Sunday, 19 February 2012

Kvelertak - Kvelertak

Music has this innate way of connecting people, regardless of any boundaries through gender, race, age, or nationality and I'm sure that even now, despite our giant leaps in communicative technology, ie the internet, most bands become more popular not through advertising campaigns but through a "hey, I've heard this new band, they're great, check them out" shared word of mouth sentimentality that music fans have. When I first heard Kvelertak I knew that my friend would like them and almost immediately posted one of their songs on his wall, he's the reason why I'm writing this, because he almost begrudgingly said the usual guilty have I not heard this band before, and then a request: You have to do a review of it.

Kvelertak's debut album is almost two years old now, which was my excuse to him for not writing a review of it but that is absurd given that it's won two Norwegian awards (equivalent to the American Grammy Awards) for best newcomer and best rock band as well as favourable reviews in countless rock magazines. So sure, I may have missed the boat in suggesting that I am the first to hear of this cool new band but sometimes an album is so good that it doesn't matter whether you've heard it before release, or years after, it deserves a review and Kvelertak have created one of those albums.

The Norwegian six piece, one of the few bands to not fall pray to needing to have vocals in the English language to be successful, in their debut album have written what I can only describe as a purist album (in that it is purely amazing in everything it does). It's part hardcore, part metal, part death metal, even part rock 'n' roll, and part everything else, and sure it's a serious album but it never fails to hold a party atmosphere, and I can just sense when I'm listening to the album, everybody throwing their plastic cups of lager around, chanting alongside the band. When speaking about the band, my friend probably summed it up best. Firstly he said he had goosebumps. This is one of those qualities that music has, it doesn't happen THAT often, but when it is that good, it truly makes you that excited that your body just has to react to it. Secondly, he said that this debut album is a collection of fantastic genre's, all lumped together and not only done brilliantly, but in the best way they could possibly be used. And he's completely right, hell, I'm actually beginning to think that maybe he should be the writer, not me.

So whether it is through the brilliant animated video of Blodtørst, or the sweaty riotous video of Mjød, let me be not the first, and definitely not the last person to say, that you have to check out Kvelertak because I'm a big fan of bread, and they are a whole lot better than it being sliced.

5 / 5

Friday, 17 February 2012

The British Expeditionary Force

I normally approach interviews in the same way, and once the interview is done I will write some elaborate paragraph outlining who the band I'm interviewing is, what they have achieved, and an overview of what is spoken about during the interview. The British Expeditionary Force contain a member of now de-funct band Yourcodenameis:Milo, who happen to be one of my favorite bands so I have to say I was pretty excited and nervous about the responses to the questions I had about his old band, his new(er) band, and everything else... but nothing really prepared me for what was to come.

I've spoken to a lot of successful musicians in my time writing for God Is In The TV Zine. In this time I've spoken to those who take themselves too seriously, those who are arrogant, those who are serious and arrogant (Papa Roach), and those who treat this as a hobby and perhaps aren't quite serious enough (yet). I'm not quite sure where Justin and Aid from The British Expeditionary Force fit in this spectrum of attitudes, I didn't know before the interview, and perhaps I'm even more puzzled after, but I have to say after giving their latest release, Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu, a 4.5 out of 5 review, that not only have they written a brilliant album that I'm sure will make my top 10 list for the year, but they are also extremely witty guys with a lot to say, although perhaps also, maybe not enough.

So on with the usual pre-interview paragraph. The British Expeditionary Force, formed in the demise of Yourcodenameis:Milo, released Chapter One: A Long Way From Home via Erased Tapes Records way back in 2007 to critical acclaim. 2012 sees the return of the band and their sophomore album, Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu. I caught up with Justin Lockey and singer Aid Burrows to talk about the band, the new album, and the pressures of being so successful.

Justin, coming from Yourcodenameis:Milo, the style of The British Expeditionary Force is completely different. Was that a conscious decision when you created the group, or something that just happened naturally?

(Justin:) After a fairly lengthy period of standing in various rooms and playing really fucking loud music with 4 other people who could, in theory be playing a totally different piece of music at the same time and nobody would be any wiser I decided it was probably time to calm the fuck down for a while.

This led me to the revelation that music could also be rewarding even when everything is not turned up really fucking loud. The idea that you could string notes together via the silky tones of a choral patch on a keyboard from Argos and you could randomly programme aurally rewarding sounds into a computer which would then spit it back out in some kind of order was to me, a relief. Having hid behind a distortion pedal and detuned guitar for so long I was more than happy to try something a little different.

So it wasn't really a conscious decision as such, more a happy accident of sorts. To be honest it was a piece of piss, it's an awful lot easier throwing two nice chords together and kicking back as opposed to counting in sevens all the time.

Your first album, Chapter One: A Long Way From Home was critically acclaimed by the music press. When you were writing that album, did you expect people to “get” it or was there a lingering thought that due to Justin’s previous band, you would be unfairly compared?

(Justin:) It reminded me of that time when Aid took me to one of his Chess Jamboree's for moral support. It was here, in a middle school on a perfect summers day in Wigan that Aid executed the Indian-Nimzo Defence perfectly against his opponent (a mere 12 years his junior) to a rapturous response.

Aid crushed the 9 year old like a polystyrene cup in his triumphant defeat in the semi-final and it became clear that it was the 9 year olds fault for not being clever enough to 'get' Aid's fucking masterful strategy.

Thus, even though Aid has had more life experience of the game and enjoys a superior wealth of knowledge to the kids’ pitiful display of rank amateurish chess playing, you can't expect people to 'get' anything you do, so you might as well not really give a fuck.

(Aid:) Perspective and editing is everything. It's hard to care too much about what a handful think as they're just people, and we're just people, floating as a mote of dust in space suspended in a sunbeam (to openly steal from Sagan).

The perspective depending on the framing angle is everything. But then again bloody 'ell that's amazing we're people! The odds against that are pretty astronomical, I really do care at times how others feel, the privilege to be someone and along with the chorus of billions of cells in the body we're hard wired to generate and be creative and make the atoms come alive and be understood with these obscure shared experiences of music among all else. It's all very strange under the microscope. It's hard to get the essence of the elephant at all. Always useful to shift perspective, who knows what's lurking.

From the first album to your latest, Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu, there is nearly a five year gap. Most acts release an album every two years, is there any reason why Chapter Two took so long to create, and what have you been up to in the interim?

Aid: It was something that Justin just felt he had to do. I was patient, I waited, I was sympathetic to the 'process'. Justin later suggested we crack on with Chapter 2. 'Konstellation Neu', I said inexplicably. We had a beginning....

This is your second album released through Erased Tapes Records. What can you tell us about your relationship with them, why do you keep releasing music through them specifically?

(Justin:) I worked on The BEF's Chapter 1 in my spare time in between training sorties flying up against the mega piloting skills of 'Viper', 'Jester' and 'Iceman'. Erased Tapes stuck with me as I lost my RIO and best friend 'Goose', slept with an awesome civillian blonde lady instructor bizarrely called 'Charlie', and basically pissed everyone off with my 'Reckless Flying' and 'Buzzing the tower'.

It was this strong bond between Label and Artist that is still as strong today as it was the day I summoned the memories of my late friend Goose mid-flight to eventually overcome a zillion baddy MiGs and save the day. This is why I specifically release music via Erased Tapes.

(Aid:) 100 per cent true.

I understand the story was turned into a sort of documentary movie around the time.

Sophomore albums can be notoriously difficult for bands, especially successful ones, as you don’t want to copy the debut album but yet, don’t want to alienate your fans too much on the second. Personally I think you have bridged the gap between the two perfectly, but how do you think Chapter Two both compares and contrasts to Chapter One?

(Justin:) The great film American film director Reginald Hudlin's seminal think piece 'House Party' (1990) was arguably the best film released in 1990. It effortlessly gave us a breath-taking insight into its two main protagonists 'Kid' and 'Play's minds whilst still expertly dealing with the controversial issues of 'grounding' and 'parties'. It was hands down the best film about a House Party ever. The simplicity and marriage of title and plot showed an uncanny fluidity and expert knowledge and craft of narrative cinema that seemed untouchable to anything that had gone before.

That was until "House Party 2' came along, Hudlin this time taking a writers role and handing over directing duties to George jackson and Doug Henry. Wow, what a sequel, it not only took the premise of 'House Party' to some next level shit, but also on an aesthetic tip, 'blew the fucking doors' off the franchise. Again we followed with baited breath the story of our two main protagonists 'Kid' and 'Play' (played again by Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin respectively) but this time it centered around a Pyjama party and introduced us to the 'Pyjama Jam'. It was this magical narrative sleight of hand that single handily saw 'House Party 2' beat down the original 'House Party' like a grossly mismatched bare knuckle boxing match, each plot point savagely disfiguring the face of its predecessor into a mangled mess of bone and flesh.

(Aid:) We realise it might seem arrogant to seem so at ease creating a metaphor in which we suggest our creative growth mimics that of the cosmic leap between 'House Party' and 'House Party 2'. We hope that in thousands and thousands of years the history books will vindicate this view.

There is the obvious electronic sound of the group, but I can hear post-rock influences too, while in the press release both indie and prog-rock are mentioned. What music inspired you when creating Chapter Two?

(Justin:) I think 'Indie' and 'Prog' are mentioned as they are probably truer references to what the band is influenced by. I am a kid who grew up in the 1990's having two older brothers who force fed quality Indie tunes down my throat until i violently threw up. What was left was of this period etched into my very soul was a fully formed expert knowledge of the entire back catalogue of The Wedding Present, a penchant for Pixies and a dab of Pavement to boot. I'd say every band I've ever been in I would try and convey that it sounds like The Wedding Present to me, even if it sounds nothing like The Wedding Present.

I don't think we're that influenced by Post Rock as that would mean I dig all that 'Epic', 'Crescendo' stuff, and I'm not really a fan. I'd rather get to the point a lot earlier than have to drag it out for hours upon hours of emotional guitar notes before something happens, it's like having to sit through the whole of the director’s cut of the Lord of The Rings trilogy in Turkish back to back in one sitting just to hear an E major chord.

Fuck that. I'd rather eat my own toes.

(Aid:) I on the other hand had an older brother who was force feeding me Aerosmith's Pump and Permanent Vacation, along with a prescription from Motley Crue's Doctor Feelgood. This was before doing something of a sonic skid into 808 state and Sub Sub.

That's taught me contradiction is important. I see it reaffirmed often. Purism and perfectionism can be claustrophobia inducing. We're social creatures and need to belong to some kind of set. It feels so comforting to have somewhere to stand and a place to be, perhaps even a direction to head in but the doors are wide open these days. Who knows what's next?

It's exciting to think there are many ways in which to go for Chapter 3.

Do you have any plans in terms of playing Chapter Two live?

(Justin:) Promoting is a chumps game, and playing live is for losers. Fact.

The music industry has changed a lot not only from Justin’s days in Yourcodenameis:Milo, but even since The British Expeditionary Force’s first release. What keeps you creating and releasing music when it would probably be easier to just work a 9-5 job?

(Aid:) Working a 9 to 5 job is bloody hard. That's often when the shops are open for starters. Where's the time to get things done. Before you know it, it's Sunday night and then the snake eats itself and around and around we go. Plus in this climate of shrinking shores and increasing demand for them 9 to 5 jobs it's no simple slice of life to take. This is why we live in a fantasy land.

Beyond this release what plans do the band have?

(Justin:) I'm about to take the position of Assistant Dean of the School of Humanities at Louisiana State University (Go Tigers!!!) as for the rest of the band, I don't know, and don't give a fuck. They'll probably go back to doing what they do best, which is all anyone can really do isn't it?

(Aid:) I'm going to have a bit of a sit down. Then I expect I'm going to have a bit of a cry because in order to play these songs live I'm going to need to work out some crazy Vocoder 8 part harmonies. Bruce Springsteen didn't have or use a vocoder. I’m so kicking myself right now.

And last but not least, you have five words to sell your record. Go!

(Justin:) Five words?? This isn't enough.

(Aid:) Justin used up all the words, let’s have a rewind. How about 'Indie, post rock, alternative electronica'? That sounds edgy enough to me.

You can buy the new The British Expeditionary Force album via Erased Tapes here -
The Minutes - Heart Breaker

They say that guitar music is dead, and to an extent I guess they are right. On the one side you have those polite indie boys who I'm sure would turn down their volume knobs if the venue asked them to, then on the other side you have those bands who scream their way through a song to the point where any emphasis on an idea or a melody is lost in translation. But there are bands out there, with the soul of the fifties, sixties and seventies, bands like The Black Keys and now, Dublin based, The Minutes (a terrible band name, but let’s forgive them for that, The Beatles is hardly a life changing band name!)

Heartbreaker, their single from debut album (released earlier this year) Marcata is a rousing old-school rock and roll track that has ideas of blues but doesn't fall in the trap of becoming The Black Keys or The Racontuers. Imagine Black Rebel Motorcycle Club but without the nonsense and you're about there with infused vocals, a raw guitar melody and the ability to make me want to drink Jack Daniels and hell, The Minutes manage all of this in around three minutes.

Sure it isn't original, sure it isn't groundbreaking, who knows, it might not even impact on the music industry at all, but this is a fantastic song to get ready to a night out to, or even to dance to during a night out, which is what I'm sure The Minutes were going for when they wrote it.

So guitar music is dead hey, someone clearly hasn't told The Minutes, and if it is, it seems they are here to try and resuscitate it.

4 / 5
The Megaphonic Thrift - The Megaphonic Thrift

I say this every time I hear a band from Scandinavia but I really do imagine that they don't reproduce in the same way that we do in Britain, I get images of this machine that just churns out these brilliant musicians (and crime writers if we're to be fair here) as if they were robots rather than people. So here is another band, The Megaphonic Thrift, from Norway this time (rather than the usual Sweden) picking up plaudits already for this, their self-titled album out on Club AC30.

This album starts out, annoyingly so (for us British anyway), fantastically, with swirls of distorted noise recalling the better parts of the grunge movement of the very early nineties alongside some noise influences with inspiration clearly coming from the likes of Nirvana, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Slint, as well as other bands I haven't yet heard I'm sure. Mid-way through though, the album dips into this dull shoe gaze area, and while I'm all for shoe gaze, I don't want to listen to something so lackluster that I'm no longer sure as to why I'm even listening to it. Luckily for The Megaphonic Thrift they manage to pull this back and end the album solidly with a series of songs relying on face ripping jagged guitar work, cymbal heavy drumming, and a male and female vocal interplay (wonder where they got that idea from eh?), and some actual melodic hooks that are utterly evil rather than sweet. All of this means that the listener is left with a positive reflection of the album, rather than a forgettable one, and leaves The Megaphonic Thrift with me (and others I'm sure), at least curious as to what they may create next.

There's a definite trend in this decade to look back and painfully steal bits and pieces from other important era's. This album was definitely supposed to be born in the late eighties, early nineties era and because of that is a niche but one I feel glad to have heard. It might not be perfect, hell, it's so very far from being so, and I might not be a fan just yet, but it has had enough strength to make me want to go back and listen to an old Slint record, so with that in mind, job done I guess.

3.5 / 5
St. Spirit - Pigeon

St. Spirit came together the way all good bands should come together; in college, after a friend hears another play a song, and after falling in love with a particular album (in this case My Bloody Valentine's Loveless). Add this to what seems to be a DIY sentimentality, (this Pigeon EP was recorded in a living room, mixed in a garden, rehearsed under a train, which if true is very indie indeed), and surely you have the potential for a great new British talent right?

Opening track, the title track, Pigeon is a bit misleading really. Full of energy, it has the sort of ethos of maybe early Editors, (think of their breakout single Blood and you'll get the jist), a tight indie song with those downbeat, depressing, dark vocal tones. And on hearing Pigeon, you might instantly write St. Spirit off, after all, that is one NME fad that seems well over and done with.

Luckily for them though, Pigeon just seems a flash in the pan. Second track, Sweat, is a somber piece of music full of impassioned vocals over a single strummed acoustic guitar with harmonized vocals setting the haunting the scene while lyrically McCabe paints some haunting pictures with lyrics like "I feel like cocaine kids playing in the snow".

Third track, New Skin, is just as haunting, with a melody possibly influenced by Radiohead (Kid A or maybe Hail To The Thief era), and almost Thom Yorke-esque vocals, and I say that as an advertisement rather than a criticism as I do believe that Radiohead are one of the greatest bands of our time.

While the fourth and final track that wraps up the EP, Tooth & Nail, has a little more oomph to it with a more prominent piano melody and overall orchestral feel, and for the first time since the unoriginal Pigeon, the guitarists figure out where their distortion pedals are to really hit home those chorus', not to mention that it ends with a rather folk pop tinge to it.

St. Spirit are made up of five nineteen year olds, and I know you shouldn't make judgments set upon age, but this Pigeon EP sounds like a mature collection written by thirty year olds who are comfortable with a sound they've spent years crafting album after album. Sure, the title track is a bit unoriginal, but if the three following tracks are anything to go by, then these guys have one hell of a future ahead of them.

4 / 5

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dan Gilliver - Gone But Never Far

It's rare for music to be made so selflessly. Even if sales of a record are donated to charity it's normally a percentage but here we have 'Gone But Never Far' the debut single from acoustic singer songwriter Dan Gilliver, written as a tribute following the death of one of his best friends with ALL proceeds from the single (out Monday 13th February) going to support her family in this difficult time.

So what's 'Gone But Never Far' actually like? Well firstly, lyrically it could be dark, depressing almost, and I guess it is if you know why Gilliver has written the song but there is a definite implied hope, of seeing friends again someday, a beautiful sentiment that we can all relate to and find comfort in. Musically there are some really lovely touches, from the harmonized vocals that start the song, to the occasional use of piano, to the overdubs of vocals littered throughout the track that really add something and even the subtle hand claps (or clicking) that enter mid-way, not to mention that Gilliver really does have a sweet, warm natural tone within his vocals.

For a debut single there is a musical maturity in 'Gone But Never Far' that many acts take years to find and with an EP on the way I'm sure this isn't the last we will hear from Gilliver. Great stuff.

4 / 5

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The British Expeditionary Force – Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu

It must be difficult leaving a band renowned for being a bit different and brilliant at the same time. When Yourcodenameis:Milo announced their hiatus I was shocked and a little upset I must admit, but I was even more so upon hearing vocalist Pull Mullen would be joining The Automatic (I mean, what?!). Luckily for me (and other Milo fans), Justin Lockey went down an all together different route, creating electronica band The British Expeditionary Force and releasing a fantastic debut album in Chapter One: A Long Way From Home via one of my favourite labels right now, Erased Tapes Records.

Its follow up Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu comes a long five years after, and there is always the risk with such a long gap between albums that perhaps the ship has sailed, their musical style is no longer relevant, or more likely: their fans have just forgotten about them and moved on to adore other bands. If that is the case, then it is a damn shame because it’s clear from this album that Lockey (plus his brother and singer Aid Burrows) still have a lot to offer. While opening track ‘Commotion’ is a low key effects laden affair that tips its hat to perhaps Bon Iver, the following track ‘When All Of This Is Done’ has a rip roaring chorus that packs a sort of post-rock punch that instrumental bands take four minutes to find (while here it only takes just over a minute to find it) and I dare not forget the final track, 'Irons In Fires', an epic slow building six minute see out to the album that you can imagine Sigur Rós writing were they more into electronic (than organic) music.

Sadly, if this album is anything to go by, we’ll never get a Yourcodenameis:Milo re-union. Scandinavia may have Múm, Efterklang, Sigur Rós and many others but with Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu it looks like finally, this side of the pond, we have something as good, if not better, to offer in return.

4.5 / 5

Friday, 3 February 2012

Inme - The Pride

When I received the new Inme album to review I instantly went around telling everyone, to which most people replied with, "Christ, are they still going?" There was a point in their career when Inme were literally everywhere, during the release of their debut album, Nirvana-lite 'Overgrown Eden' and its spectacular follow up 'White Butterfly', but since then Inme have gone under the radar (despite progressing quite nicely with fourth album 'Herald Moth' turning them almost into a technical metal band).

'The Pride' is Inme's fifth album, coming after one of those dreaded greatest hits albums that generally always marks the steady decline of a bands quality output. It is also an album that is funded via a PledgeMusic campaign, meaning that the bands fans have coughed up some of the cash for the recording which I guess shows how much of a cult following the band must have picked up since they disappeared from the front cover of Kerrang. It also adds a hell of a lot of pressure for Inme to actually deliver a fantastic album.

Very much like 'Herald Moth', 'The Pride' has its roots firmly placed in a technical melodic metal-light boundary which has as much to do with Dave McPherson's consistently elaborate guitar playing as it does with the arrival of a fourth member, a lead guitarist (who happened to arrive for the recording of 'Herald Moth') to pad their sound out further. Unlike 'Herald Moth' though, this album is clearly more positive, both lyrically and musically with an ever insistent nod towards the uplifting rather than the depressing. It also has an electronic element to it which I can't recall ever hearing from Inme previously, especially during second track (and stand-out track for me) 'Moonlit Seabed' where it becomes an integral element of the song very much in the same style of perhaps Enter Shikari. McPherson's vocals haven't lost the melodic gleam that set the band apart in their earlier media frenzied days either and the melodic sections of this album really afford his voice the space to shine.

'Herald Moth' very much sounded like a band exploring their options with the inclusion of a new guitarist (and probably less mainstream pressures). 'The Pride' sounds to me like the love child of 'Herald Moth' and 'White Butterfly', still heavy and technical in sections yet with an ambience that always has its eye on creating that euphoric chorus that this album is just full of. It isn't the most original album that I'll ever hear but it is a testament to the band that five albums in and they still don't show signs of slowing down or running out of ideas.

3 / 5
Four Year Strong - The Security of the Familiar

I'm not a huge pop-punk fan. Let us be honest here, modern day pop-punk is more pop than punk, in fact, I would go as far as saying most bands that say they are pop-punk are probably more pop-emo but there we go. Four Year Strong aren't a band I have come across much. I knew of their existence but it wasn't until I saw the 'It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong' video on Scuzz that I actually heard them and checked them out. Sadly though, I just didn't get it, cool single, absolutely brilliant fun video, but in terms of musicality it was all very much the same as what I've heard before.

'The Security of The Familiar' is the second single from their latest (fourth) album, 'In Some Way, Shape, or Form'. Frankly I don't see what the fuss is all about with this band. Sure they are forever touring and working hard, sure they have been lucky to get the right contacts (initially signing with ex-Fallout Boy's Pete Wentz's label) but it literally sounds like everything else coming from that scene. Bands like Fallout Boy may have had a lot of haters (mainly down to their mainstream popularity) but at least they were something different, they had little quirks that set them apart from the thousands of yank bands that reach UK shores but Four Year Strong, it's just same old same old, unimaginative music.

I loved this style of music when I was seventeen, that's nine years ago now, and hearing Four Year Strong it's clear that the scene is as stagnant and unimaginative as it ever was. Avoid unless you're already a fan.

1.5 / 5

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Crocus – Our Memories Dress Me In A Dead Lust

A successful debut EP release, a split release with Lavotchkin, what seemed to be endless tours both in the UK and Europe, as well as gaining respect from music magazines and blogs were all only just behind Crocus when half of their band decided to leave (the drummer and vocalist). Instead of packing up and calling it quits, Crocus dusted themselves off, recruited new members and here is the spoils of their efforts, their debut album, Our Memories Dress Me In A Dead Lust, on Holy Roar Records.

Frenetic, frenzied, aggressive, jagged, unrelentless, passionate. These are all words you could use to describe this album but that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. Our Memories Dress Me In A Dead Lust's nine tracks are all choc-a-bloc full of interesting musical ideas, at times it's hardcore, tech metal, math rock, post rock, jazz, but overall it's an afflicting uncomfortable assault on your ears (and I mean that in the nicest way possible). Imagine if Battles took loads of crack, got pissed off and wrote a record. Imagine if The Locust suddenly got aggressive on us rather than just plain weird. Imagine if bands like Norma Jean said a big fuck you to chorus' and just wrote what the hell they wanted to. Imagine if Dillinger Escape Plan turned their back on this southern tinged sound they seem to have these days and went back to their roots. I think even then, I'd still only be part way into explaining what this record, and Crocus sound like.

This isn't an easy listen. Hell, I can already sense the majority of people coming out with that age old comment "It's just noise" but music shouldn't always be comfortable enough to be fed into you, sometimes it should punch you in the face over and over until you get it. Our Memories Dress Me In A Dead Lust does just that, and I admire it so much for doing so.

4 / 5