New Music August/September

The latest short reviews setting the UK’s regional press on fire:

 

Black Delta Movement                  Preservation      8/10

Anyone with an ear for honest-to-God rock’n’roll won’t fail to be knocked sideways by this infectious collection of barnstormers.

Of the many influences worn brazenly on the Hull-based group’s sleeves, there’s a clear Jesus & Mary Chain/ Black Rebel Motorcycle Club vibe to be heard in the mantra-like vocals of No End and the wigged-out guitars of seven-minute album closer Butterfly, as well as a Nirvana-esque pop sensibility that can be picked up in the maddeningly catchy King Mosquito and For You.

Most notably, the thundering guitars and aural swagger of Hunting Ground, Ivory Shakes and Deceit have the same solid pub-rock backbone that made early Oasis into megastars.

The indie scene has been pretty wan in recent years, but based on the sheer intensity of Preservation, the Black Delta Movement might just be the band to reinvigorate it.

 

Still Corners        Slow Air                8/10

The formula in which female vocalists sing dreamily over ethereal electro-pop is now so well established that it’s becoming difficult to tell one act apart from another. Nevertheless Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray, aka Still Corners, have at least been refining the formula for some time. Slow Air is their fourth album, and while it’s unlikely to set the charts on fire, it should make essential listening for everyone with a taste for reverb-heavy guitars, synth riffs and romance-comic lyrics about driving at night and dancing in the rain.

Sometimes the tracks meander in a pleasant but narcoleptic fashion, and instrumental Welcome to Slow Air is uncomfortably close to the sort of muzak that used to accompany the BBC test card. However, when it drifts into focus, as on the Fleetwood Mac-channelling The Message and Fade Out, Slow Air could be the soundtrack to the best 80s teen movie you’ve never seen.

Lotic       Power   7/10

Following two critically acclaimed EPs the Houston-born, Berlin-based experimentalist Lotic releases a full album that, if not exactly an easy listen, is striking in its inventiveness.

At its most accessible the tinkling bells, brooding syths and haunted cries evoke a dreamlike (or sometimes nightmarish) atmosphere. Love and Light and Hunted in particular could easily have been lifted from the soundtrack of a 1980s horror film.

Here and there, however, it descends into pure racket: Warp and Weft sounds like a drum-kit being thrown down a stairwell, while Distribution provides the listener with the disconcerting sensation that it is being played backwards and forwards simultaneously.

Of the couple of tracks to feature vocals, Nerve sounds like hip-hop as imagined by a robot, while Heart has incantation-like phrases moaned over a mesmeric industrial noise.

It certainly won’t be for everyone, but for adventurous fans of electronica Power has a lot to recommend it.

 

Meg Myers         Take Me to the Disco      6/10

She might want to go to the disco, but it doesn’t sound like Meg Myers would enjoy it once she got there; the second full-length from the LA singer-songwriter is much more concerned with introspection and angst than hitting the dancefloor.

Most of the songs have a grungy quiet-verse, loud chorus dynamic based around throbbing bass and distorted guitar that mostly recalls the Pixies and Nirvana. Like those bands there’s also a preponderance of gloomy, introspective lyrics reflected in song titles like Numb, Funeral and Little Black Death. However there are other, more surprising touchstones too. The Death of Me and Tourniquet’s huge drum sound recalls the power ballads of the 1980s, while Some People owes a heavy debt to Enya.

It’s far from cheerful, and if it wouldn’t make a suitable soundtrack for a night on the town, but it could certainly suit the hangover the morning after.

 

Johnny Jewel     Themes for Television   8/10

Themes for Television is partially ironic title for this extensive collection of previously unreleased music from the prolific Johnny Jewel. Although they were not specifically commissioned for the TV show, his peculiar brand of quirky, atmospheric and faintly creepy electronica proved a perfect fit for last year’s revival of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

Windswept and Shadow, alternate versions of which appear here, will be particularly familiar to fans of that series as being a major part of its distinctive sonic landscape.

Although Ruth Radelet of The Chromatics provides vocals on the melancholy Saturday (Evening), most of the tracks are instrumentals with a distinctively 1980s, synthesiser heavy sound. They range in mood from the brooding Red Curtains, to the hypnotic Infinity Room and the gentle, childlike Breathless.

All of the album’s 21 tracks are compelling. It would be no bad thing if one day all television shows sounded like this.

Paul McCartney       Egypt Station     7/10

Even though Paul McCartney has absolutely nothing to prove, on Egypt Station he sometimes sounds like an older musician eager to compete with the young bucks.

Fuh You in particular, a shamelessly upbeat party-starter, wouldn’t sound out of place being delivered by George Ezra.

The album’s best moments, however, come when he sticks to what he knows best: the descending chord structure of Dominoes and wistful lyrics of Confidante are vintage Macca, and demonstrate his unparalleled ear for the sweetest of melodies.

Most of the tracks, which are heavy with reverb, barrelling piano and unexpected sitar breaks, can’t help but recall the Beatles and sometimes, such as on the messy Despite Repeated Warnings, McCartney flirts dangerously with self-parody.

But even when he does tend towards the self-indulgent, after 50-odd years as one of the most influential artists in the business he’s earned a little indulgence.

The above reviews have appeared in The Northern Echo, The Belfast Telegraph, The York Press and The Irish News