about being distinguishable from the tide of synths and effects that are going on alongside. Instrumentally, everything does the job just fine and carries the track over its 3 minutes and 33 seconds (pretty specific, I know) running time nicely though not much progression is made with things starting off just as they started – not so much a complaint, rather an observation that some might point out.

Overall, Motion make a more than decent attempt at putting their foot in the door and joining the shoegaze/dream pop hybrid that is slowly becoming more apparent in the Scottish music scene. Here’s hoping that as the band start to find their groove and settle in, further experimentation can be implemented to truly give their sound some oomph. 

6/10


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Album Review: The Weather by POND

By Rory McArthur (@RoryMeep)

Australia has evolved into heaven for fans of psychedelic music over the past few years. Tame Impala are headlining arenas, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are about to release their 10th album since 2012, and a plethora of other acts are churning out reliably satisfying tunes every other week. Due to this, its easy to overlook another band, one who have been reinventing themselves consistently since their first few records, prolifically producing quality music along the way. Pond are seen by many to be little more than a Tame Impala side project, but in truth, despite sharing a few members with their better-known mates, they have evolved into their own, equally talented entity. Their last two records, Hobo Rocket and Man It Feels Like Space Again, were both wonderfully disorientating triumphs, each worlds apart from the other sonically, yet united in their idiosyncratic charm. Following on from MIFLSA, the band plunges deeper into synth based songwriting on latest effort The Weather, producing a mixture of both funky, pop orientated songs, alongside a healthy dose of experimental oddities.

The album’s highlights provide some of the best music the band has produced thus far in their career, crafting a satisfying blend of lush synths, catchy melodies, and occasionally some soaring guitar parts that recall previous albums. Opener 30000 Megatons brings dramatically swirling textures into the mix, building in intensity beautifully until it all drops away and we’re treated to the brilliantly glammed up sounds of Sweep Me Off My Feet and Paint Me Silver. This trio of tracks goes to show that the band can easily move away from their more rock orientated comfort zone and still produce top quality music. The closing title track matches this quality, creating a mesmerising concoction of sparkly synths and fuzzed out guitar tones that end the record on a euphoric high note.

 

Sitting in-between these tracks though, is an expanse of experimental pieces, which, although intriguing, often come and go in a bit of a blur, proving difficult to get a hold on even with multiple listens. The experimentation has been noticeably upped when compared to the bands previous releases, and as a result, Pond have produced what is likely to be their most polarising work yet. Wonky saxophone solos pop up in Zen Automaton, with vocals often coming through filtered, distant, and faded, with Nick Allbrooks near ever-present falsetto echoing off far back into the mix after they first come through. Whereas the experimentation on previous records has generally produced satisfying results, unfortunately, the sheer amount of it going on here makes much of the record seem quite cluttered and difficult to grasp.

Granted, certain tracks such as Edge of the World, Pt. 2 do show their quality on repeat listenings, but nevertheless, there is still a fair bit to be desired from this aspect of the record. A prime example of this comes in the form of A / B. The track begins as a throwback to the band’s heavier sound of the Hobo Rocket era, nicely breaking up the slower, meandering tone of the record as a whole. Around a minute in though, it transitions rather messily into a totally incongruent piano section, leaving you to feel as if a decent track has been chopped up and spoiled, purely for the sake of experimentation. A few more underwhelming filler tracks come and go before the record finds it feet again at its climax, but the album still ultimately provides precious little music worth revisiting too many times.

Despite containing some of the bands best music to date then, Ponds latest effort is unfortunately a disappointment. By no means a poor record, it is a rather baffling one. On one hand it is a catchy, easy on the ears, synth led pop collection, and on the other, a disorientating jumble of too many experiments that never fully coalesce into a satisfactory whole. These two identities never really blend together cohesively, and as a result the finished product feels fairly underwhelming. MIFLSA is by far a superior showcase of their talent as far as synth-based music goes, and while definitely not suggesting the band has lost any of their unique charm, The Weather sadly provides far too few glimpses of it. Time may yet be kind to these songs, with multiple listens stripping away the layers of incoherence, but for now, it bears the unfortunate status of just being alright.

 

6/10


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ALBUM REVIEW: THIS OLD DOG by MAC DEMARCO

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

It’s easy to forget the dual nature of Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco: the smoking-like-a-chimney, drumstick in the ass quirky man-child has accumulated quite the fanbase over the duration of his career, falling in love with his smooth attempts at slacker rock, grated over with that trademark ape dinky charm. That’s not to insinuate that DeMarco has never crafted a serious track in his life, the underrated mini-album Another One explored love from multiple perspectives and Salad Days‘ emotive little gem ‘Let My Baby Stay‘ was a standout upon its release, but this mature songwriting always seems to be overshadowed by either some of his more experimental work or eccentric online and irl persona. 

On this topic of sensible songwriting, Mac seems to be finally setting into adulthood having just turned 27 last month, something he approached in classic fashion by announcing he was gonna be a father which shocked his now internet icon mother Agnes. Hell, he’s already bought his first house, a necessity after sharing his address at the end of My House By The Water (“a couple thousand people came to visit: we made a lot of coffee”).With this all in mind, it’s no surprise that fourth LP This Old Dog is his most mature to date, allowing some serious lyricism and songwriting to shine through, making for what is arguably his best work yet.

 

Don’t fret about having another white guy making another half-arsed political album about why Trump is bad and technology = not good though. As you’d expect from a slacker rock champion, DeMarco doesn’t really fret about this kind of area, not because he doesn’t care but because he doesn’t want to stick his nose in where it doesn’t belong. After all, we’re talking about the same guy who, after being asked about the fear of nuclear war, replied with “hopefully nuclear war doesn’t happen, that would really blow ass“, the closest we’ll ever get to a political opinion from the jizz-jazz pioneer.

Instead of looking outwards, Mac keeps his focus on himself and those around him which leads to some of the darkest subject matter he’s ever covered. With the album being lead by a single titled ‘My Old Man‘, it’s no surprise that This Old Dog touches on the topic of fatherhood though more the lack thereof. It’s so subtle though that you’d be forgiven for not realising it sooner though: on the aforementioned opener, our 20-a-day protagonist strums away while nervously observing that “I’m seeing more of my old man in me”, preceded by an uh oh which makes far more sense when you’re made aware that his dad was an alcoholic and addict of whom he knows very little about. My Old Man manages to scope out two vistas of the DeMarco music landscape, the “cracking a cold one with the boys” sunshine relaxing and the introspective mesmerisation, and merge them both together seamlessly.

This narrative comes to its conclusion on, well, the conlcluding track ‘Watching Him Fade Away’, a far more on the nose single which is the most stripped back song both in terms of instrumentals and subtlety: DeMarco has said this would be his equivalent of an acoustic album but lone synthesised pianos fuel this track, leaving the lyrics to fully shine and steal the spotlight. Weirdly enough though, Mac never gets truly soppy on this subject, outright saying “the thought of him no longer being around, well, sure it would be sad but not really different“. It would be easy enough to make some cheesy farewell to his father but with the album either exploring his actions, like on ‘Moonlight On The River’, or ones similar via Mac‘s stories, the heartache ofStill Beating, it thematically makes more sense to wrap the album up with a shrug of the shoulders rather than a grandiose weeping song.

Image result for mac demarco 2017

There’s more to This Old Dog than just being torn apart about being sad or indifferent to a parent dying. Via the trodden father route, DeMarco manages to explore this quarter-life style crisis, worrying about the present and future when having his focus shifted at the past: he may be a goofy character but This Old Dog sees Mac become very harsh with himself, criticising his appearance via the third person and comparing himself to someone he politely described as being “a piece of shit”.

The shortest track on the whole album yet possibly the most moving, Sister is another minamilstic song though one that acts as more of a tribute, in this case for Mac‘s half-sister Holly. Whether it be the seemingly intentionally eerie strumming or the emotion christened opening lines of “turns out not every dog has his day”, the track helps bring out a dark side to Mac‘s music that has always been brewing but has now been made fit for consumption.

Anyone who hasn’t been able to get on board with the acoustic musings of Canada’s sweetheart will probably not be converted: many of the foundations that DeMarco has built since 2 are still in sight though much of what’s been built on them are precisely built albeit bare in design. For an album solely lead, recorded and engineered by one man, This Old Dog does enough sonically to keep interest peaked though thematically and lyrically is where it shines. It’s still very much the same stoner demeanor that has made Mac such a star but covering more serious themes allows him to keep both camps satisfied.

It could soundtrack another alcohol fueled campfire gathering with some of its trademark stylings, just don’t be surprised if you end up a bit existential. 

8.5/10

Favourite album so far, Mac is back! Really love it and will be recommending it to lots! 8/10 – Will Sexton (@willshesleeps)


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TRACK REVIEW: Pretty Citizens – Lost Control

Pretty Citizens are a pretty solid jack of all trades kind of band, especially upon the first listening of their latest single Lost Control, set to release on April 22nd. Slick, shoegaze dipped and seductive as fuck, the up and coming Nottingham act furnish this track with a groove that wouldn’t go amiss on a Stevie Wonder record and tales of lust and love lost that culminates in a heavy feedback climax that brings the sexual tone of the song full circle.

There’s some pretty risque lyrics that are reminiscent of a young Alex Turner with ‘I saw your face in the ladder of her tights, they’re something beautiful to climb down at night’ being a standout one. “It’s probably our most immediate song. It doesn’t fuck about in getting the point across” is what lead guitarist Luke Watson had to say about Lost Control and credit where credit is due because the boy ain’t lying. Managing to craft a song that manifests a dark ambience around it this early in their career is a pretty good indication of what potential the boys hold in their psych-rock drenched hands.

Pretty Citizens press shot

Pretty Citizens
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Dan & Drum-Fixin Up Right TRACK REVIEW

In the world of music, sometimes it’s not just your sound that is important but your own public persona, something that can help change you from being just another white boy with a guitar into something else entirely. Take Mac DeMarco for example, a talented artist whose wacky, odd sense of humour and actions help to make him stand out from the norm while his music is there to cement the fact he deserves the attention he gets.

Humour can go a long way and I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a main factor that drew me in to Dan & Drum, a band from California that approached me via my tumblr with the promise of an unbreakable childhood bond and Dan in question getting a little turned on by the coverage. Out of all the emails I get, this one stood out and thankfully this humour wasn’t a tacky gimmick either as Dan & Drum are a delightfully laid back, chilled act who implement some rather weird sounds into their tracks that go hand in hand with the aforementioned weirdness.

Without sounding moronic, Fixin Up Right starts off with a charming albeit simplistic drum beat that along with the weirdly twinged guitars and almost Bon Iver vocal delivery though less draped in sadness and more perky and ambitious like Dan had downed one or twenty cups of coffee. Often it’ll go a bit creaky, maybe even out of tune but along with that odd guitar I mentioned, Dan And Drum seems to pride itself on its own peculiarity which makes recommending this act an easy job. Even if everything I’ve referred to puts you off, it’s worth checking out especially if any of the comparisons to Bon Iver and Mac DeMarco have peaked your interest at all.

Dan and Drum: Soundcloud | Facebook | Tumblr

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Mystery Jets – Curve Of The Earth ALBUM REVIEW

Staples of indie rock Mystery Jets return with a new psychedelic heavy sound but is it any good?

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The Horrors – Luminous review

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If I were to point out one aspect that The Horrors seem to excel at, it would have to be reinvention. When their debut Strange House emerged onto the scene, the Gothic sound of it that reeked of Robert Smith’s aura was laughed off by many music fans at the time however these same people immediately regretted doing so once their follow up Primary Colours appeared and was universally lauded by critics and fans alike, appearing with the bands brand new sound that lead many to compare their transformation to the likes of Primal Scream. The Essex boys have placed the technicolour psychedelia sound they’ve been perfecting from previous releases onto the operating table and have meddled with it for their fourth record Luminous and you’d be wrong to say they haven’t done so with some brilliant results.

Case in point? Take the track I See You, the first single the band showcased on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show, which radiates a sparkling disco sound that is dangerously close of echoing Simple Minds work. It would be a sure fire single if it weren’t for the track’s long run time but with an energetic 3 minute outro, no one’s complaining. In And Out Sight is another stand out track which features an intro Kavinsky wouldn’t mind adopting and has the pleasure of preceding Jealous Sun which features a strong bass throughout and showcases the band’s ability to shift from different tones throughout this record. Kudos to First Day Of Spring which, although may sound like a lost track from Skying, still fits in incredibly well into the album and sounds fantastic as well as emphasizing frontman Faris Badwan’s voice which has enough uniqueness to allow it to stand out.

If there’s any complaints that can be made it’s that some tracks can sound slightly similar though the same musical palette that the album draws its tracks from helps to create a nice flow which also highlights when the band are entering dark territory with it though this solely comes down to the listener’s perspective. In addition to this, Luminous gives off the vibe that the band are playing it a bit too safe. Even though there has been some slight changes to the sound, there haven’t been enough radical ones to help it feel entirely fresh.

When The Horrors aim for a sound, they more or less do well with it. Luminous, like Skying, shows that the band are capable of doing well with this psychedelic sound. The record’s 51 minute long length has some indie gems that’ll no doubt please fans of the band as well as new listeners. Let’s just hope next time the boys shake up their sound a bit more rather than let it settle.