Sunday, 28 February 2010

Polar Bear – Peepers [Leaf]

The Seb Rochford led outfit Polar Bear are back again, this time on Leaf with their fourth album ‘Peepers’, which see them keeping the same general band dynamic of Seb Rochford on drums, Leafcutter John on electronics, Pete Wareham and Mark Lockheart duelling on sax while Tom Herbert keeps the bass rolling. But as always they look to keep their sound progressing and taking different directions. With their last album, the s/t ‘Polar Bear’ they branched out into sprawling jazz jams and the Mercury nominated ‘Held On The Tips Of Fingers’ before it was more of a dynamic beast. ‘Peepers’ sees the band at their most raw: they’ve gone for a really live sound this time. They always had an organic, live feel of a full band working as one in a single space. But now that dynamic is really brought to the fore.

The opening track ‘Happy For You’ welcomes you in with super bright and upbeat song writing, with bass lines bouncing off guitars and sax in a joyous outburst. ‘Bap Bap Bap’ follows on a similar tip, if not slightly more subdued with a Balkan skank feel to it. The abrasively disjointed ‘Drunken Pharoah’ see Leafcutter John’s crunching electronics take the stage and play off the tight harmonized sax stabs and lilting percussion to great effect, its an unpredictable number but it shines in its own freaked out way.

Things calm down a bit for the beautifully atmospheric ‘The Love Didn’t Go Anywhere’ with its gently building reverberating guitars and emotional sax lines that go from melancholy melodies to heartstring pulling fluttering and back again with ease. It’s a romantic sounding song with the classy feel of a smoky bar room and a well cut suit. ‘A New Morning Will Come’ (see video bellow) picks up the mood a little from the lonely to hopeful with teasing drones that melodies float out of and bumping beats that stay subtle yet driving all at once. The interplay between sax’s here is sublime, you get lost in the harmonies as they progress and flow out of the drones. It’s an undoubted highlight.

Title track ‘Peepers’ really gets under your skin, you’ll find yourself humming its folk-funk melodies, no idea how folk-funk is possible but Polar Bear make it so by being ultra funky with acoustic instruments and a really human organic sound. There influences come out in subtle ways, you can’t quite pin point where one idea comes from or how they manage to fit together but they combine to make a unique sound that’s a joy to listen to.

‘Bump’ and ‘Scream’ come out of the gates like a maniac before the brilliantly upbeat ‘I Hope Every Day Is A Happy New Year’, unfurls itself with firework noises and an unhinged jollity that breaks down into an off-centre broken lilt full of passion and tension before the party sounds feed there way back in through the discord.

The gentle almost bosanova shuffle beats of ‘I Want To Believe Everything’ offset some beautiful mood setting tones from the sax and double bass. The reverberation on these elements really brings it together and gives it a spaced out feel. The disconcerting vocal loops of ‘Finding Our Feat’ meet somewhere between the Middle Eastern sounds of someone like Muslim Gauze and Polar Bear’s own unique sound and when they really set in they become more meditational than disturbing. The closing track ‘All Here’ takes us down a smoother route with a romantic end of night slow dance theme to it.

‘Peepers’ sees Polar Bear in top form, they’ve come back with an album that is just as assessable as ‘Held On The Tips Of Fingers’ yet altogether a different beast. The performances gel brilliantly; when each musician takes the lead the others work perfectly with them before they all melt back into one singular theme. The live vibe rally gives ‘Peepers’ a vibrant atmosphere. It’s a dynamic and diverse album taking in many moods and sounds, which will keep you coming back for more where you’ll find new layers to explore with each listen.

Polar Bear - A New Morning Will Come from Leaf Label on Vimeo.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Terror Danjah – Acid/Terror Danjah Ft. DOK – Pro Plus [Hyperdub]

Unless you count Joker Hyperdub haven’t released any grime before, which is a pretty amazing feet considering Kode9 has always been a strong advocate of the sound. Maybe there just wasn’t much need for grime on Hyperdub back then, the labels dark distopian sound in the early years may not have suited grime. But now the horizons have expanded and the raw synth led hyper-funk of more recent material opens the doors back up for grime and especially Terror Danjah and DOK.

‘Acid’ sees Danjah on an old skool rave tip merging his hard skipping hyper-funk with ’92 Hoover synths not far off being a homage to The Prodigy’s ‘Charlie’, minus the cartoon cat samples which have been replaced with some seriously big funk hooks and drum programming to die/dance for. ‘Pro Plus’ sees Terror Danjah hook up with the underrated DOK, thought to be his evil twin who stays in the shadows… who also has a distinctive hard-funk sound that’s maybe more percussive than Terror’s. Sub bass grooves and swirling synth melodies get things bumping next to a spacious drum groove. The two work together perfectly and unleash a twisted slab of hyper-funk that could give primetime Timberland a run for his money.

Two supremely funky grime offerings from two quality producers, they harness the raw energy of the genre and offset it with a musical edge that really brings things alive. Again Hyperdub bring the goods and open up their boundaries even more while keeping that distinctive sound firmly in tact.

Originally written for Sonic Router.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Rude Kid – Jack Daniels EP [No Hoods No Hats]

Are you ready!?! That’s Rude Kid’s sonic trademark, when you hear that in the mix you know you’re getting a quality beat. The grime producer has been a staple of sets for so long now: shows or mixtapes hardly go by without you hearing that familiar sonic mem, it’s engrained in my mind along with Terror Danjah’s gremlin cackle and Silencer’s ‘Terrrrreeeey’ as a signifier for, ‘it’s going to go off’. It’s not his first time out on No Hoods No Hats either with the ‘Are You Ready EP’. Plus he comes hot on the heels of Royal T’s insane ‘1UP or Shatap EP’ and last years anthem ‘Next Hype’ by the one and only Tempz, but Rude Kid easily holds his own in such company with this new instrumental EP.

The title track ‘Jack Daniels’ is a freak hybrid of hard pulsing techno, dubstep, funky and grime. The four to the floor kicks and beefy bass pulses wouldn’t be to out of place in an old Laurent Garnier set next to ‘Crispy Bacon’ or ‘Acid Eiffel’. But they’re equally at home in the boxes of grime DJs too the track bangs hard and should add some energy to sets. Rude Kid then drops the instrumental to his shake up of Man Like Me’s ‘London Town’, it’s a bubbling garage number with a grime flex, piano licks, skippy drums, rudeboy bass and it pretty much hits the spot.

The flip is the grimiest: ‘Emergency’ brings out the big guns with its dirty, grizzly bass tones, raw funk and cheeky rave stabs that are guaranteed to make you skank. ‘Best Crawler’, a collaboration with Terror Danjah is the highlight of a solid package. It’s got the hard-funk and raw power of both producers, along with both of their sonic trademarks. Plus the flip between huge bass pulses, grimy violins, Gameboy-esq bleeps and propulsive, musical trance-like elements just kills it.

With grime’s instrumental releases picking up once again on vinyl with big hitters and new kids on the block loading their guns ready for release on labels like Butterz, Hyperdub, Planet Mu and Numbers as well as No Hats No Hoods, Rude Kid is out the blocks with an EP full of grime tools to get things moving in fine style.

Written for Sonic Router.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Video: Polar Bear - A New Morning Will Come [Leaf]

Just a quick heads up: Polar Bear release their fourth album entitled ‘Peepers’ on March 1st 2010 via Leaf and I can tell you it’s sounding brilliant, but more on that later. For now check out the video for ‘A New Morning Will Come’.

Polar Bear - A New Morning Will Come from Leaf Label on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Her Name Is Calla – Long Grass EP [Denovali Records]

Epic and emotional folk drenched post-rock from the Leeds band Her Name Is Calla. I bumped into this band via the wonderful Worriedaboutsatan who led me to them with a gentle nudge and before I knew it the subtle sounds of Her Name Is Calla really got under my skin, they also happen to be on tour with each other pretty soon. The ‘Long Grass EP’ is out now on Denovali Records and is the pre-cursor to the forthcoming album ‘The Quiet Lamb’. This EP concentrates on their quieter side; they unleash three dynamic tracks that seem to build from a whisper into grand emotional soundscapes.

The title track, ‘Long Grass’ opens proceedings with an icy plucked melody and a lonely hushed vocal and it all starts to build layer upon subtle layer with sparse elements playing off each other. It’s the subdued/prolonged crashes that accent the gentle shifting elements that tug on your heartstrings, especially when the orchestral parts feed in it’s the soundtrack to a long walk in the wilderness, alone... ‘A Sleeper’ is a happier number: it’s got a community vibe where they all come together to sing gang vocals and clap, in a manner that reminds me of a skeletal Broken Social Scene line-up if they where ghosts and from the UK. It’s a really full, orchestral track that builds with ease before disappearing: A delicately uplifting track. The final song, ‘The White And The Skin’ takes acoustic melodies and subtle melodic droning brass to create an otherworldly backing to the vocals. The vocals go from hushed, loner to something with a restrained bombast before the backing vocals usher in a calm, which is soon broken by the passionate ending.

Her Name Is Calla echo that time of the year when the winter isn’t quite over yet and glimpses of spring keep appearing just to be taken out by a random frost, at least they do on the ‘Long Grass EP’ and I mean that in a good way too. They somehow balance cold subdued elements with warm comforting ones to grate effect. It’s a brooding, at times dark and even ghostly. It’s a set of songs that has a delicate and beautiful feeling to it, plus the acoustic instruments really gives them a warm comforting sound that lifts the mood of the songs from being too melancholy and makes them rather touching instead.




Don’t forget the Tour with Worriedaboutsatan…
27 - Glasgow | The Flying Duck
28 - Newcastle | The Cluny*
29 - Leeds| Holy Trinity Church
30 - Leicester | Firebug
31 - London | The Lexington
*Her Name is Calla only

Monday, 15 February 2010


Another episode in the sporadic series that goes by the name of: ‘Eight random platters from my record bag that I’m kind of addicted to right now’.

Baobinga – Ride It/Ride It (Untold remix) [Build]
Tough rhythmic house from Baobinga, the original bangs hard with a heavy broken, tribal feel that’s so chunky it’ll make the dance floor bumpy. Untold turns it into an evil bass pulse driven number that ups the pressure nicely.

D1 – Just Business/Pitcher [Dub Police]
Jungle infused dubstep from D1. Just Business comes out of the dark via a sample from The Wire, clattering drums and bass big enough to shake down Hamsterdam. Pitcher goes all bleepy with funky-esq drum patterns that are pretty infectious.

Starkey – Rain City/Beatingz [Rwina Records]
Street Bass Don, comes back with two slices of pure dance floor fire that combine his gutter music hyper-funk, party starting ideas with a gnarly bright and trancy set of riffs that are so melodic that they get lodged in your brain.

Harmonimix – A Milli/Bills Bills Bills [White]
Cheeky white label from the mysterious Harmonimix, if you know your bass heads you’ll easily pick up the clues on who’s behind this. Both tracks take the well-known numbers into twisted soul-funk/dubstep hybrid, with buckets of funk. The finale to ‘A Milli’ harmonizes Lil Wayne’s raps in a way you just don’t see coming.

Pangaea – Pangaea EP [Hessle Audio]
12” Double pack from a producer that always brings a subtle timeless vibe to his tracks that just oozes quality. Here we see him branch out his style a bit compared to recent material. ‘Why?’ uses quick jungle meets funky drums, a bumping bassline and emotion packed vocal sample to great effect. ‘Neurons’ takes on dubstep at its own game, a half-stepping deep as hell Headhunter meets Youngsta number. ‘Sunset Yellow’ takes subtle atmosphere; a deadly chord sequence and bumping electronic drums accented with tribal rolls and makes a really slow burner that gets under your skin. The rest slays as well…

A Made Up Sound – Sun Touch/Drain/Untitled (Original Shortcut) [A Made Up Sound]
2562 whips out his alter ego for some slower paced techno infused gems. ‘Sun Touch’ meets techno and garage halfway down a hall in a dark basement; the warm house stabs and gentle horror pads build the track with minimal ease. ‘Drain’ takes the pads further into warm, detuned bliss, fleshing out the dark sparse beats. The ‘Untitled’ track is an original from the Shortcuts album, which showed him working out sketches, this one turned into the fantastic ‘Love In Outer Space’.

Martyn – Hear Me (Zomby remix)/Seventy Four (Redshape remix) [3024]
Quality remixes of tracks from Martyn’s album last year: Zomby takes us into bumping house territory, with big dub basslines and psychedelic synth licks, it’s seriously addictive stuff. Redshape goes all dub-techno, low slung and cold, echoing Detroit as much as Berlin.

Sully – J Treole – The Loot (Sully remix)/In Some Pattern [Keysound]
Insanely addictive 12” from Sully, the garage swing king. His remix of ‘The Loot’ goes deep and jazzy with plenty of bump and bass, which really offsets the smooth jazz vibes perfectly. ‘In Some Pattern’ is a super slinky, low swung beast with twisted anthemic synth hooks that build and drop into bass fuelled oblivion.

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Friday, 12 February 2010

The James Clever Quintet – Ten Stages Of A Make Up [Ondryland]

The Eastbourne based quintet make a frantic, catchy and slightly unhinged hardcore-punk hybrid that oozes energy as well as ideas, but most importantly they’ve got the tunes too: ‘Ten Stages Of A Make Up’ is their debut release despite playing live together for several years and it’s a quality six track ride through the JCQ sound. This EP just rock’s they nail down a hardcore sound that fits somewhere between frantic, energetic hooky rock and spazz-out, space-case jam sessions.

The six tracker kicks off with a track that just rolls off the toung, ‘I Do, You Do, We do Voodoo’ with riffs and high-hats blazing into a fizzy broth of sound: They’ll get your head nodding, when the vocals start matching the riffs word for chord and the drums propel you into the pit, wind-milling that guy’s pint into oblivion… If I was an idiot I’d say that this lot are like an unhinged, less blazed, more on edge Queens Of The Stone Age that grew up in the UK on a steady diet of Hardcore rather than learning how to roll a fat one. Track two, ‘Throne To The Lines’ thrashes the living shit out of you with barbed guitar strings and spaced out post-punk like overtones that ring out like beacons through the frantic riffs. This lot keep it tight and hooky, harnessing their ideas into a rock soup that really straggles the edge between experimental hardcore and full on rock prowess, I’m already salivating at the idea of catching them live... As I’m more a master of sound rather than lyrics, I’m missing the all-important words and they come think and fast with plenty of hooks to shout along too, I’m just shit at picking them up, if I reviewed an acapela album I’d be on about the breaths and pauses, man... ‘Pink & Blues’ gets more spaced out, utilising a funky rock groove that gets the rim shots firing and bass doing a workout, and even an organ.

‘The Shame’ gets unleashed like a madman that only gets rained in by vocal hooks (I dunno, like a sheep dog whistle? But with vocal hooks?). They really don’t let up it just keeps coming heavy. The spaced out fuzz rock of ‘TNT’ keeps the adrenalin going before going clown shoes like a Balkan, and doing a circus punk skank into the final track, ‘Coming Of Age’. Which gives you a rest-bite with space age synth-scapes that sound like they’re from a long lost scene of A Clockwork Orange, if the soundtrack happened to be played by a mad hardcore band from Eastbourne. Frantic drum hits and riffs as heavy as trucks (including driver and Ginster’s pasties…) build to a crescendo and let loose before the creepy as hell horror show; I’ve just walked into the hillbilly local shop and run out of petrol, late at night with a killer on the loose… distorted steel guitar record plays out and I see a blade shine off the old gas lamp…

‘Wasn’t that lovely?’

The James Clever Quintet make an interesting racket that will take you on its journey through brutal riffing and relentless hooks with ease. Their sound is kind of addictive; the energy keeps you coming back for more.

Catch them on tour with Blakfish, dates on the Myspace.




Thursday, 11 February 2010

Dubstepforum Awards 2010

I’m very pleased to say that Sonic Router the blog I helped set up with MLR aka Oli Marlow and now with the help of Rory Gibb, has been nominated for the 2010 Dubstepforum Awards under the category of Best Website/Magazine. We’re up against some heavy competition so if you’ve been feeling us show some love.


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