Watch/Review: Lost Dawn – Song For Robert

Musicians from England’s south-western extremities have always had to shout a little louder for attention. Due to scant musical infrastructure, geographical remoteness from and cultural bias towards the media heartlands of London and the north, many a promising young band has withered away beyond the final leg of the M5. Falmouth has long been one of the oases for the region’s groups, thanks to venues like the late Pirate and the presence of a large art college. And now the Cornish town has produced a scene buzzy enough for the NME to dub it ‘the Kernow Wave’.
Central to the county’s take on garage-rock revivalism are Lost Dawn, who release their debut album this week and, judging by ‘Song For Robert’, probably aren’t ones to have dwelt too profoundly on whether their cut-off locale has been a hindrance to success. The track revolves around a guitar lick you’ll be familiar with from Norman Greenbaum through T. Rex to BRMC, but is delivered with a chunky swagger, laconic vocal and raunchy vibe that acts as a starting pistol to roll the good times. The video, too, could be interpreted as a commentary on the complications of the heart or the incestuous nature of band relations, but is likely just an excuse for Lost Dawn’s members and mates to have a helluva night. That the grin-raising glam-rock of Lost Dawn is busting out the wild west frontiers should spur some of the UK edge territory’s other bands, often complicit in their own comfortable obscurity, to start hollering with more conviction.

Lost Dawn is out now on Easy Action.
Words by Nick Mee. Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Listen/Review: Slug – Greasy Mind

The brainchild of Field Music bassman Ian Black, with the aid of some hands-on engineering skills from his Sunderland bandmates, Slug’s debut album has just hit the shops courtesy of Memphis Industries. This excerpt, ‘Greasy Mind’, is a clean-lined slab of off-kilter anglo-funk that, while notable for its lyrical content – “You’ve got a Greasy Mind/Pulling Wings off Flies” – truly delivers from the desk, thanks to its punchy percussiveness and inventive electro-sonics, most satisfyingly on the absurd guitar solo that veers from Steve Vai-esque fret-frotting to Rhubarb and Custard theme-tune squelch. It’s this playful experimentation that elevates ‘Greasy Mind’ and bodes well for the LP, ‘Ripe’.

Ripe is out now on Memphis Industries
Words by Nick Mee. Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Watch/Review: Mbongwana Star – Malukayi (feat Konono No1)

This may be the first time Lost in the Manor has prospected for fresh sounds in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but if Mbongwana Star’s opening salvo, ‘Malukayi (feat Konono No 1)’, is a marker then it won’t be the last. As fresh a segment of audio as is likely to be unearthed, this six-minute single is essentially a progressive charge of irresistible dancehall Afro-funk, yet it has a surreal, claustrophobic air imbued by a growling bassline that, for all its giant heft, just seems to hang there, as well as an other-worldly metallic melody courtesy of Konono No 1, perhaps played out on salvaged steel. Produced by Doctor L, a Paris-based musician who reasons “distortion multiplies the energy”, ‘Malukayi’ sounds rusted, unhinged, warped and wonderful, not unlike a teeming modern metropolis. No coincidence, then, that the debut album by the seven-piece Mbongwana Star (who include two members of the late Staff Benda Bilili) draws its title from the DRC's capital city, or that ‘Malukayi’’s yet-stranger video borrows the Sin City template to splice scenes of twilight street- and sofa-life with band and dancer shots and a scene-stealing spaceman. Yes, you did read all that correctly, perhaps it’s best if you just watch and listen…

Mbongwana Star's album, From Kinshasa, is out on 18 May on World Circuit

Words by Nick Mee. Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Watch/Review: Jacco Gardner – Find Yourself

Exploratory producer and multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner throws the psychedelic smorgasbord at this melodic release that, for all its oil-projector embellishments, never forgets it is a pop song. Listen for shadowy chords, flanged vocals, lightly distorted bass and a Technicolor guitar refrain backed by a keyboard of an indecipherable source, all set to a lilting rhythm that sways with the studied concentration of a stoner picking his way home from a cornershop supply run. A swirl of trance-rock to lose yourself in, ‘Find Yourself’ doesn’t treat the protagonist of its accompanying video too kindly, however. Blowing hard while cruising down forested roads, he happens upon a splendid orange Ford Capri. Presumably thinking the driver is a (former) Top Gear presenter, he empties his gun into the smoke-filled car; but it’s not the long-faced speedophile who tumbles out, instead an unpleasant surprise. A quizzical visual anecdote to complement the tie-dye timbre of the track, ‘Find Yourself’ is a colourful lure to the Dutchman’s new album ‘Hypnophobia’, inspired by his travels to “places I’d never seen before or didn’t even know existed”: a far-out soundtrack to faraway climes.

Hypnophobia is out on 4 May on Full Time Hobby records
Words by Nick Mee. Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Listen/Review: Winter – The Biggest Truth

Unlike some of their folk contemporaries, Winter don't hook you with jangling banjos (who doesn't love banjos?) or generic lyrics about Lion Men (or something) on 'The Biggest Truth'. Instead, they pull you in with sincere lyrics about past mistakes, supported by Noah & the Whale-esque acoustics and the ranging vocal tones of Simon and Garfunkel – the duality of which creates a heartfelt and folky tune. A xylophone makes an appearance towards the song’s middle, which, coupled with the opening whistles, gives a lightheartedness that cuts through the seriousness of the vocals. Following on from their spring 2014 release 'The Sea Bites Back', brothers Matt and Joe Winter’s latest offering is much more of a spring than winter. ‘The Biggest Truth’ has a feeling of uncertainty that arises from the brothers’ experience of difficulty in creating music together, after disbanding a previous group, moving away and trying to build new lives. The biggest truth revealed in this track is that there are no real truths, apart from the ones that you create yourself. “Keep pushing on”, say the brothers, even if you can't answer the question: “What will you say when I ask you ‘what did you do yesterday?’”, because the mistakes and choices made in your life aren't necessarily the things that will shape you; how you react and adapt to those decisions is the main crux. It’s a lot to gather from one song, but even if those aren't the biggest truths that Winter wanted you to know, the song's folky simplicity and dual/multiple vocals make for a relaxingly easy listen, yet it contains enough depth to cause your mind to escape. Much as this writer's has.

Winter’s debut album ‘In The Dark’ is out on 4 May on Wild Sound.
Words by Matthew Doyle. Follow @mmmmdoyle on Twitter

Listen/Review: Happyness – A Whole New Shape

South London slacker-rock trio Happyness released a freaking gem of an album last year, ‘Weird Little Birthday’, and the deluxe version is due for release this month. It features a new track ‘A Whole New Shape’, a lazy lo-fi tune with bouncy guitars and slimy vocals. Like a takeaway pizza, it’s deliciously sloppy and soooo good. Despite their name, Happyness revel in not being smiley and shiny and perfect, they’re the antidote to surf-rock; sofa-surf-rock. The singer whines “It's a Bitch Move” with an effortless cool we should all be envious of, and his ending line, “I Wanna Flip You Off” is full of post-teen angst. I first gave it a listen when sat next to the bins outside my front door on a wet and windy Saturday night, locked out of my house, and the song turned out to be the perfect accompaniment. It would also sound perfect if you were in a packed, sweaty tent getting elbowed in the ribs by people who make you feel too old to still be going to festivals, and it’s the anthem of getting unreasonably drunk in the house on a Tuesday afternoon with three mates and a guy someone befriended two nights ago but still seems to be hanging out. In short, it’s music for being unproductive and defying conventional lifestyle expectations. If your habits frequently get described by your upstanding peers as “irresponsible”, go sprawl out on the pile of clothes on your bedroom floor and blast this track at full volume, on repeat, for a few hours of grungy guitar-pop bliss.

A Whole New Shape is out on 30 March on Moshi Moshi Records
Words by Holly Warren. Read more of Holly’s writing here

Watch/Review: NRVS LVRS – City Lights

Like the city lights that NRVS LVRS’ Wendy Brents sings about, this song is pretty freaky. Not in a Frankenstein way, but in more of a cool super-freak kinda way. This is no Rick James funk, though, and is actually Frankenstein in its setup, laying everything out, then mashing it together to create a beautiful monster of a track. Eerie 80s-style organs back the track from start to finish, but rousing drumbeats, flooding finger snaps and handclaps carry the song away from the morose. Wendy’s under-exaggerated voice is reminiscent of the vocals of Purity Ring’s Megan James, and perfectly encapsulates the headiness of large-city living, in this case the band’s native San Francisco. Living in a big city can be intimidating for young people, and this song highlights that – “Seeing Those City Lights, Freaks Me Out… I Hope They Don't Knock Me Down” – but when the song kicks in with its spacey xylophone, it reminds you how exciting it can be, and how you “Have to Keep Moving” to make sure you can actually feel that. Towards the end, a strange key change makes the song feel as if it’s going in a weird direction, but it redeems itself by combining everything at once for a fantastic end. NRVS LVRS are not a band to be nervous about and, if forthcoming LP ‘The Golden West’ is anything like this first offering, there’ll be nothing to be afraid of.

The Golden West is out on 16 March on Hz Castle Records
Words by Matthew Doyle. Follow @mmmmdoyle on Twitter

Watch/Review: Nubiyan Twist – Work House

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Leeds/London ensemble Nubiyan Twist comprise a dozen members, and while that might be a nightmare when it comes to cramming into the Ford Orion to get to the gig, each player seems so attuned to the other on ‘Work House’ that there’s no treading on toes, at least in a musical sense, as individual indulgence is tempered for the good of the neo-soul whole. This results in a spacious loping groove peppered with tasteful brass interjections, slippery bass runs and temperate electric keys locked into a funky pulse, where fills are meticulously synced. Singer Nubiya Brandon is given plenty of room to shine and, after a first verse where she carries some subtle spoken-wordplay, the full sensuality of her vocal unfolds when the chorus rides in on a blast of gritty horns. Taken from the band’s self-titled debut album, out at the end of the month, ‘Work House’ (which has a sound-of-the-underground video, below, starring Suren Seneviratne AKA My Panda Shall Fly), excels as a recruiter for the band’s live shows, where their authoritative and supercool concordance is sure to be in its multi-limbed element.

Nubiyan Twist is out on 30 March on Wormfood Records.
See Nubiyan Twist live: 7 March: Leeds The Wardrobe 14 March: London Brixton Jamm 26 March: Manchester Band On The Wall 27 March: Liverpool Threshold Festival
Words by Nick Mee. Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Listen/Review: MARINE – EP1

MARINE’s debut EP is a work that seamlessly juxtaposes intimate and epic soundscapes. This four-piece, comprising Ruby Jack, Cara Sebastian, Kaja Magsam and Beth Dariti, have been touring independently in Germany and England, packed into a small car with their CDs to sell. This determination and focus is felt in this release. The band have recorded four intricately crafted tracks with instrumental and vocal explorations on personal themes. The guitar is clean and reverby throughout, with melancholy arpeggiated patterns. The rhythm section steers the listener through quiet moments of alienation, crescendoing with tribal drums to mammoth proportions in the choruses. Three of the tracks are in 3/4 or 6/8 time signatures, and they conjure visions of a bizarre medieval waltz, demonstrating a brief glimmer of the band’s folk roots. In the foreground are the remarkable voices of Ruby and Cara. Displaying differing timbres, their vocal lines melt together in a glorious combination. One has a warmer quality and sings the lines pretty straight-up. The other has a slightly more piercing tone, with the warbly vocal inflections that are massive for our generation – a style pioneered by the likes of PJ Harvey or Antony and the Johnsons. Their atypical harmonies interweave like threads in a tapestry, exploring the dark moods with dreamy tones against a stark instrumental background, and soaring over the grand choruses. Producing single-worded, abstractly titled songs – ‘Kraken’ (listen below), ‘Selkie', ‘Anima’ and ‘Werewolf’ – the band fit the zeitgeist of technological detachment and social disillusionment, expressed elsewhere by Alt-J, The xx and London Grammar. Right down to the logo on their website, featuring that bleak Wes Anderson font that is used by so many of their contemporaries, MARINE are a band unafraid to engage in the trending topics of 2015.

EP1 is launched tonight (25 February) at The Macbeth, Hoxton, London.
Words by Charlie Hannah. Read more by Charlie at The Dentist

Watch/Review: Victor & The Rain Dog – Anchor & Hope

The mesmerising video for ‘Anchor & Hope’ is the latest triumph for Victor & The Rain Dog. Directed by Jamie Jones, it is a perfect collaboration between two creative forces. French-born singer Victor Marichal leads The Rain Dog on this minor-key, sea shanty/junkyard stomp, the style of which seems like a homage to Victor’s hero, Tom Waits, and sounds like a special nod to the pirate songs of his 1985 ‘Rain Dogs’ album – songs such as ‘Singapore’ and ‘Cemetery Polka’. Victor grabs the viewer’s attention with a theatrical performance, creeping about, sneering, lying flat on the floor, thumping his chest and gesticulating expressively. Where his vaudevillian antics capture the viewer, the strength of his Buckley-esque vocal enraptures the listener. His voice jeers and yells, whispers and winds its way up and down the minor scale of the verses. The arty stage setting for Victor’s performance is complemented by the sad, grey parochial English seaside imagery. The heavy black clouds, empty beaches, disused amusement parks, abandoned arcades and the strange and vacant faces of the local characters combine to produce a video that is arresting and compelling.

Words by Charlie Hannah. Read more by Charlie at The Dentist

Watch/Review: Horse Party – Out Of Sight

If Jason Loewenstein from Sebadoh picked up PJ Harvey in his beaten-up Dodge van on a first date, you might expect the soundtrack to be something along the lines of the new Horse Party single ‘Out Of Sight’ – visceral, emphatic and stimulating just about every sense an alt-rock fan would desire. After attention from BBC 6Music and an appearance at Latitude Festival last summer, Horse Party have already staked their claim as one of the most exciting British bands out there at the moment and this new offering doesn’t disappoint.  
The trio hail from Bury St Edmunds (Rock City), a standout destination that prides itself on having a unique solidarity between bands, promoters and punters. This camaraderie makes it a hive for creativity and new talent, with the regular ‘Washing Machine’ gig nights worth travelling to. 
With no bass player, guitarist Seymour Quigley (imagine the scene in Bill & Ted when the two Neanderthals run into each other at the parking lot to create Death, but in Seymour’s case replace it with a collision between Jonny Greenwood and Graham Coxon) adds enough grit and low end on his Tele to complement perfectly the vocals of Ellie Langley. The unquestionable break of “Dead in the Water” is a mantra that resonates as strongly as anything released this year and makes Horse Party one of the nation’s must-see new bands.

Out of Sight/Receiver single is out now (limited 7”) on Repeat Records.

 See Horse Party live: 

Friday 27 February, The Steamboat Tavern, Ipswich
; Friday 27 March, Relentless Garage, London
; Friday 15 May, Cambridge Junction, Cambridge
; Saturday 23 May, The Unorthodox Paradox, Lake Windermere; Saturday 13 June, OPEN Live Music, Norwich
  Words by Ali Waite. Follow @Alister_88 on Twitter

Listen/Review: Jet Setter – Forget About It

Such is the melodic efficiency of the initial two minutes of Jet Setter’s ‘Forget About It’ that the band can afford to close the tune with an outro loose enough to turn Whiplash’s Terence Fletcher an unholy shade of borscht. Prior to this passage, the Dublin four-piece convey such a pleasing grasp of fretboard sweet-spots and warm overdrive settings, as well as a knack for effortlessly pretty vocal harmonies, that even Fletcher would be inclined cut the band some slack for their subsequent slack. The retro production, especially apparent in the beat-group clip of the bass-sound, makes the song come on like Pavement meeting the The Dave Clark Five with J Mascis adding guitar overdubs. A terrific jangle of nonchalant indie rock, ‘Forget About It’ is the lead track from Jet Setter’s debut EP, ‘Never Had It So Good’, landing in April.

‘Never Had It So Good’ is out on 13 April on Any Other City Records
Words by Nick Mee Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Listen/Review: C Duncan – Say

C Duncan shot 2 You know what? This song makes you feel like you're flying over a city and that’s nice. That’s the feel it seems C Duncan, full name Christopher, is going for, especially as his single is illustrated with an aerial shot of his hometown, Glasgow. An accomplished artist, having exhibited all over Scotland, C Duncan created that cover too. ‘Say’ is an impressive listen, filled with ethereal vocals, elegantly brushed drum beats and a choral, dream-pop feel that evokes a vision of Sunday church mass. Except, at this church, everyone’s dancing and swaying. Probably while smiling and closing their eyes. What makes it more impressive is that Chris recorded and played all the instruments himself, all in his bedroom studio in lovely Glasgow. He describes the track as one of “being consumed by the bustle of city life [and] wanting to run away from it”. Or, in this author’s mind, fly away from it. ‘Say’ recalls influences such as Fleet Foxes, with its foresty sound and echoey vocals, but C’s classical background also rings clear in the harmonies and arrangement he so eloquently creates. If these first two singles are anything to go by (listen to ‘For’ here), the forthcoming album, due to drop this summer, should be one heady and layered, yet relaxingly exciting listen.
Say is out on 16 February. Words by Matthew Doyle. Follow @mmmmdoyle on Twitter.

Watch/Review: The Unthanks – Flutter

OK, so we’re hardly laying claim to an exclusive here, you’ll have heard the soothing strains of The Unthanks’ ‘Flutter’ if you’ve been locked on 6Music these past few weeks, but given that the band’s new album ‘Mount The Air’ is out next week, and by virtue of the tune being the most beautiful thing to have landed on Lost In The Manor’s virtual doormat of late, we see no reason to refrain from sharing it further. Pulsing across a peppering of electric piano, a shuffle of percussive brush strokes and a swoon of dusky strings, ‘Flutter’ finds the Northumberland folk outfit at their most ambient. The Unthank sisters’ voices are easeful and mellifluous, of course, but, like all the most effective chillers, there is a sadness here too, a reflective melancholy that seeps through the flawless orchestration and vocal. The lyric ‘Life’s A Flutter’ is pronounced so wistfully that to listen almost seems intrusive. But listen you should. Click on the classy monochrome promo below.

Mount The Air is out on 9 February on RabbleRouser Music
Words by Nick Mee Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Live review: Decoy Jet at Proud, Camden, 23/1/15

If you’re a frequent weekend warrior at London’s music venues and indie club nights, you’ll most probably run into Decoy Jet. The four-piece from Enfield seem to be playing hipster hangouts across the capital every weekend, and as a result look more at home treading (and shredding) the stage than they do off it. For such a new, young band, they have fire-starting chemistry and commandeered the stage at Camden’s Proud like rocking out was all they knew. They look like the kind of band you will find soulfully jamming in their downtime and they probably spent most of their time in the school classroom coming up with chord progressions. At Proud, frontman Ted Joyce strolled on to the stage, Red Stripe in hand, and played so hard you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing in his head but music. Along with Alan Thompson on bass, Connor Johnson on lead guitar and Jonny Bailey on drums, they filled the room with an immensely tight fusion of 60s rock‘n’roll and post-punk revival, full of murderous riffs and licks. ‘Action Reaction’ saw them hurl into grungy garage punk with supercharged guitars, and ‘Don’t Need You’ was fiercely cool and full of funk, but throughout you can hear the influences from Oasis, Peace, Miles Kane, Nirvana, The Hives and The Stone Roses to name just a few of the long list of bands that came to mind during the set. ‘19’ moved away from snarling Brit-rock to a more current, exotic sound, like when The Strokes went less New York and more Machu Picchu. ‘Right Place, Wrong Time’ had the thumping basslines and catchy blues-rock riffs of The Black Keys, and Decoy Jet ended with the equally catchy but twice-as-dirty single, ‘Georgia’. The standout song of the night, though, was the as-yet-untitled and unreleased seventh in the set, which was an instant addiction. So if you’re looking for me I'll probably be on a street corner trying to score a release of this so I can turn off the lights, sit on the floor and listen to it on repeat for days.
Words by Holly Warren. Read more of Holly’s writing here

Watch/Review: The Garden – Surprise

It would be opportune to dismiss teenage Cali-twins The Garden as mere chic-cheeked fashion fodder – they’ve already paced the catwalk for YSL – if they weren’t coming up with such intensely diverting tunes. The bass’n’drums duo’s latest piece of skeletal garage-rock, ‘Surprise’, is all done and dusted in less time than it takes the relatively orally hygienic to brush their teeth of a morning. A zippy snippet of stripped-back psychobilly, it features a symmetrical guttural bassline and rumbling beat, ascending and descending in a similar manner to the call-and-response vogue of the gothic vocal. The appropriately nocturnal video sees the Shears boys gambling with the boatman on a River Styx-style crossing; providing they survived the voyage, souls intact, The Garden will be touring the UK in March, as support to Warpaint, before returning to play Brighton's Great Escape festival in May.

See The Garden live: March 20 – Birmingham, The Institute March 22 – Manchester, The Albert Hall March 24 – Glasgow, ABC March 25 – Gateshead, The Sage March 26th – London, Hammersmith Apollo