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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch: Generationals – Reviver

Follow the example of the jovial spectators in Generationals’ speedway-centric new video and you'll find plenty to cheer in the band’s typically upbeat new release, taken from their latest album, ‘Alix’. ‘Reviver’ is a synth-led work of quirky disco-pop, whose brightly textured tones, like a squeak-free MGMT, are embellished by a reverb-steeped vocal melody sounding not unlike War On Drugs, were they taking Prozac. There’s much aesthetic joy in the technicolour promo too, encompassing desert landscapes, cheerleaders in slo-mo and the momentum of man and machine as the New Orleans duo ride off into the sunset. Good times indeed.

Alix is out now on Polyvinyl.
Words by Nick Mee Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Watch/Review: The Acid – Ghost

At a time of year when heavy grey skies seem only to be an apparition of daylight, the spectral sonics and hazy visuals of The Acid’s latest release, taken from last year’s ‘Liminal’ LP, is fittingly austere. The video to ‘Ghost’, shot among sand-dunes, is a shimmering template of surreal focal points and balletic choreography, reflecting a sensory unease that chimes with the sparse, minimal electronica of this transatlantic production trio. Featuring a wounded vocal melody supplied by Ry Cuming, ‘Ghost’ pulses slowly, fizzing and sparking steadily over ominous leftfield downtempo, like the soundtrack to a late-night speakeasy session where Andy Stott and Darkside share sinister tales and hard spirits. The Acid’s hypnotic original has a haunting allure of its own, but two remixes (below) usher it gently towards the dancefloor and dress its skeletal frame a little brighter. Hamburg-based producer Oliver Schories injects a botoxed beat, resulting in some swollen deep-house, while London’s Maya Jane Coles turns on the trance, managing to invert the agitated strains of ‘Ghost’ into a euphoric clubland banger.

Ghost is out now
Words by Nick Mee Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Watch/Download: Allusondrugs – Am I Weird?

It’s a question that’s vexed all but the least self-aware of us at some point, its intensity frequently amplified in direct correlation to recreational substance use. Which may explain why Yorkshire quintet Allusondrugs appear to be having such a tremendous grin during their self-made promo for ‘Am I Weird?’, in which their studio forms the low-budget backdrop for absorbing hyperactivity, and there are cameos from an emu and a cat. The track’s slapstick psychedelia is fused with grunge and stoner-rock, zipping along on a recurrent wiry guitar lick and glam-rock rumble, diverting briefly to take an elegantly blissed-out break. As immediately addictive as a chocolate mephedrone bomb, ‘Am I Weird?’ is understandably an Allusondrugs live favourite; gigs in Sheffield and Liverpool before Christmas offer the chance to get hooked.

'Am I Weird?' is available as a free download here
See the band live: Wed 17 December – Liverpool, Camp & Furnace Fri 19 December – Sheffield, Corporation (Xmas Party)
Words by Nick Mee. Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Watch: Pinkshinyultrablast – Umi

'Repurposing shoegaze from the Baltic's eastern banks,' Pinkshinyultrablast are a St Petersburg band whose debut album, 'Everything Else Matters', is out on 12 January. You can read a full review of their 'colourful emissions of propulsive space-rock' by Lost in the Manor's Nick Mee in this month's London In Stereo, but the group's excellent single 'Umi', below, supplemented by an appropriately dreamlike promo, is the perfect taster.

Everything Else Matters is out on 12 January on Club AC30

Watch/Review: Desperate Journalist – Control

There’s something of the Manic Street Preachers to the classic alt-rock intensity of Desperate Journalist's ‘Control’, and not just because bassist Simon Drowner is a kohl-eyed shoe-in for the tribute act. It has more to do with the full-bodied confidence of the band’s sound and the way, a la Manics, that the robust tune leans so heavily on the twin highlights of guitar and vocal. Rob Hardy’s fretboard scamperings provide an unusual contrapuntal hook to grasp the listener’s attention, and his later fiery soloing evidences a guitarist of some flair, the 12-string he wields adding welcome resonance. Jo Bevan’s voice, articulate and commanding, has range to spare as she ups the gears through stylish post-punk surges into a stirring chorus. Rounded and melodic indie-rock, this new taste of the band's self-titled debut LP, out in January, suggests that Desperate Journalist won't need to fret about filling those column inches.

'Desperate Journalist' is out on 26 January 2015 on Fierce Panda.
Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Watch: Sara Lowes - I'll Find You

On 23rd February Sara Lowes releases her new full studio album following 2011’s debut ‘Back To Creation’. The popular musician plays keys in The Earlies which has led to work with Daniel Johnston, King Creosote, Jens Lakeman, Jim Noir, Jesca Hoop and Dawn Landes.
Hailing from Manchester via the North East, Sara’s versatile musicianship transcends into a multi-layered production of brass and piano-laden pop and progressive influences. The classically led arrangements adorn her psychedelic and jazz infused rock where West Coast sounds are submerged in seventies prog and technicolour pop. Imagine Feist and Cate Le Bon with Stereolab’s songbook.
The dramatic title track is a prelude of classical and folk inspired strings that escalates into a heavy rock crescendo. ‘I Find You’ has a Twin Peaks style soundtrack and brimming with playful melodies the ode to ‘J.B Priestley’ possesses the spirit of Divine Comedy and Laetitia Sadier.

Introducing/Watch: As Tall As Trees – The River

As Tall As Trees' debut EP is self-released on Monday 24 November and available digitally via iTunes and on limited-edition vinyl. Produced by Junk Scientist at Brighton's Electric Studio and mixed by Sean Read at Famous House, Hackney, the EP features a guest appearance from Martin Rossiter (Gene) on piano, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Mellotron and backing vox. Lead track 'The River' is accompanied by an animated video created by Stephen Smith. Check it below.

Watch: The Vultures – Vlad

Vultures press
To celebrate All Hallows' Eve, gloriously inventive London sextet The Vultures are releasing a free download of their spine-tingling new single ‘Vlad’ on October 31. A song that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck due to either its malevolence, its magnificence, or both, 'Vlad' should be a staple of every playlist this Halloween.
A beautiful composition of noirish intent, ‘Vlad’ – part-Hammer horror score, part post-punk masterclass – features a dazzling sweep of strings enveloping a resounding beat. Atop this Balkanesque blend drifts a deliciously dark vocal, evocative of Scott Walker making a blood oath with Bela Lugosi: “What’s the point of dying/when you have no soul?” runs the lament for the Impaler; enough to make you shed a tear for the ruthless Romanian prince. 'Vlad' is accompanied by a comically discomfiting video, involving a gaggle of mutant muppets hosting a cookery show for the strong of stomach. Kitchen nightmares, indeed.
The Vultures are an evenly split male/female sextet whose members descended on the capital from five countries spanning three continents. Comprising three-part vocals, cello, violin, viola, bass and drums, the band bonded over a shared belief that rock’n’roll has become stiflingly dull. The Vultures are anything but, eschewing guitars, synths and digitalism in favour of intense in-the-flesh performance. Their songs' sinister subject matter may have lured a largely gothic fanbase (as well as such luminaries as Yoko Ono), but The Vultures' soundscape is sketched from a broad palette, encompassing influences from Bjork to Blondie, Serge Gainsbourg to The Pixies, and resulting in innovative and impassioned alternative song. Set to contaminate the public consciousness in 2015, The Vultures' debut album, 'Three Mothers Part 1', will be released on Ciao Ketchup Recordings in January.
'Vlad’ will be officially released on 7" vinyl, as part of a double-A side with 'Cancer', on 8 December on Ciao Ketchup Recordings.

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