Sunday, April 29, 2012

Richard James (ex-Gorky's Zygotic Mynci) Brings Us A New Album: A Review

Richard James formed Welsh legends Gorky's Zygotic Mynci quite a few years ago and now he's back with his second solo release, Pictures in the Morning, out 23 April on the Gwymon label from Wales.

Equal parts Bert Jansch and Syd Barrett, the record blends the disparate elements of the worlds of UK folk rock and indie music to create a haunting and contemplative album. Less the whimsy of Gorky's and more the soul-searching of John Martyn, this is a solid album.

"All Alone" -- some weird mix of Graham Coxon and Nick Drake -- is plucked sadness, a lullaby or a lament? The song eases a listener into the record.

"Baby Blue" charms like the work of a sort of upbeat Roger Waters. Another rustic guitar figure here, it's reminiscent of "Patio Song" or other classic tracks from Gorky's. Decidedly mellow, this is folk rock with a sort of happiness and weariness running parallel through the tune.

The 10-minute "Sun Ease Pain" is a gentle epic, a sort of proggy spin on the Gorky's formula -- equal parts Greg Lake and Gruff Rhys here. The song builds, crashes, then builds again.

"Say It Ain't No Lie" is "Blackbird" filtered through "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" -- the sinister undercurrent is hard to miss.

"Do You Know The Way To My Heart" recalls a slower, more languid stroll through an old Gorky's tune. There's a hint of The Lilac Time here -- at least that first album's style -- and it's the sort of English (Welsh?) folk that recalls multiple decades.

"Down to My Heart" is a nod to Robert Wyatt, and "Magical Day" is Syd Barrett by way of early solo McCartney -- still languid, still folk, still very, very English (Welsh?).

"Rolling Down" is more classic Nick Drake-inspired folk rock while "Yes My Love Died" is a nearly jaunty trip down a simple, sad stylistic road.

Pictures in the Morning isn't earthshaking in its styles but it's charming and gentle and a welcome release. If you ever felt like Euros Childs and his quirks -- mainly vocal and lyrical ones -- dominated Gorky's, you may like this record more. Richard James is a more reserved performer and the soft folk charms of this record will warm hearts for months, and years, to come.

Play "Baby Blue" and a few other non-LP tracks below.

Read more about Pictures in the Morning on the Gwymon label here:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

More Genius Sounds From Blues Control

Fragment of a lost thriller soundtrack? Modern instrumental funk rock? Mogwai-inspired US-based space jam?

I have no idea how to describe the magic of Blues Control so here's another taste of this wildly inventive duo.

Download "Iron Pigs" here.

The new album from Blues Control will be out soon on Drag City.

For now, follow the band on their official Facebook page:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's Not All Cantopop Here: Aileen Alonzo and Kestrel Rock Java Java In Sheung Wan

My Facebook friends know that I've been having a rough week here; the transition from fun-seeking Hong Kong tourist to hard-working HK resident has not been an easy one. I love my job, my boss, and my Lamma Island view, but it's all the other stuff that has made me discouraged this week.

And I'm still sort of sad about breaking up with my ex-girlfriend a few weeks ago.

So, frankly, I needed to get out of my shell today and I'm glad I did 'cause I enjoyed a night of fine music at Java Java in Sheung Wan.

Local musician Aileen Alonzo performed solo and with Darren Hayward. And half of Kestrel performed as well.

Opening with a very Radiohead-like -- think "Pyramid Song" -- cover of Lana Del Rey's "Video Games", Aileen Alonzo and Darren Hayward warmed up the audience.

A strong duet on Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" followed.

Then Aileen did a few solo numbers, including some covers of Heather Nova and Regina Spektor.

But Aileen's original material is also quite good. She's got a clear, powerful voice and the songs have a lot of passion. One gets the sense here that the acoustic versions are stripped down versions of more elaborate material; this ain't simply folk music, you know?

One of Aileen Alonzo's many projects is a band called Cleen. She did a strong version of "Little Pieces of Revenge" tonight and the song shows another stylistic side of this musician.

Check out the video and the links below.

The original version of "Little Pieces of Revenge" by Cleen: Little Pieces of Revenge by cleen

Follow Aileen in Cleen on Facebook:

Half of Kestrel followed. Delivering strong folk-rock, Kieran performed a short set between the ones from Aileen and Darren. Recalling the non-whimsical, acoustic solo stuff from Robyn Hitckcock, the tunes here were ones based on folk and blues forms, but also ones with a bit more melodic invention than those styles sometimes allow.

Then Aileen and Darren finished up with some covers of tunes by other local acts (The Bollands and Tilly).

Quite a good night of music. There's more than Cantopop in Hong Kong, obviously, and there's a lot of good music here if you look for it. Java Java in Sheung Wan has live music a few nights a week.

Aileen Alonzo and Darren Hayward - "Car Crash" - Java Java, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, 21 April 2012...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Play The New Wild Beasts Remix Of 2:54 Here!

Last summer, I was playing the last Wild Beasts record quite a bit. It's an unearthly sounding sort of release.

Now that band have turned their hand to remixing London's 2:54. 2:54 are on tour now -- they're stopping in my old hometown of Washington, D.C. too -- and the band is getting a lot of press these days.

2:54 make music that echoes the past but the mix of influences is a nice one. Fans of both The Long Blondes and Ladytron, for example, could find much to love in the slightly sinister tracks of 2:54.

Follow 2:54 on their website:

Or on Facebook:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Amazing Demo From Kate Jackson (ex-The Long Blondes) and Bernard Butler (ex-Suede)

I can't believe this has only received 70-some plays on Soundcloud!

This is a demo from Kate Jackson, former lead singer of The Long Blondes, with Bernard Butler, former guitar-hero from Suede, on the axe. Butler produced a lot of the tracks that will end up on Kate Jackson's solo debut.

Follow Kate Jackson on Facebook:

New Free Little Boots Download

Sounding like the dance masterpiece that Saint Etienne could never quite pull off, here's a new, free download from Little Boots. This is "Every Night I Say A Prayer (Tensnake Remix)" and this cut is a retro jam! Echoing both Cameo and New Order, this track is funky, sleek, and supple.

This free download is in honor of Record Store Day (21 April 2012) and you can grab the song below, or play it as a stream.

I hate to play the hipster card but I have been a fan of Little Boots since she was a member of the UK act Dead Disco. There's a blending of rock and dance influences here that I really enjoy.

Little Boots is on tour now -- including some DJ sets -- and the details can be found on the Little Boots Facebook page:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

New Mouse On Mars: A Mini-Review Of Parastrophics

I always somehow associate Mouse on Mars with Stereolab. I think there was some connection at one time? Some collab in the dim past?

But the bands sound pretty dissimilar. Mouse on Mars are 2 guys -- a band, sort of -- and they make wildly percussive, vaguely dance-y music that insinuates itself with a listener. Like the best Squarepusher, the best Mouse on Mars sounds like no one else. And to label this dance music is a bit dismissive.

But what is it?

Parastrophics, out now on Monkeytown Records, sees the duo return with a blinding, blistering set of tunes.

From the vaguely Europop-sounding opener of "The Beach Stop" to the downright evil closer "Seaqz", this new record is a welcome blast of beats from these guys. The bootstomping "Metrotropy" gives way to the relative calm funk of "Wienuss" and a listener is flung between the samples and beats with a sort of playful fury.

"They Know Your Name" reminds one of Armand Van Helden, while "Syncropticians" sounds like a long-lost Laurie Anderson track.

There are 13 tracks on this record and each one bristles and throbs with a sense of purpose. This is electronic music more alive than most rock 'n' roll!

Get Parastrophics on Monkeytown Records.

Follow Mouse on Mars on their website:

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Little Business Trip To Beijing: A Photo Essay

I went to Beijing for work so I didn't take that many pictures until my free afternoon on Thursday when I visited Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City with my colleague.

The weather was nice in Beijing and the hyped pollution didn't seem to be too noticeable until the breezes stopped. I also had 2 of the most amazing meals of my life on this trip but, surprisingly, I didn't take pictures of the food! There were just too many important people at the functions to do that.

Here are some pictures from my arrival, Tienanmen Square, the Forbidden City, and a few shots near Renmin University.