Friday, 25 February 2011

#25: Small Engine Repair

New Narcotic of the Day #25:
Small Engine Repair

Updates have become as sporadic as sunspots but the show must go on, stiff British upper lip, keep calm carry on etc etc etc etc...

Oh I do love to have a darn good Midlands band popping up on my musical radar. Hereford (as well as being my current career team on FIFA 11, in the Premiership after six seasons thank you very much) has spawned Small Engine Repair, a trio of musicians who craft Americana-tinged alt folk with an English ear for the blues. They utilise a deft hand in generating softly spun songs that seep a steady stirring of sadness and sweet recollections.

A new EP, fittingly titled 'An Introduction to Small Engine Repair', is available for only five British pounds and is well worth every penny. 'I Feel So Old' ekes it's way into existence with a spindly riff and Cohen-like coherence in it's sentiment and stretching guitar picks. 'This Whole Setup Is A Lie' begins with a She & Him splash of piano before the vocals of Phil Twigg forges it's worn, world-weary ferocity, coming off as a cross between Matt Berninger and Mark Oliver Everett. 'Hey Best Friend' is a beautifully realised tale of youth and friendship, lamenting and reflecting with the utterly despondent crux in 'But I still miss you, more than I can say."

The EP is available now from the link below and join me in seeing them at The Social in London on the 22nd March.

Hey, Best Friend by Small Engine Repair

Saturday, 19 February 2011

#24: The History of Apple Pie

New Narcotic of the Day #24:
The History of Apple Pie

Time away yet again and back again yet again and again and again and again.


Well, a fusion of 90s indie shoegaze plus a smidge of Britpop equals The History of Apple Pie, a group started by Stephanie Min and Jerome Watson (previously of Hatcham Social). Now they have expanded into a five piece who swell and surge to craft that distinct sound of the Yuck-style, 1990s creeping their way back into music (they don't really sound a thing like Yuck BUT I can't help but mention them when talking of this mini-90s 'revival').

This is C86 shoegaze, all ripping guitar lines and shuffling drums behind a sweetly crooning female voice that hovers atop the melody, conscious of it's place in the history of such a musical narrative. 'You're So Cool' drifts along on an endlessly chilled riff, recalling the likes of Luna or The Breeders, leaning back into a melody of sunny relaxation. 'Mallory' croons "Mallory, she's wondering how on Earth they got this far", utilising an imaginary(?) individual to tell a classical tale, treading a line between The Pixies' 'Allison' and The Shirelles' 'Foolish Little Girl'. This 60s girl group backbone is a brazen, beautiful branding on their indie pop, remaining faithful to the melodic, story-telling qualities that the likes of Motown et al utilised to great effect.

The History of Apple Pie have a host of London gigs in the near future including slots at The 100 Club and The Victoria.

You're So Cool by The History Of Apple Pie

Thursday, 10 February 2011

#23: Trogons

New Narcotic of the Day #23:

True psych rock is a worrying offcut of the musical realm. Truly great psych rock needs to simply slip into your own psyche, take over, muddle things up a little bit and screech the whole darn way. Trogons are a foursome who take shake, rattle and roll in their own rollicking direction, utilising driving riffs alongside 80s ideology and a set of roaring vocal chords from lead singer Gemma Fleet.

'Protest Song no.678' begins with a flourishing freight train of sound via a guitar lick that rumbles and grumbles in the short, sharp, stabbing space of a sparse two minutes. 'Rare Earth Materials' holds an almost classical sway in it's punching guitar and Siouxsie-esque vocals that vibe along on an astral plane all to themselves. This is like metal music on downers or post-punk on uppers; drugged up psychadelica at it's most potent...

Trogons are all over London like a lovely rash in the near future, performing at Brixton Windmill, Hoxton Underbelly and The Victoria.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

#22: Kyla la Grange

New Narcotic of the Day #22:
Kyla la Grange

Singer songwriters are an odd breed of musician. All alone compared to the camaraderie that a band brings (barring session and touring musicians), they must forge their way through the musical mire without a guitarist to back them up or a drummer to blame everything on. They are truly brave brave souls. And it takes a lot to grasp attention in the music world when you're all alone, especially with the glut of individuals with an acoustic (generalising pshhhhh); it's certainly tricky to find the so-called 'diamonds in the rough'. So how about a wondrous one for today's New Narcotic?

Kyla la Grange conjures up a heady form of modern pop, drenched in alternative ideology with dashes of pounding melody, smothered in a suitably smoky layer of vocals. She performs with, and relies on, a fantastically attuned backing band but it is her innate sense of mysticism, lyricism and seemingly endless awareness of modern pop music that allows the music to swirl around her, pinpointing the maestro at the centre of this maelstrom, recalling hints of Glasser fused with 80s pop.

'Vampire Smile' starts innocently enough (albeit with an oddly stiring sonic effect hidden behind the acoustic strum) with the rasping whisper of Kyla leading the way into a fusion of modern indie folk with rampaging, spiritual alt pop. This is the tribal music of old stirred together with modern pop technique and tenacity. 'Walk Through Walls' is slightly more bombastic, setting sail upwards, soaring into a sing-along chorus that must surely grace dance floors, bedroom blasts and festival stages sometime in the near future.

Kyla la Grange will surely be heading to many-a stage in the near future but, for now, placate yourself with a free download of 'Vampire Smile' from her website....

Sunday, 6 February 2011

#21: Crows

New Narcotic of the Day #21:

It feels, somewhat, with the departure of The White Stripes acting as a poignant reminder, that true scuzzy, garage-fuelled rock and roll; the kind that burns in the pit of your stomach and growls with a frazzled ferocity; is practically dead when it comes to interesting musical conception. Shoegaze has gone soft and sappy, punk is all but deep underground and the harder edges of indie rock have morphed into either soaring, melodic, rhythmic sauntering or homogenised, unintelligent sap. But, maybe it's time for a revival of rip-roaring magnifience with a four-piece from London known simply as Crows.

Crows have only two tracks on the world wide web so far but both exude a mixture of surf rock vibes with a stony edge of scuzz. 'Reyes' punches with a lashing beat, underlined with a vocal run that utilises an effortless control that manages to sound chaotically emotional. And 'Korea' may have the best intro of any song I have heard in a good long while. Pure surf rock shimmer gives way to trembling vocals and a driving riff which kicks, scratches and bites its way towards a classy collapse.

Crows are playing at The Good Ship in Kilburn on Wednesday and, if prayers are answered, will be crafting more concoctions in the very near future.

Friday, 4 February 2011

#20: Swim Deep

New Narcotic of the Day #20:
Swim Deep

Wow. Well done everyone (me), we've (I've) made it to the big 20. Mazel tov all around guys! Wine and cheese night around my place! Let's cross our fingers and pray, wish and dream we make it to that big BIG 50....

ANYHOO; this is about music and here is some new narcotics to inhale, inject and ingest.

When you think of hazy, drifting surf rock, it's easy to float to images of Californian beaches, sunsets over oceanic horizons and Bethany Cosentino feeding you grapes in a hammock (just me?). How about Birmingham? And not even Alabama Birmingham. I am talking West Midlands, brummie Birmingham. As part of the West Midlands massive, Birmingham based trio Swim Deep make me immensely proud and ready to go back and surf a network of canals longer than Venices.....

Swim Deep spin a heady mix of dazed and confused gaze-rock that drips with a joyous disdain for pop melody, miring itself happily in the deeply serene drone that such use of distortion and steady, hovering sonics develops.

Even the track titles feel drenched in tropical sunrays, with the likes of 'Santa Maria', strutting along on a bed of electronic growling that is garnished with an 80s synth (that, magically, doesn't sound dated) and lead vocals that growl just as convincingly. The tuneful trip towards the finish line is poised and purposeful, heading down the highway into a sonorous sunset. 'Isla Vista' is a darker turn, albeit darkness sprinkled with handclaps, surf riffs and a meandering backing synth that sparkles rather than spits. The heavier tone provides the dark descent, sounding like an alternate world's version of Pixies where Black Francis decided to up and move to LA.

With only two tracks on the interwebz, we have a long road ahead of us before Swim Deep are spreading their sound to the world. Though they have two shows at the Victoria and the Rainbow in April and May. From these early adventures, it could very well be a glistening, sweltering and nebulous journey. Albeit, taking a trip around Spaghetti Junction to get there.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

#19: Domo Genesis

New Narcotic of the Day #19:
Domo Genesis

Hip-hop time? Yes, hip-hop time.

Das Racist are the most successful frontrunners of a movement that can be labeled, simply, as hipster-hop. This is rap music that avoids the traditional vibes and concepts associated with the genre, focusing on a range of matters that delve into introspection, nerd culture and sexual adventures (well, they had to keep a lil' something from the old school). The major component of this advancement is the musical style and beats, often derived from indie, alternative and psychadelic fields of music, with many acts having alternative artists guesting, sampling or playing around with their tracks.

Domo Genesis is one such proponent of this wondrous evolution of hip-hop, and a member of Odd Future (a hip-hop group who have been making tsunami waves on the West Coast of America), produced by the madcap maestro Tyler the Creator. Rather than try to sum him up with something witty and pithy, I will just throw this quote down from his own bio "
I'm Better Than You At Life. Ill. This Isn't "Real Hip Hop" Or "Jerk" Or "Really Any Bull Shit You Heard Of". I'm Not Working With You Unless Your Almost As Good As I Am. Which Is One Notch Under Perfect. This Is Nino Brown In 89. This Is Rick James In His Prime. This Is Domo Genesis."

'Supermarket' is a fantastically realised thought-splatter on the inanities, machinations and oddities when it comes to shopping, via a word-slinging face-off set to a trumping tune courtesy of a 1940s musical, of course. 'Heart of Gold' utilises a trinkling bit of synth to underlie a rant on education and knowledge, dropping references to dinosaurs, puberty, morality and, of course, sex. This is a subtle sort of hip-hop that screams in your face.

Domo Genesis has a record out, titled 'Rolling Papers' and is another US artist that will probably not get to these shores. I am fed up of grime. We need some British hipster-hop.....