Thursday, 27 March 2008

WXSW: Bristol's (gentle) return

Bristol's been in hiding for the last decade or so. The trip-hop and drum'n'bass' heyday is a distant memory. Massive Attack popped out an album since, toured it and slunk back into hiding before anyone's curiosity wore off; by the time we collectively went "oh, that's actually pretty weak" they were safely back in whatever bar it is they run now counting pennies. All hail, then, the return of Portishead.

Massive Attack were basically not relevant any more- their sound had no bearing in the musical world it dropped into, rather like the Prodigy's Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned. Portishead however have managed to carry on their signature atmospheres in a way that not only makes sense today, but actually pushes things forward. Single Machine Gun, downloadable below, sounds a bit like the mass-appropriating Various Production, in its references to paranoid dubstep sparsity, a natural progression of Portishead's THC infused night rattle. Most importantly though, they still have that unidentifiable knack for turning hollow, uncomfortable sounds into something far beyond the sum of its parts. The album, called Third, drops April 28th. I'm only posting this song for free cos I know you'll go out and buy the LP, yes..

MP3: Portishead - Machine Gun


Continuing the Bristol theme: another absentee from the SXSW feature was Fuck Buttons (pictured above), mainly because I'm a pussy. Anyone looking for something satisfying in a post-Battles time of high expectations and open minds though need look no further- where Foals went lite (and should never really have been compared anyway), the Fuck Buttons hold their deconstructive ground. They really are an album band, so take a wallow in this blissful drone snippet then go check out Street Horrrsing on ATP records.

MP3: Fuck Buttons - Sweet Love For Planet Earth


There's a swathe of artists just below the mainstream in Bristol, all sustained by the city's self sufficient gig circuit and refreshingly unambitious ethos. Multi-instrumentalist SJ Esau may be signed to internation label Anticon but Bristol remains his home, physically and musically. Show Pony asked him firstly, what's his opinion of Bristols insular nature, and is it a bad thing?

I’m not really sure. I certainly think that some of the bands / artists
from around here should be getting to more ears but I can’t really imagine
them (the ones I like anyway) getting too much attention from the NME etc.
I’m no expert on this sort of thing though. There are hundreds of bands
here and I’ve only heard a tiny percentage but some very enthusiastic
promoters and a bunch of excellent artists and bands keep things very

•If you had to pick a few, whose music are you enjoying from Bristol at the

Off the top of my head – Twocsinak, Safetyword, North Sea Navigator,
Knowledge Of Bugs, Lacuna, Bronnt Industries Kapital, You & The Atom Bomb,
Gravenhurst, Manyfingers, Matt Elliott, Team Brick. I haven’t been going to
many gigs recently so I guess I’ve got some catching up to do.

•Boomkat called your Anticon signing 'brave', which got me thinking- do you
ever picture who's going to be listening to your music? With a larger
audience for it, and being rather personal in nature, has this consciously changed how you approach making music.

It’s best for me not to think about it (though not always easy). It’s
probably quite an easy trap to fall into, to start trying to please the
people who are going to be buying the records but that’s just going to get
in the way in the end. To be honest, it’s something I’ve been struggling
with a bit because I’m recording the next pile of stuff at the moment and
sometimes I find myself thinking “Some people REALLY wont like this” but
fuck it, I’m just carrying on as I was before and some people liked that

•If you had to write a song about your day so far, what would it's title be,
and what instrument would it be played on?

It would be called Procrastination Expert and it would be played on several
cups of tea.

There's loads of downloads on SJ's site here. The album Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse came out on Anticon last year. This track is a collaboration with lablemate-du-jour WHY?:

MP3: SJ Esau - Note

Lethal Brizzle may be stoned a lot of the time, but when things get done, they're pretty damn good. A Brighton feature is in the pipeline, so keep em peeled, and send us suggestions of local treats we might be missing.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Project Jenny, Project Jan (SXSW Reprise)

It was inevitable that someone would slip through the net when I put together that top ten, and embarrassingly it was this fine duo. Project Jenny, Project Jan are from, wait for it, Brooklyn, but blow their artsy boho contemporaries out the water. They recently played with neighbours Vampire Weekend, and put on a joyously loose live show, like Hot Chip with the rod extracted from their backside... The song below is painfully infectious, and you sound like a special case trying to sing along, but screw your dignity, it's worth it. Head to their site and listen to Train Track too, its even better. The album's out now (buy here), and keep an eye on their myspace in case they plan to enlighten our shores anytime soon. Go on now, get ridiculous..

MP3: Project Jenny, Project Jan - 320

Quick bit of news- Efterklang are back in town at the Pressure Point on April 4th, more to follow but get tickets quick!

Monday, 24 March 2008

SXSW gets a round up

You're probably aware of the Texan industry frenzy that is SXSW. Every year thousands queue in the street to miss their favourite bands, while down the street next year's biggest thing plays to three cowboys under a hail of plastic pint cups. Glad I saved myself the trouble of actually being there (ish).. Handily most of the line-up post a song on the website's time table to help people pick what gigs they go to, so I've scoured the entire line-up for things worth knowing. All of it, indiscriminately, in case a Mexican opener turned out to be The Big Find. That's a lot of watching loading bars creep across the screen, and a whole load of press releases. What did we learn?

• That every band has a friend with a 10mp camera and Photoshop, so every band photo can look as similar as possible- you know the look, super-smooth skin that's made to look a bit green (example above)

•Bands with shit names are nearly all shit (see above: The Dexateens)

• That nearly everyone in Brooklyn makes pretty good music. Seriously, something in the water.

•That the best bands don't write a press statement. Those that do, especially those listing "Bowie, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem" as their influences, suck beyond belief.

•That those who can, beard. Those who can't, fringe. (as above. again. sorry Dexateens but you really are the purest of average).

88 promising acts became 30 became 16 and finally, my top 10 here. They're all here because they're interesting and stood out- there were bigger bands who you've probably heard of already, and smaller bands who might well be awesome if you like Norwegian metal, but these are the ones that fit the Show Pony's hard line on sheer goodness. Hit the links, there's YouTube footage from the festival wherever possible. Nuff talking, peruse these lot:

Dr. Dog - The Girl mp3
myspace // Youtube: Live at SXSW

Grand Ole Party - Look Out Young Son mp3
myspace // YouTube: Live at Fiesta Del Sol

High Places - Shared Islands mp3
myspace // YouTube: Live with projections by David Horvitz

Jay Reatard - Hammer I Miss You mp3
myspace // YouTube: Live at SXSW

Slaraffenland - Polaroids mp3
myspace // YouTube: Live at Roskilde (very good)

TheDeathSet - Negative Thinking mp3

The War Against Sleep - Blippity Bloop mp3

White Williams - Going Down mp3
myspace //YouTube: Live at SXSW

Woods - Be Still mp3

YACHT - See A Penny (Pick It Up) mp3
YouTube: Live at SXSW

So there we have it. Hopes you likes: next up, Miami WMC, and summer term preview fun.