Boom Town Fair – 7-10th August 2014 (Materley Estate, Winchester)

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Despite ageing faster than I’d like, I’ve decided to take the plunge and embrace festival season this year. Aside from going to Lovebox (7 years ago!!), this is the first year since ATP’s Bowlie Weekender in 2000 that I’m planning on doing an outdoor festival in full – and this one is the one I’m most excited about.

Why? Well, because it’s not something I’d ordinarily go to. I don’t know half of the bands playing – maybe even three quarters… It’s not exactly on my doorstep like Green Man, Festival No 6 or even Glastonbury and in all honesty the mixture of folk, dub, old school punk and trad folk aren’t exactly genres that you’ll see clogging up my record collection.

But why not try something new eh? The poster above doesn’t show the half of it – literally; this is just the line up on a few of the many stages that they’re setting up for this year’s fest. Out of that lot, I’ve seen Tinariwen, once, at the aforementioned Lovebox 2007 and all I have left of those memories are a few grainy photos and pixellated videos taken at a time when phones were still primarily used for contacting other people.

If you like the look of what’s on that poster, check out the links below to see who else is playing and what else is happening!

http://www.boomtownfair.co.uk/home

https://www.facebook.com/events/598503523531902/

Mixtape Mondays – Vol. 2 – Ben Gallivan vs Joe O’Connell

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Good evening and welcome to the second installment of Mixtape Mondays – this week featuring…

In the Red (Medicine) corner – the author of the website you are currently reading and the person typing this; Ben Gallivan. And in the blue corner, Mr Joe O’Connell - a gentleman who I have probably met but neither of us are quite sure where or when.

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Sadly, Joe and I went down the Dropbox route, so there are no official playlists for you to click on, but if you see something you fancy, there’s pretty much a guarantee that it’ll be on the internet somewhere in some shape or form.

Let battle commence!

Here’s what Ben thought of Joe’s mix…

‘Bite’ – Tera Melos

I’ve been seeing a lot about Tera Melos of late – mainly due to the fact they’re playing Cardiff this week (editor’s note – I wrote this a week before Tera Melos played Clwb Ifor Bach, which is why it doesn’t make much sense), but I’ve never got around to listening to them. Thank heavens for Mixtape Mondays then, as this is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a long time. It comes with an equally amazing (if not slightly scarily freaky) video. Not sure how to describe either accurately though – all I know is that I am now going to said gig if I can get my hands on a ticket. Wonderfully bass-driven riff, psychedelic chorus – totally my kind of thing.

‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ – Rival Schools

Another band I’ve always meant to check out (yes, the height of laziness given that they’ve been going for 15 years). Even stranger that I haven’t listened given that I’ve always said they’ve got the best band name ever. It turns out – listening to this track – that I have inadvertently checked them out as I’ve definitely heard this before. Nice bit of straightforward poppy hardcore, straight from the 6 Music playlist. Not the best song called ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ though, that accolade belongs to this.

‘Lariat’ – Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Ah, now I know this one. I know it very well, despite it only being out a few months, mainly because it’s barely been out of my CD player (yes, CD player) since it came out. A bit of a return to form for the boy Malkmus and he’s as lyrically brilliant as ever (“We lived on Tennyson and venison and the Grateful Dead”). I’ve missed that quirky bastard – so much so that once I’ve finished this mixtape, I’m going to plough through my Pavement back catalogue; so that’s the next fortnight sorted out.

‘Melody Has Big Plans’ – Gnarwolves

Gnarwolves – another band about to play a Cardiff show. I notice a pattern. I won’t be going to see this one though. The thing with the Dropbox mixtape is that it’s not certain which order the songs are meant to be in, but having this one following …The Jicks is certainly a wake up call. I have a problem with this sort of stuff – thrashy hardcore is all very well and good but the vocals sound like they could be a million other ‘emo-core’ bands out there. Not very memorable.

‘Middle East 17’ – Axes

Joe and I probably have very similar music collections – this is another one that I have and I actually have Connor Cupples to thank for it as he recommended it to me at a record fair. Great title and the music is right up my street – kind of like the music Minus The Bear were doing at their best and without the sometimes whiny vocals that they produced from time to time.

‘Play Jazz’ – Nice Hooves

See, now this is exactly what I was talking about. I simply can’t tell this apart from the Gnarwolves track in terms of shouty/screamy/song structure. There is one man who can make a song like this his own and that’s Mike Patton – sadly, he’s nowhere to be seen here. I might have put some Death Pedals on Joe’s tape (not 100% sure) but there’s something different about them – melody, I think.

‘The Six Fingered Hand’ – Jamie Lenman

Ah, Jamie Lenman. The name just conjours up a tortured, gentle acoustic genius, roll-up hanging out of his mouth as he mourns the loss of his love over a tear-encrusted tumbler of single malt. Not a fucking bit of it; this is possibly the most violent man called Jamie in music. Never heard anything by him before, but it’s definitely someone I’ll check out more of. By far the heaviest thing on the mixtape so far, and probably not to be outdone. Let’s see shall we?

‘Spinning Thread’ – Into It. Over It.

Definitely not this one anyway. This is US college rock circa 2000 – so I was quite surprised that it only came out around 6 months ago. It is basically a mirror image of a band I used to love back in the day called American Football (Polyvinyl Records specialised in having all of the bands on their roster sounding pretty much the same). But the fact is, I used to love it – I find that it’s dated badly now, so the fact that Into It. Over It. are still churning out stuff like this is a little surprising.

‘You Don’t Turn Down’ – Marnie Stern

The Breeders! Belly! Veruca Salt! What do those names say to you? Well, they’re all great obviously, and Marnie Stern appear to be in much the same vein. Maybe a little bit more quirky and seemingly a little more dance influenced (judged purely on this song, I might be spouting bullshit), but I like what I’m hearing. Definitely another one to add to the list of ‘bands that I should have checked out years ago’. It’s getting to be quite a long list.

‘In The Mire’ – Stallone

Haha, I notice that Joe likes his shouty hardcore. Here’s some more. Somehow managing to take the vocal style of Jamie Lenman and the music of Nice Hooves and melding them together and somehow making them not as good as either. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think this sort of stuff belongs somewhere around the turn of the century because there’s not an awful lot of it that sounds fresh anymore.

Summary

A mixed bag then! Some of the stuff I knew, most of it I didn’t – and of the stuff that I didn’t, there’s certainly a few bands there that I’m going to check out more of. The stand-out track was definitely Tera Melos’ – not to say that it was all downhill from there, but just that it was so good that it was going to be difficult to beat it. As far as I know, I don’t know Joe either, but it was never the plan to swap music with your mates – you can do that all day long on Facebook and Twitter.

Rating

Definitely a few skippable tracks, but a resounding 7/10 – 5 of those for Tera Melos alone.

Here’s what Joe thought of Ben’s mix…

Thee Faction – ‘Better Than Wages’

I’m currently completing a PhD thesis on political pop in opposition to the Thatcher government, so I could probably write an essay about this song. I’m not going to do that (not here, anyway), but I will propose that it says quite a lot about the potential for political rock in this day and age. In 1984 most music fans at least knew who Crass and Billy Bragg were, but in 2014 I’ve never heard of Thee Faction. While this isn’t really my thing – both musically and in terms of how ‘right on’ it is – I do have huge admiration for their standing up and being counted. Are there more people like this who are flying below the radar? And if so, why are they flying below the radar? Lots of people have political opinions so why are they not reflected in their musical consumption? Big questions which do have answers if we think long and hard about them.

Y Pencadlys – ‘Mae Pawb Yn Haeddu Glaw Yn Waeth Na Fi’

When this list came through I saw Y Pencadlys and thought to myself ‘oh yeah, I’ve never got around to listening to him.’ Then as soon as this song started I realised I have actually listened to it before. As a non-Welsh speaker I have no idea what is being sung (whack the title into Google translate if you’re in the same boat, it’s amazing in English), but I do know that it’s a superb piece of post-punk influenced, depressive synth-pop. Plus it’s on Peski, who have probably never put out a bad record.

The Julie Ruin – ‘Oh Come On’

Yes, yes, yes, this is amazing. Despite an inclination that I would probably quite like them, I’ve never properly listened to Kathleen Hanna’s previous groups (Bikini Kill and Le Tigre), and I probably won’t for a while yet because I’ll be too busy listening to this album. I love its indecipherable lyrics, sugar-sweet backing vocals and the feeling that every member of the band is playing with a curled lip and a scowl. I love the disdainful tone of the title. I love everything about it.

The Wave Pictures – ‘Eskimo Kiss’

As a semi-regular listener to Marc Riley’s BBC 6Music show, I’m vaguely aware of the Wave Pictures (he’s always banging on about them) but, and you may begin to see a theme developing here, I’ve never checked them out. I quite like this song, in particular for the fact that the solo comes after the first chorus, and also for the lyrics, which feel ‘real’ in the sense that I understand them as the recollection of an actual relationship of the singer.

Mates of State – ‘Fraud in the ’80s’

This song is pleasant enough, but I’m afraid it kind of passes me by without provoking an extreme reaction either way. I suppose this is a positive response in a sense: generally, music with even a hint of twee sends me searching for the stop/skip/off button. The squarey synth sound is probably its saving grace in this regard.

Aloha – ‘They See Rocks’

I like this one a lot. It reminds me a bit of Ben Folds (if his chirpiness was replaced with serial killer tendencies), but that’s all I can dredge up in the comparisons department. There’s a creeping sense of unease throughout – I’d imagine that some people would find it unlistenable in this regard – which holds the ear in the hope that it will reach some kind of satisfactory cadence. It does not. Plus, it’s not often enough that one hears jazz marimba taking centre stage in atmospheric post-rock (a frequent complaint of any music fan, I’m sure.)

Kizzy Crawford – ‘Caer O Feddyliau’

This was a great surprise. I must admit that the little I’d heard of this widely-appreciated singer-songwriter had left me feeling rather cold, but this is really exciting. Again, the lyrics are a mystery to me, but musically there is some really interesting stuff going on, particularly in terms of instrumentation. If she were to pair up with a shit-hot producer I think we would have some seriously high quality records on our hands.

El Guapo – ‘Ocean and Sky’

Another cool as fuck song. Clattering percussion, deep and dirty guitar work and hooky vocal phrases. I must admit that I’m surprised to discover it was released on Dischord, but all that does is further cement their status as one of the best record labels, like, ever.

TRAAMS – ‘Head Roll’

I’m not averse to long songs: Deafheaven’s ‘Dream House’ was my favourite track of 2013 and may prove to be one of my favourite songs ever. But where ‘Dream House’ needs its 9+ minutes, ‘Head Roll’ feels like it could have made do with 3 and a half at most, rather than the 7 it uses to reach its conclusion. Which is shame, because the verses and chorus are really cool, but the jam which follows them is, to me, a very wide blank space. In fairness they probably do more with it in the live arena, but on record it’s a bit much.

Death Pedals – ‘Apone’

YEAAAH! I want to join this band! I’ve seen the name around but – guess what folks? – hadn’t checked them out until now. It’s always good to hear a raucous punk band who are unafraid of (and I’m talking musically here because surely no one knows what the guy is shouting about) a positive chorus, but the verses are so god damn pissed off they make you want to down a beer and shout ‘YEAH MAN’ in support of whatever it is he’s all frothy about, even though you don’t have the faintest clue as to what you’re supporting. 

Summary

This has been a pretty solid soundtrack in my car over the last couple of weeks. Sometimes it soothed my road rage. Others it did not (I blame Death Pedals for that.) Every time it encouraged head bobbing and beard stroking. 8/10

Fave track: ‘Oh Come On’ by The Julie Ruin

 

 

 

Mixtape ‘Mondays’ – Vol. 1 – Andy Regan vs Helia Phoenix

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Hello one and all. Well, what can I say about Mixtape Mondays other than the fact that I am well aware that I am 3 weeks and 1 day later than promised. But you know, making a mixtape for somebody – especially somebody you’ve never/barely met is always a terrifying proposition, which is why it’s taken us a little while to get going. Anyway, we’re here now…. and we’re going to kick off with Andy Regan and Helia Phoenix of Andrew Paul Regan and We Are Cardiff fame respectively…

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Helia’s mix for Andy can be found here and Andy’s for Helia here!

Here’s what Andy thought of Helia’s mix…

“Helia gave me an eclectic mix of stuff which I’d largely not heard before, except for the two songs at the end. I don’t quite get the ‘Misty Eyed Winter’ theme… some of the songs sound nice and summery to me”

 

Marchfourth Marching Band – Gospel

 

The opening swoons of brass gave this mixtape an epic feel, like something monumental was about to occur. I do enjoy marching band music when I see it live. On record it just puts me in the mood to go and see a carnival. Which on a rainy day in February sadly isn’t an option. So I liked this track but I don’t think laptop speakers are the best way to hear it. Plus I only have a certain tolerance for saxophone solos.

 

Fickle Friends – Swim

 

This is kind of great. A big modern pop record. Percussion sounding like pencils in jam jars. A little bit Tom Tom Club. Singer reminds me of Lily Allen in a good way. I know absolutely nothing about this band, for all I know this was number one for twelve weeks. It wouldn’t sound out of place topping the charts, or packing out a small indie club. Packed with Tune throughout but with a bit of originality and character too.

 

Coma – Cycle

 

This didn’t do much for me. I went through a phase of buying Bleep.com’s ‘best 100 tracks of the year’ download bundle and most of them sound like this – so I stopped. Nice enough groovy techno type stuff but nothing sonically or dynamically that made it stand out.

 

Savages – City’s Full

 

First band on the list I’ve heard of before, thanks to their song ‘Husbands’ being played on 6music a lot. I love the guitar sound on this, really dirty and obnoxious. Reminds me of the Kills in its dirty rock n roll thrills. Good stuff. Wouldn’t want to cross them.

 

Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum

 

For a while I didn’t quite see what people saw in Cate Le Bon, but each new release seems to get better and better. I like this song a lot, the central idea is really clever. I also like that you can hear the creaking of the piano stool, feels like a real person is playing a real instrument. Also intrigued by the downright weird sounds that come in towards the end which could be a brass section or could be strings. Seem to beam in from nowhere like a radio caught between stations. 

 

Boy & Bear – Southern Sun

 

‘White boy radio indie rock’ would be an accurate if slightly dismissive description of this. It sounds a bit like Fleet Foxes and a bit like The Thrills (remember them?). Didn’t massively do it for me. Maybe I’m jaded beyond my years but I feel like I’ve heard stuff like this a million times and it’s hard to get excited about it anymore, even though there’s not really anything to dislike.

 

Moderat – Last Time (Jon Hopkins remix)

 

Perhaps Helia knows that I thought the Jon Hopkins album was the best of last year, but probably not. I haven’t heard the original of this, so I’m basically hearing this as a track in its own right. It’s got the crispness and warmth that I associate with Hopkins, but it’s much more dancefloory and obviously synth based. The main arpeggio and it’s stuttering companion give it a nice fidgety momentum. Then some warm brassy pad sounds emerge partway through and change it from claustrophobic to a wide open space. Great.

 

Outfit – I want what’s best

 

The vocals on this remind me of Hot Chip’s geeky grooves from circa ‘the Warning’. The electric piano reminds me of ‘Everything In It’s Right Place’. It’s okay, didn’t do it massively for me. Just made me want to listen to Hot Chip.

 

Courtney Barnett – History Eraser

 

I like this. Nice bluesy rock with pleasingly Australian accented sing-spoken vocals. Lyrically it’s a tumble of clever little couplets which after a few listens I still haven’t quite pieced together to figure out what Ms Barnett is actually on about. But I feel like that’s my problem, not hers. Would buy this.

 

Roachford – Cuddly Toy

 

I saw Roachford on the list and thought ‘I’ve heard of them’. Turns out this song is that enjoyably cheesy 80’s funk track that goes ‘You’ve got to feel for me baby’. The sort of thing that would come on at a discotheque when you were drunk and would suddenly be ‘the best song EVAR’. 

 

Favourite track: ‘Swim’ by Fickle Friends 

 

And naturally, as night follows day and vice versa, here is what Helia thought of Andy’s mix…

 

Modernaire – Faites Vos Jeux


A sort of modern-day driving funk jam with a lady who sounds Very English Indeed on vocals.

John Maus – Quantum Leap


Distorted echoey vocals over a brooding bassline, sort of New Romantic esque, I guess. It all sounds very Sheffield circa 1986. Well, what I imagine Sheffield would have sounded like around then – I was five years old and living in Exeter, so what the hell would I know about that.

Max Tundra – Lights


Got to be honest, I had to restart this song about three times because I thought it was skipping. That probably sums up my feelings about it. Skittery and random.

Juana Molina – Wed 21


I really liked this! Driving groove, what sounds like rubber ducks being squeaked for percussion and someone humming all the way through beneath the main vocal. Nice.

Field Music – Choosing Sides


This song confused me greatly. I listened to it in the car and liked it – and then on headphones and didn’t like it. I’m so fickle.

Sam Amidon – How Come The Blood

I rarely listen to music like this, so have difficulty describing it. Sort of electro-folk, I guess? The lyrics are quite ballady, about horses and hazelnut trees, that sort of thing.

Sandro Perri – Changes

This sounds like the theme tune of a gentle and earnest late 80s American sitcom about a group of friends who live in San Francisco, and the trials and tribulations of their lives. You know the kind of programme I mean – they were friends in uni/college, but now they’re growing older and have conflicting ideals and goals in life: one’s a dot com success, one wants to start up an organic dairy, one’s a freegan, one’s writing for Rolling Stone, one’s working in the ‘city’, one’s accidentally pregnant by another one’s boyfriend (it was just a mistake! A one night stand that should never have happened – while they were on a break!). The series has a successful run for five years until the writers become crack addicts and decide to kill off everyone in the show when the San Andreas fault breaks apart and the Bay Area disappears into oblivion. It’s thus a postmodern comment on the disposable nature of consumerist society – media as well as physical objects.Yeah?

Youth Lagoon – Dropla


Mmmm, dreamy pop with jingle bells in it. This is real blissful and nice. Is it summertime yet?

Nicolas Jaar – Space Is Only Noise If You Can See


This was the only song on this mixtape I had actually heard before. Weird laser echo sounds over syncopated drums, distant vocals and rolling bass.

Mount Eerie – Through the Trees Pt. 2


Very gentle guitar based ditty, a bit like someone might sing on the American prairie, about love lost and life gone by. That vibe.

Favourite Track: ‘Changes’ by Sandro Perri

 

Benjamin Mason – ‘Dogs N Yaaa’ – Review

 

a3226269238_2I always think twice, nay thrice, before being ‘that guy’ who downloads music offered for free for £0.00GBP. It all started with Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ – those Oxford trailblazers famously decided to give away what turned out to be on of their best collections of music totally and utterly gratis. With Radiohead it was different; it’s safe to say that despite bands getting a raw deal royalties-wise, that they’re probably worth millions each nowadays so I didn’t feel too bad about it. It worked out well for them, as I’ve since bought said record on CD and Vinyl since and been to see them touring it live which no doubt cost upwards of £100 in the end. Sneaky buggers.

When Benjamin Mason approached me to review his self-released debut album ‘Dogs N Yaaa’, I had just spent a hefty amount of money on power tools, records and an unreasonable amount ferrying a drum kit a few hundred yards across Cardiff so I’m afraid I became ‘that guy’ again.

My eyes always light up when I see certain things; an email from a friend of Ash Cooke (aka Pulco) is always a welcome sight as are the tags ‘lofi’ and ‘experimental’ accompanying a Bandcamp release. Friday saw both of these happen and therefore I was more than happy to give this record the time of day – especially seeing as Benjamin asked so nicely.

So what’s it like, this ‘Dogs N Yaaa’? Well it’s actually really rather good. Mason released a couple of EPs back in 2012 entitled ‘Summer Illuminations’ and ‘The Stupidest Boy In The World’; the latter – as you may expect – contained some of his sillier songs whereas the former showcased some of the songwriting skills that are evident on this latest release.

Introductory duo ‘Trochilus Song’ and ‘Untitled Feb 2013 (It’s A Shame)’ provide the gentlest of gentle openings. The former, a anti-Wild West style acoustic number, complete with birdsong and minor-chorded strums and the latter… well, it is rare that a refrain as venomous as ‘It’s a shame you were born at all‘ can be sung so sweetly.
There are quite a few instrumental works in these dozen songs… one of the more stand-out tracks – the Elliott Smith-esque ‘Sue Kelele’ is sandwiched in between two of the finer examples; the Mungo-funk of ‘Winston’ and the haunting, Bluesy ‘Cold Winter At Woodstock Farm.

There are a few nods to the earlier catalogue of Animal Collective on show here. ‘A Weird Tuesday Unedited’ and ‘Mumma Husk’ would not sound out of place on ‘Sung Tongs’. But unlike some of AC’s tunes, the ones here do not overstay their welcome. ‘Dogs N Yaaa’ (an anagram of ‘A Song A Day’ – how long each song took to complete) crams in a healthy dozen songs into a fraction over 30 minutes and Mason appears to know when he can inject no more of interest into a song and calls it a day. It’s refreshing to not find any filler for a change… the numerous instrumentals are all of differing styles to hold your attention and there’s plenty of instrumentation (most of which not powered by a plug socket) to stop you from reaching for the skip button.

If you find yourself looking for some homemade acoustic wonders (for free, technically – but give the lad a few quid, eh?) then this record is the perfect place to start. It’s a great example of an album not having to rely on unhelpful and unnecessary quirks and technical wizardry to have some kind of impact. It requires repeated listening, and OK – maybe isn’t the best for your exercise regime or car journey, but once you’ve grown accustomed the sparsity and the somewhat downbeat vocals and lyrics then you’ll realise the quality of the songwriting.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Track to download: Any of them/all of them. Name your price