Reviewed: Sons of Frida – The Bulgarian LP

1 Oct

Sons of Frida released The Bulgarian LP in May 2010

Download the song ‘Burn’ for free from the Insomnia Radio Daily Dose

Parisian post-rockers Sons of Frida, purveyors of beautiful musical chaos and complex aural textures, started life in 2004 and brought out their fourth album, The Bulgarian LP, earlier this year. It is equal parts dissonant anarchy, driving post-rock/math-rock and lyrics that could soundtrack a descent into madness. Despite its almost crushingly tumultuous sound, the album is cohesive and engaging, pulling you under with a riptide of noisy rock and deliciously dark tones.

There is a decidedly bi-polar feeling to this record, as it throws in occasional, fleeting moments of melodic bliss before the music descends once again into the chaos, where you find a juddering mix of clashing guitars, prominent, driving bass lines and heavy, tight drumming. From the dichotomy of dissonance and harmony, to the occasional haunting trumpet that pierces through the layers of guitars and the hint of a French accent hiding behind the English lyrics, this is a record that is in a constant struggle with itself, forever reinforcing the ever so slight discomfort that you get from such an intense musical experience.

But, while The Bulgarian LP embraces the dark fragments of the human spirit and displays them with candour, it never lets those fragments take a complete hold. Like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, there is a glimmer of harmony that peppers the record that can’t be shaken. The album is a glorious cacophony, a pulsing landscape of dark discord and dissatisfaction cut with the sweetest flickers of light.

[As the first proper, direct submission to missmorrisonsmix.com, The Bulgarian LP by Sons of Frida will always be special to this site; listen out for a track on the first episode of the forthcoming Miss Morrison’s Mix podcast!]

Interviewed: Anxieteam

16 Sep

Anxieteam release their double A-side single Let’s Eat Soya/Lonely In The Digital World is out on 20 September on Hello Thor Records

Interviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

Anxieteam is Jim Avignon and Jon Burgerman, both internationally renowned artists in their own rights, who decided last year to put down the pens and paintbrushes for a bit and team up to start making some music. What resulted was a musical style all their own – blippy, beepy pop full of ukulele strumming and Burgerman’s unique, dead-pan vocals – that both reflects their respective artistic styles and works as an extension of it, as can be seen in their wonderfully interactive and engaging audio/visual live shows…

Care to introduce yourselves?
Jon: My name’s Jon Burgerman, I draw pictures and colour them in, and more recently I’m in a band with my friend Jim. I play ukulele on some of the songs, mumble a bit and shuffle around the stage and get in the way. And I live in Nottingham.
Jim: I’m Jim Avignon, I’m the other half of the band, I’m also an artists, more of an old school painter than a doodler like Jon. I do the arrangements and the electronic stuff in Anxieteam.

So how did Anxieteam come about?
Jim: I used to be a one man band [Neoangin], but after doing that for ten years I though it was a bit lonely on stage so I asked Jon if he’d like to make a band.
Jon: The first time we met was a joint exhibition we did in Brooklyn at the beginning of last year. We spent a week painting together, I’d do a bit of the canvas, then Jim would do a bit more, and so on. It felt very intuitive, and I think the way we work in the band is a reflection of that.

Jon, did you play much music before last year?
Jon: No not really at all, I’m the complete opposite of Jim who’s a very seasoned musician and has been playing gigs for years.
Jim: In the beginning I asked him to record his voice to see if it would work, and everyone liked the way it sounded, then I had an old ukulele at home so I convinced him to try it because ukulele is the one instrument everyone can learn, and it ended up working out really well.

How would you describe your music?
Jon: Kind of electronic, lo-fi, very melodic – Jim really crafts the melodies. And I hope the lyrics are interesting and conjure up nice imagery in your mind.
Jim: I think the special think about our music is that it gives people a lighthearted feeling, it kind of cheers them up.

So how do your songs come together?
Jim: Well I’m the one who does the arrangements, Jon writes the song lyrics and chords, then I take the chords, rearrange them and come up with something completely different! I think that a good song can’t be destroyed, say if another band covers it, because the composition is so beautiful in itself. I really try to do that in our songs, simple compositions, simple melodies. We’re not perfect musicians, but I try to be perfect in the composition itself.

Where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics? They can range from wanting to be a cat to munching on soya…
Jon: They’re reflections on our modern day lives, but from a very particular viewpoint. I write about things that I know about and what I experience. Like being part of this generation, being very connected to things but at the same time feeling very disconnected. It’s always from little domestic things though.
Jim: Explaining the big, through the small.

How does your art influence your music?
Jon: It’s an extension of our art, I think, just in a different medium.
Jim: We always have a backdrop to our shows, combining art with music. One thing about comparing art and music for me is that when I do art there’s a lot of thinking involved before I start painting, with music it’s the opposite, I just play around until I find something I like. Personally, I prefer making music – art for me is more like a job, but music is more surprising.
Jon: I think the way Jim approach music is the way I approach art, and the way I tackle songwriting is the same as him with art, I spend a lot of time thinking about it. Somewhere in there though there’s a yin and yang that makes us work – if we were similar we might step on each other’s toes.

Tell us the stories behind the songs on your single…
Jon: Let’s Eat Soya is a bit of a seedy love song, between two people finding a common ground in their culinary preference. It doesn’t take itself too seriously as you’ll hear in the analogies in the verses.
Jim: Lonely In The Digital World is more about, say, having a thousand Facebook friends and not knowing any of them, and Jon came up with the story about the invincible video game character making his way through a game, and how lonely it must be.
Jon: You know, you can go to all these amazing worlds and places to connect to, but if you’re not doing that with some other human input then it’s very lonely.

Is it really as fun as it looks performing together?
Jon: For me it’s still a huge novelty, I feel almost like I don’t deserve it because I haven’t grafted for years working my way up. But I really enjoy it, even though it makes me feel sick beforehand. But there are moments when it clicks and it feels really joyous.
Jim: We try not to let it become a job, we’d hate to be one of those bands that repeats the same shows all year. It has to be as exciting for us as it is for the audience, so we don’t know what’s going on all the time and we can react to the crowd. Plus, I want to dance when I hear our music so I do!

Jim, what do you make of our fair city?
Jim: Well Jon has been working hard to show me all the touristic highlights! But I’ve been here before many years ago. I got lost in the one way system somehow, and there was a camper van behind me following me the whole time. Then suddenly he started flashing at me to stop, and I was thinking are these gangsters, undercover police? Then the guy says “you looks a bit lost, can I help you out?” So my only real personal moment with Nottingham was very nice.

So how did you get involved with Hello Thor?
Jim: We decided to start looking for a label when we finished recording, but then three days later Jon went back to Nottingham and called me saying he’d got one already. At the beginning of July we had no idea where we were going with the music, and less that six weeks later we have a single out! We’re very happy to be on the label.
Jon: It was through Pete from Fists who’s a friend of mine, so I knew the label and I’d been to their gigs. It’s been really painless, we couldn’t hope to work with nicer people.

Any plans for a full length release?
Jon: We’ve certainly got enough material, we’re still working on new songs and we’ve got lots that we’re already happy with.
Jim: I’d like to concentrate on how we want the album to look and sound, so it’s not just a collection of singles but something a bit different. But at the moment I could see other songs of ours being released as singles, I’d like that. I love the single format with the picture discs, when the label sent us a picture of them with the records I felt so proud.

Any other news you want to tell us?
Jim: We’re going to have a nice, beautiful website soon – Mr Burgerman has been slaving for many nights on it.
Jon: Well, not just me! We’ve been working with some web developers called The Neon Hive, it should be live in the next few weeks

Where can people get hold of the single?
Jon: From hellothor.com, mainly, and our gigs. You might find it in a few record stores too.

Any last words?
Jon: Listen to the radio! We’ve been really lucky to be on Radio 1 and XFM, and we’re going to be on 6Music next week. And there’s only 500 copies of the single, and I think Jim wants to buy about 100 to send to all his friends, so get in quick.

Live review: Anxieteam

16 Sep

Anxieteam played live at Cafe.Bar.Contemporary on Saturday 28 August 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

What happens when you take a German contemporary pop artist and a doodle artist from the Midlands, and give them a synth, some sample pads, a ukulele and a projector? Well, one of the most fun, light hearted and engaging gigs you’re likely to have been to in a while, for starters.

Jim Avignon and Jon Burgerman, both internationally renowned artists in their own rights, have decided to put down the pens and paintbrushes for a bit and team up to start making some music.

The evening started with support from the intricate and rhythmic guitar of Matthew Stephen Cooper, who surprised the crowd with his strong, growling voice and dark, bluesy tones. During the break between sets I chowed down on an Anxieteam-themed cupcake from Star Bakery, and I also snuck over to buy a copy of the single – a glorious vinyl double A-side picture disc, both sides lovingly designed by Jon and Jim themselves.

Before they started, the two of them went around the crowd handing out hand-drawn balloons, which they made “just in case nobody showed up, so we could still have an audience”. Thankfully, the turnout was super and things just got better from there. With Burgerman tackli

ng vocals and ukulele and Avignon on electronics (read: everything else), Anxieteam created charming and wry songs full of lyrics with far more meaning that you first realise, simple uke strummings, bleeps, bloops and ridiculously infectious synthy pop beats.

In their own words, Anxieteam “talk about the very big in terms of the very small”, and that’s just what came across as they jumped about the stage, dancing with broken umbrellas and donning angry Pac Man masks. The whimsical, lighthearted nature of their shows masks a deeper level to the whole endeavour – you get the feeling that they just want to make the world a little better in whatever way they can, and if that means singing about soya and video games, well then so be it. It certainly made me happy!

Reviewed: Mahri Autumn – ri-solv

10 Aug

Mahri Autumn released ri-solv in March 2010

The track ‘High Time’ is available to download for FREE on the Insomnia Radio Daily Dose (11 August 2010)

Review also published on thejustinwayneshow.com

Australian musician Marianthe Loucataris has set the bar high on her first solo endeavor with the sweeping, emotive sounds of ambient-folk record ri-solv. The album is a revealing collection of ten songs that float over your ears on a breeze of acoustic delicacy which underpins a most soulful voice that is full of quiet passion and deep yearning.

The album begins tentatively, introducing the record’s underpinning elements with the accordion-rich strains of ‘High Time’ – a flowing, folksy piece peppered with acoustic guitar, piano and Egyptian percussion (of which more will be said later on). But what really catches you is your first introduction to Loucataris’ voice, which is a beautiful, overlayed harmonic experience; she sings with purpose, but with an utterly charming reserved undertone that permeates each song with a sense of intrigue. It can at times make you feel a little voyeuristic, as if by listening to her songs you become privy to a very private form of expression, but that only serves to make the album more touching and personal. The record ebbs and flows between confidence and reservedness, but always with a delicate touch from the vocals.

As well as her strong vocal talents, what sets this record in a very interesting and rather unique light is Loucataris’ use of Egyptian percussion techniques, which reflect both her cultural heritage and her time spent studying under an Egyptian drumming master. Setting these traditional percussive sounds in a very modern soundscape makes listening all the more pleasurable, as you will hear curious sounds that fit perfectly into the context of these ambient, enveloping tracks that, honestly, can’t really be pinned onto any genre. She creates ethereal soundscapes, with overlapping vocal melodies and layer upon layer of carefully-placed instrumental and electronic elements.

I’ve spun this album many times, and it is one from which you can garner something new from each listen. From twinkling piano and gorgeous accordion drones, to the delicately plucked acoustic guitar and unique percussive elements, and of course, that astounding emotionally exposed voice, Mahri Autum’s ri-solv is a beautiful cluster of deeply heartfelt songs that are wonderful in their subtle complexity.

The album is available to download for whatever price you choose.

Nottingham Pride 2010

4 Aug

Nottingham Pride took place on Saturday 29 July 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

Now in its eighth year, Nottingham Pride’s annual celebration of LGBT culture and diversity this year was far and away the best way to propel the festival into the future. Having well outgrown its previous home at the Arboretum, the decision to move Nottingham Pride to the Forest was controversial but one that ultimately paid off as the festival was bigger, brighter and more comfortable in its new, roomier location. The event is organised solely by a committee of unpaid volunteers, who work tirelessly all year round to fund-raise for, organise and create the one day that we know and love.

The celebrations began at 11am with a march snaking down North Sherwood Street from the Arboretum before tackling the ascent up Mansfield Road to the Forest. This was my first ever Pride March, and being decked out in enough rainbows to make me look a little like unicorn poop (because everyone knows that unicorns poop rainbows, right?) I felt right at home in the midst of the fantastic turn out – around a thousand people by most estimates. Led by the Nottingham Tartanaires Marching Band, accompanied by whistles, chants and whoops, the march stopped traffic and attracted a rabble of bystanders along the route who all received cheery waves from the marchers. I was sandwiched in between Robin Hood, Maid Marian and the wonderfully dolled-up ladies of NG1, who somehow managed the march in 4 inch stilettos.

At the end of the march, with everyone involved covered in smiles and laughter, at the turning into the Forest there was a small group of homophobic protesters, supposedly representing Islam. Suffice to say that not only did they not represent the Muslim faith, spouting opinions that fly in the face of numerous Muslim LGBT groups, but they certainly didn’t get what they came for. They were looking for confrontation and headlines, and all they got was a one or two fingered salute from us, and a severe drowning out. Less than 20 voices of ignorance against a thousand campaigning for tolerance? On yer bikes, boys. Oh, and a special mention for the police, who did a stellar job of guiding the march and general policing around the park. They got right into the spirit, parading the rainbow-emblazoned Notts Police Force flag on their van and posing for pictures with drag queens, whilst quietly and effectively keeping everyone safe.

The festival was officially opened at midday by the Lord Mayor, who reminded the crowds in his speech how important it is to support the cause and how lucky we are to be able to attend events like this freely and in safety. He asked us all to spare a thought for others who don’t have the same luxury in their countries, and highlighted the reasons why Pride is still such an important voice in combating prejudice and injustice.

The mix of people in attendance was hugely diverse; from boys who knew all the dance moves to Lisa Scott-Lee’s rendition of Steps classics, to Robin Hood’s posse, to fabulous drag queens in 6 inch heels and feather boas, to entire families enjoying a fun day out, to the man and woman who got engaged on the main stage whilst being presided over by compere Babsarella, to people like me, out to support a worthy cause and have a smashingly good day to boot.

The music on the main stage was varied to say the least, mixing saccharin pop from the likes of Lisa and Andy Scott-Lee and a Pink tribute act, with the rock stylings of K9-Feline, Kenelis and Brooklyn, NY’s Betty. Not quite something for everyone, but a good mix of acts that didn’t play up too much to the twee pop stereotype of Pride events. That being said, the event was closed by the Cheeky Girls. But you know what? They were perfect for the purpose, they got everyone dancing at the end, and who doesn’t want to see two tiny Transylvanians dancing around in their underwear? Especially as they were preceded by the Dream Bears, a dance act hot off the stage of Britain’s Got Talent who live by a similar mantra: who doesn’t want to see three tubby blokes from London dancing around in lingerie and nipple tassels whilst gyrating to Lady Marmalade? Err… No comment, actually.

In all, it was a day of fabulous sights, sounds and attitudes, underpinned by a fierce passion to bring tolerance and understanding to the wider society. As if destined to have that point proven, I encountered something whilst waiting for the tram that really hammered home the reasons why Pride is still important. Two young lads walking away from the festival came face to face with a piece of dirt homophobe who called them f****ts. Not wanting things to turn to violence, I did what I never seem to be able to do – fuelled by a full day of campaigning and partying – I stepped in. Not only did those lads get the bastard to fully apologise – on camera, no less – but they learned that although there are battles still left to fight, the only way that they can be won is by fighting them with words instead of fists. It’s the only way they could have won – and when they did, well, it felt so damn good.

Reviewed: Youth Sounds – The Bit Parts EP

22 Jul

Youth Sounds released their debut EP, The Bit Parts EP, in the summer of 2010

Reviewed for the Insomnia Radio: Daily Dose (click to hear/download the track ‘As Strangers Would’)

Dreamy, lilting and with an occasional sharp edge, the debut EP from New Orleans’ Youth Sounds stands them in promising stead for things to come. A short but sweet endeavour at three tracks long, The Bit Parts EP is, in the varying parts that its title suggests, pop, electro and soft rock, and tugs the heartstrings whilst maintaining a very stylish and polished sound – especially for a first-time outing.

Youth Sounds are a brother-sister outfit made up of self taught musicians Erika and Federico Mejia, who honed their respective crafts in church choirs before moving on to their own project alongside Adrian Frye and Taryn Mejia, making the group very much a family affair. Erika’s delightfully soft and creamy vocals float above music that takes the EP from uplifting electro/rock, laced with synths, electric guitar and piano in ‘As Strangers Would’, to the tentative, emotive acoustic guitar-led ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ that leads into a strong, enveloping epic of a track before falling back to its timid origins, and finally to ‘What Is It Like’, a bona fide pop/rock anthem complete with twinkling chorus and piano lead, guitar fuelled backing.

What we have here is an accomplished and mature debut offering from a band that needs eyes fixed very firmly on them because they are surely bound for something great, and if they can get it this right on their first time out, just imagine what the debut album is going to bring to the table. I for one will be waiting expectantly.

Reviewed: Gold Motel – Summer House

5 Jul

Gold Motel released their full length album Summerhouse on 1 June 2010

Reviewed for The Justin Wayne Show and Insomnia Radio: Chicago

Well this is a little embarrassing. I was sent Gold Motel’s EP a couple of months back kindly by their lead vocalist Greta, formally of  The Hush Sound. But in the time that it’s taken me to get my act together to review the EP, they’ve gone and released a full length! Honestly, these indie bands and their organisational skills. So to try and keep up with the times, I’ve decided to forego the EP and dive straight in to writing some very nice things about their album, Summer House. And nice writing it does indeed deserve, being a lovely, sunshine-tinged jaunty escapade of a record.

Summerhouse is one of those gorgeous, jumpy boppy indie albums that will be spinning on your mp3 player all summer long just because it makes you smile. Vocals and keys are provided by Greta Morgan, who uses the former to coat the album in a golden honeyed shine, and the latter to ground it firmly in the territory of classically uplifting pop music. These combined with a duo of guitars with a surf’s-up-sounding twang and a solid rhythm section, make Gold Motel’s sound one that invokes images of California summers, floaty dresses, melted ice cream and diving into lakes in the blazing sun.

There is happiness seeping from almost every wave of this album; from Morgan’s crystal clear, lilting vocals to the close vocal harmonies with guitarist Dan, and the keyboard sounds dotting in and out of each song, Summerhouse is bursting with songs that are just dying to get stuck in your head – and they will succeed. There are a few tracks that really shine through on Summer House, like ‘Perfect in my Mind’ during which I defy anyone to resist singing along to some ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ by the end, ‘Safe in LA’ which will have you dancing like an idiot all over the shop, and ‘The Cruel One’ with its jolly piano track and heavily punctuated rhythms beneath cool and sweet vocals.

But in the end, all you really need to know is that if you need a good happy soundtrack for anything you do during this summer, just spend a while in Gold Motel’s beautifully decorated, multi-coloured Summer House.

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