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Category Archives: Genre swapping

Where there are no boundaries.

Sweden’s finest export

If I’m not careful, this could end up being a Cuneiform Records blog. Having become smitten with The Claudia Quintet, the independent label based in Washington D.C. have supplied the goods again. Goodness knows what else I could pick from this label, but if it’s anything like Mats/Morgan, then I’m going to make it my mission to become their main shareholder.

MatsMorgan

This Swedish duo are insane. Their music defies categorisation. A complete mish-mash of styles and genres, unbelievable musical talent in the form of keyboard and drums and a good dose of all out weirdness, this is music made for pure fun.

As I am reliably informed by Cuneiform’s website, Mats/Morgan have just released [schack tati], their first album in nine years. Rubber Sky is the opening track. It’s Battles, Acoustic Ladyland and Jazz From Hell rolled into one, and if it doesn’t hook you from the first second, then there is something chemically wrong with you. Even the creepy singing interlude.

I haven’t taken the following track off repeat since purchasing it yesterday – Sinus, from the album Thanks For Flying With Us, boasts a rather uplifting Nintendo melody (kicking in at 0.39) that has glued itself to my brain. The opening octaves are very familiar, but aside from that, it’s golden the whole way through.

There is more to Sweden than Abba and meatballs……………bloody love these guys. Enjoy.

A very English party

As my new found friend Mr. Hayes has rightly pointed out to me, this band are pretty goooooood.

God knows I like a group that produce music from all weird angles, and Hot Head Show can count themselves highly on that list.

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Think Mr. Bungle, but drastically anglicized, replacing heavy with rockabilly country, weirdness with silliness and adding an exceedingly big dose of blues to the mix. There’s ska, bizarre lyrical story telling and drum roll after drum roll, getting faster all the time………it’s a potent mixture of rambunctious music.

Perfect, their second album released in  2013, has a few forgettable songs, but for the most part it is a joyous ride. Kansas, the opening track, is one such world music tinged blues fest. Invest your ears and make sense of it.

 

Zappa part 2: the mother of inventive music

Almost a year ago now, I delved into the tireless mind of Frank Zappa, scratching the surface of his vast back catalogue of immense music. It is time to continue my dedication, solely focusing on the output of Zappa’s original band – The Mothers of Invention. Tune your ears.

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We’ll begin with that crappy old tune, Status Back Baby, lifted from the Mothers’ second album Absolutely Free. An album that heavily doffed its hat to many classical influences, particularly Stravinsky, Status Back Baby is a breath of poppy fresh air emanating from the album’s madness. Why does the whistle at 0.14 and 2.09 fit so perfectly? With doo-wop, a brilliant sax break at 1.09, abrupt staccato from 1.54 and comedic lyrics, this tune is a particular highlight from potentially my favourite Mothers album.

Fast forward to 1970, and we have Igor’s Boogie and Overture to a Holiday in Berlin taken from the album Burnt Weeny Sandwich. Music such as this is quintessentially Zappa – complex and intricate yet simple and digestible. Overture to a Holiday in Berlin is particularly apt, starting from 0.36.

A song based on double knit suits for portly gentlemen, Eddie, Are You Kidding? is taken from the live album Just Another Band from L.A. A bopping blues number with a great chorus, the real strength of this song lies right at the end with three beautiful minor chords, just after the vocal harmony interlude.

An instrumental number with unmistakable Zappa guitar work in between a superbly crafted melody, The Orange County Lumber Truck is taken from the predominantly live album Weasels Ripped My Flesh. Check out the persistent groove after the cacophony of instruments.

Looking back to 1966 and the release of Zappa’s first ever album with the Mothers, Freak Out!, and we have Any Way The Wind Blows. A straightforward love song with what sounds like a marimba, or maybe a xylophone, it was a sign of things to come.

Clocking in at just over a minute and a half, Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance from third album We’re Only In It For The Money (complete with Sgt. Pepper mock-up album cover) is a lighthearted gem with hooks to boot.

The Legend of the Golden Arches, my how I love this song. The instrumentation, the cascading opening lines, the layering, the restless grooves, the unpredictable drumming, the odd time signatures, the trickling nature of the latter part of the song, I could go on………..taken from the Mothers’ fifth album Uncle Meat.

To finish, a song that is right up there with Peaches en Regalia and Bobby Brown Goes Down in terms of stature, Let’s Make The Water Turn Black is the Mothers’ tour de force. Recorded for the album We’re Only In It For The Money, the ring of the opening piano gives way to a melody that will keep you humming for hours. It is truly infectious. For the album version with vocals, click here, but enjoy the live and speedier instrumental medley version below, taken from the album You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 1.

Bring more Zappa into your life! Enjoy.

Sometimes your luck runs out……..

On Tuesday last week, I was fortunate enough to be perusing the London gig listings on the TimeOut website and unearthed the fact that the Hot Club of Cowtown were playing the Cecil Sharp House the following night – cue a mad rush to get tickets followed by a joyous evening of expertly delivered jazz.

With this band however I have not been so lucky. White Denim are playing two nights at the Village Underground this month, with both sold out. Bah.

whitedenim

Released this year, Corsicana Lemonade is the latest album from White Denim and is a dandy mix of math grooves, bluesy country licks, happy-go-lucky waltzes and that unmistakable American vocal tone and style. Come Back is a prime cut of music – tricky guitar work, super tight rhythm and reverb drenched vocals. The chorus in particular is laden with sweet drum hi-hat stabs and repeating musical motifs, the first at 0.47 to 1.03.

The album as a whole has its meandering moments, as well as featuring an almost carbon copy chord progression of Thin Lizzy’s Don’t Believe A Word on the opening track, but contains enough decent material packed full of ideas to keep one thoroughly hooked.

I might add that in comparison to the other album of theirs I purchased, Last Day Of Summer, Corsicana Lemonade is a much more breezy and straightforward affair. Perhaps more radio friendly if you will, no doubt down to the slicker production and more accessible sound. The below tracks, I’d Have It Just The Way We Were and Home Together, are the first two songs from Last Day of Summer. The former showcases the intricacies and technicality the group are capable of, with inventive drumming from 0.58, while the latter has a superb vocal melody. I could not afford to leave one or the other out.

Go out and explore White Denim. They have a sound which they can call their own, which is all too often a rarity these days.

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.

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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.

Musically, these bandits could not get more dapper

Back in February, I wrote a blog on the Norwegian geniuses Farmers Market, proclaiming them to be one of the best genre defying, outrageously fun and gifted bands producing instrumental music. Only one other group can lay challenge to that crown, and they were known as Estradasphere.

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As you may have gathered, they are now sadly defunct, or on ‘permanent hiatus’ more diplomatically. Whatever their current status, they were fiendishly inventive and technically astounding and, as such, quickly became a band whose music I have the utmost respect for. Whether it be putting their own spin on old Nintendo tunes, switching from death metal to samba in the blink of an eye, or writing gypsy surf ditties, Estradasphere are ultimately a super fun happy time band.

The below video, a live version of the songs Burnt Corpse and Rise N’Shine (Epic Doobie), quintessentially conveys what Estradasphere are all about. For the first twenty-one seconds, you are confused and quite possibly angry at the black metal noise erupting from your speakers, only to be dropped suddenly into a gleefully buoyant jazz number. You can listen to the studio version here, taken from the album Buck Fever.

A personal favourite of mine, and lasting all of one minute, Planet Sparkle is a perky stroll in the park, taken from the album Passion For Life.

From their first album It’s Understood, The Transformation has catchy riffs tripping over each other in their demand for your attention, before languishing in a dub groove with swaying violin and brass from 1.40. The tempo is driven straight back up at 4.08, leading to a mother of a groove at 5.26.

If you do not feel the need to smile and shift your feet to this tune, I’m afraid that you are most likely an unperson, to make use of an Orwellian term. The Penguin is breezy, hip twisting jazz at its best.

Finally, we have Estradashpere’s pièce de résistance: Hungerstrike. This live performance of the track, also taken from the album It’s Understood, is undoubtedly one of the most impressive musical sights I have ever seen. As someone who plays an instrument, it is flabbergasting on a technical level that each instrument plays its part so precisely and with complete comfort. The appreciation of composing such a piece of music does not solely lie in those who have dabbled in playing an instrument however, therefore I like to think that anyone can digest something from this performance and admire how richly diverse the song is.

It starts off at Balkan breakneck speed before reaching the only real lull in the song, between 2.15 and 6.00, where slow violin playing has to be endured. Endure (or alternatively skip) this and your perseverance will be richly rewarded: the effortless switch back into the Balkan groove at 6.55; the double bass and guitar interplay from 8.50, which descends into tricky funk at 11.18; the irrepressible riff at 11.41; the dreamlike state at 12.42; the return to ska at 14.12 before the wah wah breakdown at 14.28; the climatic build up from 18.58 before the beginning of the incredible end at 22.38.

My goodness, I went off on one there, I do apologise. Hungerstrike is a ridiculous volume of ideas, styles and sound to take in all at once, but it is a prime example of when musicians can write uninhibited. I just hope that you are still with me after that.

As a novelty bonus, I will sign off with the band’s studio version of the Super Mario 2 theme track. Aaaaah the nostalgia….

Inducing spasmodic dancing

Now and again, music can turn you into a raving looney, especially when it is of the overdriven and thrashier variety. These songs hit that particular spot for me. I can’t be responsible for my actions.

Crazy-dance

We Versus The Shark open the proceedings with Hello Blood, a track of raw energy straight from the American garage, complemented by fantastic drumming.

The godfathers of math rock Don Caballero throw up the stupendously heavy instrumental Chief Sitting Duck, a song of breakdowns interspersed with blaring distortion, tricky riffs and punchy bass drums.

A tragic case of the ‘one decent album before fading into obscurity’ syndrome, Let’s Get Sandy (Big Problem) by Be Your Own Pet is a fifty-nine second punk romp from a fantastic album.

A band that will always split opinions but remain (in their original lineup) a love of my life, Rolo Tomassi have created in Beatrotter the perfect mix of genres, pandemonium and technique. The intro is absolutely bonkers, leading to a heavy breakdown that descends into a clever jazzy section with prominent synthesizer. Following this, a jarring tapped guitar riff plays call and response, joined by a huge sliding bass line and repeated snare hits. For me, this is close to perfection in terms of putting together a million ideas and creating one coherent song. It requires a good few listens to fathom what happened, but it is well worth anyone’s time.