Cambridge based ∆ - pronounced Alt-J (yep, lol) are making a massive impact right now with
their Brixton-recorded debut album 'An Awesome Wave'. [Ed: They even just won the Mercury Music Prize in the UK. For our international readers: that's a slightly big, if largely corporatised and debased, deal. It's now called the fucking Barclaycard Mercury Prize].
So in the spirit of
jumping on the bandwagon (and a particular love of their geology-friendly album
cover) I've added a couple of my favourite tracks from their new album.
While I was making dinner last night I spun myself an eclectic punk & post-punk mix. I tried to trace a line from early progenitors of thrashy and punky guitar riffs, through classic punk anthems to post-punk and electro madness. Included everything from The Clash to The Fall, to Joy Division, Devo, Talking Heads, and ended up with a load of the melodic hardcore punk I listened to when I was growing up like Propagandhi, Strike Anywhere & Faded Grey.
Anyway. Somewhere in the mix I listened to a tune I hadn't heard in years and I just love it: Pet Sematary by The Ramones. While it's got quite an 80s poppy - almost Billy Idol-ish - quality to it, it's just an awesome song. (I also love a lot of Billy Idol btw - but in a bit of a lol way)
Human Nature is the fifth studio album by Soothsayers and
largely emphasises the reggae elements of their proclivities. Although the
album is such a musical collage, that’s barely a signpost for you. In fact, if
all the musical elements were signposted they would be surrounding you, facing
inwards, while you pirouette on a roundabout made of roots, jazz and afrobeat.
To get you in the mood (and because there aren't many tunes available from their new album yet) here's a track from their dubby 2009 album One More Reason (right).
The lilting, powerful trumpet and saxophone of
founder-members Robin Hopcraft and Idris Rahman, respectively, form the central
thread weaving through Human Nature. In One Day the driving
brass hooks provide a cohesion to the other signature theme of the album: the
beautiful triple harmonies of Julia Biele, Hopcraft and Rahman. There is a
fragility in their voices which is overcome through their heartfelt
harmonisation and soaring melodies. And at its peaks these vocals are even
faintly reminiscent of roots reggae maestros The Congos (and believe
me I don’t make that comparison lightly – one of my greatest roots reggae
albums of all time was Heart of the Congos!).
But it is a distinctively modern recasting of dub, reggae
and roots and there are brilliantly experimental moments, with cacophonous
finales overlayed with guitar, keys, horns and delayed vocals.
The lyrics punctuate the album with social, political and
environmental themes – including war, personal strife and climate change.
Indeed the intro track Human Nature (Intro) provides a clarion
call for action: “can we find ourselves a way to save our mother earth / can we
reach beyond / we know we must / stop fighting wars while fires burn and waters
rise / don’t close your eyes”.
The title track continues on these themes but instead takes
a self-assured and up-tempo form – replete with driving beats and delicious
guitar licks. We are also returned to the vocal hook which was stripped bare in
the album’s introduction: this time in full force and heralding a sprawling
jazz- and afrobeat-infused exploration of the themes of the album (musically
It is rare to see a band so comfortable in shifting gear
within and between songs. And the way in which Human Nature drops
from buoyant reggae into thoughtful dub and then off into a meandering jazz
mash-up, is perhaps the magic of the album: a crystallisation of the wonderful,
genre-sprawling chaos of Soothsayers.
Having thought that the music of David Thomas Broughton was going to stay in my memories of 2005/06 and his amazing album The Complete Guide to Insufficiency I was pleased to come across his most recent album Outbreeding. Brimming with classic DTB low-fi guitar and Yorkshire-accented vocals, it's been a lovely rediscovery, even if he is prone to occasionally testing live shows! (that's a story for another day). Here's my favourite song:
Luke edit: srsly for those who don't know him, DTB is such a character I love him - check this vid: Ain't Got No Sole (it's about losing a shoe obv):
Hey folks, I'm back. I know that you've missed me. Well Phil has anyway.
I'm easing myself back in with a simple but beautiful tune by Bob Dylan from his 1989 album 'Oh Mercy'.
There's something about the main chord progression in Man in the Long Black Coat which just makes it stick in my head - quite basic but just really sweetly fleshed out with little guitar licks, violin, harmonica. Love it.
There's even a nice animation of the song's narrative in the video by this guy: Andy Colunga.