Review: For their latest trip into musical paradise, Zurich's Phantom Island crew has turned to debutants The Gagosians, a trio made up of former Soulphiction guest vocalist Suzana Rozkosny, A.C. Kupper (Guitar) and Kay-Zee (Synths). In its original form "Run For My Honey" is a slightly creepy but hugely enjoyable 4-minute chunk of no-wave wonkiness, with Rozkosny's strutting, post punk style vocals rising above lo-fi drum machine beats, surf-rock style guitar loops and elongated organ chords. On the B-side, Label co-founders Lexx and Kejeblos provide a stellar remix that drags the track further towards skewed, Balearic-minded electrofunk territory. While many of the original instrumentation remains, their body-popping beats and thickset synth bassline give the cut a whole new dancefloor dimension.
Review: The latest outing from Swiss reissue specialists WRWTFWW takes us back to 1981 and the debut single from Bern-based post-punk combo Grauzone. The 12" release of "Eisbaer" has long been a must-have amongst fans of off-kilter, dancefloor-ready new wave, and this replica reissue includes all three tracks featured on that version. Opener "Eisbar" sets the tone, with the bands weary, half spoken/half sung vocals rising above a backing track that's powered forwards by relentless bass guitar, screeching riffs and broken computer style electronics. "Film 2" is a heavy, synthesizer powered workout peppered with delay-laden drum hits and odd noises, while closing cut "Ich Liebe Sie" is a clicking and quietly melodious affair that's almost entirely electronic.
Review: 'Go Farther In Lightness' is the sophomore album from Australian indie group Gang Of Youths. Following their candid and broad 2014 debut 'The Positions', they've returned with an album which is bold not just in its opus-like size, but also in its attempts to document the emotional highs and lows of life, relationships and grief. They draw from a range of influences, with elements of pop-punk, post-punk and indie-rock in the mix. There are even passages of orchestral strings, with 'L'imaginaire', 'Le symbolique' and 'Le Reel' punctuating the heavier moments with reflective pauses. The combination of lyrical storytelling and anthemic writing sounds reminiscent of The Hold Steady and early The Killers. What sets Gang Of Youths apart from other bands in their field - particularly on this album - is their sheer ambition, conviction and aspiration, which undoubtedly demands respect.
Review: Write off Garbage as a '90s museum piece at your peril - this sixth record is testimony to the fact that they attack with as much glamour and gusto as they ever did in the world before smartphones and social networking. Sonically adventurous as ever, and with Shriley Manson's steely presence and powerful charisma at the forefront. 'Strange Little Birds' is a more confident and heartfelt salvo than 2012's 'Not Your Kind Of People', with its dusky atmospherics bringing a trademark cinematic allure, whilst Manson's songs have an emotional charge that resonantes through the cold electronics and brittle arrangements.
Review: The mysterious Gothenburg based collective have apparently styled this as their 'folk' album yet this is less than half the story - indeed, 'Requiem' stands as an adventurous travail through styles and headspaces, moving from the vibrant psychedelic jams of their earlier work to ritualistic acoustic interludes, and with hi-life wave-ups rubbing shoulders with grage rock grit. Their ceremonial splendour is only enhanced by this all-encompassing outlook, with the more understated moments effortlessly hitting the same revelatory dimensions as the third-eye-cleansing moments of drama. And any band who can manage to make the panpipes sound thrilling and vibrant as an ingredient in their mystical brew would appear to have strange magick indeed on their side.
Review: The Canadian post-rock instrumentalists return with a demand for revolution, soundtracked by just shy of 45 minutes of orchestral aggression. As with all of their work, GY!BE convey their ideas articulately through evocative wordless music. The opener, 'Undoing a Luciferian Towers' sets a tone for the album with a monolithic and militaristic march. Passages of feedback open out into anthemic expanse on the three parts of 'Bosses Hang'. 'Fam/Famine' balances between harmonic assonance and dissonance, ramping up the tension before the final triptych 'Anthem Of The State' takes a more optimistic tone, with the movement away from noise providing some glimmers of light in the abyss. 'Luciferian Towers' is an impeccable and polished record, and possibly Godspeed You! Black Emperor's finest to date.
Review: The Canadian sonic soothsayers here deal out their shortest, and most immediate record since their 1997's debut, yet for all its 40-minute brevity, there's no shortage of the kind of monolithic intensity that the band have become renowned for. As orchestral and elegiac as it triumphantly amp-abusing, "Asunder..." is a masterclass in windswept atmospherics, powerful dynamics and apocalyptic grandeur, building to a climax with enough emotional heft to shake any listener's world on its axis. Existing more than ever outside of genre and comparison, Godspeed continue to inhabit an awe-inspiring sonic landscape that is theirs and theirs alone.
Review: When you use words like "prickly", "abrasive" and "uncompromising" it's rarely flattering. Consider Kim Gordon's exceptional powerhouse long form one of the exceptions. As far removed from music for the masses as you could hope for, it takes a particular talent to deliver work like "No Record Home". Labels such as punk certainly apply, but it's less about mouths gushing spittle amid the deafening screams of guitars and raucous vocals, and more about overall attitude. No change there for this co-founder of the mighty Sonic Youth then. Loud and intelligent, forthright and yet heartfelt and tender in its own unforgiving way, it's as far removed from wall of sound discordance as it is anything you could describe as remotely over-explored. Marrying the bloody-lipped electro of Peaches and body blow lows of EBM with gritty rock 'n' roll chords, those looking for originality that oozes repeatability should consider their hunt over, for now at least.
Review: The ex-Czars frontman had already set the bar very high on his last two solo platters, mapping out an idiosyncratic style that somehow managed to be confessional and soul-searching yet sardonic and wry, and with memorable and melodious songwriting in abundance. Yet his third, 'Grey Tickles Black Pressure' takes bolder steps onto the dancefloor as well as into '70s FM radio terrain yet without compromising his dramatic and poignant delivery, with stirring and spectacular results. Uncompromisingly emotional in tone yet suffused by hope and positivity even amidst the trademark dark humour, this is the troubadour's greatest triumph yet.
Review: Ruins is the 10th LP from Portland artist Grouper, an incredible set that's found it's home on the inimitable and always on- point Kranky label...and yes, it's another fine outing from the voco-noise head. Tracks like "Clearing", however, show another side to Grouper's usual rough edge. There's an element of smoothness to those sombre keys and far-out vocals. It's basically an ambient album with an extra layer of soul in its core - check "Made Of Air" for a seriously trippy set of soundscapes.
Review: Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou is an Ethiopian nun known for her unique solo piano playing. For three decades she lived a reclusive life with only rare performances, including one at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, D.C. in 2008. Featured here are recordings sourced from the '60s of her truly captivating performances and are deservedly reissued by the Portland, Oregon based Mississippi/Little Axe Records. Featured here are all original compositions available for the first time on vinyl beyond the original early editions, said to be near impossible to find.
Review: Legendary alt-rock group spearheaded by Robert Pollard delivers a massive 32-track double-album called Zeppelin Over China. Guided By Voices have released more albums than you can poke a fender at, and this whopper makes it 10 LPs in 10 years, straight. In a sentence, it's an album of balanced positivity avoiding the pitfalls of nihilism to a degree, and perhaps best suited for that whiskey drinking malaise. Deep inside the music you'll hear references (owing or given to) from the likes of Pearl Jam and David Bowie (most obviously), with nothing to be taken away from Pollard's songwriting and vocal presence, and along with the band's lucid technique, it's 75-minutes of the good stuff, neat or on the rocks.