Archive for the EP Category

Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor [At The 405]

Posted in EP, Review with tags , , , , , , , on May 1, 2010 by David Hall


“Alessi’s Ark operates in a comfortable middle ground between the sheer eye-twitching madness of Joanna Newsom and the mild manners of Laura Marling […] But since both Marling and Newsom released major new albums this year, Alessi might be drowned out to a great extent, pleasant though this EP is.”
Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor EP reviewed at The 405.

Life is far too short for half-decent EP’s and that’s a fact. Half decent albums are fair enough really; at least you’ll get your money’s worth of actually ‘good’ songs in there, theoretically. Half decent songs make up most of your existence and most of your record collection, and don’t try to tell me that’s not true. Anyway, they’re over much quicker than either EP’s or albums so half-decent songs are neither here nor there. But bloody half-decent EP’s… all they do is take up disk space, quite frankly.

I’ve just bought Glen Duncan’s I, Lucifer, and I could be reading that. But instead I’m taking time out to tell you about the new (ish) Alessi’s Ark EP Soul Proprietor, which is desperately alright. Take this as me listening to it in order to tell you that you don’t have to; and since I have and I wrote about it, you might as well know about it. There’s very little to recommend it over Alessi’s debut album Notes from the Birdhouse, and to be honest I suggest you skip Soul Proprietor entirely and just pretend she’s been perfecting cheesecake receipes until her next album comes out. As I mention in this review, Notes from the Birdhouse is a wonderful little album, which you will find infinitely more enriching than the sparse Soul Proprietor. Talented though Alessi Laurent-Marke clearly is, spare yourself from her half-decent EP.

Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor EP reviewed at The 405
Alessi’s Ark on Myspace

Alessi’s Ark on Last.fm
Listen to Soul Proprietor and Notes from the Birdhouse on Spotify

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Tall Ships – Tall Ships EP [At The 405]

Posted in EP with tags , , , , on April 2, 2010 by David Hall

“Yes it’s supposed to be random, yes it’s supposed to be kitsch; but this isn’t Frontier fucking Psychiatrist so it doesn’t work.”
Tall Ships – Tall Ships EP review at The 405

My review of Tall Ships’ debut self-titled EP has been up for some time on The 405 without me realising. So apologies for the rather lengthy silence, but I have plenty of things in the pipeline. I was relatively disappointed with Tall Ships, I must say; Books is tremendous, but nothing else quite lives up to the hype. Whilst I was writing this review, the BBC came to essentially the same conclusion, big thumbs up for Books but conspicuous silence over the remainder of the EP. Anyway, well worth a listen and their next move should be interesting.

Incidentally you might want to check out The 405’s rather tasty Good Friday Mixtape before gorging yourself to death on hot cross buns and chocolate eggs. Is The Sun Smells Too Loud the best thing Mogwai have ever done? Contentious, but it’s far and away the most danceable track they’ve ever produced; I bloody loves it I do.

Tall Ships – Tall Ships EP review at The 405
Tall Ships on Myspace

Motion Picture Soundtrack – Departure [EP]

Posted in EP, Review with tags , , , , , , , on February 19, 2010 by David Hall


Originally published at Sonic Dice, September 2009.

There is barely a human who has ever lived that hasn’t found some sort of romance in the concept of death. And pretty much every creative writer, musician, filmmaker and so on recognises this. From Renaissance era works such as Romeo and Juliet to even the most disposable of Hollywood films, such as 300’s fearless affirmation of ‘tonight we dine in Hell’. In fact if you think about it, most major religions positively demand a morbid fascination with the end, a ‘suffer here, live in the afterlife’ approach. With modern nihilism and secular attitudes taking this promise away from us, what is there left to do other than romanticise death? So yeah, at any rate, Cultural Studies lecture notwithstanding, Motion Picture Soundtrack have a White Lies-esque lyrical fascination with death. These relatively dark sentiments fit well with the music’s sweeping, melodramatic feel to produce something alluringly uplifting. Aristotelian catharsis, fear and pity and all that, Cultural Studies bods.

Straight away Motion Picture Soundtrack sound comfortably familiar, with soundalikes obscured as if by the same veil (“The curtain has torn, fractured lights caress your form” is clearly a great line) that opener Departure’s lyrics reference. They aren’t immediately obvious, but with repeated listens it’s pretty obvious from where the Canterbury outfit draw their inspiration. Editors are the most obvious touchstone, recalled in Motion Picture Soundtrack’s soaring high-fretted, effects-soaked guitar lines, if not the singer’s high-ranging Johnny Borrell-ish tone. His mid-range also sounds a bit like Brandon Urie from Panic! At the Disco, but that isn’t a negative comment. That guy’s a decent enough singer to be fair, he just so happens to be annoying. And in an annoying band. Consequently, an American flavour comes through strongly here, as anyone who’s heard Armor For Sleep’s Somebody Else’s Arms may find themselves in familiar territory melody-wise. The blazing sections of white hot distortion also recall some of M83’s most shoegazeish moments in terms of ear-punishing volume. Upon the line “every time I rewind” the band take their cue to go stratospheric as if somebody has actually pushed a remote control button, they ascend to the skyline in effortlessly Matrix-like fashion.

Faults of a Realist (fantastic title) offers a slightly different proposition to Departure’s propulsive and momentum-filled drive with a more undulating structure. The affecting chorus is barrelled into the ghastly shadow of a 100-foot-tall wave’s hungry trough by ominous floor toms before the verse bobs out of the other side half-dead but still gasping. A genuine grasp of the philosophical issues behind the track’s title is suggested by the chorus line of “Nothing else is real, except the end”. This is precisely how poetic lyrics should work; the suggestion of an awareness of underlying issues rather than an explanation is commendable. Descending picked guitars in the chorus shimmer and shiver with the import of the lyrics’ ghoulish sentiments. We’re thrust back into a hailstorm of distortion which guitars and strings shine beacon-like out of, but we never quite see the other side before the track ends. What at first seemed like a breakdown is in fact the track’s outro, symbolically trapping the listener inside the song. Even musically, this is bleak stuff.

Mirrors is very different, as if the band seek to stray further and further from Departure’s initial manifesto with each track on this short EP. Whereas the lead track was immediate and forceful, the second slow-burning and intense, Mirrors is low-key and spooky. Strings quaver quietly in the background whilst formerly obscured keys are brought to the front of the mix in the verse, before an airy guitar joins in the chorus. The drops into feedback aren’t as fierce or as sheer here, and an icy atmosphere is reinforced by the unease associated with the title. Mirrors are uncanny things; we feel they show things as they are, but since everything is reversed in mirrors, surely they show everything as they are not. Looking in a mirror for too long is an eerie experience, a feeling captured by the tracks’ glassy texture. The mood changes along with the key coming out of the second chorus like the sun breaking cloud, serving as counterpoint to the line “I know one day we won’t be here, but I hope we’ll both be there”, which could be viewed alternately as unsettling or romantic. It’s certainly powerful, an effect only heightened by the intensifying music. Strings rise up in a case of ‘how long have they been there?’ from the ensuing melee towards the tracks crescendo, bringing the EP to a close as expansive as it began.

Whilst not particularly original, any band channelling M83, Editors and White Lies must be a winner by the law of averages. One critically-idolised plus two commercially-successful influences equals a can’t-fail sound. On first hearing White Lies’ morbid sentiments, I thought ‘These guys are going nowhere; who wants to hear songs about dying?’. Well, I was wrong about that once, and so see no reason why Motion Picture Soundtrack can’t break the mainstream and achieve Editors’ level of success. They’re definitely a band to watch out for, and have it all; record label deal, album out before the year’s close next month, beautifully-shot monochrome promo video for the vast skyscraping Departure, posterboy frontman. Checkity-check-check-check. However brief it is, the Departure EP is accomplished and highly addictive stuff; if Motion Picture Soundtrack can maintain this level of quality over an album’s length, nothing can stop them. They’re surely a safe bet for success in the next few months.

9 out of 10.

Sonic Dice score: 5 out of 6

Departure EP on Spotify
Impossible as it is to pick the best track from the EP, you’re duly encouraged to invest a few minutes in order to take in the whole thing.

End Game
Motion Picture Soundtrack on Myspace

Haunts – Love is Blind [EP]

Posted in EP, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2010 by David Hall


Originally published at Sonic Dice, August 2009.

Dour London-based four-piece Haunts’ latest single might not exactly be a barrel of laughs, but it compensates in snotty punk attitude and rigid post-punk arrangements. Support comes from remixes of both the title track and other Haunts material, but Love is Blind remains the EP’s main event.

First impressions are good, the chunky drums may well inhabit a well-trodden path, but they storm down said trail propulsively and addictively. The drum riff recalls loads of things, from George Harrison’s Got My Mind Set On You, to My Sharona or Dance Dance and so on; even if you haven’t heard Love is Blind, you surely get the idea. Soon the track’s weapon of choice – a giant, bluntly staccato Queens of the Stone Age guitar riff – arrives and things are looking pretty positive. Ditto for the spaghetti western first line, half sneered, half sung, “I killed a man, I had no choice, it was him or me”; that’s definitely a cool opening gambit. The fuzzy, electronic-sounding bass has great depth, definite time and effort clearly having been expended upon its sound. Getting on towards Death From Above 1979 in its distorted tone, the bass supports the cleaner guitar well with a heavy groove. Unfortunately, Love is Blind fails to evolve much or unfold from its opening, and the chorus’ Horrors-style organ seems to send most other instruments on a coffee break. It fails to bring anything special to the track or the lyrically-simplistic chorus. The track eventually bogs down into a single-note bass riff, which is somewhere between Romantic Rights and Feel Good Hit of the Summer.

It’s something of a limited agenda that Haunts have got themselves here; danceable indie-post punk with thumping great cymbal-light drums, minimalist guitar and casiotone keyboards. Bearing all these aspects in mind, they’re seemingly trying quite hard to be an English version of The Walkmen. Accomplished though Love is Blind may be, you get the impression it never quite finds top gear. The staccato riff is good fun but pretty limiting, and the track doesn’t really transcend the sum of its parts. A slightly stilted, awkward atmosphere pervades; the song might be danceable, but you get the feeling it would prefer to stay leaning against a wall, self-consciously nodding its head. If Haunts were aiming intentionally for disinterested and gauche, then that doesn’t come across. On the whole Love is Blind follows similar lines as previous single Underground, only more restrained, not as loud and not as good.

Haunts’ remix arm Black Teeth get hold of Black Eyed Girl, taking it for a synthy but limited Midnight Juggernauts-lite joyride. The L’Amour La Morgue remix of Underground’s electro-tinged faux-splatterpunk is a radical departure from the original, no longer shamelessly ripping off the riff from Ink by Finch. The remix crashes Radiohead’s All I Need headlong into Linkin Park and is therefore rather good, even though it drags the snappy original out for just shy of seven not-all-that-eventful minutes. At any rate, we may hear more from L’Amour La Morgue in future, with remixes for acts as disparate as Flo Rida, Young Guns and Bring Me the Horizon in the pipeline. It all goes very Justice for the Pics Plox Love is Blind remix, initially disappointing with its obligatory remix handclaps and complete axing of the motif guitar and drum riffs. Eventually settling into a blocky, glitchy stumble, Pics Plox take their cues from the original’s dramatic organ sound, which renders the chorus especially monochrome and uninteresting. As far as remixes go it markedly differs from the original, erasing the most recognisable parts in favour of arguably-weaker aspects, namely the keyboards and words. The EP winds up with a demo version of Love is Blind that is pretty unnecessary. It adds nothing to the lead track save some paranoid keys and sounding like its being recorded inside a coke can. So the band improved the track for the album; great, I improve the taste of bacon by cooking it. Not so much an achievement as just the way it’s meant to be.

The biggest problem with Love is Blind as a track is the same problem with Love is Blind as an EP. As part of a grander scheme, it would probably be enjoyable; but as strictly speaking the sole original track on offer here, Haunts appear to be lacking in effort. You get three different versions of Love is Blind – original, remix and demo – on this quote-unquote EP. Woo. This just isn’t enough original material to warrant being called an EP, as a piece of work it’s too repetitive and would’ve benefitted from losing a track or two and being labelled as a single. Whether or not it’s been lost in record company translation, this is clearly just a single that’s been padded out to EP status. Love is Blind is advertised on Haunts’ Myspace as a ‘new single EP’; well decide, surely it’s one or the other, either a single or an EP. Insert ‘confused’ emoticon here.

5 out of 10.

Sonic Dice score: 3 out of 6

Love is Blind on Spotify

Black Records
Haunts on Myspace
Haunts on Last.fm