Speakers Push Air

Narc Magazine December 2011
November 30, 2011, 10:30 am
Filed under: Bands, Narc | Tags: , , , , ,

Okay, the new Narc is out, with my first published writing for many years. Here’s what I wrote.

Various Artists – New Heavy Sounds Vol 2 (New Heavy Sounds)

Daniel Higgs (Skull Defekts)

Compilations are almost invariably patchy as hell, but any album that manages to include the flat out fucked 80s hardcore of The Computers, the crushing drone of NYC’s mighty White Hills AND the manic, motorik No More Always (from Skull Defekt’s album of the year contender Peer Amid) is clearly onto something. As you’d expect from a label with an actual manifesto (you’ve gotta love labels with manifestos, right?) that includes lines like “We say destroy indie, destroy glamour and destroy your ears”, there’s not much messing around here. Riffs are to the fore, be they drone, metal, hardcore, stoner, even synth (the frankly batshit Tannkjott by Gum Takes Tooth). Angst and stroppiness and doom are turned up all the way and there’s not a ropey ballad in sight. It’s a shame there are no desert highways round here to barrel down listening to The Swords unapologetically 70s Southern Rock. Props also to the almost punkabilly Mother Destroyer and the galloping Black Moth, but there’s not really a bad track on here. If this super-rare compilation is supposed to testing the health of the multi-headed, multinational hardcore scene, everything seems to in rude (as fuck) health.

Tunng – This is Tunng… Live From The BBC (Full Time Hobby)


I’ve got a lot of time for Tunng (I think Bullets is one of the greatest singles of recent years), which is why it pains me to wonder quite what this album is for. It has a stopgap feel about it, which is a shame. It doesn’t feel ‘live’ in any significant way, nor for the most part does it have the qualities of a great radio session: showcasing new songs, reinventing old ones. It does have all the things I adore about Tunng: poignant lyrics, gorgeous harmonies, wonderful samples, brilliantly inventive music. But the odd acoustic take aside, nothing is really added, so I don’t know when I’d ever choose to play this rather than the albums. The exception is the excellent Tinariwen collaboration Tamatant Tilay, but that’s never been available before. Meanwhile, the Blue Pearl cover is fun but inessential. If you’ve never listened to Tunng, you really should and this would be a decent introduction; but personally I’ll just wait for the new album and hope they play up here soon. And maybe they’ll see fit to recording a whole album with Tinariwen. Now that would be essential.

The Bevis Frond – The Leaving Of London (Woronzow)

Nick "Bevis Frond" Saloman

The cult artist’s cult artist; the acidhead’s acidhead; Nick Saloman has been making music for 40 years now, and he’s back after 8 years of silence. Nothing has really changed, which if you’re a fan is no bad thing: he’s still making acid rock which manages to actually rock. Guitar solos dominate, but as always Saloman manages not to sound indulgent – there are strong songs throughout and he’s still as much Husker Du as he is Hawkwind. Opener and highlight Johnny Kwango shows why he’s as beloved of bands like Dinosaur Jr as he is the psych-rock crowd where he’s most recognised, especially in the States. His voice has always been a little thin and it can be wearing over 18 tracks, but his vulnerable Walthamstow twang makes some of the more jaded or melancholy songs more affecting. There are quite a few of those, especially lyrically, and you get a sense his hiatus hasn’t been a particularly happy one. As with any Bevis Frond album, intricate folk songs and piano ballads (True North is particularly lovely) slot in between the freakouts to good effect. The Leaving Of London may not be Saloman’s best, but it’s a solid return.

Laura Gibson La Grande (City Slang)

Laura Gibson

Laura Gibson‘s last album Beast Of Seasons was a lovely, delicate affair that finally saw her getting significant interest outside the Portland, Oregon music scene in which she plays a significant part. La Grande doesn’t exactly see her skatepunk side get an outing but from the filmic, Calexico-style opening title track onwards, it’s clear that this album is more varied and innovative, using some fantastic arrangements (I swear I heard an oboe) and engaging production touches as it moves between sweet, fairly straight trad country, haunting torch songs and (comparatively) uptempo material. Slow, melancholy, slightly eerie numbers do still dominate: if you imagine Patsy Cline playing in a haunted 50s ballroom you’ll get the general vibe. Of course, how much you like the album depends on how you feel about Gibson’s voice: there’s a childlike quality that vaguely recalls Joanna Newsom, even a little early Kate Bush. Gibson’s is not a strong voice but it’s a lovely one. It’s a great time to be a fan of female country/folk artists, and on the evidence of La Grande, Gibson deserves to be ranked alongside the likes of Laura Viers, Maggie Bjorklund, Abigail Washburn and the rest.

Ones To Watch – Laura Gibson

Laura Gibson

After a trio of albums on Hush, Laura Gibson’s excellent new release La Grange arrives in the new year on City Slang, which seems a very good fit. After years playing the fertile indie / folky scene in Portland, Oregon (alongside The Decemberists et al), Gibson started to get wider notice with 2009’s lovely, understated Beast Of Seasons album. Since then, as well as touring constantly and turning a vintage trailer into a studio, she self-produced and played almost everything on La Grange, while members of Calexico, The Decemberists and The Dodos guest. Consequently, La Grande is a stronger and more innovative album than previously, touching on country, folk, torch songs, even conjuring up a Calexico-esque jazz / soundtrack feel in places. The closest comparison would be with Maggie Bjorklund (another Calexico collaborator) but Gibson is doing it her way and deserves to be heard.


Ones To Watch – Laura J Martin

Laura J Martin

Anything on Static Caravan is worth your time, and this definitely the case with Martin, who sees her debut album released by the label in January. Even for the flute-averse like myself, Martin is something pretty special. Folk in only the very loosest sense, there are hints of hip hop, soundtracks and more amid the more traditional elements . Building tracks from flutes and mandolins on the one hand but loop stations and programmed beats on the other, she manages to invoke everyone from Psapp to Kate Bush to Tunng but still sound entirely original. With a list of acclaimed sessions, support slots and collaborations (in particular as part of Jonny with Euros Childs and Norman Blake) already in the bag, it looks likely that 2012 will see her make quite an impact. And the cover of Tease Me on the album is a gem!


No print Narc next month, but I am reviewing gigs by Hot Snakes with The Computers and B>E>A>K> for the website.

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