In a change to recent Ocelot columns, the Gig Monkey pages for February 2014 were stuffed full of record reviews rather than live reviews etc. And, the records were all pretty good, although very very diverse (metal, dream-pop, indie, dub-ska, pop-punk and electronica – something for everyone I reckon). And the one I got into the most was a real surprise to me. But there you go, that is the beauty of reviewing music, it always catches you off guard.
In a lovely turn of events, I have had a load of really good music in over the Christmas and New Year period (I know that seems like ages ago, but time moves differently in publishing) so this month the entire column is dedicated to a very varied set of record reviews.
Record Of The Month
This is the long anticipated debut EP from Swindon outfit who used to be The Dead Lay Waiting. My distrust of things super-heavy and grunty is well documented, so I approach records like this with caution, as indeed, the vocals do sound rather Wookie-like much of the time. I know there are lyrics, I recognised many of them, but I swear some are actually “aarrragghuuhw uggguh hnnnhrrhhh”, which according to an online translator is Wookie for Sleep Inertia. However, with this record, I managed to engage with the extraordinary range of sounds lead vocalist Jamie creates, there was a bizarre sense and rhythm to them. Musically, there are huge, crunching riffs, but they maintain an extraordinary melody to them. This is the trump card for the band in fact; whilst a brutal sonic assault on the senses, it is not over done. These are actual songs in a traditional sense, they go on a journey, with light and dark shades, movement and a peculiar grace although this is more ninja than ballerina! Never did I predict I would like this and I certainly don’t understand it, but that is the beauty of music, sometimes the sounds are as eloquent as the words.
Balloon Ascents are a young Oxford band earmarked for big things, with some great behind the scenes the support. And I can hear why there is the interest. This release is a mature, slick indie-pop gem, dripping in the kind of smart, melancholic modern pop of Tame Impala and London Grammar. Clever math beats and sweet little grooves nestle amongst crystalline melodies and more reverb than you can shake a wobbly stick at tempered with some delightful acoustic soul. Watch this lot; they could do rather well for themselves.
A tidy little effort from this Swindon teenager who has already developed a mature approach to songwriting that surprises. The tracks are well-structured, with neat lyrical touches, humour and some cute melodies. Leconfield (Michael Gove) has real groove to it, and a reasonably well constructed political message whilst Swindon is a critique of his hometown, although its sudden wild veering from funny satire into youthful ranting sadly prevents it becoming an instant classic. However, with music that ranges from stripped back acoustica to full band classic indie Josh has a set of songs that should appeal to many.
If you cut Swindoners SN Dubstation with a rusty Stanley knife they would bleed walking basslines, upbeat tempos and horn jabs. These young lads epitomise modern Dub, Ska and Reggae – three genres increasingly melded together. Taking these historical musical foundations they blend them with modern moments like whip smart rap deliveries and contemporary lyricism to deliver a great meeting of old and new. Very much does what it says on the tin, it really gets you up and wanting to dance like you were the King of Skank.
One of the longest established and best of the local pop-punk bands, Oxfordshires Orchard Hill are deserved regulars on the national circuit. Occupying the more melodic pop end of the genres spectrum, this EP is exactly what you expect and want from them. As slick, smooth and polished as a pebble in a stream it is loaded with enough fizzing guitars and seriously contagious melodies to make even an X Factor viewer appreciate actual music. But this is no one trick pony; whilst the title track is classic perky Orchard Hill, Blame Game is a far more muscular affair and In Bliss harks back to the days of classic power ballads.
If dreamy psychedelic electronica is your sort of thing, then this release from Oxfords Kid Kin is one for you. The four tracks here pulse with life, reminiscent of a deep ocean Attenborough programme; little sparkles of sound, waves of effect laden guitars and throbs of percussion shimmying in a quite sensual way. It is rather beautiful and hypnotic, the sort of thing to drift away with perfectly.