Jean-Michel Jarre is a bit of an enigma of the music industry. He's a composer and pioneer of electronic music but better known for his outdoor spectacles. He has sold records in the tens of millions and performed to millions of people with his ‘son et lumière’ one-off events, which have been awarded the Guinness Book of Records entry for largest outdoor concert crowd four times over the years. He has influenced thousands of bands and released new albums every couple of years from the mid 70s till about ten years ago. Though he has never really fitted well into any of the traditional music industry’s genres and sometimes considered a novelty rather than a popular musician.
Articles by Jonski Mason
The début album from The Wytches, Annabel Dream Reader, is one of the most impressive albums I've heard over the last few years and I always wondered if they would be able to follow it up with something equally as good. I'm happy to report that All Your Happy Life does the job and takes their music on to the next level without losing that unique sound they have developed.
If the first album was about dreams of what could be this one feels more like a living-the-dream album. Moving from 'in the bedroom songs' to 'songs on the road' which is not surprising as they must have clocked up a few miles on the road since their first album came out.
The album kicks of with a very short intro, which is mainly a 25-second burst of a wailing chords followed by 'C Side' which starts with a typical Wytches style heavy rift. When the vocals kick in you instantly hear the production differences between this and the last album. The vocals are brighter and higher in the mix, delivered with more clarity and confidence.
The album as a whole continues like this, still with the heavy grooves and meandering vocals but with a somewhat gentler feel. Some of the vocals even sound a bit like a heavy take on The Beatles with songs like 'Feeling We Get' and ‘Throned’. These have layers of vocals and a dreamy melody interspersed with heavy bits that feel like a bit of a branch out in a new direction but not enough to leave existing fans behind.
‘Ghost House’ and ‘Crest of Death’ have a much closer sound to that of Annabel Dream Reader with a heavy psychedelic feel and stabby hooks. While ‘A Dead Night’ and ‘Dumb-Fill’ are very catchy tunes with a nice rolling pace. Finishing off the album with the softest track ‘Home’, the perfect song to end the journey.
Listening to this album made me dig out the first one and have a listen to them back-to-back. You can certainly see the progression between the two but the stand well together. It’s like the second chapter of an unfolding story and once again they have left me eager to hear what comes next. Still one of the most interesting bands around in my opinion and I can’t wait to see the new songs live.
Check out our recent Spotlight Interview with The Wytches.
One of the nice things about being a band with a strong cult following is that you don’t have to follow conventions. Going, Going… certainly does not. Whatever your preconceptions are of The Wedding Present there will be a few surprises on this album. The whole album is 73 minutes long and it sometimes feels like David Gedge has been given a CD and asked to fill it with anything he has lying around. There are 20 tracks ranging from gentle and tranquil stuff through to the full-on rocky anthems which seem more in keeping with what’s expected.
The album starts off with ‘Kittery’ and sounds like the track’s made for a movie’s opening credits. Which is probably not surprising considering how Gedge describes the album, “I came up with the idea of the twenty connected pieces of music, in the summer of 2014, I travelled across the USA with photographer Jessica McMillan and we made some atmospheric short films to accompany the music. Since then it’s been a case of progressing through the tracks, trying all sorts of ideas, seeing how they work set against the visuals”. You can get these movies on DVD with the physical copy of the album.
This is followed by ‘Greenland’ that has a very road-movie feel to it, a spoken word track over a steady but simple drum loop that sounds like the constant update of navigation directions.
The next three tracks ‘Marblehead’, ‘Sprague’ and ‘Two Bridges’ are like lullabies with little or no lyrics, though a lot of la la la’s, that are perfect tracks to listen to while driving down endless miles of road. They build up in intensity over the three tracks while the first five tracks almost feel like a free EP from his other band Cinerama tagged onto the beginning of the album.
After that the album turns into a more typical Wedding Present affair with songs like ‘Little Silver’, ‘Secretary’ and ‘Bells’ which are bound to go down well live. In fact ‘Secretary’ was performed live last year at David’s At the Edge of the Sea Festival and the crowd loved it. It’s your usual mix of grungy or wailing guitars, bittersweet love songs and songs pondering on dreams and ambitions, or more often than not broken dreams and lost ambitions.
David Gedge seems to tap into all his experience and experimentation with his side projects to put this album together, there is even the non-English track ‘Wales’. The album finishes as it started with a quieter gentle track, almost like the closing credits score to a movie.
I’ve not seen the accompanying videos yet but listening to the album has really made me want to see the imagery that has been set to the music. This may not be an album for everyone but there are certainly some gems on it that will grab your attention. It’s an album you really have to listen to from start to finish before making any judgement calls, it’s quite a bold move to do something so non-standard these days. It would have been very easy for them to pick a dozen tracks off this album and release a more traditional set of Wedding Present tunes. Using the remaining tracks to make another album to be released under a different guise.
For me though it’s a refreshing change especially as diversity is something I often find very lacking in most albums. The seemingly random but connected collection of tracks make this a unique album that really stands out from the crowded music market and is an experience like watching a movie, even without the videos that go with each track.
People keep saying the album format is dead and it’s all about singles but this is one of those albums that reminds you why the format really took off, especially in the 70s rock era. It does not feel like a collection of good songs thrown together in the logical order but more a pre-meditated journey through a story. There has been a real resurgence of rock music influenced by the 70s and 90s rock style recently. Black Foxxes seem to get the right mix to catch the attention of the fans from those eras without too much nu metal to turn it into more of a metal album, as is often the case. They find the nice mix of classic rock, ballads, anthems, power rock and just a splash of nu metal to create an engaging soundscape that will never break out of your comfort zone for too long.
Bleach is one of those venues you have to play to the room. The first band did not and it sounded terrible, Fragile Creatures and Everywhere nailed it. It was a hot, humid summer's night and Fragile Creatures kicked things off with ‘Into The Night’ rolling straight into ‘Leave it Alone’ which got everyone’s attention. Their set rolled through the Creatures' usual blend of fast-paced music you want to dance to interspersed with the more gentle bits when they “bring it down”.
Hometown performances are notoriously explosive and Ocean Wisdom made no exception in the tightly packed basement of Patterns. Bursting onto the scene in the spring of 2015 with the emphatic debut single ‘Walkin’’, this hype beast racked up over 1.5 million views and now he’s looking to make his mark in the industry with his recent debut album ‘Chaos ‘93’.
There was a good crowd for the opener on this Easter Sunday evening as Jay Aston of Gene Loves Jezebel fame started the show off with his melancholic songs. Though he lightened the mood between songs with little bits of humour including stating that even he did not know why all his songs were sad as he is such a happy person. I guess it's just something that comes out when you have one person on stage with a guitar. Though the nice gentle paced songs were the perfect warm-up for a crowd that looked like they were recovering from Bank Holiday excess. He even, though reluctantly, threw in a Gene Loves Jezebel song upon request.
Black Peaks are a tricky band to sum up. If you listened to just the first 20 seconds of the opening track on their début album Statues you could mistakenly think they are a hardcore metal band. Instead they are more like 90s bands Jane's Addiction or Faith No More who walk that fine line between heavy and melodic music.
'Glass Built Castles', the opening track kicks off with probably the heaviest arrangement on the album but quickly drops into a much more melodic rock track. Which is typical of the album as a whole. They have a natural tact of leading you down the path and then suddenly lurching in another direction.
I have to admit, after my first listen I was left with the distinct feeling of "What on earth have I just listened to?". Not in a bad way, more in a way where I just had to roll back to the beginning and listen again. Each time I work my way through the album it seems to make more sense and impresses me even more than the last listen.
The longest track 'Hang Them High' clocks in at over seven minutes and is a musical journey on par with a classic prog rock track or 'Bohemian Rhapsody' twisting and turning throughout the song but holding your attention throughout.
One of the stand out musicians on the album is certainly the drummer, who finds just the right thing to play at the right time and, most importantly, knows when not to play which helps in places to let the crunching rhythm and wailing lead guitars shine through.
Lyrically the album is full of teen angst and the darker side of life. "Not a fairy tale, not a book", as they say in the track 'White Eyes' seems an appropriate metaphor, each song seems to be a blend of story, fable or mythology that like the music can bounce from one thing to another.
For some people the album may seem a bit too schizophrenic, especially upon first listen. If so, I encourage you to listen again. This album really can grow on you, it's something you can listen to a hundred times and still find something new you have not noticed before.
Black Peaks have been gaining a lot of attention and praise recently and it's not hard to see why.
In the office this album has been a bit of a running joke over the last year or so. With light-hearted jibes about if or when it would arrive. Well it's finally here and boy it's worth the wait!
The title Warrior Sound is very apt as this is the album you would throw on before going into battle. It's rammed full of high energy loops, chops and lyrics that get the blood pumping. Tracks like 'New Design' and 'No More' are just begging to be thrown over a fight scene in a Hollywood blockbuster.
The album kicks off with a short track which is half way between a prayer and a call to arms.
"We see our world as a machine, wheel always turning, everything exactly where it needs to be, our world, our world is not driven by fuel or profit, emotion or god. Our world is driven by the truth".
Then it launches into 'Jungle', an angst filled tack which has a very tribal theme. Something that runs throughout the album, each track tapping into the emotions of different types of warriors from turf warring city gangs to full out high-tech warfare.
Although it's a heavy album there are plenty of respites in melodic sections but it's never long till everything is slowly ramped back up to 10. The album will sit nicely alongside the likes of Rage Against The Machine and Nine Inch Nails' debut albums. It gets that perfect balance of 'in your face music' with a commercial hook and production levels that really help deliver the punches.
Lyrics like "Bring it on tonight", "We're not going to take this any longer" and "So let it burn" have been rolling round my head since I first heard it. Every chance I get this album has been pounding my ears, it's explicitly great on headphones which really gets the sounds bouncing around your head.
Having seen many of these tracks live over the last year, it's good to hear they have captured the same energy on the recordings as the live performances deliver. I don't know how much the album has evolved during the delay but it feels like they have really fine tuned the sound live and injected it into the recordings.
For me this is definitely going to be one of those seminal go-to albums that I'll keep coming back to over and over again.