The world famous Lollapalooza began life as a modest farewell tour for Jane’s Addiction frontman, Perry Farrel. The band had split-up at the time, stating differences in lifestyle, but reformed multiple times in the future. What Farrel had begun, without realising, was a long-standing legacy that revived itself in the form of the two day festival repeatedly, up until 1999. In 2006, it was officially revived permanently in Chicago before branching out internationally.
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DJ Pete Rock and CL Smooth from Mount Vernon, New York, graced the seafront of Brighton with their 25th anniversary tour of All Souled Out, their début album from 1991. As with many musical duos, the pair were confronted with creative issues in 1995 and for 15 years it seemed as if the obscure, jazz-filled beats would be no more. The controversy ran deep between the two with disapproving comments made by each member up until 2010 when the death of iconic Gang starr member Guru bought them back together with a newfound objective to reignite true hip-hop.
The Hunna, London’s indie quartet, are a band that don’t come around very often. As the myth goes, this time last year they were in a band that wasn’t really going anywhere. Yes they played regular gigs and rehearsed, but they weren’t setting the world on fire. Nothing unusual here so far, then after Christmas they decided to jack in their jobs and try and make a proper go of it. Eight months later they have over 17k Twitter followers, over 200k Facebook likes and one of the most hyped debut albums, titled 100, in recent times.
‘Bonfire’ gets the album started. After an a capella intro, surging drums and power chords will the speakers. The chorus is nasal shouts over a catchy backing track. It shows that the band understand the dynamics of alternative pop. As the guitars chug away the chorus comes back. As expected from the titles, smoke, ashes, flames, matches and wind are all mentioned. It’s a masterclass at insipid banality. ‘We Could Be’ is up next and it's more of the same. Indie-disco beats and angular guitars, but lyrically The Hunna are doing something almost interesting. As if expecting flack from future reviews, they’ve basically written a track decrying these bad reviews. Lyrics like “I bet you wish that you bothered, When this band gets discovered, Don't worry yeah we recovered” and “When you're in your car with your driver, You'll hear how we blew up like a bonfire, God knows we're survivors” is a slightly meta as it references the opening track, but the lyric that really hammers this home is “We could be on top, If it weren't for shit like you”. ‘She’s Causal’ slows things down a bit, showing that they can be heartfelt as well as all lairy and rowdy rowdy. Again the lyrics feel more like an after-thought “She makes my heart beat go faster, The thing is I trust her.” And “Because she's casual she likes it, Mine and she knows it, Gives when I need it, Says to me "Can you feel it?" She's casual but she don't mind.” Really sum this up. Yes the band are saying ‘nice’ things, but ultimately they’re saying nothing other than “I’ve got a bird and she loves me, even if I’m a bit of a lad and our relationship is casual, she loves it as she loves me”. I could go on with the next track and the one after, but I think you get the point. Musically it’s all a bit and brash, apart from when it's quiet and sentimental, and lyrically its big and brash, apart from when its quietly sentimental. Granted there is something wrong with this method and it’s gotten The Hunna where they are now, which is sitting pretty with a heavily anticipated debut album in the bag.
After reading this review the next part might surprise you but I wish The Hunna well and I’m glad that they exist. In this day and age of playing it after and not rocking the boat The Hunna had the gumption to try something different and to take a risk. So for that I say “Fair play to them!” However the real problem with the band and their debut album is that for however well it was recorded and produced it isn’t actually saying anything. For all their collective efforts to make it sound edgy, angsty and provocative it, and the band too for that matter, come across as banal and boring. These sounds could have been recorded by any other band and they would have sounded the same. That isn’t what I’m after these days, and in due course, maybe their fan base too.
As the sun slowly dipped behind the horizon the Neon Saints Brass Band took to the outside stage at the Fortune of War. This ten-piece marching band have the songs and attitude to win over any audience. Luckily the majority of those in the packed seating area were there solely for them, so they didn’t have to win over too many neutrals. The mild evening, coupled with their New Orleans second liner sound, meant that everyone’s weekend got off to the perfect start. Opening with fan favourite ‘Money’ the Neon Saints were tight, loud and infectious. People danced from the offset with a verve seldom seen. As the set progressed the crowd got bigger until security had to start turning people away.
When listening to pop duo All Tvvins you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’d always been in pop bands. Their music is full of references about the darker side of relationships, but also hints that things do get better and all you need is a little faith and self-belief to make it happen, whilst being covered in glitter and DayGlo paint. But dig a little deeper and you realise that Lar Kaye and Conor Adams have more musical experience than their youthful faces show. Both have cut their teeth in multiple bands, Kaye in post-rock Adebisi Shank, and Adams the singer in math-rock group Cast of Cheers, before they decided to join forces and try and take over the world, one pop song at the time. Looking at their previous bands it’s almost unfathomable that they are now in an indie-pop band that makes big, bright and bold pop bangers, rather than the unfathomably complex and intricate post-math bands that they originally found themselves in. Once you listen to their debut album IIVV, however, you can start to see their past immerging.
‘Thank You’ is chocked full of ad-hoc guitar riffs and solos that would give Omar Rodriguez-Lopez a headache. Juxtapose that with the pop back track, and positive sounding lyrics and you have something interesting on your hands. ‘Too Young to Live’ and ‘Darkest Ocean’ follow this pattern. ‘Darkest Ocean’ is the XXX. Lyrics like, “Do yourself a fucking favour / Build yourself a boat / Hold your breath and reach the top / I know that you’ll float” offer a level of positive abstraction that only pop songs ever achieve. Everything sounds immediate and massive, yet there is an aching melancholy bubbling under trying to break free from the glitter and gold.
Recent single ‘These 4 Words’ kicks off with a bright and breeze beat and loops, this is easily the most pop thing they’ve release to date. The chorus has that rising euphoric thing that is really popular at the moment and the music sounds immediate, like you can only enjoy it for a split second then it’s gone into the ether, you know like snowflakes and a good laugh. There isn’t really much going at the moment that deviates from the verse-chorus-verse formula, but that’s all pop music, right? And that’s why pop music is fun, right? Because of the lack of change and happy-go-lucky under-current. Harold Pinter to music this ain’t!
The main problem with IIVV is that over half of the songs were previously released and the new songs, well, they aren’t as good so the album doesn’t really flow. Instead it stops and starts and never gets going. However when it does, the songs are good and filled with the kind of euphoria that is prevalent in pop at the moment. Expect All Tvvins IIVV to soundtrack all your shopping experiences, cocktail excursions, walks along the beach and BBQ’s. Basically this album has the capacity to be everywhere, all the time! I just hope you don’t get bored of it, otherwise it’ll be a very long summer indeed.
Sumach Ecks, AKA Gonjasufi, first appeared on the scene seven years ago with the single ‘Holidays/Candylane’. Since then he’s released two genre defining albums, a slew of singles and a remix album. Now Ecks is about to release his third album CALLUS, and as A Sufi and A Killer and MU.ZZ.LE showcased, it contains the contents of his psyche DJ box.
‘Your Maker’ starts off with Malcom Catto-esque drums, but slowed down and echoed up, plus a bassline that Krist Novoselic would be proud of. Then the star of the show appears. Ecks’ half drawl/half spoken vocals. Even after a few listens it’s hard to work out what he’s on about, but that doesn’t really matter as the music and his delivery tells us everything we need to know. He sounds like he’s hurt and in pain, but the worst of it is over. Whatever caused the pain has past and all he needs to do now it wait for the wounds, internal/external, to heal. We’ve all been there, and sadly will be there again. ‘Afrikan Spaceship’ is a three-minute glitch work out. It’s hard to get a grip on it to begin with as the beats are machine gun fast and cut up like the William Burroughs novel. The bassline is so hidden under all this you don’t even notice it on a first listen. Then a maelstrom of synth starts to whip up a third of the way through that engulfs everything. Again the lyrics are laconic and elliptical. The final third of the track is a disjointed guitar solo that after a first listen feels like an after-thought, but after a few listens, and checking out the titles, feels like a Sun Ra riff from 1967 that was discarded/unused until Ecks got his hands on it.
New double A-side single ‘The Kill’/’Prints of Sin’ is a slow-burner filled with searing guitar solos, luscious string sections, ad-hoc electronics, tight drum loops and Ecks’ trademark distorted stream of consciousness vocals. Both songs bookend each other perfectly. ‘The Kill’ opens with angry drums and soothing synths, until Ecks starts to deliver poignant lyrics after poignant lyrics. As ‘The Kill’ progresses it gets slower and more abstract until it segues in to ‘Prints of Sin’. Kicking off with a bubble of electronics, it follows this blueprint until its warped outro. Both songs complement each other perfectly and showcase Ecks’ eclectic personality.
‘Krishna Punk’ is the song that sums up Ecks’ past, present and future perfectly. The title alone screams this. 8-bit beats and vocals that border on guttural whines and moans make up the song’s mains elements. As Ecks bemoans multinational corporations the music crashes down around him, much like his thoughts on big business. This is as concise as CALLUS gets and it’s a total banger too! ‘Poltergeist’ is the most jarring and haunting track on the album. The opening strings feel like nails being dragged down a chalkboard, and when the faux-witch house kicks in everything takes on a macabre vibe. “Keep holding on”, Ecks croons over melancholic keyboards and guitars. Then, suddenly, everything swells up and sounds like an epic nightmare featuring characters from AKIRA or Stranger Things. ‘When I Die’ is Ecks’ take on Joy Division, with throbbing bass riffs, claustrophobic keyboards and an underlying feeling of unease. ‘Last Nightmare’ closes the album as it started, with the sound of a man going through the wringer, making it to the other side and telling you about how to survive it when it’s your turn.
CALLUS was written and recorded over a four-year period. In a nutshell it is a raw punk-hop album. Throughout its fifty-minute duration Ecks creates music that is so lo-fi you can see the glue holding the samples together and with a vocal delivery that boarders on primal scream therapy. These themes, and production, make it Ecks’ most honest and purifying album to date. It goes to show that even when you are angry and hurt you can turn that around to create something positive and beautiful.