Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Wrangling The Heard: February

Front up, Feb's playlist and bloggage was evenly dominated by The Dead Leaves and I, A Man, both of whom gave us terrific launch gigs (which you can read about here and here respectively). Then there was UK's Outfit who recently featured as the latest in AMR's Introducing... series, additionally there was new tunes from Sydney's Oliver Tank, Jonathan Boulet and the new Damon Albarn/Flea/Tony Allen supergroup Rocketjuice and the Moon to contend with. Finally, my recent interview with The Drones frontman Gareth Liddiard (which you can read over at ToneDeaf) meant his solo album Strange Tourist was also on heavy rotation; but the spotlight, dear readers, instead swivels in different directions...

British Theatre - British Theatre EP
When the almighty Oceansize regrettably called it a day, it was obvious that its five members were far too talented to rest on their creative laurels. Heck, they even explicitly said as much when they first broke the news and their twitter account has been a hot-bed of new musical happenings ever since. The most intriguing phoenix to rise from the band's ashes however, has been British Theatre
The fact that it features two fifths of the former line-up, including vocalist/guitarist Mike Vennart, means that of all the new musical projects, they sound like the most logical successor to Oceansize's dense musical heritage. Paired with keyboardist/sound guru Richard Ingram (formerly Oceansize's 'Gambler'), they've unleashed their first official release, a self-titled EP available over at bandcamp, after months of tinkering and teasing on their website.
The opening ID Parade On Ice features Vennart's familiarly enigmatic lyricism and visceral singing, but the heavy, guttural moments of their former group have been substituted for different means of achieving intensity. Namely, the tricky time signatures and rhythmic patterns are played out across processed drums and electronic beats while Ingram's sophisticated touch fills much of the wide audio stage with piano and keys as well as flecks of harp, analog synths and atmospheric sounds. It's a rich palette but there's a muscular undercurrent to the feathery piano and swelling washes of guitar.
Gold Bruise is an equally sonically articulate number, centred by textured drones and a clicking drum track, Vennart's vocals washed in a tinny filter that Oceansize fans will find warmly familiar. In fact, it clambers its way through some dark moods and claustrophobic textures before it reaches a straight(ish) drum pattern and a shimmering, blossoming organ pattern in a cathartic peak.
Along with closing instrumental Little Death #3, these three tracks form a deliciously promising taste of things to come. It's a natural evolution of parts of Oceansize, but more importantly, it's the organic meeting point and fresh approach of two great musical minds. More please!

WolfWolf - Happy Heart Breaks LP
I first discovered Brisbane's WolfWolf when digging through triple j Unearthed, and more specifically, his track Must You Dance? and when the question is posed by a cut bedecked in funky boss pants spouting Chic-happy bass and airy electro drums, the only response is a resounding 'yes!' 
Investigating further, it soon became clear that WolfWolf was on a mission to chart the perfect course that cut straight to - and through - the heart of eighties electro-funk. His breaks and beats channel the same lively spirit of the decade's finest jams but delivered with the modern efficiency of a well-researched DJ. Precisely siphoning squelchy keys, popping guitars and grimy beats in the same way French producer Onra handles his future funk cuts or Hudson Mohawke does in his way with  the 'wonky' genre (google it). 
Happy Heart Breaks is his first collection of original recordings and it's a stylistically consistent set that'll fetch your dancing shoes regardless if you're at a party or at home. Each of its eight tracks mines a deep, slinky groove before dressing it up in all manner of finely produced hooks. My City uses cowbell, squiggling keys and the cut-up crooning of a singer dubbed Hamlet The Sixth while the closing Your Move, with it's near-perfect mix of plucked guitars, shuffling drums and sax would make Nile Rodgers proud. Elsewhere, To Do List rides its huge eighties snare sound for all its worth, while Starting Over 's bank of bouncing synths alone is so wonderfully infectious it would make Daft Punk conceivably weep into their helmets.
You can collect Happy Heart Breaks over at WolfWolf's bandcamp page, and while you're there you could also dish into his intriguing Jay-Z mash-ups, further proof that the anonymous Mr. Wolf is no slouch in the beat-making stakes, but it's really his own retro-ignited breaks that show his true talent.

James Blake - Live Album
Though it's not an officially sanctioned released (it is, in fact, a collection of bootlegs compiled by the good peeps over at the James Blake tumblr), this live album has been doing the rounds on the blogosphere, and for damn good reason.
For starters, these are some quality recordings. The usual live album interferences - crowd noise, bad edits or weak balance - are minimal to non-existent. Then there's the fact there's a handful of rare performances, such as new track Once We All Agree, B side Tep and the Logic as well as a rare cover of Anti-War Dub (by Digital Mystikz as featured in the soundtrack for Children of Men). Of course the Blake staples like The Wilhelm Scream, Klavierwerke and his take on Feist's Limit To Your Love are here too, rippling sub-bass and deft piano work all present and accounted for.
The remarkable thing is that in the live setting he straddles the line between the fidelity of a finely honed production, and being able to stretch his post-dubstep writing into a thrilling flesh-and-blood performance despite the artificial origins of many of his sounds. It helps that the fragile, warbling voice of his records isn't just another construction, aside form some tasteful use of auto-tune and manipulation, it's really Blake singing and you can tell.
Oh, and did I forget to mention the real treat? That the whole thing is available for free? Yeah, pretty awesome that. So whether you're a James Blake virgin or a diehard 12'' collecting connoisseur, there's really no excuse not to give this a listen.

You can click on the album cover above, or head here to get to the download page

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