Friday, 5 March 2010

The Japanese War Effort - I Will Leave You Now, And Two Loudspeakers Will Take My Place: Album Review

"I shall leave you now, and two loudspeakers will take my place" announced conductor Leopold Stokowski, introducing his first performance of electronic tape music in October 1952. Or so the press release for the new Japanese War Effort album tells me, and why would it lie?

The Japanese War Effort is Martin Moog, a one man ambient pop band based in Edinburgh, who is also one half of Conquering Animals Sound. He is also rather tall. That should kill any rumours that I only listen to short, noisy Glaswegians then, shouldn't it?

Previous Japanese War Effort releases have been a little but hit and miss for me, to be honest, but happily Loudspeakers... fixes pretty much everything that niggled at me in some of the earlier songs. Normally pretty prolific, this album took a while to make and it shows. There's a greater focus to the songs for a start and the songs sound tighter.

Usually if I'm talking about an album and say there's parts of it that I've never heard in a song before I'm either exaggerating, lying or haven't been listening to enough stuff, but I can honestly say that on Ceremony Pt.2 there's something I've never heard in song before - a sample of Ian Crocker commentating on Ross Tokely's sending off in the SPL game against Falkirk that saw Inverness relegated last season. There's a few more football references in there too, just like there was on previous album Snowbird - Lanark touches upon the state of the Scottish national team, while Eilvese, Nov. 10 takes it's name from the place and date that German goalkeeper Robert Enke committed suicide.

The good parts of the older material remains, while some of the meandering and rough edges that irritated have been reigned in. There's often a lot going on in any one song, but with enough restrain and careful planning that the songs never feel busy, or like they've had extra layers thrown at them just for fun.
All in Loudspeakers... is a much more accomplished piece of work than it's predecessors, while retaining all of the originality, complexities and distinctiveness that they showed. It's an album that's far removed from my comfort zone compared to most that I review here, but it's a very welcome push to listen to something else, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.

If you want a bit of a taster of The Japanese War Effort there's loads around to sample. A session for Song, By Toad has a couple of older songs as well as Lanark from this album, and there's a couple EPs available for free on too.

I Will Leave You Now, And Two Loudspeakers Will Take My Place is released by Scozia Records on March 8th.

The Japanese War Effort - MySpace

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Twilight Sad: The Room - Single Review

I generally wait til a bit closer to release to review stuff, but since the video for The Room is doing the rounds and is very pretty I wanted to show it off, so this has been bumped up the review schedule a bit.
Early versions of The Room and b-side The Neighbours Can’t Breathe originally appeared as Untitled #27 and Untitled #28 respectively way back in 2008 on The Twilight Sad Killed My Parents And Hit The Road, before being spruced up for inclusion on last year's Forget The Night Ahead album, so both songs have been around for a while.

The Room previously grabbed me the standout track on an album full of excellent songs when listening to Forget The Night Ahead. Repeated listens and time haven't changed that.
Centred around thumping drums and piano, and gradually descneding into an aural assault as more layers of noise join in, including an appearance by My Latest Novel's Laura McFarlane. The Room is both beautiful and terrifying. James Graham doesn't do storytelling lyrics, leaving the listener to project their own meaning on to his words, and in the case of The Room the music and lyrics mesh perfectly to take me to dark, unsettling places, in part influenced by Hubert Selby Jr's novel of the same name.
Claustophobic, unsettling, but undeniably gorgeous at the same time, The Room is as far as you can get from a disposable four minute pop song.

The Neighbours Can’t Breathe back up The Room on the single, in a stripped back acoustic form.
With the volume dialed down and the distorted guitars stripped off the song is down to bare bones, just acoustic guitar and vocals. A million miles away from the album version, and from Untitled #28 for that matter, and none the worse for it. Like the A-side, it is gorgeous, but thankfully a whole lot less sinister.

The Room is out on 7" and download through FatCat on 15th April, you can pre-order the single here. Watch the video after the jump.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Gig Review: Glasgow Podcart Birthday Bash

Glasgow PodcART 1st Birthday
Campfires In Winter, Little Yellow Ukeleles, St Deluxe
The 13th Note, Glasgow. 18th February 2010

When you grow up in Paisley, you learn to expect certain things from a birthday party.

Some people you thought would be there don't turn up. Someone gets far too drunk, and vomits quite spectacularly. There's a fight. The cake is disappointing. And the music will be mostly rubbish.

How then did Glasgow Podcart's first birthday bash measure up to expectations then?

Well, there was someone that didn't turn up, as Campfires In Winter lost their drummer mere days before the gig. This didn't seem like the greatest of omens, especially as this would be the first time I'd see Campfires In Winter. Rather than letting the loss of a drummer derail them the three remaining members put together a short, stripped back, mostly acoustic set. They then proceeded to not just impress with their shortened set, but stun. When a perfect cover of The Twilight Sad's "The Room" isn't the best song in the set - that honour going to closing song Mortigi Tempo - you know you are in the hands of a band who are doing something very very right. I'm not so sure about their birthday gifts of decapitated cuddly toys though.

I don't think Litle Yellow Ukuleles will mind to much if I call them a noisy wee bunch, but there's also a lot more too them than just making a racket. Songs like Discopants burrow into your brain and stay there for hours later, while the likes of Elders Digsite shows that they can do quiet too. Seeming more confident, comfortable and tighter sounding than I last saw them what was already a good band have clearly been working hard and improving as they do so.

When you are knee deep in bands that are determined to sound like Biffy Clyro like so many in Glasgow do it's nice to have someone doing something completely different, which brings us to the night's headliners, St Deluxe. Gloriously and unashamedly St Deluxe draw influence from the likes of Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr and Pavement, then throw them in a blender with Teenage Fanclub, Urusei Yatsura and Spacemen 3 until they come out something that has hallmarks of those bands, but is entirely it's own beast. St Deluxe might own a bunch of guitar pedals and have no fear of using them, but they also have a collection of fantastic songs to use them on. Amongst the fuzzy guitars and distorted vocals there are beautiful melodies that make standing still impossible.
By the time St Deluxe are done with their last track - an almost unrecognisable version of Johnny Cash's "Big River" my ears are ringing and there's a huge grin on my face. Both the grin and the deafness would take days to fade.

How did the night measure up to the birthday party expectations then? Well, there was no fighting. No puking all over the place. All the drinkers behaved themselves (at least I think I behaved myself). As for the threat of rubbish music? Not a chance, instead we got three great performances from three fantastic bands. Sometimes it is nice when you don't get what you expect. Oh, and the cake was awesome.

Happy Birthday Glasgow PodcART, here's to many more.

Glasgow PodcART were kind enough to publish this review on their website. You can find that here, and as a bonus listen to a few exclusive tracks recorded at the birthday bash featuring Campfires in Winter and Little Yellow Ukeleles.

Links: Campfires in Winter - Little Yellow Ukeleles - St Deluxe - Glasgow PodcART

This Week's Thing

It's Monday so it's time for the surprisingly time consuming quick guide to what's going on this week. I might stop doing these soon because, seriously, they take ages.


What is hitting record shop shelves - real and Internet ones - this week? This little lot. I think I just heard my wallet scream.

Frightened Rabbit's third album, the Winter of Mixed Drinks, which we reviewed last week here. The Boy Who Trapped The Sun has his Home EP out. We reviewed that too.
Miniature Dinosaurs have an EP out too. Titled Chatterbox, it should be available from all good download shops.
Pink Pills is unleashing his debut album. Concrete Heartbeat is available as a free download from his website. I've not yet had time to give it more than a very quick listen, but it sounded good.
The ridiculously good Paper Planes have a double A side single out today. Released by Lucky Number Nine, Disconnected/The Sway is available on 7" and download.
Emma Pollock returns to the Chemikal Underground fold to release her second album, The Law of Large Numbers.
Also doing the second album thing are Errors. Come Down With Me - not to be confused with Come Dine With Me - is out now on Rock Action.
Member of the Wedding have a new single, titled New Century. Download only, so look around the likes of iTunes and eMusic for it.

As if the slate of record releases wasn't taxing enough on the bank balance, there's a plethora of gigs on this week too.

On Monday, you could go see Lady Gaga, or you could go to Box and see Lovers Turn To Monsters.
Tuesday has Galleries and Aye Tunes favourites Macabre Scene playing Nice n Sleazy in support of DD/MM/YYYY.
On Wednesday you can go see Mondegreen at Bloc, or Shambles Miller at Pivo Pivo.
On Thursday, independent label and artist collective Antimatter debuts a new thing called Musicbox. Playing live are he Recovery Club, Engine7, Paul McLinden and Lamplighter. The line up on the night also features four up and coming photographers, whose work is projected live on the night as a visual accompaniment to the band's performance. More details and tickets can be found on the Antimatter website.
The Unwinding Hours play Stereo in Glasgow on Friday, and I really need to get myself a ticket for that one.
Also on Friday over in Edinburgh there's a launch gig for the new Japanese War Effort album. I've been trying to get that album reviewed for weeks, it will happen this week.