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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Album purchased this week no. 2 – Sensible Shoes

Released in 2009 and nominated for the Mercury Prize the same year, Sensible Shoes by Led Bib forms my second, sweet album bought this week.

led bib

With current UK jazz circles populated by many outstanding groups, such as Troyka, Get The Blessing, Empirical and Polar Bear, Led Bib can rightly be counted as part of this thriving scene. The compositions that make up Sensible Shoes bound off into many directions, from all out free jazz, that sounds like Acoustic Ladyland on acid, to more delicate and melodic tunes. As always with this type of music, it is an album that merits many listens to gain an understanding of the ideas and motifs that make up each song, as well as an appreciation of the ability involved.

Sweet Chilli is a personal favourite of mine from the album – kick starting with a catchy, ascending saxophone riff that twists and turns between proficient drum fills, the tune settles on a measured bass line at 1.18 before building back up with brilliantly creative drum rolls from 2.20 onwards, turning into what could almost be described as a march at 3.07 and 4.08. The silent gaps at 1.09 and 5.00 are VERY cool (the second only punctuated by the deftest rim, skin and cymbal hits and the quiet harmonic pinch of a bass).



Album purchased this week no.1 – Chrome Black Gold

It’s always a nice surprise to find out that a band you enjoy having your ears invaded by have released something new, which has somehow evaded your attention. I know very little about London based Chrome Hoof, but what I do know, I like. Especially their new album, Chrome Black Gold.


A smorgasbord of styles and instruments, the album successfully mashes together all its intricacies into a juicy whole. Tortured Craft offers straight up funk with a saucy Zappa inspired marimba interlude, opener Enter The Drobe is a more characteristic affair of stop start drums, heavy organs and more delicate but driving keyboards. One track though, Ultimate Sealed Unit, particularly captivates me and demonstrates why Chrome Hoof are bloody brilliant. Veering from eighties, Van Halen-esque superhero guitar to space age synths with computer game drumming, it builds up to a belting groove of a bass riff with what sounds like an electric violin solo straight out of Mahavishnu Orchestra. It’s as great as it sounds, believe me.

By now, I imagine you are absolutely gagging to hear this epic musical adventure after my, let’s be modest now, riveting piece of musical analysis. Buuuut, I can’t find a link to it. How will you cope with the disappointment? Buy the blooming album, that’s how.

To whet your appetite though, here is When The Lightning Strikes, one more good reason to purchase Chrome Black Gold. Catchy, sliding guitar lick? Check. Cool double bass drum work with vocals of the female variety? Check. Bass riff breakdown? Check.

Bish bash bosh.

Live alive!

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of watching Empirical at the Purcell Room on Southbank, a performance which quite literally blew my mind. A phenomenally talented group snappily dressed, beautifully crafted music and a good rapport with the audience left me feeling that I had perhaps witnessed one of my favourite ever live performances.

The emotion one can experience if particularly struck by a performance of art is incomparable, especially in the context of music that is highly charged and energetic.

The Who Performing in Concert

Therefore, after last night’s gig, I have felt the need to share some personal favourites when it comes to live performance. Although unfortunately, most have been restricted to recordings and film rather than first hand.

The best blues lead guitar playing ever? Jimi Hendrix’s version of Red House at 1969’s Woodstock, for me, has to be very close. Though the festival slot was more renowned for Hendrix’s version of Star Spangled Banner and most of the band are completely lost in the mix, the feeling, speed, choice of note and shifting tone of Hendrix’s guitar playing is perfect. The licks at 1.20, 3.04 and 4.19 never fail to send a shiver down my spine.

It’s that man again. Punky’s Whips by Frank Zappa, this version taken from the Baby Snakes concert, will want to make you play drums, simple fact. One handed drumming while singing at 6.27? All in a day’s work for Terry Bozzio. With the band in its peak form, the enjoyment that Zappa’s music provides for other musicians is showcased here.

The only group out of this list I have had the privilege of seeing, Hot Club of Cowtown are no-nonsense hot swing jazz with boundless energy. Orange Blossom Special (the first track taken from this Later…With Jools Holland edition) perfectly encapsulates the irrepressible joy that this sort of music, and indeed the trio, brings.

Finally, we come to a video that must be deemed as a Youtube ‘classic’, in that when browsing drunkenly with friends, it is bound to come up. Performed for NBC, Hocus Pocus by Dutch band Focus revolves around that riff, but is comedic as well intensely impressive in the energy captured. Though the guitar work of Jan Akkerman is a sight to behold, it is mainly due to the efforts of pianist Thijs van Leer that sets this performance apart. With an incredible range in his voice and the ability to pull out a flute from nowhere (see 3.02), each break is more zany than the one before. A must watch video.

I beg your pardon?!

There is just downright offensive, and then there are bands. You Slut! are the former, taking into consideration that they are from Derby of all places.

However, they redeem themselves by making a joyous instrumental racket. They have a particular talent for penning songs full to the brim with riffs and coining whimsical names, as per their last album below.

A glorious front cover to match glorious music.

A glorious front cover to match glorious music.

With no vocals, the band more than compensates with new idea after new idea thrown at you, battering your senses in three to four minute chunks. This works out brilliantly, as there is never any milking of phrases that would usually leave the listener having to endure eight minute jams. You Slut! cut straight to the point and thus construct songs that really make you think hard about what you just heard. In a good way though, because their riffs are fantastic. And they’re ridiculously tight. Nailed it.

Taken from their first album, Critical Meat, 1s, 2ns (The Original Door) is my favourite track of theirs for many a good reason. Starting off as it means to go on, the shift in drum beat and style at 0.47 is flawless, before leading to a pearler of a groove at 1.29 where it then plummets into overdriven pandemonium.

Magnifierer is taken from Medium Bastard, a much more polished affair production wise and in technicality. The breakdown at 0.59 of this track is, to quickly ape a standard football commentator, sensational.

Not everyone’s cup of tea, but hey, what do they know? Not mental British math rock, that’s what.

Evaporate the remaining ethanol

I’m not a fan of being hungover. There is something horribly wasteful about starting your weekend feeling like you want to crawl into a hibernation nest of duvets and bottled water, keeping contact with the outside world to an absolute minimum.

Help me out here pal.

Help me out here pal.

So what can help to ease the self loathing and anxious liver?

A firm favourite of mine, Erik Satie’s Gnoissiennes – 1. Lent is perfect minimalist music, each note of the dark melody played with maximum effect. It never fails to relax me.

The last track on Mr. Scruff’s Big Chill Classics compilation album, Serene by Nobukazu Takemura features a soothing xylophone run at 1.48 and hypnotic vocal harmonies from 2.43. A real slow burner.

Is There Any Way Out Of This Dream? by Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle is lifted from the soundtrack for One From The Heart. A moody jazz number, it is a clear case of the ability Waits possesses to write such music at will.

If See You Later by Dave Mackay and Vicky Hamilton does not make you melt into your seat like a character from Raiders of the Lost Ark, then you should probably get a check up. It does not get much smoother.

Finally, arguably the most placid and relaxing composition of all time, Second Movement (Adante) from Piano Concerto No 21 in C K467 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is simply beautiful. If you need pure serenity in music, then look no further.