ALBUM REVIEW: L.A. Witch – L.A.. Witch

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12755/Album/L-A-Witch

After treading the tour circuit for three years L.A. Witch have decided to name, shame and document it ALL.

Similar in feel, tone and attitude to other West Coast narco-rock this year (The Black Angels, The Molochs), this hell-A trio’s eponymous LP delivers 9 seedy tales from the City of (fallen) Angels.

Coming over like The Shangri-Las fronting The Ventures if they’d woken from a night on the up and downs and decided to jam, these are vivid missives from the underbelly, the hazy dusk vistas that permeate the sun-drenched gates to Hades. The angelic ascent before the devilish descent.

In kinship with other cellar-dwellers (Brian Jonestown Massacre), grave throbbers (The Cramps) and celestial travellers (Mazzy Star) familiar signifiers abound (cars, jeans, killing your baby …), all adding up to a technicolour-spectacular Russ Meyer sexploitation flick (of the knife): the dream piercing harder than reality ever could.

The nihilistically gauzy ‘You love nothing’ is a brush-off to a loser, a chooser, a floozer that blew it. His options have run out, time elapsed.

Stand-out ‘Drive your car’ is the Throwing Muses having undergone an esoteric ritual, Sade Sanchez’s malevolent muffled mutterings in tandem with the pounding beat-pair of Irita Pai (ace bass) and Ellie English (skins). A one-way journey into madness before an (existential) breakdown at the side of the road to hell.

‘Baby in blue jeans’ has Sanchez’s vocals sounding like Stevie Nicks during the Rumours sessions, druggish and sluggish (allegedly), drawled up and wrenched out verbiage all expertly backed by jingle-jangle Marychainsaw guitars.

This is an album that’s a primal scream from herstory, an aural era-echo, a reminder of the potency of simplicity. In these time of hyper-polished surface-level robo-pap this reverb-al psyche-bashing of magick abstracktion and spell-blinding garage-rock is a salve.

THIS is the season of the witch.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Zola Jesus – Okavi

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12756/Album/Zola-Jesus

As a means of filtering loss and grief, artistic endeavours as forms of catharsis is a tried and tested medium, an attempted reconciliation with the present/past and a yet to be realised future. Forgiveness and redemption are sought and occasionally found.

These creations act as a soothing balm to alleviate pain and woe, and with titles like ‘Exhumed’, and ‘Remains’ and lyrics including ‘decay’ the message here is clear: life and death, love and last breath are entwined, the gap between the pair fleeting, a speck in the eye’s mind/splinter in the mind’s eye.

On ZJ’s sixth album Okovi (Slavic for ‘shackles’) she addresses life’s big questions: our attachment to our ‘selves’, each other, nature’s rhythms and societal systems, all prisms and prisons depending on perception.

Opener ‘Doma’ is an echo chamber-crie de couer, a plea to be free, away from the chains and pain ‘a ghostly ‘take me home’ an ambiguous plaint to return to the womb or retire to the tomb?

Soil is toiled, tossed and turned on ‘Exhumed’ a less cloying and annoying Florence and the Machine and her rote emoting, this is vocal dexterity that yearns for relief not approval from a ‘talent’ show chief.

Appeasement and bereavement permeate ‘Soak’ as the ‘can’t win’ dichotomy of ‘I feel/give nothing’ erupts into Fever Rayish trip-hopping all the way ‘down to the water’. One way to drown sorrows.

‘Ash to bone’ evokes Siouxsie Sioux’s gothic garlanding, a spectral projection of the erosion of existence. The symphonic ‘Witness’ airs ZJ’s sombre timbre, a spectacular tale of seeing and not wanting to believe.

‘Siphon’ is a graphic account of ‘rather ‘clean the blood of the living dead’ a Hobson’s choice if ever there was one. ‘the cold, dark nights inside your head’ echo those times of despondency, the bottom has been reached, looking up is not on the radar. ‘Veka’ is a throbbing missive from the afterlife.

This album is a soul-cleansing, demon banishing exorcism. The mental manacles have been cast aside.

Britney Spears: The Cabaret

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http://www.theatre-news.com/review/UK/2509/Theatre/Britney-Spears-The-Cabaret

What price fame? In this show it’s the cost of a childhood, the loss of innocence highlighting the manipulations of the media machine and how it portrays and betrays, uses and abuses.

As Kenneth Williams immortally uttered ‘Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!’ this production addresses the fine line between acclaim and shame and how today’s pin-up is quickly tomorrow’s drop-out.

Following a sell-out run in Australia Britney Spears: The Cabaret is an outstanding and uproarious analysis of the perils of fame, how the ‘toxic’ American Dream’s illusions lead to delusions and mental collapse and how a small-town girl is left bereft in a world of ‘fake’ reality/fake ‘reality’. From the artificial families in commercials to a Disney puppet to the simulated celeb-bubble that envelops her everyday existence this is a rollercoaster of blurred lines and bare berating/bear baiting.

Having to fend for herself surrounded by ambitious children, forging relationships of convenience she is ultimately discarded and disregarded. Miss American Dream turns into a nightmare, Spears’s arc bridges the cusp between the old school paparazzi and the new school social media snaparazzi where nothing is ever private. Fleeing fans she sought security in the glare of the flashbulb: ‘these parasites KEEP me alive’ illustrating the ties that bind, the double-edged sword of the tittle-tattle empires.

The song titles lend themselves to deconstruction (‘Circus’ ‘Piece of me’ ‘Stranger’ ‘Slave 4 U’ ‘Lucky’, ‘Oops I did it again’ ‘Woman’), fixing a lens on the true nature of these ‘pop’ hits and uncovering the mask that hides the spectacle. Their reconstruction here demystifies the whole process and punctures the Vegas bubble, that artificial ‘world’ of contradictions and hypocrisy. This is the path from starstruck infant (the creepy weirdness of pageantry) to powerless parent with a ‘Hollywood’ ending (like Elvis before her put out to pasture to (re)live again (and again) for the benefit of the rubberneckers.

The show is laced with subtlety from the vodka bottle with an Evian label on to the visual sexual metaphors (cavorting through a hula hoop) that add to the carnival of chaos, all part of the dead-eyed nature of an exploitation industry populated by ‘23 year old guys with tattoos directing videos telling me what to do’.

Names are shamed and digs are given (e.g Max Martin the Svengali in flat forms, Timberlake the himbo-snake and the talentless and fat Aguilera) none more than the falling Madonna (‘real, fake, alien’) who uses Britney as a cipher for her own time in the spotlight, when the cameras leave so does the ambitious blonde.

The show breaks the fourth wall by crossing over from showing to telling, a peak behind the veil, the ultimate kiss-off being ‘it’s all about how you’re remembered after you strut off’. It’s imperative to leave an indelible imprint like ‘Marilyn’s frozen in time’ image.

In order to effectively lampoon something you have to love it, know it, live it and writer/director Dean Bryant and musical maestro Matthew Frank deserve mass applause for nailing this so perfectly, but this is all about Whelan Browne’s blistering performance. Exquisitely capturing the polarities of the fame game she is vulnerable and victorious, brittle and skittish. This is setting the story straight.

ALBUM REVIEW: Gold Class – Drum

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12686/Album/Gold-Class

The chest-beating Drum follows 2015’s shortlisted Australian Music Prize It’s You.

2017 A.D. A post-post punk break-up album from Down Under’s Australia. It might as well be called It’s not me (it’s YOU) such is the rancour at its core.

Formed in 2014 Melbourne’s Gold Class head-voxer Adam Curley – like Editors’ Tom Smith and White Lies’ Harry McVeigh – has a refined monochromatic baritone seemingly culled from Ian Curtis and a yearning yelp derived from Stephen ‘Comsat Angels’ Fellowes. So far so good.

Channelling a broken heart into art is a tried and tested means of overcoming and recovering, some stick to cryptic digs others go on an all-out assault. These song titles tell their own story (‘Get yours’, ‘Bully’ ‘We were never too much’ and the below the beltisms of ‘Thinking of strangers’) all suggesting the separation averted M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction).

‘Twist in the dark’ is all angles and points, abrasive and angry, the lights are off and ‘you’re’ out.

‘Rose Blind’ adapts Strangler JJ Burnel’s throttling, pummelling bass sound (re)deploying its potency as the song’s spinal chord. From uptight to upright.

The anti-love letter ‘Get yours’ is vengeful and vicious, the guitars lacerate, the drums echoing the feel of defiance as this ice cold dish is served.

‘Bully’ channels The Cure, a black/white (no grey area) remedy melody riposte rife with rift riffs.

This album deftly looks back while seeing ahead: superior gloom with a view.

ALBUM REVIEW: Ron Pope – Work

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12683/Album/Ron-Pope

America the brave, the good ol’ US of A, Land of the Free, Uncle Sam, the Wild West, all creation myths behind an amalgam of (faltered) states that has long substantiated its own ‘histories’ through movies and music. The aspirations and dreams of downtown heroes and failings and railings of uptown zeroes long the artistic palette of many a ‘country’ star.

Into this breach steps Ron Pope with his seventh album Work another collection of hometown vignettes encompassing the booze, the blues, some flooze and sung tales of stung tails.

Pope’s success is an anachronism: he records in analogue (some of his band comprised of emigres from the Gregg Allman Band, Glen Campbell and The Banditos) and yet much of his success has come from ‘modern’ means of distribution/consumption (downloading/streaming/Youtube): the past and present combining to = $$$$. The medium IS the message.

Ron’s the Pope of Dope in ‘Let’s get stoned’ a languid drag on the bush-weed replete with a hazy bliss of saxy horns.

Ron’s the Pope of Mope in the mortality reminding ‘Someday we’re all gonna die’; that point when you realise that ‘time’s a thief’ so the only remedy is ‘pour me a drink’. All been there, Ron.

Ron’s the Pope of no-hope in ‘Work’ a philosophical-autobiographical evocation of ‘working to live beating living to work … anytime’, the simple fact of self-worth paying more than money ever could. Freedom worth every cent.

Ron’s not the Pope of Elope in ‘Can’t stay here’ a brusque brushing off to A.N. Other, whose ‘noise’ needs to go elsewhere, ‘out of sight’ somewhere the ‘tears’ might work. Don’t’ call him, he’ll … call … the police.

With chooglin’ boogie-woogie country and western sounds all the rage right now – commercially and artistically – it wouldn’t be a surprise if this is the album that catapults Pope’s (Vatican) broadsides into the hearts of the ‘papal’.

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Hypochristmutreefuzz – Hypopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12675/Album/Hypochristmutreefuzz

No, your eyes do not deceive you, the cat hasn’t run over the keyboard. Nor is this an optician’s test board.

Belgian mouthful Hypochristmutreefuzz (named after an avant garde jazz composition by Misha Mengelberg) release second long-player Hypopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (‘the fear of long words’). Head-wrecking tongue-twisting out of the way, what does it SOUND like?

In a never-ending epoch of disposable, hyper-consumptive indigestible crap-pap this is the antidote. Strange sonics, eerie vocals and a mish-mash of styles that as a whole make up the most original release I’ve heard this year. Songs stop and twist, drop and persist when you least expect, equally confounding and astounding.

Opener is the cackling, crackling, sneering and fearing ‘Finger’; a manic nightmarish derivation that evolves into a maelstrom und drang with the haunting ‘Why don’t you love meeee?’ retorted with ‘with her face down in the gutter’. Not your usual ‘girl meets boy’ (or girl etc) origin story.

‘Music of the spheres’ is in the vein of Edward Ka-Spel’s mysterious outré mainstream avant garde prog-rock auteurs The Legendary Pink Dots. An unsettling clash-crash of chaos and descending dissent. The disorienting din of ‘Elephantiasis’ changes tack midway whereupon the beguiling refrain ‘It’s ok … it’s so gay’ leads onto an electro-epileptic fit of pique.

‘Clammy Hands’ is a dubby trancehall of smoke and mirrors, nothing is as it seems, sweat free palms the stuff of daymares/nightdreams.

‘One trick pony’ is anything but. A lolloping bassline leading to a mental breakdown of heavy-thrashing turmoil. A strait(jacket) to hell. ‘The Spitter’ is like a Dr Moreau production of Wild Beasts and Nine Inch Nails: mutant music.

No your ears don’t deceive you, the cat hasn’t been run over. This synesthetic album will make you (in no particular combination) think (run), feel (anxious) smell (fear), touch (mortality) and see (the whites of your own eyes).

ALBUM REVIEW: Dengue Fever: Dengue Fever/Escape from the Dragon House

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12573/Album/Dengue-Fever

Consisting of a heady brew of infectious psyche-diaspora rock of filtered histories and channelled customs AmeriCambodian ensemble Dengue Fever dig into their treasure trove and re-release their first two LPs.

In these times of hyper-abundance, info-gluttony, mass cultural appropriation and outright legacy larceny spiritual salvation is at hand with these aural postcards from shores afar and times passed. If the past is a foreign country that country is Cambodia and they do things different there.

2003’s self-titled debut consists of seven ‘reconstructions’ of esteemed protest-totem Ros Serey Sothea’s oeuvre (who disappeared under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime), possessor of spectral sonic-tonics including the ever-effervescent ‘I’m Sixteen’, the sucker-punching ‘Pow Pow’ and the kaleidoscopic rush of ‘New Year’s Eve’, comprising a veritable 60s inflected spree-for-all.

DF’s own ‘ghost voice’ Chhom Nimol affectingly (re)captures Serey Sothea’s enrapturing essence with the band’s own ’22 Nights’ a soaring, swooning highlight: ethereal and haunting. The eponymous ‘Dengue Fever’ itself is a saxy organ stirrer.

Follow up 2005’s Escape from Dragon House sees the group forge their own path with 14 of the tracks self-penned. Opener ‘We were gonna’ continues the mood and aesthetic with a spacier surround-sound. ‘Sui Bong’ is a disco-go-go-get her, a dancefloor trance-prance off. The gushing ‘Tap Water’ is crying out for a police procedural to soundtrack; oozing in mystery and know-it-all-knowing as guitar finger picking combined with horns and Joe Meek(ong) organomics reaches a beat-crescendo par excellence. Case closed.

The looming menace of the arachnid permeates ‘One thousand tears of a tarantula’; a web spinning wall of wail. Who knew spiders cried? ‘Lake Dolores’ is a surfin’ safari in the vein of The Ventures.

Both reissues get the redux-deluxe treatment, bonus tracks, remixes, live renditions and liner notes: a completist’s dream.

Feed your fever with these timeless and exquisite Kampuchea-worms.