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Showing posts from February, 2013

Nancy Elizabeth – The last battle (Leaf)

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Completely spellbinding folk music with a Morricone sweep, via massed banks of female sopranos - subtly doubletracked with mouth whistles, if I’m not mistaken - marching drumbeats and bracing harp arpeggios (is that a harpsichord as well?). There is also a genius keychange involved, as if you weren’t out of your seat already. That this amount of texture and emotional range could be devised in the singer’s Manchester flat (which is reportedly tiny) is a matter of shame to any number of bands who waste studio resources creating aural turds.

Elizabeth’s third album is forthcoming later in the spring and it better be on everyone’s list.

The Last Battle by Nancy Elizabeth

It reminds me just a little bit of this all-time classic from 1971…

Markus Mehr – Off (Hidden Shoal)

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Third part of the Augsburg-based ambient composer’s conceptual trilogy (following In and On), which consists of a single 42 minute opus.

It’s hard to do justice to the range of sounds you’ll find here – tremendous, rumbling, industrial atmospherics forming most of the backdrop; plaintiff, space-age whines; kosmische melodies; classical piano; a choir of voices. For something that’s so abstract on paper - and so steadfast and glacial in its pacing - it connects brilliantly with the listener, prompting all kinds of emotional and philosophical responses. It makes you wish some film maker would use the music as a template for an exploration of the origin, or the meaning, of space, earth, life, the cosmos – it would undoubtedly make for an epic, soaring, awe-inspiring journey.

Amor de Dias – The house at sea (Merge)

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Second album from a collaboration between the Anglo-Spanish pairing of Alisdair McLean (The Clientele) and Lupe Hernandez-Nunez (ex-Pipas). It’s a deft and delicate album of bilingual chamber folk, with a raft of memorable melodies.

A certain Al Stewart comparison is inescapable now and again, particularly in McLean’s vocal tone (hear the gorgeous ‘Voice in the rose’ especially), but happily there’s far more lyrical nuance and enigma going on here. Spanish guitars, hushed vocals and bristling percussion create a warm embrace for nostalgic lyrical settings; Hammond organs, left-field backing vocals and the odd electric guitar flourish add plenty of depth and shade.

You might hear a hint of late Go Betweens in the sumptuous melancholia of ‘Jean’s waving’, a breezy chorus undercut with sombre piano chords and the imagery of an empty house and the chasing of ghosts. The beautiful ‘Hampshire lullaby’ is more likely to keep you awake with its intriguing backdrop of recorder, sounding li…

Playlist 254 - Feb 19 2013

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We kicked off with some more from The Kinks this week. I saw a documentary about Ray Davies on BBC4 recently and Dead end street stood out. In 1966, Swinging London, that was like a fucking bombshell. I’ve paired it with some lovely contemporary garage rock sounds from Seattle’s The Soft Hills.

More as well from Julia Kent, Olof Arnalds, Apricot Rail and Amor de Dias (pictured), four very fine albums this month. (There’s a full review of the Amor de Dias album coming shortly.)

Then as well, artists playing in Ireland soon – K-X-P, Mark Eitzel, Yo La Tengo, Grizzly Bear, plus Unknown Mortal Orchestra who are playing TV on the Radio’s ATP in May.

And some great archive, 1960’s Shangri-La’s singing a Greenwich/Barry classic, and from the 1990’s The Grays, featuring one of the best male pop voices of recent decades, Jason Falkner. Sweet.

Feb 19 2013 Show w/ Julia Kent, Olof Arnalds, KXP, Amor de Dias, Shangri-Las, YLT, Soft Hills++ by Theundergroundofhappiness on Mixcloud

The Undergro…

Playlist 253 - Feb 12 2013

A couple of my favourite bands from the archives this week, The La’s & The Byrds. I just never get enough of that sunburst guitar sound on the latter, and as for The La’s – the best ever album disowned by its maker?

Also, the new Mmoths single (he plays Cork this weekend), new Phoenix Foundation, new Junip (love the gradual build of that), new Pantha du Prince. And some mindbending new Melt Yourself Down, which might just do what the band name says.

Also 2 great classical pieces, both on Erased Tapes. The debut of Michael Price, a film/tv soundtracker, and the ET debut of the somewhat legendary Lubomyr Melnyk, a brilliant slow unfurling over almost 10 minutes. It’s about 20 minutes into the pod, you should listen to it all.

As always, more on these pages.

Feb 12 2013 show w/ The Byrds, Cat Power, Mmoths, Melt Yourself Down, Karl Bartos, Lubomyr Melnyk++ by Theundergroundofhappiness on Mixcloud

The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


www.theundergroundof…

Melt Yourself Down – Fix my life (Leaf)

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More sterling stuff from MYD (their We are enough was all over the UOH Best of 2012 list), with honking horns, booming drums, burbling electronics and filtered whooping vocals. They sound like people on a mission – to get you to shake your ass, maybe, or melt the division between you and your neighbour, as their name suggests? If you don’t believe me, just read this:

Imagine, say, a hot, vibrating country, with a sea to the north, desert to the south, jungle to the east, mystery to the west. At the no-man’s-land heart of the fast, bothered capital city, salvation - a club, bar, dive. Approach with caution, for the production of pleasure, and wild nights. Will there really be a morning? The dedicated house band, Melt Yourself Down, blasting the four walls, a skittish, kinetic six of them, stars in their eyes, done with the compass, firing off in all directions at once, in total control, working up to breaking point, playing all the senses, leaving port, go, go.

Give and take. Function…

Slow Place Like Home – Cathleen’s fall

Keith Mannion is back with the first cut from the forthcoming Romola EP, and once again he is more than welcome.

Deep bass synth drones, mid range washes and some beautiful guitar work – as if from the next room – make for a warm kosmische melting pot. It’s like music to dance to without getting up.

Ty Segall – Thank God for sinners (from the album Twins, Drag City)

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A brilliantly fuzzy celebration of outcasts and hedonists the world over. A little bit garage-rock, a little bit glam, it could even be a love song to Segall’s hometown of San Francisco (if the reports we hear of that sensual paradise are true). He also sounds uncannily like Brett Anderson of Suede, but happily, the deep quake rumble of the bass, amid the other various delights of the arrangement, make that a footnote to something glorious.

Apricot Rail – Basket press (from the album Quarrels, Hidden Shoal)

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Post-rock is a dirty word(s) in some quarters these days but something as unself-conscious and beautifully light as this tune could be capable of redeeming the genre. A guitar-flute duet (in a certain light), it has a lovely, fluttering, chiming quality that’s quite alien to most guitar instrumentals. From the Perth band’s second album on Hidden Shoal.

Karl Bartos – Atomium (single, Bureau B)

In which the ex-Kraftwerk man takes a base of kosmische, sprinkles a dash of Peter Gunn and a smidgin of avant garde tendencies, to make something glorious, and fit for the dancefloor.

*But don't mind me, here’s the accompanying blurb, which is too good not to include, and also says far more about this tune than I could ever add.

Imagine this!

Square de l’Atomium, Brussels, Belgium. Some time ago in late summer Lotte Reiniger, Walter Ruttmann, François Truffaut, Jean Giraud and Quentin Tarantino held a conference in the upper sphere of the Atomium. The main topic of their meeting was film editing. Eventually Walter raised a question about rhythm: "When is a cut rhythmically interesting and right?", he was asking. Subsequently the conversation went on and on.

After a while it was getting dark and it started raining outside. Lotte looked out of the window and through the pouring rain she noticed a black Citroen "Berline" in the distance. The limousine was dri…

Playlist 252 - Feb 5 2013

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So, a major event in the music world this week, a new album by My Bloody Valentine (pic). Whatever you think about them, m b v has some beautiful moments, including ‘if I am’. Interesting too to listen to it side by side with ‘Only shallow’, a classic from Loveless.

More from Julia Kent again, from her new album Character, another gorgeous cello-based instrumental, and the new single from Olof Arnalds, which is very Joanna Newsome-esque – and that’s fine by me.

Ty Segall next to Dublin’s Lie Ins worked well I thought (!), a couple of instrumental Hidden Shoal gems in the shape of Apricot Rail and Markus Mehr, the latest in the Collision/Detection series featuring The Doomed Bird of Providence, and some swooning chamber folk from both Amor de Dias and Choice Prize-nominated Adrian Crowley.

Shonen Knife were in on the MBV theme with a cover of ‘When you sleep’ (from a Japanese MBV tribute album charmingly called Yellow Loveless) and Ghost Estates, who play Cork in February, with the br…

Yo La Tengo - Fade (Matador)

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I used to have a Yo La Tengo fantasy.

It involved pulling up in traffic next to a boyracer, one of those with the choons pumping so loud that his souped-up Toyota Starlet is visibly shaking on the street. I roll my window down, nod across at my friend, low-slung in his front seat, and slowly turn up my own car stereo. Playing is ‘Moby Octopad’, the second song on Yo La Tengo’s classic album I can hear the heart beating as one, a pounding, circular bassline which gathers bleeds of guitar feedback and hushed massed vocals to make a curious mixture of insistent but polite. It safely drowns out the boyracer’s disorganised clatter. He looks over at me, agog, no doubt taken aback that something so soft can be so loud. I drive off, satisfied.

Yo La Tengo are so much the prototype of the cultish indie band that they were the subject of a hilarious High Fidelity-ish parody by The Onion some years ago (http://store.theonion.com/p-4758-37-record-store-clerks-feared-dead-magnet.aspx). I con…