Saturday, 23 February 2013

Foundcloud #5

Two more tracks for February! One of which is accompanied by a rather lengthy slab of text.
So something for everyone.

Elephant - 'Skyscraper'

I had a real soft spot for Elephant’s Assembly EP when it was released in 2011 (helping to soundtrack, as it did, lengthy stretches of time in a university library), and I’m glad to hear a new song from the London-based boy-girl duo – presumably a first taste of their upcoming debut album.

I’m even more glad, it should be said, that this is the most fleshed out realisation of their dreamy, almost David Lynch-esque, approach to a fifties-style pop sound – as the band crafts an elegantly melancholic wall of sound (consisting of organ washes, retro-cinematic vibraphones (always a personal favourite), string and choral samples, and passages of processed guitar, amongst others) around Amelia Rivas’ suitably dreamlike vocals; all of which combine to create a brilliant three-and-a-half minutes of dreamy pop that – like the work of Tennis, and like Beach House’s more recent releases – favours brightness and clarity over murkiness and ambiguity.

Download it from their Bandcamp page here, too.

Scarfolk Council - 'A Day at the Seaside'

There’s a different sort of nostalgia at work in this second selection.

I discovered the Scarfolk blog ( earlier today, and I think it’s fair to say that anyone who looks at it will have an idea of what that “different sort of nostalgia” I mentioned is.

The blog’s aesthetic – visibly influenced by public information films of the Cold War 1970s as well as, it should be noted, the visual style of Ghost Box Records, Broadcast, and the BBC comedy series Look Around You (which, of course, are themselves visibly influenced by public information films and posters of the 1970s) – can clearly be linked with ‘hauntology’: the aesthetic style / music genre that offers a skewed interpretation of the 1970s, often focusing on a somewhat childlike perspective on the anxieties of that time in which the eerie warnings of public information films mingle with the warped fantasies of 1970s horror films like The Wicker Man and of children’s television programmes like Children of the Stones.

This track – from the blog’s Soundcloud account – has its own mythology that ties in with that of the blog’s titular surreal perpetual-1970s town (the track description reads “Scarfolk Council is proud to announce its musical debut! Here's "A Day at the Seaside" from the "Scarfolk Music & Audio Library Vol. 1" released in 1973(v.2.0).”). Musically though, I didn’t feel it evokes the past in the same way as is generally associated with ‘hauntology’ artists like Belbury Poly and the Focus Group: despite the presence of hazy analog synth drones, the track doesn’t evoke the 1970s through a pastiche of library music or of cult science-fiction or horror films. Instead, the track evokes the implicit nostalgia of its own title (‘A Day at the Seaside’) through creating the sense of a distant memory through field recordings of seaside sounds melting and fading into the downtempo ambient drones in a way that presents us with a view of the past that’s more introspective and personal than hauntology’s post-modern warping of cultural artefacts. Highly recommended!

Sunday, 3 February 2013


It finally happened.
Even at the height of expectation, I wasn’t really expecting it.
But yeah, as everyone and their oft gazed at shoes knows, My Bloody Valentine have released their third album!

This isn’t going to be a track-by-track review / run-down, as I imagine there are tonnes of those and, I think it’s fair to say, I’m one of those people who are prone to criminally overusing terms like “blissed-out”, “hazy”, and “killer swirly, bro” when describing shoegazey stuff.

Instead it’s just going to be a bunch of very subjective words related to m b v.

The Release
Jon Bon Jovi said something about the effect of the Internet on music and its listenership and how its “killing music” (a lot of people have said this, I know, but I wanted to subtly shed a light on the irony of Jon Bon Jovi accusing anyone or anything of doing harm to music (and, yeah, I know it’s a cheap shot)); and he said all that stuff about how the romance of listening to a record and pouring over it in your bedroom was lost in the digital age of instant gratification: teenagers can now just jump thoughtlessly from song to song, before taking a break with some demented Cold War-era Soviet pornography and a marathon session of the most critically acclaimed HBO drama series of the moment.

I think, however, we could see a new sort of romanticism in music listening brought about by the Internet and its promises of “what you want, when you want”. By which I mean – and I assure you at this point that I’m not trying to sell you a new phone contract or anything – connectivity. I saw it when Radiohead released King of Limbs from out of nowhere, too, this sense of the release being an event because it was immediately accessible to all the fans, who could share their thoughts, their feelings, their jokes with one another over forums and social networks.

It was even more noticeable with m b v, though, due to the excitable fans causing an almost-immediate server breakdown (instant gratification, my balls!). Sure, it wasn’t great to find that my excited, hopeful clicking on that fateful link was met with a ‘Server is busy’, and later, a message throwing into question my credentials – but the Internet response was quite inspiring. Comments expressing individual confusion at the server being down quickly gave way to individuals speaking for the whole community – verbose expostulations of “NOOOOOO” and YouTube clips expressing those sentiments. The widespread hysterics, and mass excitement at the fact that someone had a screencap of the page pre-crashing, made the whole thing like experiencing Beatlemania from the comfort of your own home.

Most enjoyable was how the community wasn’t the stereotypical view of Internet hordes as a mass of entitled whining “trolls”, but of people whose genuine excitement and anticipation for 47 minutes of new music was clear through just the simplistic vector graphics of words on computer screens. Who can say the romance of listening to music has been killed by the Internet, when it can be used as a means for complete strangers to bond with one another over speculation and over jokingly making false claims about having heard the album (one of mine was that “the drop on ‘Fill That Cat’s Urethra With Formaldehyde, You Sainted Buffoon’ is up there with Skrilly”).

Downloading and Listening
After giving up on the wait for the server to come back (sometime round quarter to one, I think), I went to bed. This was, I should add, partly because I was running dry on smart-arse witticisms. Next morning, I went about my usual waking routine of making indistinguishable noises and then reading to accustom my half-asleep mind to language and then... suddenly... “NEW MBV ALBUM”, which led me to run downstairs to get my laptop and DOWNLOAD THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

I was met with a transaction error at first, which I initially thought may have been some sort of Kevin Shields elaborate conspiracy. But eventually, I DOWNLOADED THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

It then strikes me that this is going to be the first time I’ve listened to a My Bloody Valentine album without it being accompanied by a rich mythology – the stunned initial reviews, the impassioned retrospectives elevating it to relic status.

As I hit ‘play’ though, the first few tracks of m b v provide me with some familiar sounds: the tremolo, the distortion, the vocals and their soft counterpoint to the instrumental noise. It starts off very much resembling Loveless – opener ‘she found now’ is very much in the vein of ‘Sometimes’, for example – albeit with a production style a bit more clear and ‘earthbound’ – most noticeable in how the tone is somewhat more reminiscent of “crunchy” Dinosaur Jr.-style noise-pop on tracks like ‘only tomorrow’ and ‘who sees you’ than of the spacey, smooth alien textures of Loveless. The overall effect led me to expect an album somewhere curiously between the more transcendent sonic explorations of Loveless and Isn’t Anything’s adventurous yet undoubtedly ‘rock’ sound.

Which is kind of true. The album definitely changes toward the end, as tracks continue the ‘strangeness’ of Loveless with tracks that exert more overt electronic influences (the excellent ‘if i am’ and ‘in another way’ both bear noticeable similarities with Kevin’s remix work for the likes of Primal Scream and Yo La Tengo); and the ‘groundedness’ of Isn’t Anything shows itself in a number of ways – the rockier elements present in ‘nothing is’ and ‘new you’ (possibly one of the happiest-sounding songs in their back catalogue, by the way, rivalling even some of the early twee stuff), as well as the humour and somewhat Stereolab-esque playfulness present in some of these tracks (is ‘nothing is’ a tongue-in-cheek response to Isn’t Anything? And the ramshackle little coda at the end of ‘if i am’, and the unexpected crazy solo kicking off ‘in another way’).

If I’m honest, it still feels weird to be listening to this and to have it there in my iTunes. It’s been great to listen today (almost exclusively, in fact) to what My Bloody Valentine have been up to since Loveless, and it’s served to make me look forward even more to seeing them in Manchester in March. Here’s hoping that – as Kevin has implied – this is only the beginning, and we’ll be hearing what Kevin’s had in mind for after this follow-up to Loveless... because I personally really want to hear a bit more stuff in the vein of his ambient stuff for the Lost in Translation OST.