31 August 2013

Prong - Cleansing

Some bands almost hit the big time and just fall short for some, Prong are one of those types of bands.  This was their fourth release back in 1993 and these guys were on fire.  Back story - formed back in 1986, these guys have been stated as influences on Nine Inch Nails, Demon Hunter and Korn.  Musically they were the link between Ministry and trash metal in my eyes, around the time this album was released these guys were being played all over MTV when it used to be a music channel and they were touring with Clutch, Sepultra and Pantera. They had everything going their way and it all went to pot on their next album - but that is a review about 'Cleansing', not the rest of their career. 

The amount of things that are going on in this album is unreal, it is mostly on the industrial and groove metal that it comes to the forefront.  Starting with the devastating "Another Worldly Device", it then goes up a notch with the brutal "Whose Fist Is This Any Way" with the band sounding like a machine and just when you think it could not get any better they play their trump song "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck".  The power of this trio was just unbelievable.  Even after 21 years it is still one of the most amazing metal opening I have had the pleasure to listen to - even if it is slightly too strong for the rest of the album to cope with, my god is it still a powerful statement of intent.

But this is not to say that the rest of the album is not a quality release, it is just that the beginning of the album is so majestically and sonically amazing that the rest of album is just a shadow in some ways, but what a shadow it is.  The pounding and menacing entrance of "Not Of This Earth" with the almost perfect marriage of shredding and bass/drum combo, also added with the bruiser that is "No Questions" and you have an amazing record which struggles to get out of its own beginnings.  Growing up I love this album and got frustrated with it in equal measures.  The start of the album (as great as it is) takes the shine off the rest of the album.  If it only had changed the order a little, it would have been a perfect release (and in some ways it still is); but the fact the album cannot get out of its own shadow is a massive millstone for its neck.  This album needs to be heard, but maybe on random.

8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

You can purchase the album from here

You can visit the Prong website on this link

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

A live version of "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" below

30 August 2013

Cattle - Cattle EP

I love the music scene in the North of England at the moment.  There are some truly wonderful things happening which could not be any further to the so-called charts and what people like Rhino-a.... sorry Rihanna have the audacity to call Rock music - for the record I think that what is chart music has it place, but the moment they say it is rock, is the moment that war is declared.  Away from the so called bright lights you have some truly wonderful workings being made.  In April of this year, Cattle from Leeds in the North of England released this EP to the world, only 9 months after they came into existence.  These guys have been touring the country and playing with Tides Of Iron, Waheela, We Are Knuckle Dragger amongst others; so how does this first release measure up.

This four track ep brings to mind two bands - Pissed Jeans and Melvins.  If you have any interest in either of these guys, this will like manor from heaven.  From the bass driven opening of "Rockets", there is a feel of something different to the normal noise/sludge offerings.  It does not want to blow it all on the opening notes; it wants you to invest in it.  The music here is heavy and sludge-like, which always ticks the boxes here, stand out track "Sun Fangs And Wide Eyes" just nails what this band is all about; messed up sludge with a slab of noise to make the taste bud wetter than a rainy Monday in Yorkshire Dales.  The aggression of "Whoa Bessie" is palatable and extremely well performed, the sparse beginning of "Pyramid Shaped Hole" shows an understanding of when the power of quite can be just as effective as the loud noise that comes after its subtle beginnings.

Whilst the offering here is wonderful and an interesting beginning to the band's recorded output, I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.  The band has a lot of promise and hopefully their next release will just as good, if not better than this EP.  And for that reason the feeling of the best is yet to come, I cannot give this a perfect mark.  It is good and I hope it goes on to better things, I will be keeping an eye on this band and I recommend that you do the same, and I hope you find the EP to be an amazing release; it is certainly a very interest piece of art - I'm just picky and sometimes I am too critical.  Support this band; they could be the next Dillinger or Blacklister.

4 out of five - This is really good, just short of perfect

You can listen to the EP and download it from the band's Bandcamp page here

The band does not have a website, but here is a link to this Facebook page

Here is a link to their Soundcloud page

Today The Sun Dies - Torment

Metal is by definition a harsh mistress - or at least it should be.  I remember when I was growing up and being so disappointed when I first heard a punk band, as I was told that it was the harshest music available.  Then I heard Napalm Death and then I found the music which punk had promised to be in my head - it was aggressive, harsh and powerful.  Now you may be asking why I am going on about this when this is a review about the new ep from Today The Sun Dies, well stay with me here - I am getting to my point. But first here is a little background about the band.  Formed in the North East of England in 2010/2011 these guys have been making a name for themselves up and down the metal circuit.  Just in the last few weeks they have been supporting Hatebreed and destroying venues up and down the land.  Two features in Terrorizer and a reputation that is growing by the day.  But reputations are fragile things, so how does this EP add up; does it help their reputation or destroy it?

This four track EP is currently on a free download as of the date of publishing this blog - but even if they were charging money for this EP it would be a purchase I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of Death Metal.  With a subtle does of grindcore, this is mostly a brutal affair which takes no prisoners and wants to do nothing more than to kick you in the face for eternity.  From the opening words of 'begin' on Torment Of The Flesh" to the closing notes of "Unnecessary Surgery" there is no hint of letting up the pace, there is no acoustic guitars, there is nothing pleasant or charming here - and that is the way this music should be, it should be as brutal as possible and its aim is clear, which is to destroy all in its path until there is nothing left.

Now back to the first thing about when I first heard Napalm Death - the reason I brought this up is that this is the similar feeling I got when I first heard this EP.  It was just what I was looking for at that point, and it came out of nowhere so to speak.  These guys have been making waves for all the right reasons and join the long list of bands from the North-east of England who are currently making a name for themselves.  If you are looking for something relaxing, you will need to look elsewhere (there is some suggestions on the other pages on this blog), but if you want quality Death Metal - look no further.  Download this now; there is a link below, do it!!!!

5 out of five - I wish I had extra ears to love this more

You can download and listen to the band's music here

The band do not have a website, but here is a link to their Facebook page

Here is a live video from a live performance in Trillians with the song "Fuck The Wound".

Bliss 'n' Eso - Circus in the Sky

Another not alternative rock review from Pete.  Trying desperately to show that his music taste is at least a little eclectic.  He really likes the new Bliss 'n' Eso album, Circus in the Sky though.

And now, he shall stop talking about himself in the third person.
Bliss 'n' Eso are a Hip Hop act from Australia.  Stop rolling your eyes.  They are not wiggas, or lame ass white boys trying to rap with a can of Foster's.  They're multi-platinum, award winning, and have been rapping together since high school, when Hip Hop in Australia didn't exist.
They're made up of American MC Jonathan Notley (Bliss, who moved to Australia aged 13), Australian MC Max MacKinnon (Eso) and Tarik Ejjamai (DJ Izm).
Circus in the Sky is the group's 5th album.  It went straight to #1 in the Australian albums chart, and only Daft Punk have sold more albums in Oz this year.
The album's amazing.  I always struggle when listening to decent rap music, because lyrics are crammed into each track.  There's so much going on, with scratching, samples, awesome rock beats and meaningful, poetic lyrics.  When rap is done well, this is what it sounds like.
What I like about Bliss 'n' Eso is this; their lyrics are political, and they're about unity.  They rap for the love of music, togetherness and chilling out.  It's not all about blunts, 40s and bitches (although there's plenty of that too).
I think I appreciate this musically more than I do lyrically, in the sense that every time I've listened I've been pretty chilled out and it's provided the perfect soundtrack.  It feels almost cosmic, especially on the lovely 'Next Frontier'.  Yes, I described a hip-hop track as "lovely".
Collaborations?  We have those too!  'I Am Somebody' features Nas, while the unity I mentioned earlier shines through on 'Resevoir Dogs', which features the elite in Aussie hip-hop (360, Pez, Seth Sentry & Drapht)   .  None of them try to out-do each other, it's just awesome.  It also features a nice sample from internet famous Sweet Brown:
"ain't nobody got time fo' dat!"
Daniel Merriweather's on the album too.  I've heard of him!
If I'm gonna pick out the album's weak points, it's 'My Life' and 'I Feel Free'.  Those are the weaker moments, possibly because, musically, they just ain't very hip-hop.  But maybe that's a good thing.  It gives the album diversity.  Standout tracks, for me, are 'Animal Kingdom' and 'Resevoir Dogs'.
The chilled out feeling remains right to the end on 'House of Dreams', but I love this lyrically too.  And I just noticed something.  These guys really love South Park.
Ain't nobody got time fo' dat.
8/10.  Oh, now you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.

29 August 2013

Girl Talk - Feed The Animals

I've noticed I'm getting a bit guitar friendly on here lately.  The heart wants what it wants I guess.  But I've decided I have to share my love of Girl Talk with you all.  If you're a fan of Mash-Ups, read on.  If you're not, still read on, and maybe check out this album.  You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Girl Talk is one dude, named Gregg Gillis.  He started experimenting with Mash-Ups and digital sampling whilst studying engineering in Pittsburgh.  I bet he never got many chicks, at least until he started DJing.  On choosing his alias, Gillis said:

"I wanted to pick a name that they would be embarrassed to play with. You know Girl Talk sounded exactly the opposite of a man playing a laptop, so that's what I chose."

The album we're looking at today is his 4th release, 'Feed The Animals', released in 2008.  This album was released via his record label, Illegal Art, and fans could name their price, like Radiohead did.

The New York Times called Gillis' work "a lawsuit waiting to happen", as most of the samples he uses are unauthorised.  Gillis cites "fair use" as his defence.  He's a DJ, after all.

I've checked out all of Girl Talk's albums.  The reason I have focused on his 4th release is simple.  In my opinion, it took 4 LPs to become listenable.  Previous releases have been hard on the ears, very glitch, like digitally tuning a radio and hearing tiny snippets of a million different songs.  Not for me.

But on Feed The Animals, and also 2010 release 'All Day', he has it down.  The guy is 1 year older than me, and I hate him for the talent he has.

I'm unsure where to start on reviewing what was recorded as one long Mash-Up to be honest.  (It is split into individual tracks though).

Each track literally contains over a dozen samples.  Gillis has admitted to being "a Pop Music enthusiast".  His work is instantly recognisable, predictable and unpredictable at the same time, crowd pleasing and genre hopping.  Where else would Avril Lavigne's 'Girlfriend' sit next to 'Big Pimpin' by Jay-Z?  Gillis seems to like Jay-Z incidentally.  This isn't the only snippet used.

Girl Talk has a habit of making songs you'd never choose to listen to not just bearable, but enjoyable.  There's a nice bit where Lil Wayne (or someone) is fused with Sinead O'Connor's 'Nothing Compares 2 U'.  Salt N Pepa's 'Push It' meets 'Lithium' by Nirvana.  That 'Umbrella' song by Rihanna melts into 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.  Cheap Trick into Run DMC.  An awesome Eminem sample (from 'Smack That') on my personal favourite track 'No Pause',

Listen to this album.  Admire the talent.  It's filled with wow moments, where a song you've not heard forever will suddenly pop up, or maybe a guilty pleasure (Britney Spears' 'Gimme More' mixed with 'Sexy Boy' by Air).

10/10: This is proof that there is a god.

I'll stop now, and give you the good news.  This album, and the others are available free (or you could be nice and donate) on the Illegal Art website, here.

You can listen to 'Feed The Animals' on Spotify here.

A list of all the sampled tracks used in Girl Talk's work can be found here.

26 August 2013

Mumm-Ra - These Things Move In Threes

Just what is it with this group, Mumm-Ra? Formed in their early teens at the turn of the Millennium, one well received album then almost without warning or any reasons given they all decide to take a break from 2008. Well, four years down the line they picked up where they had left off, an official reformation was confirmed in 2013 and now there's the announcement of new material.

As fans of the 1980s animated series Thundercats will no doubt know, the group from the South Coast took their name from a regular villain from the show. Several rock radio stations introduced Mumm-Ra with some fanfare and enthusiasm in the mid noughties, rubbing shoulders along the same generation of indie rockers The Automatic and The View.

These Things Move In Threes is to date their only album release, then immediately afterwards they disbanded. So with the group now back together and churning out more songs, I thought to look at this and decipher what the brouhaha was all about in 2007. First and foremost, James "Noo" New sings with a pronounced Sussex accent, their music sounds airy without getting too high and yet it all feels close to the members' hearts and minds.

She's Got You High - Official Video

They've had moderate chart success with She's Got You High and Out Of The Question, both are fine confident tracks so what about the remainder of the album? The title track has some very urgent but diligent beats as well as Song B which has certainly some memorable chord structure along with some puppy dog enthusiasm that seems to have emerged from a Stiff Records cut. The theme continues with Sick Deal which reminds me a little of Stranglers' Dave Greenfield's busy keyboard work until some Brit pop-ish strings asserts some identity into the tune. One of their best showings.

There's more violin and cello arrangement in the acoustic and mellower Light Up This Room while Starlight tells of the lamenting of a failed relationship, and there's some curious bleeps in This Is Easy which changes a few strands of the song around every verse. The seven minute opus Down Down Down closes TTMIT with a heavy piano lead and trailing off into the distance.

Before the breakup, Mumm-Ra showcased some new material suggesting that the 'difficult' second album would always be in the pipeline. As a listener from a different part of the country, it takes a little time for "Noo"'s Anglicised and sometimes delicate vocals to grow on me, but that's just personal taste and I can certainly live with it. It took seven years from the formation of the band to come up with their first record and it must be said These Things Move In Threes is a beautifully crafted and imaginative piece and is worthy of all the plaudits that The 'Ra have received. Will the follow up be able to carry the torch of its predecessor? M. Richardson 26/08/2013

8 out of ten. Oh, now you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.

The album is available for purchase here on Amazon
Some of the album tracks as well as single releases are available to listen to here on Deezer
Click on here for Mumm-Ra's official website

Sera Cahoone - Deer Creek Canyon

Sometimes I rest on blogs for a while - I have attempted to review this one a few times to be honest, but I have never really gotten any further than the title.  It has nothing to do with the material, it is more that way I am when I start this album.  I have just been looking for other thing to listen to as I find that Americana can be a strange genre for me.  It is either really well done or it is just one of the most annoying music genres that I have ever had the misfortunate to listen to.  So I have tried to get myself in a mood when I am neither of those extreme moods - I want to be fair to this release.  When I first heard it I was astounded by the laid back promise of what was on offer here. Sera Cahoone is a native of Seattle, Washington and most of her releases have been released via the seminal label Sub Pop (now owned by Warner Brothers).  This is different from the sound that Sub Pop is famous for, but labels can and have to diversify otherwise they fall; look at Roadrunner records (also owned by Warner Brothers, but that label has been destroyed).  But this is not a review of the labels, but of Sea Cahoone's third release from 2012. 

Musically this could be used in the emotional scenes of many a teen-drama or the more serious parts of the TV show 'Scrubs'.  This is not a bad thing, it is just I can see pieces like "One To Blame" being used in this way, which can be a little detracting from what is well crafted Americana.  I feel like I am looking for the next commercial use of the songs.  I blame the TV channel E4 in the UK and all those types of programs.  But after this very small niggle, there is a quality to this album that unfolds like a flower in the sun.  The steel guitar and banjo work mixed with Cahoone's dusky vocals on tracks such as "One To Blame" and "Worry All Your Life" is beautifully composed and delivered.  The build and execution of "Anyway You Like" is second to none, from slow start to the big chorus crescendo at the end - beautiful.  Whilst this may not be for everyone, for fans of the genre this is a worthwhile addition to the collection.  It might be a few songs too long, but it doesn't detract from the fact that this is a very good record.  Whilst I cannot get over the feeling of familiarity without actually knowing the album when I first put it on, I cannot shy away from the quiet dignity and power that is on offer here - if you’re interested in Americana, do yourself a favour and hunt this down.  This does not fall into the annoying category, not at all.

7 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

You can purchase from Amazon here

You can visit the Sera Cahoone website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

You can also hear a session that she done for Folkadelphia via their bandcamp here

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