Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Album review - Philip Selway 'Familial'

Philip Selway
(Bella Union)

ONE OF THE world’s most proficient drummers, Philip Selway’s innovative timing and off-kilter rhythms give Radiohead their most distinctive edge. Odd then, that Selway’s debut solo album features very little - almost none in fact - of his trademark off-beat drumming.
Instead, we get a deeply personal, understated and at times whimsical offering that deals with themes of growing old and the importance of family - hence the name.
Selway is the third Radiohead member to venture into the solo realm after Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood, and those expecting a duff offering - as is often the norm for drummers from hugely commercial bands - will be pleasantly surprised.
Radiohead fans will not, knowing that Selway has provided backing vocals on several occasions over the band’s seven studio albums - the eighth which is currently being recorded, but not before the engaging Selway takes his own solo compositions on tour.
And what a voice he has. It is not showy or flashy, or similar to the tear-inducing falsetto that Yorke is famous for - rather Selway’s is nuanced and subtle, allowing his voice to creak and crack where necessary.
His impressive range is complemented by the fact that, to a large degree, Selway allows his voice to be the main instrument on the album - and avoids any Radiohead-type sounds, a few digital glitches aside.
The hushed and haunted By Some Miracle opens the album in stunning, Nick Drake style, Selway’s deliciously off-kilter melodies accompanied by gentle harmonies - courtesy of Lisa Germano, who worked with Selway and Neil Finn on the 7 Worlds Collide project.
Familial also boasts Wilco members Glenn Kotche and Pat Sanson - impressive special guests if you can get them, but then Selway’s day-job probably helps with that.
The drumming loops, handclaps and digital rattles of the Tom McCrae-sounding Beyond Reason is the closest Selway allows himself to stray toward Radiohead’s territory.
It is the three core songs of the superb Ties That Bind Us - a countrified and harmonic folky offering with deep double-bass sounds - the very delicate and subversive Patron Saint and sweeping, string-driven Falling, that forms the emotional heartbeat of this album. The ghostly, slow-burning Don’t Look Down is the stand-out track on offer on an album that should open the eyes of both Radiohead and non-fans alike.
Rating 4/5

Friday, August 20, 2010

Electric Picnic 2010 day by day breakdown

The full day to day/night by night breakdown of acts playing at Electric Picnic (on the main stages at least) has been released, with Limerick's Rubberbandits - pictured launching the festival above - set for a Friday night slot with special guests Crystal Swing (the highlight of the weekend in the making, methinks..)

Just two weeks to go!!


Roxy Music
Public Image Limited
Modest Mouse
The Waterboys
Jonsi (Sigur Ros)
Marc Almond
Janelle Monae
Booka Shade
Duke Special
Laura Marling
Kormac’s Big Band
Sebastien Leger
Black Mountain
The Rubberbandits feat Crystal Swing
Sneaky Soundsystem DJ set
Here We Go Magic
Chew Lips
Cymbals Eat Guitars
Joe Echo
Freelances Whales
Delta Maid
James O’Connor
Nova Static
Donal Dineen, Niwel Tsumbu & Friends
Vengeance & the Panther Queen
The Subs
Phil Ryan


The Frames
LCD Soundsystem
Imelda May
Hot Chip
Seasick Steve
Gil Scott Heron
Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77
AfroCelt Soundsystem
Steve Earle
Bad Lieutenant
Paul Brady
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
Cathy Davey
Crystal Castles
Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip
Redneck Manifesto
The Antlers
Brendan Perry
And So I Watch You From Afar
Steve Mason
Ryan Sheridan
The Japanese Popstars
Stacey Pullen
Edan the MC
Adrian Crowley
Joker & Nomad
Mountain Man
Philip Selway
Arveene & Misk
These New Puritans
Spilly Walker
Fang Island
Daniel Wang
Brian Deady
The Mighty Stef
Crystal Fighters
Mikki Dee & Mystro
Trojan Soundsystem
Goodtime John
Channel One


Massive Attack
The National
Mumford & Sons
Fever Ray
Friendly Fires
Fat Freddys Drop
Two Door Cinema Club
Fight Like Apes
Laurent Garnier (live)
Wolf Parade
The Horrors
The Fall
Dennis Alcapone & the Dubcats
New Pornographers
Bonobo (live)
The Big Pink
Low Anthem
Jerry Fish & the Mudbug Club
Liquid Liquid
808 State
Archie Bronson Outfit
Mr Scruff
Field Music
Cymande II
The Tallest Man on Earth
The Alarm
Juan Atkins
Dam Funk
James V McMorrow
Neon Indian
Dublin Gospel Choir
Messiah J & the Expert
O Emperor
The Riptide Movement

Album review - The Magic Numbers 'The Runaway'

The Magic Numbers
‘The Runaway’
(Heavenly Recordings)
THIS THIRD album from double-sibling quartet The Magic Numbers is a perplexing affair. Not in terms of the music on offer - it does not mine difficult artistry and complexity - rather it seems to show a quartet who do not want to be the band they have often been pigeonholed as. Often seen as something of a happy clappy harmony band, a la the Mamas and Papas, as a result of their more successful singles from first two albums, in reality both albums were driven by their own share of heartache, a tinge of unease and unhappiness prevalent on each.
It is no different here, on what is a moody, downscaled and often lo-fi affair that opens bursting with strings, but soon quietens almost to a crawl - too quiet by half for our tastes.
Produced by frontman Romeo Stodart and Valgeir Sigurdsson - who has worked with oddballs Bjork and Bonnie Prince Billy - the standout feature of this beguiling album is the weight of the strings present on it, arranged, before he passed away, by Robert Kirby, renowned for his work with the likes of Nick Drake, Sandy Denny and Elvis Costello.
As such, the swooning violins on the Beach House influenced opener ‘The Pulse’ are an impressive start to the record; as is the orchestral swing of Hurt So Good.
Stodart has said the band wanted to avoid the album being driven purely by guitars, instead replacing them with orchestration, and to a certain extent this is case, outside of by-the-numbers tracks such as A Start With No Ending and the ever so slightly Air-esque beat of Once I Had, but as a result the album is a bit samey, a bit maudlin, and a bit, well, bland.
The funky beat of of Why Did You Call is a stand-out, as is the Fleetwood Mac meets Broken Social Scene mash-up of Throwing My Heart Away, but there is not enough here to incite and excite, as the Magic Numbers eponymous 2005 debut did.
A shame, because the band are clearly bursting with talent. Maybe if they embraced their strengths and cheered up a bit, they might hit the perfect note.
Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Body Of Christ And The Legs Of Tina Turner

Listening to Fight Like Apes' new album The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner, which is due for release on August 27. Track list below, and as we have come to expect from the excitable Dublin (now) trio, it is off the wall and sounds like none of the urgency or humour has been lost from 2008 debut album FLA and the Mystery of the Gold Medallion.

01 Come On, Let's Talk About Our Feelings
02 Jenny Kelly
03 Pull Off Your Arms And Let's Play In Your Blood
04 Hoo Ha Henry
05 Katmandu (Face It, You're Caviar, I'm Hotdogs)
06 Thank God You Weren't Thirsty (Lightbulb)
07 Poached Eggs
08 Captain A-Bomb
09 Waking Up With Robocop
10 Indie Monster
11 H + Z5 Together At Last
12 Ice Cream Apple Fuck

Should get a review together for next week's Chronicle, although releases from the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra and last week's Arcade Fire album plus Dinosaur, the debut album by John, Shelly and the Creatures (who play Dolan's this Friday, see today's Chronicle for interview) are also occupying much of our listening space at the moment..

Friday, August 6, 2010

The return of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

JUST WHEN we needed a bit of cheering up, arriving out of the gloom are eight brothers from Chicago on an adrenaline-fuelled jazz train.

Hyperbole, plaudits and acclaim aside, the very fact that Damon Albarn used the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble on the recent Gorillaz record, had them on the main stage at Glastonbury, and released their album on his own label, plus the fact that they are supporting the Wu Tang Clan the night before they come to Limerick - tells its own tale.
This is a tale of eight brothers and their friend and drummer Christopher Anderson, who form this spiritual and cosmically connected brass-jazz-hip hop ensemble - and who play in Dolan’s Warehouse this Friday night.
The eight brothers, led by spokesman Gabriel ‘Hudah’ Hubert, who joined On the Beat for a genial chat recently, are sons all of the legendary jazz musician Philip Cohran, who had a seminal role with Sun Ra in Chicago in the 1950s.

Cohran turned 83 recently, and his sons were by his side to help him celebrate.
“He is still coaching us and gives us pointers on life,” says Hudah.
“Any time he hears about the things that we do, he always tells us how proud of us he is, and how much more that we have to do. Our father told us that music is supposed to be inspiring and we are here to inspire and as long as I can get that point across and people come up to us after the shows and say they had a great time, then that means I can go on with my job,” he adds.
Witnessing a live HBE show is simply hypnotic, in the absence of a better description, the eight brothers employing a mixture of battered brass instruments - tubas, trombones, trumpets - swaying and swinging as they play.
They have also added a new element of lyricism and crowd participation, beefing up their act considerably.

“The more and more you do something, the better you get at it, and you always try and flip it up and make it fresh so it doesn't become boring to you, and as long as you can be creative and keep it exciting, then the crowd is going to receive that,” says Hudah.

“Our father says when you open and close with a great song, then everything you do in the middle is going to be excellent, so we try to keep that format going and try to be as free as we can and definitely try and loosen up the crowd,” he adds.

Unprompted, the HBE member instantly namechecks the band’s recent gig in Dolan’s, saying he was just watching a You Tube video from that night in April.

“I was just remembering the energy of that crowd out there, it was nice,” he says. “The energy was incredible there last year. Ireland always shows us love, no matter what city we are in, what crowd we are performing before - they seem to love us and we respect the love back, it is a give and take thing that has been working out.”

This is a veritable Band of Brothers, who feel subconsciously connected, so do they believe in fate, that they were destined to follow this path?

“This is no accident, by no means whatsoever. Everything we have done so far has led us to where we are now. The more and more we do it, the more we know we are ambassadors to the world, we are not just representing ourselves, we are representing all the people who we grew up with, and our parents.”

Although the band recently recorded and released an EP with Irish promoters Choice Cuts, there are plans afoot for a full album release in the near future, one that should push HBE into the stratosphere.
“Right now we are back in the process of being in the studio to record some new material, we don't have a release date for it yet, we are just gathering the material because we wanna take the world by storm, we wanna give the people what they know we can give, and what we know we can give - a classic album,” says Hudah.

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble play in Dolan’s Warehouse this Friday night, along with Limerick’s own B+ (Brian Cross) and Leon.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Album review - Arcade Fire 'The Suburbs'

Arcade Fire
‘The Suburbs’

AFTER THE near faultless Neon Bible, follow-up to smash debut and album of the decade poll-topping Funeral, it appeared Arcade Fire could do no wrong, particularly in these parts, where they seemed worshipped with a certain reverence.
However, poor early word of mouth on this third album, the strangely titled ‘The Suburbs’, a small-ish crowd at Oxegen to see their headline Friday night appearance - could there be cracks appearing in the world’s biggest alternative band?
Not a bit of it.
True, this is a sprawling, bloated, so-called “concept” album that could have done with co-producer Markus Dravs getting out the scissors and trimming a few tracks - but boy is it a musical hotpotch, a heady brew of deep, dark, often subversive tunes that will take some amount of sampling to pronounce a verdict on.
There is a sense of unease about proceedings here, as if Wyn Butler, Regine Chassagne et al were slightly unconvinced about what they were attempting, but this 16-track beast is a testament to their bravery as artists.
The album boasts some classic rock tunes - Modern Man, an early highlight; synth-driven, Krautrock beats - Sprawl II Mountains Beyond Mountains; and chugging, string driven orchestrations - the pitch-perfect Rococo.
We particularly like the gloom of Sprawl I and II - capturing beautifully the mood and desperation of suburban life - “living in the sprawl/dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains”.
The gentle, almost jaunty opening of The Suburbs is disarming, but the No Cars Go spin-off Ready To Start is unmistakably Arcade Fire, a downbeat offering with a whipping electro finish. The first half of Half Light I recalls Sufjan Stevens with its swirling violins, while its follow-up, Half Light II, is less memorable.
The Fleetwood Mac-meets-Springsteen sheen of Suburban War is one of the highlights - “oh my old friends / they don’t know me now”, while lead single We Used to Wait - echoing as it does Foals/Klaxons - makes more sense when heard in context with the rest of the album.
Don’t listen to the naysayers, this is up there with Arcade Fire’s best work - bizarre Depeche Mode-concept quirks aside - but could still have done with being reduced in scope.
That said, there is enough here to offer a new experience with each new listen.

More additions to Electric Picnic 2010 line-up

MORE new additions to the Electric Picnic line-up, some of which are very exciting indeed, including new soul diva Janelle Monae, harmonic female trio and recent Bella Union signing Mountain Man, Irish lad Duke Special, dreamy shoegaze pop from Neon Indian, and the superb Irish band O Emperor.
Joining these exciting additions are Dj Dennis Alcapone and the Dubcats, New York's Freelance Whales, Delta Maid, the excellent Joe Echo who has recorded songs for Madonna and Paul Oakenfold, plus Vengenance and the Party Queen.
Some withdrawals also, due to "unforeseen circumstances" Memory Tapes, Breakestra and Chali 2 Na, won't be able to make the Stradbally fest.
Tickets still on sale, we would advise to get cracking if you plan on buying one!
For more see here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble return to Limerick this Friday

THE EPIC, electric, jazz driven funkof the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble returns to Limerick this Friday, with a very special line-up for the Dolan's Warehouse gig.
Fresh from headlining the main stage at Glastonbury with Gorillaz and a night after playing with Wu Tang Clan in Brixton Academy, the Hypnotic Brass return to Limerick for what should be another spectacular gig.
Joining the Chicago hip-hop jazz ensemble is Limerick's very own B+ (Brian Cross), visionary photographer, filmmaker and DJ, who was responsibile for bringing Brasilintime both to the stage and screen, including a gig in Trinity Rooms courtyard a couple of years ago, featuring the legendary Tony Allen among others.
However, Barack Obama's favourite band will be the main event, and Gabriel 'Hudah' Hubert joined us for an interesting chat for this week's Limerick Chronicle, which hits the streets this Tuesday lunchtime and also features a review of the new Arcade Fire album.

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble play in Dolan's Warehouse this Friday night. For more see the Limerick Chronicle.