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November 2016 – upcoming gigs – The Scaramanga Six in Winchester and London (5th, 12th) with A Formal Horse, The Bitch, The Fiascos and Zen Motel

2 Nov

Following a period spent spawning, recording, dispersing around the country, essaying the odd solo gig or micro-festival appearance, and carrying out whatever grim and murky business keeps them afloat in between shows and records, the various members of The Scaramanga Six have reconvened for a couple of autumn dates in southern England.

The Scaramanga Six, 2016

Still stubbornly insisting on being a quartet (one which won’t refund a third of your ticket price, so don’t ask) and still possessed of the most ferocious fraternal-twin-brother glower since the heyday of the Kray brothers, the Six continue to mine a rich and rewarding seam of murky kitchen-sink rock drama: like a small belligerent family of pub singers who’ve rushed the stage, mugged the house band and grabbed the mike in order to settle a few scores and tell a few hard tales in public. With Tony Bennett, The Cramps, The Stranglers, Cardiacs and Pixies amongst their crowd of musical influences (the sartorial ones include Moss Bros funeral directors, glam rock queens, small town wide boys and absinthe dandies), they’re still toting around last year’s album ‘The Terrifying Dream’, a collection of songs based on skull-rattling nightmares (some of which may not have anything to do with being asleep).



 

I’ve always liked the Six, right for the time I first encountered them and got the opportunity to dub them one of the country’s “most timely” rock bands – expressing inflated smalltown-British bile and huff with better tunes than anyone else. Fourteen years later, you’d have thought that they’d have lost that particular title; and it’s true that their ebullient theatricality has allowed them to sidestep strict reality any time they like. (As far as being state-of-the-nation signifiers goes, they were always more ‘League of Gentlemen’ than ‘This is England’.) But as long as there’s a supply of twisted romantics with alarming habits, touchy self-deluders going off the rails, and sinister broody men as likely to harm themselves as much as others, the Scaramanga Six will have material to juggle with and ram home; and whenever it runs short, they’ll fill the gaps with bullish tales of self-reliance in adversity (who says their Yorkshire base hasn’t rubbed off on them?) or one of bass-player Steve’s gonzo rockabilly bawl-alongs. God knows what they’re making of the poisonous post-Brexit seethe. It’ll probably provide them with enough inspiration for a double album.

  • The Barn @ The Railway Inn, 3 St. Pauls Hill, Winchester
    SO22 5AE, England, Saturday 5th November 2016, 8.00pm
    (with A Formal Horse + The Bitch) – information here and here
  • Pure Rawk @ The Black Heart, 2-3 Greenland Place, Camden Town, London, NW1 0AP, England, Saturday 12th November 2016, 7.00pm (with The Fiascos + Zen Motel) – information here and here

The two shows this month bounce off different aspects and intimations of the Six. At Winchester the emphasis seems to be on art rock. The main support coming from sparkly Southampton band A Formal Horse, whose continually flexing music tosses math and prog ideas around under Hayley McDonnell’s crystal clear folk voice, a bounding conceptual glitterball. I couldn’t find out anything about the other support band, The Bitch, but with a name like that it’s unlikely that they’ll be playing detailed chamber-folk or be led by a woman with a concert harp (although, on second thoughts, it would be wonderful if they were…)


 
In contrast, the London show and supports – courtesy of promoter Pure Rawwk – are absolute Sunset Strippery. The Fiascos describe themselves, variously as “filthy punk rock’n’roll from The Cronx, south London”, “Motörhead in a sweet shop” and “Social Distortion playing to get out of jail. They feature former members of Spizzenergi and the Brijitte West band, plus ubiquitous go-to-drummer Robin Guy (the onetime Rachel Stamp/Sack Tricker who’s filled in for everyone from Sham 69 to Rancid, Faith No More and The Bay City Rollers). Gleefully trashy and explosive Essex hard-rockers Zen Motel (pals with the Wildhearts) open the show with a rare acoustic set.



 
In both cases, the Six are likely to be glowering at the top of the bill and bringing the weight; like elder brothers, or dangerous uncles.
 

October 2016 – upcoming London gigs (Independent Country, She Makes War and Zoot Lynam at Daylight Music on the 1st; the debut London shows for Flock Of Dimes on the 4th) – plus Simon Reynolds’ glam tome launch events in Sheffield, London and Manchester (4th to 6th)

24 Sep

At the start of October, the Daylight Music autumn season continues with a splash of country, a clash of cymbal, and just a dash of kohl…

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Daylight Music 234

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 234: Independent Country + She Makes War + Zoot Lynam
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 1st October 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

Blurbs by Daylight Music, with interjections by me…

Independent Country are a six-piece band who play country versions of classic indie hits from the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s. Hear your favourite shoegazing tunes reimagined with pedal steel, lush three-part harmonies and fiddle.” Sounds as if someone’s taking the Mojave 3 idea and yanking it to the logical ludicrous extreme. Their debut album’s called ‘TrailerParkLife’… Well, at least it’s not another sodding rockgrass band; and Independent Country’s version of an old Jesus and Mary Chain tune (originally from the latter’s oft-slated, synth-pop-slanted ‘Automatic’), pulls off the neat trick of sounding as if it’s the original, rather than the cover. Either they’ve genuinely discovered Jim Reid’s inner roadhouse man, or they’re just really good at putting new blue-denim flesh on pallid British songbones.


 
She Makes War is the gloom-pop solo project of multi-instrumentalist, visual artist and all-round polymath Laura Kidd…” whom ‘Misfit City’s covered before, back at the start of August when she did a runaround British tour with Carina Round. Back then I made a few appreciative noises about Laura’s one-woman cottage-industry explorations: dark, brooding song topics sheathed in driven, melodic alt-(but-not-too-alt).rock, and self-directed videos which make the most of her Goth-next-door/folkie looks and still presence. Here’s one of the latter – a semi-animated video for her song Paper Thin, shot in New York and Boston with a comradely guest appearance from Belly’s Tanya Donnelly.


 
Zoot Lynam doesn’t just march to the beat of a different drum; he plays a different drum altogether: Zoot’s instrument of choice is the handpan (or “hang”), which is essentially a sci-fi spaceship of a percussion instrument. This is the first time a handpan’s been played at Daylight Music, so come and see it in action!” Web information on Zoot is a little thin on the ground – frankly, there’s not much more to that homepage than a bold stare and a waxed moustache – but it seems that he started to make his name back in the 1990s as an actor via work in various British theatres and voiceover performances in cartoons (I must have heard him thousands of times while my son watched ‘The Willows in Winter’).

I’m guessing that his move into music ties in with his theatre work, since I’ve tracked down odds and ends about live scoring and workshops, and because he comes to his gigs with a reputation as a raconteur. All of the evidence suggests that he’s one of those perpetually youthful, puckish characters existing on the dividing line between theatre and other arts: a stage polymath with a little bit of the mystic or magician to him. It’s a little early in the season, but here he is with something Christmassy on the handpans (to be honest, it’s all that I could find…)

 
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promo-2016-flockofdimes

Only a few posts ago, I was writing about Jane Siberry and was musing on other, next-generation musicians who seem to be following the trail Jane beat for a female art pop perspective back in the 1980s (some of whom, apparently guided by a mutual sense of community and affinity, are playing support slots on her ongoing British tour). It seems that I missed another one out.

Tickets are still available for the debut London shows for Flock Of Dimes (the solo project from Wye Oak frontwoman and guitarist Jenn Wasner) in early October. She’ll be playing a lunchtime instore show at Rough Trade East, followed by a full evening show up the road at the Hackney in Victoria. Flock Of Dimes has been developing for the last four years alongside Jenn’s decade-long body of work with Wye Oak (and her occasional ventures into dance pop as half of Dungeonesse. It’s taken until now, however, for Jenn to release a full Dimes album (something which perhaps coincides with her departure last year from her longtime Baltimore home to resettle in Durham, North Carolina). That album, ‘If You See Me, Say Yes’, was released yesterday on Partisan Records, and has been trailed in recent months by a pair of singles, Semaphore and Everything Is Happening Today.

Jenn has described her vision for the former single as the “struggle to communicate with each other, over distances literal and figurative, great and small,” and worked with film directors Michael Patrick O’Leary and Ashley North Compton to create a striking animated video for the song. According to Ashley and Patrick, all involved “wanted to present the tension of reaching out and not being able to touch. Fleeting communication with an outside world, felt but not seen, and Jenn’s interaction with her own double, create a hallucinatory sense of limbo. It creates a solitary confinement, wherein no matter how partnered or joined we find ourselves, those selves, our own best and worst companions, are all we have.”



 

Fantasies of isolation aside, the current form of Flock Of Dimes sounds liberating and upbeat, with less of the noisy indie mumble of Wye Oak. The project brings her pop melancholy into focus. Wye Oak might have become a poppier proposition in the last few years – 2011’s Spiral single definitely had a touch of the funk – but even Spiral left Jenn echoing in the distance like a mermaid dream, while the same year’s Civilian had more of an indie mumble. In contrast (and maybe on account of Jenn’s earlier dry runs at R&B with Dungeonesse), Semaphore is percolating electronic commercial art-pop in a 1986 Jane Siberry/Peter Gabriel vein, with a dash of country and bursts of beefy funk-roll bassline: qualities shared by Everything Is Happening Today, even if the latter has a more contemporary-sounding, speaker-busting alt.rock distortion halo wrapped around the chorus.

As you’ll gather from the names I’m dropping here, Dimes also has 1980s art pop written all over it – the stadium-scale reverb in which the guitars float and jostle like belfry runaways; the slick electronic technology which sounds as if it’s on the verge of cracking and hatching into a giant ungainly chick; and most of all the sense of an empowered, expressive perspective using all of this sonic trickery to blow open the windows and release the songs. I hate to sound as if I’m trying to ring a band’s death-knell (and I suspect that Jenn’s personal loyalties inform, inspire and justify her musical work as much as anything else) but on record, at least, Flock Of Dimes suggests ways forward for Jenn which Wye Oak simply doesn’t.

  • Rough Trade East, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, London, E1 6QL, England, Tuesday 4th October 2016, 12:45pminformation
  • The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, Hackney, London, E8 3AS, England, Tuesday 4th October 2016, 7.30pminformation

Flock Of Dimes: 'If You See Me' (promotional flyer)

* * * * * * * *

Simon Reynolds: 'Shock And Awe'

Simon Reynolds: ‘Shock And Awe’

Finally, legendary music writer Simon Reynolds – the man who defined post-rock and re-canonised post-punk, and has striven to contextualise and illuminate every ingredient in contemporary pop (from the most challenging Afro-American sub-bass growl’n’gurgle to the flossiest bit of floating white vanity-froth) has most recently been focussing on glam rock.

He’ll be launching his new book ‘Shock And Awe: Glam Rock & Its Legacy‘ via a short English book tour in early October. Dates and summary below:

“In ‘Shock And Awe…’, Simon Reynolds explores this most decadent of genres on both sides of the Atlantic. Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, The Sweet, Gary Glitter, New York Dolls, Sparks, Slade, Suzi Quatro, Cockney Rebel, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Mott The Hoople — all are represented here. Reynolds charts the retro-future sounds, outrageous styles and gender-fluid sexual politics that came to define the first half of the seventies and brings it right up to date with a final chapter on glam in hip hop, Lady Gaga, and the aftershocks of David Bowie’s death.”

All events will also feature a glam rock film screening: there’s no information on what’s playing at Sheffield, but for Manchester it’ll be Ringo Starr’s 1972 T-Rex rockumentary ‘Born To Boogie’ and for London it’ll be a “special curated series” of glam rock videos.

Again, there’s no mention of a sparring partner at Sheffield: but in Manchester Simon will be talking with a fellow ‘Melody Maker’ polymath (journalist, curator, pop historian, film director and St Etienne member Bob Stanley) and in London with ‘Guardian’ pop music critic Alexis Petridis from ‘The Guardian’. Simon Price (a Reynolds friend and contemporary who knows more than a little about the glamour chase and how to spin a polemic on it) will be joining in at London with a guest DJ set.
 

June 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Horsefight, Godzilla Black and HVMAN in New Cross (23rd); Victoria Park Singers, Kemper Norton, Settembre and Paul Reynolds take Daylight Music (25th); Copperhead Lucy and Boy And A Balloon play MAP Studio Cafe (26th)

20 Jun

Quick snapshots of three more shows for the week – a spiky south London rock gig, a warm/eclectic Daylight event, and an Americana/art-busk evening at MAP…

* * * * * * **

Horsefight/Godzilla Black/HVMAN @ New Cross Inn, 23rd June 2016

New Cross Inn presents:
Horsefight + Godzilla Black + HVMAN
New Cross Inn, 323 New Cross Road, New Cross, London, SE14 6AS, England
Thursday 23rd June 2016, 7.00pm
information

Tight as fuck, gonzoid and with Berlin, Brisbane and London in their veins, Horsefight let their glam-prog/psychobilly/New Wave songs pogo about on giant spidery legs. They sound like a superimposition of The Fall, King Crimson and The Cramps, call themselves “obnoxious bounce music” and deliver songs on the verge of seizure, twitching over the Fall from Eden and going into near-hysterics about Derren Brown. A band up for hurling themselves into the heat of any given moment, they’ll eyeball it for a second and wet their lips before assembling a rapid strategy. They exist somewhere between spontaneity, rapid brainwork and the magnesium flare which upsets it all.



 

Still establishing themselves as one of the capital’s sharpest and wittiest propositions, Godzilla Black bring their snappy blare to New Cross, sounding like a horns-and-swagger big band that’s been carved up in a Peckinpah shootout and come out of it both crazed and leaner. Part sharp-dressed schizoid men, part lysergic spy movie cocktail, with an edging of amplifier hiss and flesh frenzy: the neurotic beast in the impeccable suit.



 
Up against these guys, and promising “big brash pop tunes with a sharp-edged alternative rock aftertaste”, HVMAN used to write glam-punk songs about beautiful people and E-numbers, full of blipping synths, dry songspiel asides and strutting guitar. They’ve now stirred in a deeper, rougher, and more yearning tone, some hurt-child dramatics, and the odd garnishing of bluesy resonator guitar. They’ve also added a new singer, Kane, who fits in with this sudden injection of classic-rock melodrama: although exactly how he bounces off the insouciant detachment of the band’s other singer, Louise, remains to be seen. For now, HVMAN (while citing Imagine Dragons, YYYs, Hurts and Talking Heads) suggest a clash of Ultrasound and The Flying Lizards over a few Eddie Vedder daydreams.


 

* * * * * * * *

On the other side of the fuzz pedal, Daylight Music are striving even harder than usual this week to merge community music, pop experimentation, and wood/string/space acoustica. Since this is the third or fourth time this season that they’ve put a scratch-choir singing pop hits on the bill (and the first time they’ve had one as the headliner), I was about to complain about a Daylight cosiness epidemic. Having had a look further down the list of the weekend’s acts I’d rather applaud them for their guile, their stealth and their soft-power persuasiveness. I shouldn’t have doubted them.

Daylight Music 229, 25th June 2016

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 229 – Midsummer Madness: Victoria Park Singers, Kemper Norton + Settembre + Paul Reynolds
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 25th June 2016, 12.00pm
free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

“Obviously Daylight Music should hail the solstice; it’s the most Daylight possible!

The Victoria Park Singers are a big community choir, singing a special selection of summer melodies, including songs by Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Marvin Gaye.

“The ‘coastal slurtronic folk’ of Cornishman-turned-Brightonian Kemper Norton uses digital and analogue hardware and software, acoustic instruments , field recordings and traditional song to explore neglected or original areas of landscape and folklore. His most recent album, ‘Loor’, was inspired by real and imagined cities from childhood, bathed in traditional folk, found sounds and community chants, celebrations and invocations. ‘Loor’ (which is Cornish for moon) represents the next ambitious transmission in the expanding audio landscape that Kemper Norton is creating. The songs on the album are a loose trilogy of nocturnal encounters, searches and awakenings, often with Kemper Norton revisiting old foes from previous albums and encouraging new treacherous encounters. Today he also performs his solstice inspired songs.


Settembre is a duo formed in 2015 by London-based Italian musicians Angela Cicchetti (vocals) and Ivan Imperiali (guitar). They take the essence of Italy’s songwriting tradition, and reshape it with elements from the great Brazilian, Spanish and Portuguese schools, creating a delightful combination of delicate singing and classical guitar informed by cantautori, fado, bossa and choro forms amongst others.

“Also this week, Paul Reynolds (usually to be found as the guitarist of Vespers) will be at the piano, weaving his chilled improvisations and atmospheric melodies through Daylight’s Summer celebration.”


 
* * * * * * * *

Copperhead Lucy + Boy And A Balloon @ MAP Studio Cafe, 26th June 2016Copperhead Lucy + Boy And A Balloon
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Sunday 26th June 2016, 8.00pm
information

Further north in Camden, Map Studio Cafe continues the live sessions from local bands with a show by Americana quartet Copperhead Lucy. As they describe themselves, Copperhead Lucy were “formed after a chance encounter in a cello shop in Camden and based around the delicate voice and songs of Abigail Newis… (their) songs describe lives sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, often morbid, set to a backdrop of junkyard drums, double bass and smoking hot guitar lines. Taking inspiration from the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Portishead and PJ Harvey, the songs run from ethereal whispers to raucous, tantrumic shouts.”

Here are a couple of videos, the second being a recording of the band’s first gig, back at Kentish Town’s Abbey in 2011 (a short, drunken stagger away from Map).



 
In support is Adam Hall, otherwise known as Boy And A Balloon (who played a Daylight Music show earlier in the month). Bringing his experience both as street musician and soul/pop session man to bear on a growing aesthetic of spontaneous roughness, Adam plays his own deliberately simple songs through a battered three-quarters-scale nylon-string guitar and a scratchy-toned broken-signalled busker’s amp, pursuing a philosophy of “songwriting will shine through roughness”, drawing on his own thirty-year span choice of pop music (from the ’40s to the ’70s) and musing on “the innocent and inevitable loss of something human, precious and innocent – so apparent in today’s fast paced and overwhelming technological world.”


 

REVIEW – Tonochrome: ‘Tonochrome’ EP, 2012 (“a swan dive into a mass of silks”)

1 Dec
Tonochrome: 'Tonochrome' EP

Tonochrome: ‘Tonochrome’ EP

Although they’re young enough to be touching down for a 2012 debut, what Tonochrome ultimately resemble are a gaggle of 1970s rockers: ones who’ve been lucky enough to see the future only to then forget three-quarters of it, but who are doing their best to catch up regardless.

A scattered glut of pop knowledge and ambition is their fuel. From the central framework of Andres Razzini’s guitar and buttery soft-soul-inspired vocals, they hang a succession of overlapping musical approaches. Each of these is played with vigour while it’s in place, but is tossed aside as soon as a song’s over, or even before. The wardrobe in Tonochrome’s memory palace must be bursting – every visit there would be a swan dive into the mental equivalent of a mass of silks, jeans, capes and feather boas. This layering of ideas and styles (and the band’s restlessness as regards taking a final form) ensures that Tonochrome fit right in with the swarm of post-progressive rock bands that are currently rising to attention: but while they do share a member with Knifeworld, they have little in common with that band’s tumultuous and knotty psychedelia. Similarly, they’re not a band who wear their diversity like a fuck-you T-shirt. In spite of their restlessness, they never play with grate-and-chop disruptiveness.

Instead, they’re a much smoother proposition, like a slightly proggier Tears For Fears. Not in terms of Orzabal and co’s melodramatically distressed New Wave beginnings; Tonochrome are more in tune with the confident, eclectomaniac soul-pop version which came later. It’s the flair, or the flare; the way that Tonochrome (all of whom play beautifully and bring plenty of ideas to the party) can flickeringly recall both Bolan and the Buckleys, blur into a Beatles singalong by way of both Genesis and Alexander O’Neal, or take flight over a pulse of Spanish-flavoured funk. Whatever’s going on with that wardrobe, there’s also a feeling of curtains sweeping up and away and down; theatrically introducing new ideas, new burnishings.

Theatre – that’s appropriate. At root, Tonochrome’s songs are about performance and the battle with fear, that way that “time moves on, / slaps in the face.” Andres sings about launching, about halting, about taking or surrendering control: Let It Begin is a personal call to arms and activity, shuffling a lyric full of shows and races, walls and spectators, push-buttons and puppet-strings. Musically, it’s the ’70s as seen though the ’80s. Andres and Charlie Cawood chop out a hairy chug of hard-rock guitars, Steve Holmes’ kinked synth lines find common ground between P-Funk and Marillion, and Andres enjoys a luxuriant soul-man sprawl across the choruses. A soul song realised with prog methods, it settles into a lively stew of pop. Mike Elliott plunks his bass like a funky cello and sings along: someone else plays water percussion. From the clapalong riff that adds wiggle to the rhythms, to the squishy breakdown in the middle and the carnival-drumming finish, there’s enough on here to front a parade.

It’s a fine and confident opening; but that nagging sense of unease remains, however many musical layers the band run through their busy fingers. Eerie swerving Ebow lines cry whalesong trails through Waiting To Be Unveiled (a leaner, gliding cousin to the long-lost bewitchment of Levitation’s Even When Your Eyes Are Open). This time, Andres sings quietly and with trepidation: “The unknown may be terrifying, but it’s got such a pretty face. / No one can predict the future, / but I’ve got an ace…” The payoff, however, is pure heart-on-sleeve ’80s pop, vocals melting and caroling around a resolution: “I will abdicate my kingdom / for a chance to see the world.”

Starts And Ends sees Andres stripped of his band’s protection. Alone and shivering, he creates a haunting drape of melody with a lonely echoing electric guitar, a slow-falling ladder of jazzy chords and a rattlesnake breath of percussion. He sings of self-reliance (“on this road I’ve known / those who wait for signs and cues. / Trudging on, stones in their shoes… / By the side of the road / let go of heavy loads – / all you need is here,”) but the wound in his voice belies it. Throughout the EP, he works around the paradoxes of hope and fear. Necessary spurs, or killers of initiative? Blinding deceivers, or inspirations?

Andres is still puzzling it out over the Buckleyesque minor-key figures on Gods and Demons, wrestling with conflicting directions even as crunchy Jefferson Airplane choruses and slithering Spanish rhythms kick in alongside a fax-machine witter of noise guitar. On Punctuation Marks, he protests “I’m half-way and see no starting line” over a zip-and-dodge acoustic guitar as the rest of the band pass a swirl of r’n’b, prog-synth and shimmer-pop ideas through a storm of psychedelic noise. These doubts fit into Tonochrome’s world like their own teeth; like all of the varied influences the band’s spread of members weave into their tight and poppy rope of songcraft; just as this EP could be the harbinger of a solid career of eclectic rock if Tonochrome hold it together, or an early omen for a set of promising solo careers if they don’t. We may doubt, we’ll certainly hope. We’ll see.

Tonochrome: ‘Tonochrome’
Andres Razzini/Daniel Imaña, AR001 (610370590232)
CD/download EP
Released: 31st July 2012

Buy it from:
Bandcamp or Rough Trade.

Tonochrome online:
Homepage FacebookBandcampSoundcloud

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