Quantic – Magnetica

Ridiculously prolific, Will Holland aka Quantic has apparently released 17 albums in various guises (Quantic, Quantic Soul Orchestra, The Limp Twins, Combo Bárbaro), and remixed umpteen tracks, all before his 35th birthday. He is a music man from head to toe, an aficionado who literally consumes it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And not only that, but he's explored and immersed himself in all sorts of styles from around the globe; from his early love of electronic and vintage funk to the more recent afro-latin offerings, his love of the locked-in groove is apparent in practically all his recordings.
Magnetica sees a return to the sole use of the Quantic moniker, the first time since 2006's 'An Announcement To Answer' (although his 2012 'Look Around the Corner' album was billed as Quantic and Alice Russell, an album of collaborations with his favourite soul singer), representing a sort of amalgamation of everything he has done style wise. From the opening early hip hop beats meets psychedelic soul of the instrumental album opener 'Magnetic' to the dreamy Brazilian psychedelic bossa-pop of 'Painting Silhouettes', Holland indulges throughout, largely recording with a core team of Columbian musicians, but with a long list of guest vocalists plus other musicians brought in here and there to magic up the required sounds and styles.
Every track has its merits, and every track is more or less built on a groove that repeats itself throughout; from the incessant latin dance rhythms a la 'Descarga Cuantica', which rub shoulders with the guitar and percussion orientated African grooves of several offerings here, including an inspired Angolan-Columbian melange in the form of 'Durido' which features Pongo Love on vocals; while the occasional reggae influenced song, such as the digital dub sounds of 'Strike It' – which features Shinehead on vocals – nestles neatly with the arabic flavours on tracks such as the deep and bassy 'Araba' and features Dereb The Ambassador on the mic. Then there's the ska-based and house music beats orientated instrumental stomper 'Sol Clap', the slightly melancholic and swampy african feel of 'Muevelo Negro', and the laid back and string laden bossa-nova grooves of Aguas de Sorongo.
Not everything works here – for instance, the rather ungainly and dreamy bluegrass orientated 'You Will Return' is perhaps an experiment too far at the moment – but all in all this is very well constructed album of largely mid-tempo grooves, a compilation of sorts, of the sounds and styles that Quantic has gathered over the years. Despite the plethora of global sounds, this is a relatively fluid exploration of music from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and America, done with his usual big passionate love.
Jeff Hemmings
Website: www.quantic.org

MØ – The Warren – 10th May 2014

It was the last night of the Great Escape and along with several other gigs, during the festival I'd saved the MØ gig at The Warren as one of my top picks. Like most people, I’ve found the name ‘MØ’ popping up left right and centre in 2014 so I finally decided to go and find out what all the fuss was about. On my way down to the Warren, I had a taste of MØ on Spotify to get in the mood and was relatively impressed with her sound, but not initially overawed by her music apart from maybe one or two tracks here and there.


White Mink – The Old Market – 2nd March 2014

I've been hearing a lot of frantic whispers and excitable rumours about White Mink for some time and I thought it was about time I finally ventured out to see what all the fuss was about – and boy, I wasn't disappointed. The Old Market was a perfect choice for the event as it has a certain air of elegance and far better suited than most venues for a night filled with classic Electro Swing and traditional Speakeasy music.


The Acid – Liminal

Adam Freeland has said that he was burnt out from DJing around the globe, playing crazy late night shows and jetting off at stupid 0'clock for the next destination. Many would kill for that kind of lifestyle, but eventually he decided that after 16 years, enough was enough. But, as someone who was always interested in making music that involves more than just programming (witness his long forgotten 2003 album Now and Them), Freeland finally, and rather more by accident than design, found some like minded souls; Californian artist Steve Nalepa – who is apparently a technical wiz with Ableton Live, a music producer, and a professor of music technology at a Californian university; and, Australian born producer Ry X, known for his deep house excursions and more recent 'tender techno' projects.

Together, they have fashioned a remarkable album, a proper recording in the sense that this flows from beginning to end, united by Freeland's background in dance music, Ry's very hazy voice and a generally experimental approach to music making where the music is pulled and pushed, stretched and shrunk, warped and otherwise, all largely within the framework of a gently moody and minimalist house and techno soundtrack.
'Animal' sets the tone, a ultra slow vibe like a seriously spooked Massive Attack, complete with trademark rim click on the snare – like a ticking clock. Vocalist Ry X, as he does throughout, exaggerates his tones, and is barely decipherable, and yet very precise and quite soulful in his delivery, his voice acting as a suitably melancholy foil for the music
Follow on track 'Veda' is a continuation of the formula, although it's a fuller, more dynamic song with sizzling synths, key stabs, and ambient techno style percussion. While Creeper is suitably creepy, the vocals barely registering above a whisper, the bass deep and distorted, the metronomic bouts of raking machine gun percussion holding our attention.
Somehow, despite the often slow pace of the songs and the drowsy singing in particular, Liminal (which is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals; participants are between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes) rarely fails to register, always offering up enough interesting textures, rhythms and passing instrumentation. And there is the odd wake-up call such as the seething vocal/synth passage on the magnificent 'Basic Instinct', a song that for one brief moment also features a rather out of place East Enders style drum pattern! It is perhaps the one and only time that something jars a little, feels out of place. Although something similarly odd does appear to happen on the track Fame; same title as the Bowie song, The Acid also deploying the delayed vocal echo on the word 'Fame', much like the Bowie track (sung by John Lennon no less). Whether contrived or accidental, The Acid seem to have a playful touch within the general seriousness of the music.
At this point, an unexpected acoustic guitar strums into life at the beginning of Ra, and it's here that comparisons with Fink are inevitable, the drowsy indie-blues style that Fink has patented, whereby his acoustic guitar is irrevocably fused with his narcotic voice, is somewhat replicated here by the acoustic and Ry X's voice.
Another interesting comparison (at least to theses ears!) occurs at the beginning of Tumbling Lights, where some vibes are fused with a crescending synthesiser sound that closely replicates the Moog beginning of Genesis's 'I Know What You Like (In Your Wardrobe)' before an abrupt plodding bass synth begins the song proper, another doped-out, Massive Attackesque groove.
The Acid like their old school sounds. Apparently recorded onto analog tape, Liminal is sprinkled liberally with the distinct house sounds of yesteryear; a clicking insect here, a hi-hat there, some Orbesque chirping birds and other eerie animal type noises; it's the primal, tribalistic nature of those sounds – despite the fact they are derived by artificial means – that was part of the appeal in he first place. And while that initial potency has worn off over time, it still often makes for otherworldly, transportative music that can feel very immersive, and enveloping; warm yet somehow steely in the cold light of day.
Just about holding the line despite a dip in quality towards the end of the album, this should be an interesting spectacle live. Their first ever live show was only a few weeks ago, but with their collective music making and production experiences, and the fact they are all used to being on a stage, expect something magical.
Jeff Hemmings

Eyes & No Eyes – Bermuda Triangle – The Great Escape – 8th May 2014

Eyes & No Eyes kicked off my Great Escape this year and, after seeing them support Peggy Sue @ The Green Door store last month and being really impressed with their sound – I made it a priority to catch them @ this year’s Great Escape Festival.
Eyes & No Eyes had a smaller line-up this time around with only a lead guitar/vocals, cello and drums, I wasn’t sure how this reduced line-up would work out but I was nicely surprised how well Eyes & No Eyes’ sound came across with a smaller set up.


Little Dragon – Coalition – The Great Escape – 8th May 2014

After queuing for over an hour amongst other excited fans, I finally entered Coalition to see one of the acts I most wanted to see at this year's Great Escape Festival – Little Dragon seemed to be the top-pick for every one else on the Thursday night as it was completely rammed (especially near the front) that you could hardly breath let alone move – but it was more that worth it. Having got their name from lead singer Yukimi Nagano’s “fuming tantrums” which she used to throw whilst recording in the studio, the transference of this energy and ‘drama queen’ nature to the stage held everyone in complete awe.


Yumi & The Weather – Spiegeltent – 7th May 2014

There’s no doubt Yumi & The Weather are a quality outfit. With only a handful of live performances under their belt the whole band is a real tour de force. There may still be a few rough edges but the band provide total assurance that there is a lot more to come from this exciting and emerging new talent.


Moulettes – The Haunt – 24th April 2014

I’ve been a big fan of the Moulettes since I discovered their quirky chamber-folk sound back in 2010 at the late night tents of Secret Garden Party Festival. With their high energy and sensational stage presence, Moulettes always guarantee an audience with smiles from ear to ear and achy bones from all the dancing that is bound to occur.


The Mojo Fins – Circa

The Mojo Fins - Circa
The Mojo Fins – Circa

The Mojos have been making music since the early noughties, a band who have always treated their 'art' with the utmost care. They are a serious band, making serious music. And ‘Circa’, their third album, is seriously good, representing their best yet.
Recorded once again at the legendary Rockfield Studios, and again produced by Dave Eringa, ‘Circa’ is the follow through album; whereby ‘Shake the Darkness’ saw the Mojos' sound given more textures, more foundation and a 'produced' feel that verged on the cinematic, ‘Circa’ is a more complete, rounded album, featuring a stream of great songs, from the opener ‘Longwave Reach’ to the closer ‘Hands of Flashing Light’.
’Longwave Reach’ is typical Mojos; tinkling piano, echoing drums, bass, guitars and strings harmoniously building up to the brief moments of cranked up and distorted guitar, adding a bit of menace and foreboding to the mix. 'I forgot, forgot to think of you/I lose the plot, get wrapped in myself' sings lead singer Stephen Brett.
’Introverts’ is the poppiest track on the album; helped along by an underlay of burbling synth, the song once again building up into a rush of euphoria, with a splendid guitar solo, echoes of U2 and The Sound making themselves heard. And it also contains some fine lyricism: 'Divested of the dreams/that served to keep us stationary/Extraordinary whims unfurl/Introverts'.
Brett's singing is powerful throughout, without ever overwhelming a song, and on ‘Circa’ he shows how good a singer he really is, especially on the very personal ‘Catholic Guilt’ track, a low key, acoustically finger picked song, the gentle melancholy of the music coalescing nicely with the regretful tone of the lyrics. Later on, the very personal ‘Friends’ sees Brett almost in solo mode.
’Arterial Road’ also harks back to the foreboding sounds and textures of The Sound, a hugely admired band from the early 80s, although whether or not The Mojos had ever heard of them is another story…
The REM feel of ‘Grass’ is another welcome change of gear; there's a lighter touch here, more of a band live-in-the-studio vibe, on this relatively straight forward number, which talks once again about possible regrets but this time with less guilt attached. 'We were care-free, we were guilt-free'.
’Black Sun’ epitomises the naturally euphoric nature of much of the Fins music, from the inventive tribalistic drums and Brett's downbeat vocal, it erupts into a glorious symphonic wave, before fading back again into the 'gloom.' While final track, ‘Hands of Flashing Light’, is two songs in one, a darkly grooving instrumental passage segueing into the final that finds the band once again musically dueling between dark and light.
The music of The Mojo Fins is often suggestive; the titles of the songs offering a direction to go, but not specifically pointing the way: ‘Longwave Reach’, ‘Exhale’, ‘Arterial Road’, ‘White Heart Beats’ and so on… their textured and euphoric meets melancholic atmospherics are yearning, regretful, hopeful, happy, sad, and all those other human emotions you expect to experience in the everyday. While the instrumentation is never flashy or fussy but spot-on throughout, little moments here and there serving to emphasise the mood of the song, but staying strictly away from the bombastic. In particular the drumming is inventive throughout, while the piano, instead of leading a song, is used as a tool, to embellish, to heighten the sensations.
The Mojos' generally euphoric and suggestive music is very much in the British tradition of bands such as Editors, the soundscapes and lyrics sympathetically conjoined. With the help of Dave Eringa, responsible for most of Manic Street Preachers back catalogue, but whose varied CV now also includes the rootsy R'nB vibes of the recent Roger Daltrey and Wilko Johnson album collaboration ‘Going Back Home’, they have engineered a complete work to be proud of, made more so by the evocative cover photograph of sculpted sand and rock formations of the Utah desert.
Jeff Hemmings
Website: themojofins.com

grasshopper – Circle Time

Grasshopper’s new EP ‘Circle Time’ starts with an eerie thirty seconds of searching keyboard instrumental before the first proper track begins with a bass slathered in so much chorus it could be The Cure in 1982. ‘Rico’s Revenge’ is almost an instrumental, getting through two atmospheric minutes before restarting and leading us to a short, nostalgic vocal refrain. The nostalgia seems odd when you consider how young the minds that created this music are, this is the second EP from grasshopper and they’ve been playing the Brighton circuit for two years now despite the fact we suspect the average age of the band is a mere seventeen.