Tag Archives: Hove (England)

May 2020 – EP reviews – Mikrokosmos/Babyskullz/Cola Ray vs. MUMMY’s ‘CONFINEMENT-release3’ (“mysteries which slip into shadowed corners”)

7 May

Mikrokosmos/Babyskullz/Cola Ray vs. MUMMY: 'CONFINEMENT-release3' EP

Mikrokosmos/Babyskullz/Cola Ray vs. MUMMY: ‘CONFINEMENT-release3’ EP

Following their pair of releases last month, Brighton’s Confinement Tapes project is back for a second round – this time with Confinementeers Jo Spratley and Bic Hayes joined by honorary family member Chris Anderson (of Worthing’s Crayola Lectern), who’s also worked with Bic in Brighton kosmische juggernaut ZOFFF alongside what seems like a good half of Brighton’s psychedelic contingent (and, occasionally, The House of Love’s Terry Bickers).

(The third original Confinementeer, Jesse Cutts, has his own follow-up single too, but more on that later…)

Unlike the archived cover versions refurbished for the previous EP, ‘Bright Fivers’ is an all-new, all-original April recording in which Chris contributes as the anagrammatic Cola Ray, collaborating with Bic and Jo’s MUMMY. Initially, it’s his arpeggiating pianos (distanced and tinny, as if pulled from a dusty old 78) which dominates ‘Bright Fivers’; a solemn setting for Jo’s singing, which is loaded with both trepidity and authority. That’s only the prelude, though, and it’s severed from the rest of the piece by a jump-cut edit as loud and merciless as a sucker punch or an axe blow. You even hear the clunk as the mood shifts; Jo switching abruptly into deadpan recitation against a Bic backdrop of guitar static and wind texture, as impassive as the prophetess taken over by the voice of the prophecy.

Whether sung or spoken, the sentences are broken off; dark, punching surrealist gobbets of foreseeing and ruin. “Silence in the air. / Things endure, things evolve. / Between the slopes fivers fly up onto the dream floor. / Fire spreads her text of flame as serious as food / Our towers of graph paper fold up into the silence, / delicate as the girl who leaves the stone and the water – / and the bright moan of the green, / the collapse of a black age. / In the end we never know what we know.” It sounds like something buried deep in peat in order to time-travel; transmitting a warning, or possibly a testament.


 
‘The United Kingdom’ is (mostly) another eleven-year-old recovering from Jo Spratley’s Babyskullz solo project: one which just happens to fit in with ‘Bright Fivers’. It’s another recitation, delivered by Jo to pattering drumbox and orchestrated in minimal, thrifty make-do fashion. Two-finger melodica. Guttural just-picked-it up guitar lines and milk-bottle vibraphone. Cobwebby analogue synth gurgles, dub distancings and dirty blats of fireworks.

Something about the rhythm and chant suggests the cheesy old white-rap anti-classic ‘Ice Ice Baby’. Everything about the words doesn’t, as Jo narrates (in newsprint monotone) a set of disappearances. “A man who hears bells who loves cars” misses his train only to drop out of routine and out of existence; a corporate lawyer vanishes during her solo boat trip; fifty years ago, a cancer specialist who “wraps her dolls in graph-paper by the light of the moon” is last seen in car headlights by the edge of a cliff. All three are obliquely connected by hearts: their rhythms or their interruption, their presence as eviscerated occult trophies or as enigmatic markers; presumably also by the locked-up desires, secrets and clues they contain. All cases are left open; mysteries which slip into shadowed corners of modern folklore or Lynchian dreams. There’s a stress on the regular and on the irregular, but no conclusion on either.


 
As haunting as this can be (and it does build on regular repetition, an inconclusion which nags to be solved), it’s still Bic’s dark-psychedelia project Mikrokosmos which dominates this particular set, providing three tracks out of the five. Two are brief snapshot instrumentals, deliberately left incomplete or brought to dismissive halts. Recorded in 1993 during Mikrokosmos’ cramped early sessions in west London, ‘In the Machine Room’ is an jarring but strangely satisfying hybrid of claustrophobic paranoia and sweet naivety. An uncomfortable electronic hum and weirdly organic rattling (like mice beginning to panic inside a generator housing) passes into a bright nursery march played on assorted guitars, drums and bombastic little synths. For forty-eight seconds, post-industrial grot tussles with twinkly daydream.


 
I assume that Bic escaped from whatever it was that was polluting him: ‘Frag. Familiar’, from 2014, was completed nearly two decades later (long after Bic had quit London), but it missed the boat for Mikrocosmos’ ‘Terra Familiar’ abum. It’s as confusing as its predecessor. A sustained cosmic slam: a huge guitar downchord which is allowed to trail away, while delicate waltzing keyboards come forward to shine over the top. They dance with another brutally distorted guitar line – butterflies courting Bigfoot – before everything hits the wall, topples over and cuts off. There’s a farcical humour to this music. It shows you the stars but then suddenly pulls away the rug, or drops the time-clock on the telescope viewing: almost deliberately crass in the way it brings you back down to earth with a bump. I suspect that there’s a touch of reverse psychology here. To move forward properly, you have to overcome the bumps, denials and trip-ups.


 
Another ‘Terra Familiar’ outtake, ‘Cell by Cell’, is more substantial and developed: a six-and-a-half minute song rather than a peculiar fragment. It’s also a dubbier return to Bic’s Dark Star days: almost a Massive Attack take on that band’s life-scarred fin-de-siècle urban psychedelia, taking in similar elements of Hawkwind space rock and Killing Joke post-punk grimness to offset Bic’s sighing, waify sweetness. There’s a Dark Star-ish sense of resignation too, a voice-of-the-casualty effect as Bic reflects on exhaustion and disassociation, on being swallowed by routine and self-absorption. ‘Just swim, / float to the surface – / as if it’s so easy, you show me again. / But time weighs me down so gently / and all our ideas just drift away, / sinking, / lost in the moment. / Ennui is so easy / and to the end we divide. / Cell by cell to solitary worlds – / undesigned, undesired. / Islands in an ocean of thought / turning inwards defied / to meet with the gaze of impermanence eyes…’


 
The formal Confinement message for this EP is one of “a constellation of songs brought together by this rarefied time. Pulled through the thickness of life and her knowing machine. Mixed and mastered in April 2020 and flung into the dark of these ends of days. Here we are. All alone, together, as one.” As a message of solidarity, it’s an ambiguous comfort: but, as they say, here we are. Questions unanswered. Brutal breaks in expectations. People disappearing, grips gradually lost. Name it, share the names, and perhaps fight it.

Mikrokosmos/Babyskullz/Cola Ray vs. MUMMY: ‘CONFINEMENT-release3’
The Confinement Tapes, CONFINEMENT-release3
Download/streaming EP
Released: 7th May 2020
Get it from:
free or pay-what-you-like download from Bandcamp (As with all Confinement Tapes releases, any money earned goes support care funds for Tim Smith, Tim Quy or Jon Poole of Cardiacs – see previous posts.)

Mikrokosmos online:
Bandcamp Last FM

Babyskullz (Jo Spratley) online:
Facebook Twitter

Crayola Lectern (Cola Ray) online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM YouTube Vimeo Spotify Amazon Music

MUMMY online:
Facebook Bandcamp
 

October 2017 – upcoming gigs – Anglo coastalysergia and Americana with Crayola Lectern, Dr Spacetoad and Billy Bad Band in Hove (21st October); Austrian psychprog with Blank Manuskript in Ramsgate, Leicester and London (26th-28th October)

16 Oct

We’ve just had a dose of daytime pink skies across Britain – appropriate, given the psychedelic tone of this quick posting.

* * * * * * * *

Crayola Lectern + Dr Spacetoad + Bad Billy Band, 21st October 2017
The Real Music Club presents
Crayola Lectern + Dr Spacetoad + Billy Bad Band
The Brunswick, 1-3 Holland Road, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 1JF, England
Saturday 21st October 2017, 8.00pm
– information here and here

The veteran of innumerable bands from punk to power-pop to latterday Anglo-psych, Chris Anderson finally found his core niche during the mid-Noughties as Crayola Lectern. Unspinning wistful, sweetly lugubrious stories of life, loss and learning dusted by his own gently lysergic leanings, he’s crafted “what psychedelic music would have sounded like had the Edwardians invented it.” Having been accompanied in the past by a shifting pool of live collaborators including assorted Cardiacs (Jon Poole, Bic Hayes, Jo Spratley) and Brighton psych luminaries (Joss Cope, the Rodes brothers from Clowwns and Rect.angle), his current cohorts are Alistair Strachan (on brass, percussion and necessary noises) and drummer-turned-synth-moonlighter Damo Waters.

The alter-ego of songwriter/actor/painter Paul Francis, Dr Spacetoad is another long-standing Brightonian: a discombobulated, identity-swapping cosmic troubadour who’s sometimes veered into Dada-styled space-rock in cahoots with Captain Sensible and who (as Jean Paul Dionysus) once played a key role in the London acoustic revival of the late ’80s. Expect him in his guise as melancholy garret-haunting singer, hopeless romantic and nifty fingerstyle guitarist.

Opening for this double bill of life-worn inner-spacemen is Bad Billy Band, who offer a more straightforward blend of Anglo folk-rock and electric Americana: a soften-upper.





 

* * * * * * * *

For further cosmic ventures, go discover the glow-mossed, castellated structures of Austrian art-rock sextet Blank Manuskript next week as they pass through England as part of a European tour. Polyinstrumentalists who layer flutes, tapes, trombone, reeds and glockenspiels into their standard rock armoury, they’re an intriguingly witchy concoction, balancing pretty much equally between grand prog and freak psych. Some of the band are happy to dress like Napoleonic dandies, a la Hendrix; others look like punk-metal flotsam. All of them sit on long and involved instrumental passages with an air of bugged-out wonder, spraying out rivulets of fingertapped guitar, floating ruminative keyboard lines or murmuring breathlessly arcane lyrics.. Sometimes they display their love of classic British ‘70s prog, pulling off expansive structured Yes or Caravan moves. Sometimes they thunder, spasm and gibber like one of the post-Can, post-industrial, post-metal neo-psych bands that Baba Yaga’s Hut tend to put on. You don’t often see that particular gap being bridged.


Dates:

  • Ramsgate Music Hall, 13 Turner Street, Ramsgate, Kent, CT11 8NJ, England, Thursday 26th October 2017, 7.30pminformation
  • The Musician, 42 Crafton St West, Leicester, LE1 2DE, EnglandFriday 27th October 2017, 7.00pm (with River Chickens + Those Amongst Us Are Wolves)information
  • The Water Rats, 328 Grays Inn Road, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8BZ, England, Saturday 28th October 2017, 10.00pminformation

Only the Leicester show features any support acts, and I’ve scraped up a little info about them. Despite being founded on a rumbling, frowning Mogwai-esque post-rock base of dour guitar minimalism, Coventry four-piece Those Amongst Us Are Wolves tend towards being post-post-rockers, needing little persuasion to roll right into classic-rock bodybuilder riffage. Cheerfully charismatic Ashby rockers The River Chickens, on the other hand, are travelling the other way: moving away from Cult covers toward their own honey-sweet heavy power-pop. Judge for yourselves below.



 

October/November/December 2017 – upcoming British rock gigs – Matt Finucane’s on-off tourprowl (14th October to 17th December various); The Many Few’s album launch in London with Flying Tailor, The Squares, Money And Family and No Direction (2nd November)

9 Oct

I’m less and less inclined to cover anything which could be described as standard indie rock. In spite of that, some things do slip under my guard.

Matt Finucane on tour, October-December 2017Between October and December, Matt Finucane’s making periodic ventures out from his Brighton cave in order to bring his sardonic solo songs to a grateful nation. I think it’s the first time he’s gone this far afield, so probably most of them won’t have heard of him yet. Hailed by ‘Ringmaster Review‘ as “happy to be an explorer and purveyor of the wonderfully unconventional and confrontational”, Matt takes his influences “from Lou Reed, Mark E. Smith and horrible electronic noise (despite primarily performing on acoustic guitar).”

If Matt’s got a keynote as a songwriter, it’s his knack for seamlessly juxtaposing the macabre with the ordinary (as befits someone who’s a horror fan and occasional horror author). Don’t expect Cave-ian Southern Gothic, though. Though he’s not above using the mythic or the Biblical as a lyrical springboard, Matt leans more towards a sly, wilful British irreverence – a mocking vein of low/no-budget bungalow-bizarre. Something like a blunted Bowie if the latter had never hit the big time but had carried on regardless, sitting on the sidelines chopping out dryly acerbic guitar songs; or like the workmate who suddenly and joltingly reveals that not only is he smart but he also thinks very differently to you; or like the abrupt weirdness in the eleven a.m coffee cup.

At one time, Matt was the driving force behind luckless indie rockers Empty Vessels, who were full of good ideas but had all the strategy of a severed brake cable. These days he’s a little wiser and friendlier, but just as stubborn; and still worth spending time with.


 
Dates below – more info available nearer the time.

  • Bar Metro, 109/111 Bradshawgate, Bolton, BL1 1QD, England, Saturday 14th October 2017
  • Fab Cafe, 109 Portland Street, Manchester, M1 6DN, England, Sunday 15th October 2017
  • Dulcimer, 567 Wilbraham Rd, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 0AE, England, 26th October 2017
  • The Palmeira, 70-71 Cromwell Road, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 3ES, England, Sunday 29th October 2017
  • Market Bar, 32 Church Street, Inverness, IV1 1EH, Scotland, 31st October 2017
  • The Alleycat, 4 Denmark Street, St Giles, London, WC2H 8LP, England, 7th November 2017
  • The Brunswick, 3 Holland Road, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 1JF, England, Thursday 16th November 2017
  • The Hope & Anchor, 207 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 1RL, England, 23rd November 2017
  • Mr Wolf’s, 32 St Nicholas Street, Bristol, Avon, BS1 1TG, England, 11th December 2017
  • Blue Man, 8 Queens Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 3WA, England, Sunday 17th December 2017

* * * * * * * *
About five years ago, The Many Few‘s wobbly but appealing demo, with its boy/girl vocal fencing and its shaggy-dog pop fumbles made its way to ‘Misfit City’. I was rude about their guitar playing, and about other things (the phrase “a thorough fucking shambles” popped up at one point) but nice about their appealing rubbery songs and the flashes of insight which showed through their gangling home-made pop throws. The band took both the slapping and the stroking with robust good humour, and have swung in and out of my blog orbit ever since. Now they’ve finally completed their debut album ‘Sharkenfreude’ (sometimes it takes a while for a plan to come together) and have a launch gig lined up.

The Many Few, 2017While The Many Few have retained their band-in-next-door’s-garage feel (though the guitar’s less wobbly now, they’ve never entirely lost that shambling gait, nor their habit of being distracted by gags), they continue to bowl shots down the art-pop alleys of bands such as XTC or B52s – artists who thrived on crowd-pleasing quirk and the odd cheery subversion. They’re still likely to go cute, lolloping after a list song or a moment of lyrical parody, but when they’re on course they can produce thoughtful suburban songs populated by interesting, flawed characters engaged with the day-to-day business of staying alive and staying functional. Hopefully ‘Sharkenfreude’ is well packed with these; it might be less close to the band’s heart than is the freedom to roam and wrangle, but it’s where their particular talent flowers.

 
To ease the delivery of ‘Sharkenfreude’, the launch gig sees The Many Few “backed by our fabulous and talented friends who share our passion for real original music, quirks, grooves and eccentricities… Flying Tailor (hyperactive sweet dreams, modern introspective folk with touches of trip hop); the spiky spontaneous blended art pop, folk and blues of The Squares (featuring ex-Blue Aeroplanes-ers Caroline Trettine and Nick Jacobs); the top-notch synthy indie alt-pop of Money And Family; and the stage debut of folk trio No Direction. With more t.b.a., this will be the art pop party of the year!”

Note also that the ticket gets you a discount on the album. As for the support, watch and listen below:



 
The Many Few present:
‘Sharkenfreude’: The Many Few + Flying Tailor + The Squares + Money And Family + No Direction + Stew Whoo DJ set
The Alleycat, 4 Denmark Street, St Giles, London, WC2H 8LP, England
Thursday 2nd November 2017, 7.00pm
information
 

March 2017 – upcoming Brighton gigs – Oscillations V on the 10th (JØTA, MUMMY, Maskulin); The Real Music Club on the 25th (Brother Twain, Gail Storm Edmunds, Jack Pout)

3 Mar

Here are a couple of imminent Brighton events which caught my attention, initially through their connection with a certain strand of south-coast English psychedelia – gently self-exiled, looking outward from the shore, murmurating in open-sky freedom) which spans contact, membership, inspiration or practical fellowship with the likes of Damo Sukuki, The House of Love, Cardiacs, Stereolab, Levitation, the Lewes Psychedelic Festival et al.

That said, the full range of what you eventually get here, along Brighton’s eclectic seafront, seems to sit itself more in other areas: ‘60s pop and Anglo rhythm-and-blues (Love, Traffic, The Walker Brothers), synthpop, European dance music and broken beats, folk-club fingerpicking, slightly eldritch post-punk noise. Everything meets by the sea.

* * * * * * * *

The first of these two gigs takes place in central Brighton’s rock’n’roll boutique hotel, Hotel Pelirocco – two Regency townhouses turned into a glamour warren. Oscillations have been running free nights of electronic/psychedelic music and visuals there since last autumn, inspired by fifty years of assorted countercultures and altered states of mind: I’m only just catching up with this now.

Oscillations V, 10th March 2017

Oscillations presents:
Oscillations V – JØTA + M U M M Y + Maskulin
Hotel Pelirocco, 10 Regency Square, Brighton, BN1 2FG, England
Friday 10th March 2017, 7.30pm
– free event – information

JØTA is electronic music producer Peter J.D Mason (half of Becky Becky, one-fifth of Cloud and formerly one-thirtieth of Fence Collective. He improvises electro-space-disco-synth-experimental-Soviet-dance tunes on cheap anal/igital synths inspired by the Soviet space programme of the ’50s and ’60s.


 
MUMMY‘s Jo Spratley and Bic Hayes breathe and drink and eat and live with all the other creatures and plants and beings in England near The Sea. They need very little to survive. They dedicate their noise to the vanishing ones and long to slip through the deep with the seal.


 
Maskulin provides a versatile collection of content generating modern twist on the beats scene. Expect vibrant combinations of genres from the likes of jazz and soul with modern rap to engineer a sound unique within the Brighton music scene.”


 
Also on hand are the “mind-melting visual projections” of Innerstrings, the “lumière” side of the son-et-lumière at Lewes Psychedelic Festival. DJ sets come from from the Oscillations organisers themselves and from DJ MessyTrax: “proud owner of one of the largest private collections of Legowelt vinyl in Fiveways… spinning a selection of tunes old and new, including aliases, side projects, collaborations and remixes… essential slam-jack electronics.”

* * * * * * * *

Later in the month, there’s an airier, gentler evening being staged a step or two westward in Hove, at which one of the newer Brighton bands are making their first live appearance.

The Real Music Club, 25th March 2017

The Real Music Club presents:
“The Triangulation of the New”: Brother Twain + Gail Storm Edmunds + Jack Pout
The Brunswick, 1-3 Holland Road, Hove, West Sussex, BN3 1JF, England
Saturday 25th March 2017, 8.00pm
– information here or here

“The name “Brother Twain” has been rumoured and whispered about on the Brighton scene for a few years now, especially amongst fans of legendary Brighton garage band CLOWWNS. The time has arrived for the Rodes brothers, Étienne and Adrien, to launch the band: drawing influences from classic pop, less classic pop, Krautrock, crooners, bluegrass and film music, it’s grown-up-psych-prog-baroque pop (with a love of circular melodies and unexpected chords via guitars, strings and brass).

“Brighton dwellers since the early 2000s, Adrien and Étienne hail from the historic city of Versailles, France. It’s perhaps unsurprising (or inevitable) therefore that their sister went to school with members of Phoenix, and that Nicolas Godin of Air once studied under the benevolent supervision of their father at the Versailles School of Architecture. Adrien previously busied himself with recording under the aliases Topo Gigio and Rec.Tangle for mancunian label Melodic Records, while Étienne joined Stereolab offshoot Imitation Electric Piano (with Simon Johns and Joe Watson) for their second album, before becoming part of CLOWWNS. Most recently, both brothers participated in the live rendition of Tim Smith’s Spratleys Japs album ‘Pony’.

“United by blood and an undying love for a crafty tune (and armed with a long list of tracks written over the last ten years), the Rodes brothers joined forces and got to work in Adrien’s six-meter square studio on the Brighton seafront along with singer/lyricist Miles Heathfield (CLOWWNS, Poppycocks) and drummer Damo Waters (CLOWWNS, Tim Smith’s Spratleys Japs, Electric Soft Parade, Field Music, SLUG), while hired hands played strings and brass. Adrien and Étienne played everything else and everyone chipped in for backing vocals. The Brother Twain debut album has been out since 19th February; this is their debut gig.


 
“Niece of the late trombone legend Rico Rodriquez, Gail Storm Edmunds grew up heavily influenced by reggae, soul, jazz and blues. Having played sessions and toured all over the world with the likes of Eddie Floyd, Terence Trent D’Arby, Heidi Berry and Sacha Stone, she’s pioneers her own “Hippy Soul” sound, blending her strong, rich, powerful yet classical voice to simple, affective acoustic guitar, meaningful songwriting and a catchy, upbeat, positive style. Though Gail’s original debut album ‘Time Is The Master’ (recorded back in 1999) ended up unreleased – and she subsequently took time out for happy motherhood – she is making a comeback (having played a number of festivals last year) with the upcoming ‘This is Hippie Soul’ EP.


 
Jack Pout is a BBC Folk Award-nominated singer/songwriter inspired by the revivalist musicians of the ’60s and ’70s. Jack’s music carries nuances of numerous influences such as John Martyn, Duster Bennett, Bob Dylan and Chris Smither but with an individuality that makes his music inimitably his. In 2015 he released his debut EP “Baksun” and he has just followed that up with the release of ‘Chrono Manual Man’ (an EP of his favourite songs from the ‘40s, ‘50’s, ‘70’s and 2016). Jack continues to play shows across the UK and Europe, playing and hosting stages at numerous festivals: his honest, and often deeply personal, style of writing is married to a love for humour. His live shows are known for their friendly and conversational style with audiences, and feared for his love of puns.”


 

November 2015 – upcoming gigs – Mutations Festival in Brighton, 28th & 29th November 2015

24 Aug

Here’s a quick signal booster (or, perhaps more accurately, noise booster) for the debut Mutations festival coming up in Brighton at the end of November. (The press release just came in from Stereo Sanctity today). Note that tickets go on sale in the middle of this week, and that there’s only a thousand tickets. I’ve just seen a Facebook counter suggesting that 330 people have already committed themselves to tickets. Move fast.

Mutations 2015 banner

Mutations is a new multi-venue inner city festival in Brighton, England, born out of last years acclaimed DRILL:BRIGHTON. With Wire’s touring project moving onto the next urban sonic assault, co-curators One Inch Badge decided the time was right for a forward thinking, annual, artist-lead festival that would be static to Brighton on the last weekend of November

Spanning two days and nights on the 28th and 29th November with an incredibly intimate capacity of just 1,000, Mutations is a music-lover’s event. Alongside the music you can also expect pop-up record fairs, poster art exhibitions, photography and more.

Mutations is a creative mass of genre hybrids and expression, delivering some of the most inspiring, creative and interesting music the world has to offer; a host of other national and international acts including genuinely alternative rock, aggressive noise, experimental house, singer-songwriters, doom metal, electronica, drone, experimental folk and various other experimental sounds.

Acts confirmed so far are Lightning Bolt, METZ, John Talabot, Josh T. Pearson, Tourist, OM, Chelsea Wolfe, Willis Earl Beal, Ought, Jane Weaver, Natalie Prass, BRNS, Kagoule, Vision Fortune, Blaenavon, All Tvvins, Lowly, Plastic Mermaids, Chastity, Mount Bank, Abi Wade, Sea Bastard, Blacklisters, Foreign Skin and Nature Channel.

Mutations festival, Brighton, 2015Venues will include Concorde 2, All Saint’s Church, The Arch, The Old Market, The Haunt, Patterns, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, Green Door Store, The Prince Albert, The Hope And Ruin and The Bee’s Mouth, with more to be confirmed.

Pre-sale launches this Wednesday 26th August at 9.00am (exclusively via See Tickets) with general sale following on Friday 28th August at 9.00am.

Mutations Festival online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter

May 2001 – single & track reviews – Six Ray Sun’s ‘Bad Batz Maru’; Clearlake’s ‘Let Go’

28 May

Six Ray Sun: 'Bad Batz Maru'

Six Ray Sun: ‘Bad Batz Maru’

Perhaps I should have expected this from a Hong Kong/Home Counties hybrid band with a single named after a killer penguin. Six Ray Sun‘s debut has swagger, and it has style, and it has studio suss. And a big helping of disastrous silliness. Funnily enough, not because of the penguin connection. You know when you’ve built something really impressive, then you add a last finishing touch which undoes all your previous hard work?…

Everything seems to be going OK for Six Ray Sun for the first twenty seconds of Bad Batz Maru. They’ve got a commanding industrial-rock thing going, with some wall-of-distortion guitars chopped smartly into tidy beams, and a meaty bass (purring like the Sphinx’s cat). They’ve got sophistication via the electric piano that appears to have strayed in from a Goth version of I Heard It Through the Grapevine. They’ve got full-scale arena-rock production which could regally roll this into pop playlists like a Challenger tank muscling in on ‘Robot Wars’. For those twenty seconds, wearing black and pretending to have diodes for guts seems like a good idea again.

And then – like the irritating runt who attaches himself noisily to all halfway-credible gangs – Andrew Gannon starts singing, and it turns into cardboard. There ain’t a British singer under fifty who can sing two-liners like “drinking whisky by the pool / now you think you’re looking cool” or “the little one is on her knees / does her best to try and please” without becoming a joke. And Gannon, with his smartened-up Gallagher sneer, is no exception. He makes a late bid for the Suede camp by changing tack and blathering about “robot grace” and about how “you chose the way the Valium lies.” Ever seen a man trying to jump two trains simultaneously, missing both, and hitting the track? On Elecdrum = Elecdrum, he’s fished more well-worn claims out of Depeche Mode’s dustbin (“I’m waiting for my man to take me to the dark side, / I am your meat, I am your dirt”) while the rest of Six Ray Sun make some heroic efforts to at least get things rocking on an instrumental level – tubular bells (hooray!), Goth-dance keyboards piping, and some more of those stainless-steel riffs. But every time Gannon opens his mouth, all the effort’s swallowed up. If Six Ray Sun had chucked a few bats around or called themselves The Vlad Rammberg Four, just played it for laughs, they could have rolled with this. Sadly, they’re just too good to survive the flaws.

Look, here’s something. Buy yourself the biggest, sleekest, most fetchingly nostalgic hot-rod car your pocket will afford . Then polish it up to a glistening finish, and fine-tune it until it works like a roaring dream. Then buy the biggest brown plastic nodding-dog ornament you can find – something the size of a large child – and jam it on top of the radiator as clumsily as possible. Finally, drive it around a bored suburb at a leisurely twenty-five miles an hour during high afternoon. Observe those reactions chasing each other across people’s faces as you do so: the surprise, respect, excitement, disappointment and ridicule. The same reactions apply to this single. Nice bodywork, but… hmm.

Clearlake: 'Let Go'

Clearlake: ‘Let Go’

It seems that Clearlake spent most of last year sitting around in Hove and, rather than dreaming of America, building a little English town in their heads. Although said town wasn’t quite one of the rural paradises we still try to flog to the tourists. It still had the quaintness and the afternoon teas, but had its share of shabbiness, bad weather, bewildered run-aground eccentrics and almost cosy dead-end lives as well: the usual bits and bobs hidden behind Tudor beams and village greens in most little Englands. They named it after the band. Most of their snapshots of it bobbed up on the ‘Lido’ album this spring. The fact that it didn’t exist added more to its charm – Nowheresville, Alias-shire. The kind of place we’re proud of, secretly. Resisting quick, effective change but still ready to do its own thing in its own lopsided way. The way we like to feel that our music does.


 
But on Let Go, the youth is restless. Somewhere in Clearlake, someone’s old barn is creaking at the walls as the lads get together and turn up the amps. Equal parts Bo Diddley, Beach Boys, Cardiacs, Britpop Blur and Pixies, this chops along as a matter of urgency. And it wobbles as it goes. Sam Hewitt’s devices whoosh and lurch on top of the dogged riffs, and the sunny psychedelic harmonies droop at the end of each line like clouds passing over the sun, or someone falling gently off a wall – a loopy English pop shamble to share with Blue Apple Boy. And I don’t know whether Jason Pegg’s thinking about small-town drug habits, small town love habits, or just that tricky small- town habit. But whatever he’s saying in his round, friendly Estuarine chirp deals with the difficulty of relinquishing anything dear to you. “It could be easy, it could if you just let go. / That’s what they tell me, but sometimes I just don’t know… / What if it’s painful? What if it all goes wrong? / What if I die here? What if I can’t go on?” And meanwhile that insistent little beat is pushing him along, inch by rapid inch.

For a chorus, you’ve got a classic little cut of staid English sulking – “They make it sound so easy when it’s put like that – / I’d like to see them try to just let go!” But Jason’s betrayed by his own tune, which jigs up and down at the bus stop like it can’t wait to zoom off over the hills and far away. Clearlake are ready to jaunt in earnest. If they can conjure up little worlds as well as they have done already, what’ll they do with a big world?

Six Ray Sun: ‘Bad Batz Maru’
Shifty Disco, DISCO 0105 (no barcode)
CD-only single
Released:
28th May 2001
Get it from: (2020 update) Only 1,000 copies issued – best obtained second-hand.
Six Ray Sun online:
Last FM Amazon Music

Clearlake:’Let Go’
Domino Recording Co. Ltd./Dusty Company, MOTE 104 CD (no barcode)
CD-only single
Released:
28th May 2001
Get it from: (2020 update) Best obtained second-hand.
Clearlake online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace <Last FM Apple Music YouTube Deezer Google Play Pandora Spotify Instagram Amazon Music
 

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