Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Album of the Week: Bethany Curve - You Brought Us Here



Artist: Bethany Curve
Album: You Brought Us Here
Label: Unit Circle Rekkids
Release Date: September 4, 2001

Shoegaze and dream pop seem to have resurgences in ten year increments. We’re currently going through the third wave right about now, but that’s not what I wish to focus on today. The elusive second wave is today’s focal point.
The origins of these respective genres derived from Britain and somewhere along the line coalesced to form a perfect marriage. It seemed to have taken ten years before American bands started embracing it and tinkering with its template. Three bands spring to mind: Highspire, Experimental Aircraft and Bethany Curve. The latter’s album, You Brought Us Here, is arguably the best produced out of any of these bands (this week, anyway).
You can almost tell the story by the album’s titled. Perhaps a nod of the head in the direction of My Bloody Valentine et al. YBUS isn’t touted as Bethany Curve’s seminal album, however I feel it’s the best representation in what they wished to achieve. Hailing from Santa Cruz, California, Bethany Curve (whose line-up at the time of this album consisted of Richard Mailing – Vocals/Guitar, Nathan Guevara –Guitar, David Mac Wha – Drums, David Lockhart bass/cello) seemed to do away with the psychedelic influences that embellish this particular area of America to adopt more of a sound akin to its trans-Atlantic cousin.
Although a derivative band in many respects, they perform their craft with aplomb. Opener, ‘Long Beach’, is a nice dress rehearsal for what’s to come. The ten minute ‘Ann Illusion’ provides backbone to the album, presenting a post-punk influence under the deep layers of sound that sparsely floats throughout your listening space. ‘Silver’, my favourite on the album, holds a sturdy rhythm section with ear pricking bass lines that the drums struggle to keep pace with, while the melody is Bethany Curve at their height. If ‘Ann Illusion’ is the backbone, then ‘This Fire’ is its perfect foil, with tremolo gushing through more of Mailing’s early eighties influence of post-punk and murky rhythm section.
As the album strides on, the mix appears to get darker, with Bethany Curve leaning towards the sounds that dominated their earlier albums; Gold in particular. ‘Airplanes Down’ is about as brooding as the title suggests, while the ‘Lodge’ provides the perfect closure to the album, allowing the listener to reflect on what they’ve just had the pleasure of consuming.
The second wave of this genre appears to be the forgotten period. As mediocrity took to the main stream throughout the late ‘90s/early 00s, arguably, the only credible band who stood the test of time were Radiohead, who were at the height of their drastic sea change in Kid A. There was a simmering modest independent scene still ticking along - that to this day - still appears distant. Bethany Curve was a part of that and if many took the time to conduct some digging throughout this period, I’m sure they would be compelled with the results.
Bethany Curve Website:  http://www.bethanycurve.com/
By Simon K.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

One To Watch: Breaking Bad - Season Four




The fourth season of Breaking Bad commences the way the third season ended. Many would’ve been picking themselves up off the ground to see whether Jesse Pinkman (played by Aaron Paul) pulled the trigger.
Naturally, there are no happy endings in this thing. True to form, producer Vince Gilligan (helped by Bryan Cranston for the first time throughout the series), didn’t disappoint, heaping misery onto the viewer.
Opening episode, ‘Boxcutter’, produced one of the most gruesome scenes yet, with a certain Gustavo ‘Gus’ Fring (played by Giancarlo Esposito) going to town on one of his soldiers with, indeed, a boxcutter. Fring is also the central figure in yet another defining scene of season four later on in the series.
After this scene, I found the beginning of season four a little meandering, going through the motions in the next two to three episodes. Walter White (played by Cranston) takes measures of protection, which was always going to come at some stage and ‘Thirty Eight Snub’ takes us through this, while Jesse tails with the dark side (not for the first time), leaving his newly acquired home open to anyone who wants to party.
The episode ‘Open House’ sees Marie Schrader (played by Betsy Brandt) pilfering contents from open real estate for sale, feeding her previous addiction of shoplifting due to her husband, Hank (played by Dean Norris),  continuing to wallow in his state of immobility, thanks to the Cartel’s twin assassins taking him down in a local car park (confusing enough?).
It’s not until the back end of episode, ‘Shotgun’, in which things really start to take shape. This is thanks to the consumption of too much red wine from good ol’ Walt. In the company of his family, “Don” White starts rendering his theory as to why Gael Boetticher (played by David Costabile) isn’t Heisenberg: the bane of Hank Schrader’s professional career as the spearhead of the D.E.A. The very reason as to why Hank is cooped up in a wheel chair due to the Cartel’s handiwork, as mentioned above. Prior to Walt’s rant, Schrader thought he had his man.
Naturally, this gets the creative juices of one Hank Schrader well and truly bubbling, leaving the sequence of events to unfold in catastrophic circumstances.
Does this have you intrigued? The above analysis fails to even scratch the surface of the problems greeting the cast of Breaking Bad (I haven’t even mentioned Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk).
I won’t go on. Just go and grab yourself a copy of one of the most electrifying series since television went to another level thanks to The Wire, The Sopranos and Six Feet Under.
All that’s left to say is this: bring on season five; the final season, according to Bryan Cranston. It can only end one way.
By Simon K.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

At The Drive-In - Live @ Coachella


 
Let me start by saying that I love At The Drive-In as much as the next person. I was lucky enough to see them live before their untimely split back in 2001. Thanks Christ to be honest, because watching their performance at Coachella, it left me cold to the marrow. Backdrops and large stages that almost resemble an arena vibe not to mention Omar's enthusiasm or lack thereof. Was this the same band? I'm afraid not. Sailed ships spring to mind.

To put it bluntly, I'm afraid this one's a cash job, folks. I'm glad certain band members kissed and made up because the circumstances surrounding their "hiatus" back in 2001 were ambiguous to say the least. There's an argument as to "why shouldn't they take the cash?" I can totally understand that question.

Seeing so many bands reunite these days is indicative of how much of a lull rock music is experiencing at the moment. Gary Wolsten of Drowned In Sound penned a brilliant article late last year regarding The Stone Roses reunion. Many, including myself, I'm sure, echo similar sentiments.

Regardless of my opinion, some may see some pertinence in ATDI's reunion. If that's the case, enjoy the above video. However, if you managed to be as lucky as I was all those years ago by witnessing one of the last juggernauts of the guitar variety, you may also agree that there's a certain pale in comparison.

Simon K.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Album of the Week: Seefeel - Quique



Artist: Seefeel
Album: Quique
Label: Too Pure
Release Date: July 1993

Quique is one of those timeless albums. When shoegaze was a one of the prominent genres in the early nineties London collective, Seefeel (comprising of Mark Clifford, Sarah Peacock, Justin Fletcher & Daren Seymour), posed as a band who escaped the clutches of the formula, further boggling the minds of those who had their ears pleasured by the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Ride.

Although garnering a derivative aesthetic in the distant cousin of shoegaze, Seefeel provided extra dimensions in their humble beginnings, honing in on electronic and ambient soundscapes that have since been pilfered by many a band.

Perhaps not a direct influence, however I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the likes of Bradford Cox drawing inspiration from Quique prior to Deerhunter’s Cryptograms seeing the light of day. There have been many other timely success stories thanks to the groundwork conducted by Seefeel, all those moons ago.
With the core of the band (Mark Clifford and Sarah Peacock) reconvening after a 14 year absence, the focal point these days points towards an electronic leaning; however the timelessness of Quique is the main talking point, as far as I’m concerned.
The album grabs its audience from the first 20 seconds, as ‘Climatic Phase 3’ eases into the stereo speakers, oozing with undercurrents of melodic purity. ‘Plainsong’ holds a true Cocteau Twins leaning with Sarah Peacock’s vocal providing a sturdy foil for further sprinklings of ambience and drone.
‘Filter Dub’ is the clearest indication of the band’s future departure from their derivative roots into more of a Warp Records kind of vibe, while the album closer, ‘Signals’, provides a perfect depiction of the lonely streets of London, only bettered by the likes of fellow Londoners, Burial and Bark Psychosis.
Everyone has a “go to” album in their collection. Given the fact that Quique was released nineteen years ago and I’m sitting here waxing lyrical over its wholesome quality says it all. For more information on Seefeel and associated acts, check out the following:
Scala (Sarah Peacock, Justin Fletcher & Daren Seymour side project) - http://www.last.fm/music/Scala
Disjecta (Mark Clifford solo project) - http://www.last.fm/music/Disjecta
Simon K.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Show and Tell: Martyn Waites




I first came across Martyn Waites back in 2009, at the All Tomorrow’s Parties ATP Vs. The Fans weekend in Minehead. He was a part of Lydia Lunch’s literature readings in which he rendered a piece called Love. If you’ve already had any insight into Mr. Waites then you’ll know that there’s more than meets the eye when titles are concerned. Usually not for the better, either.

After hearing Love I made it a priority to delve into the works of Waites. As far as books, music, and film are concerned “priorities” can take the best part of a couple of years. Well, sometimes. One day at work early last year, I decided to break the mundane habits of nine to five and Google the very man himself (how brave of me). Cut a long story short, after having a thorough read of his website, what stood out the most was the Joe Donovan trilogy.


Without revealing too much insight into each book, Martyn Waites can write. He can really fucking write. His ability to flesh out a character really does hold no bounds. I’d even go as far to say that he accomplishes this facet of writing better than Elmore Leonard.

Then there’s the scene of his plot. Apart from a few dabbles down south, Newcastle is the epicentre of his creative hub. He romanticises with the place, bringing to the surface a true way of Northern life in Britain. It’s quite frightening the way he renders things with such aplomb. Who describes someone’s d├ęcor as “Argos chic”? - One of the many hidden gems throughout The Mercy Seat, Bone Machine, and White Riot. Notice the music references? They also drip off the pages.

His style is poignant, engaging and truly dark, almost to the point of making you squirm in your seat. His subjects pack an almighty punch, brimming with truths. His insight into racism and people trafficking and the way these subjects are depicted amongst the mass culture of Britain absolutely nail it.

Intertwining these themes into his stories makes for a fascinating sequence of events. I couldn’t put it any better than Waites’ contemporary, Mark Billingham. “It grips, squeezes and won’t let go”. As far as crime fiction goes, I’ve not been more gripped since reading a James Ellroy novel.

Neo-noir, crime thriller, lump it in with whatever genre that makes you get through the night. Just go and check the works of Martyn Waites. You won’t be disappointed.


For more information, check out the Martyn Waites website and also his alter ego, Tania Carver.

Simon K.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Last.fm - Top Artists January-March 2012



The first signs of a true geek: logging your music. Yes, you read correctly. I log everything I listen to. Yes, there are rules. For instance, walking into a shop and hearing The Black Keyes doesn’t constitute as a listen. IPod listens, stereo listens, car listens (when you’re alone or in my case, when I’m with my better half). These do.

I've been logging my music listens since 2007. I just find it interesting; a hobby, even. Maybe it’s the statistician coming out in me. Does it act on a subconscious level?

I.e. “I need to listen to some more Slint so they can crack the top 50. Answer: no. It’s not a competition, despite numbers being involved. That’s how I see it, anyway.

To quell the sighs I can hear and the cringes I can feel from afar below are the top artists so far this year:

1. A.A. Bondy 191
2. Real Estate 167
3. Guided by Voices 164
4. Dirty Three 157
5. Boris 129
6. Crippled Black Phoenix 120
7. Bitch Magnet 114
8. Make Up 112
9. Total Control 103
10. The Twilight Sad 95
11. WU LYF 94
12. Shearwater 88
13. The Horrors 87
14. The Field 83
15. Archers of Loaf 81
16. Ryan Adams 80
17. Toro Y Moi 76
18. Manic Street Preachers 73
19. The Men 70
20. Burial 66
20. Josh T. Pearson 66
22. Damien Jurado 65
22. Bon Iver 65
22. Bry Webb 65
25. Mission of Burma 64
25. June of 44 64
25. No Age 64
28. The Doors 63
28. Experimental Aircraft 63
30. Rustie 62
31. Sharon van Etten 60
32. Seam 59
33. Bruce Springsteen 58
34. Nirvana 57
34. The God Machine 57
36. Mark Lanegan 56
36. Bethany Curve 56
36. The War On Drugs 56
39. The Brian Jonestown Massacre 55
39. SBTRKT 55
41. Walls 54
42. Mojave 3 52
43. Ride 47
43. Pelican 47
45. Killing Joke 44
45. Labradford 44
45. Pop. 1280 44
48. De La Soul 43
49. Paul Westerberg 42
50. Teenage Fanclub 41
50. Afghan Whigs 41

Simon K.
Last.fm page