You are here

Playback

Readers' Music Reviewed
By Sam Inglis, Nell McLeod & Sarah Bowden

Bare Foot At The Edge

The Penny Sweets

Playback

For a moment, I thought I was listening to the Dragon's Den theme tune (think bassy synths and programmed drums). But then sanity prevailed and I was very pleasantly surprised at this unusually tuneful goth‑o‑rama.

It's reasonable for a reviewer's heart to sink when presented with a demo that's wrapped in black taffeta ribbon — we've all suffered evenings of interminable goth rock, presented by pasty misunderstoods (also wrapped in black taffeta ribbon). However, fears assuaged, this was actually a joy. A lot of the melodies, along with some of the vocal and violin techniques, carry distinctly Eastern European influences. The first track, 'Paradigm', in particular, showcases the Penny Sweets' bold use of violin and sampled sounds. I initially thought the mix too full and cluttered, although the strong foundation of keyboards, bass and drums, with selective sampling, certainly creates a distinct atmosphere. However, I wonder if this doesn't simply feel muddy after a while.

As with any band that go to great lengths to make sure you know they're dark and brooding, there's the slightest whiff of taking oneself too seriously. But it's not a patch on the great gusts you get from the some of the singer‑songwriters I've heard recently, so we won't hold that against them — especially when there's good music to be had. Nell McLeod

www.thepennysweets.com

Juicy...

Lovethyself

Playback

Remember that band you briefly joined in the sixth form? The one where the drummer couldn't really play and the bassist was tolerated only because his Dad let him borrow the family estate car? The one where the chief songwriter had three restraining orders out against him at the age of 17 because "no‑one understood him”? Well, they've got back together without you, you loser.

Obviously the singer wasn't available either, not after the court case, but they've found someone even better. No, his accent isn't the easiest to understand, but there's something about his ability to hold the same note all the way through a song that you don't hear every day. And remember the nerdy kid that no‑one spoke to for two years? Well, it turns out he still has that old Tandy cassette recorder, and he's recorded a whole album for them! And designed this really cool web site!

I bet you're sorry you missed that phone call now. Sam Inglis

www.lovethyself.co.uk

Turn Right At The Moon

Bleak Angel

Playback

Bleak Angel — previously known as Swamp Lust to their fans — have released their debut album, Turn Right At The Moon, on the curiously named Casket Records. Aroused at the description "Simon and Garfunkel with a Lemonade twist”, I earnestly listened in some confusion to this easy‑listening folk trio for some time, before realising that I'd misread their blurb, and that their music was in fact "Simon and Garfunkel with a Lemonheads twist”. Sadly, clarification of this point only made things even less clear.

Their songs are pleasant enough, and recorded well, despite the rather strange decision to leave their apologetic studio chat on at the beginning of four of the 12 songs — but not always in tune, which is a shame, given that they obviously used a producer. Not a groundbreaking album, but they have as good a shot as any at selling out Britain's folk‑pubs for many years to come. Sarah Bowden

www.bleakangel.com

Don't Think, Feel

Wave Constructed

Playback

If Wave Constructed's CD ever had a sleeve or biog, the tidal forces operating within the Playback cubbyhole have stripped them from it, so all I can say for sure is that it's the work of one Edgar Weltens. For some unknown reason, he's sent it as a CD‑ROM full of WAV files rather than as an audio CD. On the plus side, this enables him to include hi‑res album art. On the down side, it's incredibly annoying if you actually want to listen to it.

Musically, Edgar's work combines influences from instrumental hip‑hop, trip‑hop and ambient music to create something that can only be described as 'dated'. Actually, that's not quite fair, because the atmospheres and found sounds often work well, and since the first track consists entirely of atmospheres and found sounds, it's rather good. After that, things go downhill. The atmospheres and found sounds are joined by over‑familiar beats and spoken‑word samples, supposedly different tracks begin to blur into one another, and it all feels like something you might have heard at a dinner party in 1998. Sam Inglis

Shadows Of Old Ghosts

Graveyard Dirt

Playback

How does one describe the kind of vocal technique employed by death metallists? I'll assume it's 'growling', and say that you'll hear an awful lot of it during Shadows Of Old Ghosts' 33 minutes.

I suppose the idea of death — or, indeed, doom — metal is that it's supposed to sound in some way threatening. The fact that, like most, I went through my death metal phase at the age of 16 means that this is totally lost on me, and it's about as menacing as my mum bringing me cocoa.

Back to the music, however, for there is some to speak of, I have to say I rather enjoyed this neat little trio of 10‑minute distortion nuggets, though I would have turned the vocalist up, as he seems to be moments away from drowning. When you're being treated to lyrics like "the orchestra of the wind plays a melody so divine, I wandered in the enchanting moonlight”, you want to be able to hear them.

The lyrical content of Shadows Of Old Ghosts is actually of far higher quality than you often expect with this genre, as is the musicality. However, this demo still has a meandering and unfocused feel that simply gets a bit boring after the full half hour. More melody please. Nell McLeod

demo

Pins And Needles

Playback

I'm pretty sure I'm reviewing the creative output of of Rob Reid, whoever be he, which features Katrina B, whoever be she, but it's all pretty vague. What is forthcoming is that the demo's influences are simply listed as "The state of the music industry”. They're apparently rebelling against this by not writing music that's actually recognisable as music. To combat the obvious drawback of this plan, they've set up their own radio station, which I'm sure will invade my reception the next time I'm on the M25.

If "the current state of the music industry” means that Pins And Needles are forced to spend a bit more time learning what a key is, and why different ones don't always go together, then that's one good thing to come of it. Call me cynical, but if this is music is worth setting up your own radio station for, then I'm writing this review on the moon. Nell McLeod

www.pinsandneedlesrecords.co.uk

demo

Jesus In India

Playback

On first listen, Jesus In India sound like Incubus fronted by Eddy Vedder, which, for the casual rock reader passing this page, may sound like quite an interesting proposition. They claim they seek to "combine the disharmonious with the infectiously melodic”, which I imagine is a bit like sending Justin Bieber into Afghanistan to hit on girls. In addition to the strong songs that make up this CD, I especially enjoyed their inventive cover of 'Cry Little Sister' (the kids' choir‑backed song from Lost Boys... remember that?). They've done a properly decent job of it, not least because they lost the kids, and that was never a good look for a rock band. Promising stuff. Sarah Bowden

www.myspace.com/jesusinindia2008

The Great Unravelling

Samsara

Playback

I can't claim to have seen Samsara play live, but judging by the accomplished sound of the musicianship on their debut album, I would think that if I had drunk a few bottles of cider and was at a UK festival passing the World Music stage, I'd probably stop and have a really good time.

From Brighton, Samsara's music is a cross between '90s ska and the more prog side to A Perfect Circle — which sounds like a weird blend, but if you are into those reference points, it actually works pretty well. It's not exactly fresh, but it's not entirely has‑been either, and while I can't see T4 featuring them on stage with Alexandra Burke any time soon, this band do have merit, and are probably worth checking out next time you're following a UK sound system float around the Notting Hill Carnival. Sarah Bowden

www.myspace.com/samsara5

Friend With Deficits

Death Of The Elephant

Playback

Angry girl on vocals? Check. Well‑worn pedalboard? Check. Metronome? Actually, no.

Real PR contradictions here: I expected twee, I got dirt and grunge. Cutesy, bunny‑adorned presentation sits rather unhappily alongside messy garage rock and non‑melodies. It was recorded in a shed, and I'm sorry to say that it sounds it. It also sounds like they locked the singer in a cupboard before they started.

Regarding contradictions and muddy mixing: you can tell me that's the point, but I won't believe you. Nell McLeod

www.myspace.com/deathoftheelephant 

A Single Word

Tony Alderman

Playback

They say that word processors have killed the art of handwriting, and until I turned to the accompanying letter, I was rather hoping this might be an album by the great Australian swing bowler Terry Alderman. Sadly not, and as if that wasn't disappointment enough, the letter begins "I made my CD on GarageBand.” Eeek.

Mercifully, though, generic Apple Loops are as notable by their absence as sandy moustaches and palpable LBW decisions. Instead, what we have here is an album of impassioned David Gray‑esque acoustic songs, augmented by sparse organ or synth parts. From a production point of view, Tony's voice sounds very strange, as though he's somehow filtered out everything below 1kHz, and there are also tuning issues in the instrumentation on some of the tracks. He certainly gives it his all in the performance, with a tremulous vocal style that is earnest to the point of sounding self‑parodic. I suppose that worked out all right for Antony & the Johnsons, so perhaps Tony should focus his energies on writing some slightly less conventional material. Sam Inglis

www.myspace.com/tonyalderman

Published November 2010