Sunday, February 08, 2009

The new breed

Time to delve back into the Myspace addresses we've been sent, happened across or just received through osmosis to pick out the best bands you might have heard of vaguely but really want to know how someone who has a talent for overdescription would make of them.

We've featured a lot of Glasgow bands recently; we've featured a few Edinburgh bands recently. A band who contain members from both, then surely, would be the greatest thing ever committed to tape. Boycotts don't manage that, damn their hides, but while we've learnt from experience to tread carefully around bands who have members called Stina Twee, Josef K and Hardcore Dave (on loan from Scooter, presumably) here is the Scottish answer to a question rarely asked but to which the answer is Sky Larkin, all wiry guitars and razor sharp interplay calling back the Throwing Muses and Breeders as pat comparisons. The main difference is Stina's certain vocal ballsiness and character while behind her is the sort of compressed control that might threaten to give angular indie dancefloor art-rock its good reputation back. While we're near Edinburgh, let's stop off and acknowledge Molly Wagger, an eight-piece who like compatriots Broken Records know their way round an explosively widescreen sonic window and like other compatriots Meursault make a point of integrating electronic noisescapes with traditional songsmithery. Of the songs currently up Bait is hypnotic, Weight woodily aerated and Molly builds itself up stealthily in a manner not too far from Beta Band territory, and there's comfortably enough about them all to justify keeping a close eye as after a little while labouring under 'best kept secrets' tags they could be about to leap the chasm into wider approval if they get their proper recordings just right.

From the far north to the very south and Superhet Receiver, another band who've thought long and hard about how to infuse post-punk's remnants with electronic elements. It does kind of sound like a lot of things done recently but there's something infectious and tunnel vision focused about these liquid riffs, syncopated beats and Korg abuse, in the same ballpark as Soulwax's first album or more contemporarily Post War Years. It could go either way from here as the saleability of the whole juddery guitar dance thing collapses around us but these should have enough to distance themselves from such dregs. Coming at it from a whole different angle, Nottingham based Alright The Captain are an instrumental outfit who switch-hit from Man...Or Astroman? on heat fuzzed out surf to twisted funk to stylised angular heaviness. Something for everyone who likes having their cerebral cortexes turned inside out while they wait.

Onto folk and suchlike. Ivan Campo are a Preston trio, big on well kept acoustics and shakers, whose take on the new New Acoustic Movement tends towards the modernities of Tunng and Adem rather than the more traditional end. The Coral also turn up on their influences list (mind you, so does David Soul) and there's more than a little of their amiable dialled down backwoods moments that they really don't exert too much of these days, against quietly charming minuets of love, loss and confusion. Plus they claim to be from 'Isle of Campodia', and bands who claim to be from made up places are always winners to us. While we're in a downhome frame, Bark Cat Bark is the nom de avant of Yorkshire born, Paris based Josh Todd, whose instruments played list includes albokas, banduras, bombardes, flumpets, gayageums, hydraulophones, kanteles, kavals, kemenches, khenes, kinnors, kokyus, phonofiddles, rebecs and xaphoons. Yeah, alright, we get the idea. His largely instrumental works are naggingly pretty works based largely around central piano or violin figures and the reedy woodwinds, wind instruments and who knows what else that slot in around it. There's Beirut, A Hawk And A Hacksaw and Final Fantasy here, also of course band names for multi-instrumentalist young sensations, but there's many classical aesthetic allusions upon which we wouldn't know where to start.

Italians do it better, so the label name claims, so let's finish this round-up with a couple. Vancouver might be shoegaze without the effects pedal play, or they might be a Europeanised Death Cab For Cutie, or on Jennifer they might be the Killers with the grandiosity and reaching for arena approval taken out and replaced with a very melancholic storytelling bent, an emotional reaction circling a melodic invention. Luca Oliveri meanwhile is in the business of imaginary instrumental soundtracks, building atmospheres from keyboard flourishes and stately waltzes partly aided by off-pop instrumentation. Someone is credited on the press release with 'breaths'. We hope that's not merely something lost in translation.

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