Sunday, September 06, 2009


Latest release: 3-D [2009]
File under: Shoegaze

"Right about/Right about
Right about/Right about
Right about/Right about

That's the best refrain of 2009, from SPC ECO's "For All Time", a scenic waltz of a song.

3-D is the most relaxing album of 2009 so far. The entire album is awash with the shoegaze staples of dreamy vocals provided by Rose Berlin, bass and other noises provided by ex-Curve member Dean Garcia and shimmering guitar from Joey Levenson; it all comes together fantastically. Listen away and dream.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in SPC ECO?
Joey: "I'm Joey, and I torture the guitar for SPC ECO. I live in South Korea, but I'm in Japan and the US quite often (I'm American). Dean and Rose preside grandly over London town."

Dean Garcia was formerly in dream pop group Curve. How has their music influenced SPC ECO?
Joey: "I think Dean would agree that Curve and SPC ECO share some sonic similarities, however, IMHO, I think SPC ECO has a lot more of a sonic assault than Curve. Rose is a different creature than Toni [Halliday, Curve vocalist] is (just as grand, an epic singer), and then there's my psychedelic input, so that makes a different beast altogether. A sonic juggernaut, if you will."
Dean [Garcia, bass]: "Obviously there are certain elements that are bound to cross over, like the bass and aspects of drums, but the voice is the thing that separates the two enormously. Rose's voice is just heavenly to me - the perfect touch, understated and pure; I can't imagine any other voice for SPC ECO, it just wouldn't work for me. Knowing that Rose will glide through the tracks makes it the best, most fully realised record I could ever make."

I haven't tried yet (I will soon) but I imagine listening to 3-D as I sleep is going to take me to some wonderful places in my dreams. Where does 3-D take you?
Joey: "Dean often says that 3-D really moves him, it moves me as well. Its not just shoegaze, its not just noisy or psychedelic. It's emotionally gripping and has such a fun groove at the same time. I think we did well our first time out. :)"
Dean: "I'm not sure, I'd probably just fall asleep in a very colourful way, deep into a multi-verse of dreams."

The band seems very much against the filesharing culture of the 21st century. I can see both sides of view. If I said that if it wasn't for an illegal download I would have never ordered the physical 3-D release, what would you say?
Joey: "Oooh... well, you can't deny that it's out there and a lot of people do it. Well, if I like it or not, musicians and listeners alike use filesharing extensively, so we have to just work with the situation. Oh, and thanks for buying the CD."
Dean: "One minute It pisses me off and in another I have to be more zen about it otherwise I end up in a bad, stressful place... I have never made music for money but have always made a living out of music and at the point of making what I believe to be the best music I've ever written and been involved with I make next to nothing financially because of the current trend and general thinking that music should be free of charge. I still believe people should pay for their music (even if it is donation based) and especially for CDs or vinyl. MP3s I can understand and accept more because they are generally shitty little hollow files that can't touch a full quality CD or vinyl version, so I understand and accept them as a promotional tool. I welcome people to donate what they can afford for the album MP3 version (however small) to check out the album, but when you get torrent after torrent linking you to full CD resolution versions of your original work(s) free of charge, it does piss me off. And you get the arseholes who think it's completely acceptable (their job even) to fuck over everyone and anyone they choose weather they're established or not by publishing and republishing endless host links to the work... it's stealing, whatever way you look at it, and it ain't right. I also believe that if you're interested in an artist and their related work you will find out about it one way or another (Myspace, Facebook, Twitter etc.) without illegal activity, but however it works for you is fine, I suppose, just so long as you do end up supporting the artist(s) by buying a CD (as you have) or by going to see them live. Unless, of course, you feel you could create and produce all of your own music to satisfy your needs... (end of rant) :)"

What's next? A tour (come to Bristol)? A new album?
Joey: "We'd like to tour, but we'd prefer to have an extended tour, not just some shows now and then. Rose is in university now and Dean has some things on his burner, and I'm in Asia, but if someone has an attractive idea, we'd consider it for sure! A new album is not being considered yet, but we do have a 7" record with a new B-Side coming later this year. We're all really satisfied with 3-D, and we hope everyone (and a lot of new fans) will feel the same as we do. Thank you!"
Dean: "We would love to tour all over as Joey says... show us the itinerary and we'll be there :). But as ever you need funds to make this happen, without them you're pretty much fucked and not in a good way. Thanks to all those that have come to see us live and have shelled out for the record... it's very much appreciated and we love you for it... *raises glass and drinks heavily* ;)"

"Moving on slowly..."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Name: Tvärvägen
Latest release: Sånger från Tvärvägen [2008]
File under: Singer-songwriter

Yet again juxtoposed to the last entry, here we have some twee, folky, singer-songwriter stuff from Sweden.

Tvärvägen is one chap making delightful and happy music, in both English and Swedish. He reminds me of Sufjan Stevens, except he knows when to end a song rather than let it drag on and on. "September" is the phenomenal song that got me into this guy - go and listen to it on his Myspace. His debut album, Sånger från Tvärvägen, is packaged in a delightful manner, in a knitted pouch and an obviously lovingly handcrafted cardboard sleeve. More of this, please.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in Tvärvägen?
Henrik: "I am Henrik. I'm originally from the north of Sweden, but now situated just outside of Stockholm. I am Tvärvägen's only member."

What does Tvärvägen translate to in English? Babelfish doesn't have Swedish yet.
Henrik: "Tvärvägen is a common streetname in Sweden. In direct translation to English it means "crossroad". And that's the name of the street crossing the one where I live."

"September" was one of my favourite songs of 2008. What is the song about?
Henrik: "Thank you! I'd rather leave it to the listener to interpret the songs, hope you don't mind. That's how I like listening to music myself as well. To be able to fill in the gaps in what you hear with yourself and your own feelings."

You write lyrics in both English and Swedish. Which are you more comfortable with and what are your views on language barriers in music?
Henrik: "When I listen to music myself, I almost never remebember the lyrics. When it comes to most of my favourite songs, I haven't got a clue what they're about. But at the same time I can't stand bad lyrics. That can really ruin a whole song. At the same time, I can really appreciate music in languages I don't know; for example I really like French hip-hop, even though I don't know a word of French. So with that in mind I can appreciate the melody of the words rather than the meaning. Myself, I'm more comfortable when I write in English - that's maybe why my Swedish lyrics are so short. And also, I'd rather make an instrumental song than put lyrics on it just for the sake of it. The vocals should blend together with the rest of the music naturally."

There are lots of famous musical artists from Sweden, from ABBA to Opeth. Which is your favourite?
Henrik: "There's a lot of good things going on, here's a few of them in no particular order:"

"And, of course, the other bands band I'm involved with:"

Tack så mycket, Henrik.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Name: At the Soundawn
Latest release: Red Square: We Come in Waves [2008]
File under: Post-rock/metal

As you can tell by the juxtaposition of the artists I've featured on this blog so far I like music with a range of emotions. So now we come to a genre that gets me hating everybody, especially you - the much maligned genre of "post-metal".

At the Soundawn know how to craft this kind of stuff, thankfully without going on for several minutes too long. The awkwardly titled Red Square: We Come in Waves is a steamroller of melodic guitars, pounding drums and harsh/clean vocals compacted into a half-hour. It's probably nothing you haven't heard before, but it's done really, really well. There's a new album on the way too, this year hopefully.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in At the Soundawn?
Andrea: "My name is Andrea, I am from Modena (Italy) and I am one of the guitarists."

How would you describe your music? You're one of those bands with no obvious genre...
Andrea: "I would say that our music is heavily emotional and with this I don't mean emo at all! Indeed we try to avoid easy melodies and harmonies, looking for something more personal, something that could have more to say than the usual happily-sad know what I am talking about."

I'm sorry for such a dull question but where does you bandname come from? It reminds me of Red Sparowes album "At the Soundless Dawn".
Andrea: "Well actually, our name is taken from that album, but it's not a tribute to Red Sparowes. It's just that we had their CD in our hands when we were thinking about a suitable name for the band. At the Soundawn sounded good and seemed to fit perfectly with the way we conceive music: as an emotional flow, a primitive pulse you cannot oppose to."

You are the kind of band I like to put on when I'm angry. Do you think your music is angry?
Andrea: "I think our music carries many different moods and emotions, but anger is not really among them. I'd rather say that we often get to release a feeling, that can be provided with heavy guitars and yelling vocals. This is the same feeling that I'm looking for, as a listener, when I am angry and I need to cool down with some music."

What other Italian bands should people check out?
Andrea: "Italy has many good bands, often involved in extreme genres...or at least more extreme than us. I would suggest you check out Donkey Breeder (we fucking love them!), Up There: The Clouds, Lento, The Orange Man Theory, Last Minute To Jaffna, Zippo, Three Steps to the Ocean and many more I actually don't remember right now."

Grazie, Andrea.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Name: Iroha
Latest release: Iroha [later in 2009]
File under: Metal/shoegaze

I first heard Iroha at that Mono gig I posted about. I didn't realise it at the time, but the un-announced, un-named support act that did 3 or 4 songs was Iroha. The first thing that hit me, as a big Jesu fan, was "this sounds like Jesu". Of course, although I didn't realise it at the time, standing on stage in front of me strumming away was Diarmuid Dalton...of Jesu. That would explain the resemblance, then.

So I did some digging when I got home, found out they were called Iroha and checked out some familiar stuff on Myspace. If you like the shimmery guitar that's prominant in shoegaze then you'll like these guys. Add some heavier riffs more a metallic edge and that's where they'll appeal to the Jesu crowd. A self-titled debut album is on the way soon...and a lot of touring.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in Iroha?
Andy: "My name is Andy Swan. I’m from Birmingham, England and play guitar and write songs for Iroha."

What kind of emotions do you try to convey in Iroha's music?
Andy: "There isn’t any specific emotion I deliberately set out to convey via the music and lyrics of Iroha although, if I take an objective view, I do tend to unconsciously lean toward themes relating to the passage of time and melancholic feelings of nostalgia."

You have worked with Justin Broadrick in Final and Diarmuid Dalton has worked with him in Jesu. How big an influence is Justin?
Andy: "I first met Justin when he was 14 or 15 and I was 16. We met, quite by chance, at a music stall in Birmingham’s Rag Market. Unbeknownst to eachother, we had both visited the stall on a regular basis but quickly struck up a friendship when the owner of the stall introduced us both to the music of Throbbing Gristle. We were both obsessive about music and quickly became immersed in the burgeoning experimental electronics scene of the early 80’s. We formed Final as a result and, being of such tender years, I guess we were both very receptive to new sounds and ideas but Justin was a huge influence on me personally what with his enthusiasm, love of music, endless ideas and friendship. And now, 25 years later, I don’t think there would be an Iroha if I’d not met up with Justin and Nic [Bullen, ex-Napalm Death, Final etc.] again in late 2007."

There are obvious similarities, but what do you feel are the main differences between Iroha and Jesu?
Andy: "I think Iroha’s songs are more traditional in a verse-verse-chorus sense whereas Jesu’s songs seem to be less defined in their structure; almost like abstract poetry. I’ve tried writing like that but have always ended up frustrated and have had to revert back to a regular structure."

You supported Mono on some dates here in the UK earlier this year. How were you received and how was the experience?
Andy: "It was an incredible experience and one that we wouldn’t have had without the generosity of Mono who are amongst the most humble people I’ve met. Playing only our third gig at The Scala was a little daunting although nowhere near loud enough for our liking!"

Cheers Andy. Good luck with the touring and new album.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Name: The Owl Service
Latest release: The Fabric of Folk [2008]
File under: Folk

I love throwing arbitrary adjectives at music, so here's a few for The Owl Service - rustic, medieval, nostalgic and whimsical. I hope that gives some idea as to the sound.

I also love music that transports you to another world. The Owl Service really manage to take me back to, say, the 1800s or something with their old English folk music, but you do get flourishes of anachronist electric guitar and suchlike which fits in superbly well and gives the music extra character. The vocals are gorgeous and enchanting and fit the stories told perfectly - almost narrating in places. Their second album, A Garland of Song, is full of wonderful stories, singalongs, interludes and wonderful acapella. You can check out a live album they released freely here.

I want to meet Pretty Susie and Katie Cruel.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in The Owl Service?
Steven: "My name is Steven Collins, I'm originally from London but now reside in the town of Leigh-on-sea along the Thames Estuary. For live shows I play electric guitar, on our records I play a bit of everything."

Your music seems very focussed on telling stories. Your upcoming release, The Pattern Beneath the Plough will be released in several parts. How important do you think storytelling is in music?
Steven: "For the last year we've focussed mainly on playing traditional British songs, and for that particular genre the storytelling aspect is everything. It's the reason the songs were written in the first place, and the primary reason they've survived for so long, and continue to be sung and to have resonance today. We've all adapted a bit of that into our own songwriting too. I expect the third Owl Service album might be a set of original songs in the traditional style, retaining the strong storytelling angle."

Who or what is the bands biggest muse?
Steven: "The English folk revival of the 1960s and '70s is the thing that continues to inspire us most. With the exception of Nancy [Wallace], who has English folk music in her blood, it's the route which we've all taken to discover this wonderful music. The passion, excitement and devotion felt by those young artists, who were all on their own journey of discovery, is a very tangible thing and it still emanates from the grooves of their dusty old LPs and continues to spur us on in our own exploration of the material."

There are a few other UK artists using folk elements in various ways - Phelan Sheppard, Sons of Noel and Adrian etc. - what are your favourite artists in the genre, old and new?
Steven: "See above; our favourite artists are those that we discovered 10+ years ago when we began listening to folk music; Shirley & Dolly Collins, Anne Briggs, The Watersons, The Young Tradition (particularly Peter Bellamy), Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Trees and (perhaps more than all of the aforementioned combined) Martin Carthy. In terms of newer folk/roots acts, we like Alasdair Roberts, Sharron Kraus, Micah Blue Smaldone and Ellen Mary McGee."

Last year you released a free live album, Field Music. What are your views on distributing music freely?
Steven: "I think that the free distribution of music via the Internet legally is always a good thing, and that occasionally even 'illegal' filesharing can have positive effects. I can understand how World famous artists and their multi-billion dollar corporate labels feel that unlawful sharing of their music is tantamount to theft, but for new artists it can actually end up being a useful promotional tool. Look at how The Arcade Fire exploded once kids started sharing Funeral on the Internet. I know plenty of people who use blogs and filesharing networks as a means to discover new music - the vast majority of these people then go and buy the albums they like, as well as t-shirts and concert tickets. So it's not all bad. Even if the big distros do get ISPs to work with them and even if we do see a drastic reduction in Internet-based activity, at the very least file-sharing will still exist in a similar way to how home taping did prior to the advent of the Internet, but with much better sound quality and portability."

Thanks Steven. Keep an eye out for their next album, The Pattern Beneath the Plough: The View From a Hill later this year.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Name: Fist in Fetus
Latest release: Fist in Fetus [2007]
File under: I really should drop this part

Well...crap. I'm stumped for words at the moment. Ahem.

Fist in Fetus are 2 seemingly bi-polar men that couldn't decide whether to be melodic and peaceful or abrasive as all holy fuck. So they decided to blend these traits together to create something that can only be described as classical death/grind (I swear to God I need to stop featuring bands that I can't describe easily). Best of all, their only release so far is completely free, so you can download it and see for yourself.

One minute you're being serenaded by an angel's harp and the next minute Satan is raping you. Fist in Fetus are the equivalent of a long walk on a beautiful Summer's day only to fall into a spiked pit with shit smeared all over the walls.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in Fist in Fetus?
Perttu: "I believe I am Ruler of the Great Borderline, Prime Minister of the House of the Hats, promoted by the blessing of the Gathering, who some call Christopher - the Passionate, the One From the Woods, the One Who Walks at Night, the Servant of the Lilys; but the people surrounding me call me Perttu, so I have to assume that's my name. Though I really prefer the previous. I also thought I was raised by wolves on a riverbank, but I've been told I live in Helsinki, Finland.

My role in FiF - well, I compose all the music and arrange it, write the lyrics, handle a part of the vocal duties, program all the computer stuff, produce the stuff together with Matias [Kupiainen, other half of FiF] (he's the sound guy, I'm the substance guy), probably play some guitar on the future releases and so on, so I pretty much do a whole bunch of things."

Where did you get the idea to blend classical music with death metal/grindcore?
Perttu: "Mm... I guess there's not a real key moment with that one; ever since I can remember I've been trying to combine different things together and figure out how it could be done properly. I've always hated the way bands combine 'classical' elements to metal and pop music all in all, taking only the irrelevant, superficial things like the orchestral instruments and leaving out the real core, the music. You can play Bach with electric guitar and the music's same, it's still classical music if done properly, you can play Necrophagist with French horn and still the riffs are the same, the music is Necrophagist. The superficial things don't make a style, it's more about the way you think, the way you compose, the way you approach the whole subject of music. Chick Corea has composed classical music, even though he's a jazz player, Mozart has composed pop music, even though... well, you know.

So, all in all, the concept of combining classical MUSIC to metal is something I've wanted to do for a long time. Only band I've heard to even come close to something like that is Waltari with their Death Metal Symphonies. Only problem with those was that the music wasn't really approachable for the audience - it was too metal for classical people and too classical for metal people - all in all, it's not so nice to listen to. So, what I decided to do was to try to make everything as "clear" as possible, not forget the listener, make the beautiful parts as beautiful as possible, brutal parts as brutal as possible, artsy-fartsy parts as artsy as possible, add some melodic elements to the whole as a kind of reward to the listener, and at the same time try to tell a story. And of course, there is the acrobatic virtuoso element, the kind of idol-worshipping you can't forget, music is played by people and people like to see the people playing it are good at what they're doing. Of course this sounds like it's very well planned ahead but it's not, it just sounds like that when you put everything you've thought about throughout the years in a few sentences. I just make music I'd like to listen to myself. I like a lot of different kinds of stuff."

Classical conductor Osmo Vänskä and piano player Iiro Rantala both feature on the release. How did these guest appearances come about, and what do they think of the more extreme sections of the album?
Perttu: "Well, Osmo happens to be my father, so he wanting to participate is not a miracle. I guess your father would help you out with this blog if you asked? He happened to have a few concerts with some Finnish orchestras when we were recording the stuff, and when we spoke, he asked if I needed help with something. Well, being the opportunist I am... Osmo actually likes FiF very much, and amazingly most of the classical musicians I've spoken to seem to like it also. In fact, I've met some players in the Minnesota Orchestra who like our stuff also... scary, huh.

With Iiro it's a bit of a different story. A few years back I had this manic transcription phase, I just wanted to see what my ears are capable of. So, I notated stuff, listening to records like a lunatic, all these crazy lightning fast, insanely difficult solos from Richard Andersson, Jens Johansson, Michael Romeo, Steve Vai, Guthrie Govan, Alexi Laiho, Pat Metheny and so on, and as my ears got better, as a challenge I decided I'd try to notate everything on a Trio Töykeät song called "Etude". The drum solo was the only thing I didn't transcribe fully, some 32 bars or so, but the transcription turned out pretty fine. Somehow Iiro heard about this "super-eared guy notating everything you play" and wanted to see my transcription. After that he wanted to hire me to do a sheet music book for him, which unfortunately has not been completed (actually it seems like we're finishing it this month), but at least I got to know him. So, as we sent e-mails, I asked if he'd be interested in playing a improvisation on the EP - and he was. Iiro is a very open-minded and he seems to understand the aesthetics of about every style, so he never questioned the rest of the music. He also featured Matias and Risto [Kupiainen, guests on the EP] in his TV show after hearing FiF."

The song titles on the EP indicate that there is a concept to the album - is there? If so, what is the story?
Perttu: "Yes, there is a story behind the album. This is a topic I'm not too keen to talk about, as it kind of takes away the mystery and the freedom of interpretation, but since you asked: it tells a story about an ordinary person turning to a kind of murderer believing what he's/she's doing is justified. You know this "God told me to take the life of these 147 people"-category of murderers who seem to actually believe they were only doing good. And what do we know, is it really wrong or right? Of course it's not too nice a thing to do to your friend to take his life, but what the hell - world's a shitty place anyway, you're better off dead, that's a very justified point of view although it's not the only one.

Well, anyway, feeling the weight of the world, the feeling of not having a purpose, being cast away alone to this world is just too much for the FiF-character to handle. This escalates into schizophrenia and mental breakdown, and the character gets the pieces of his/her life together after listening to the voice in his/her head. The voice seems to have a plan to make all the pain, all the anxiety go away by giving a purpose to the character's life. This purpose is to release everybody else from their pain by taking their life. Of course, it remains a mystery who the voice is, and how does the voice know who's feeling the pain, that is, how the victims are chosen etc., but the point of the story is to tell it from the main character's viewpoint, not from the spectator's. This might help you understand for example the song "Emancipation", in which the main character is given birth. And I do mean an actual birth with machines that say BEEP and stuff."

When we hopefully see another release from you guys, are there any more instruments that you hope to feature?
Perttu: "After the EP and all the projects around it, we've drowned in work, it seems everyone wants a piece of us. Which of course is happy for our careers, but not for FiF. Matias is on tour with Stratovarius at the moment, I'm producing an album for a band called Whispered, among all the freelance stuff I do, those transcriptions and such - we're working on the stuff whenever we have spare time, but there hasn't been much. But, in order to get all the ongoing projects done, we actually decided to turn down a few job offers to finish the stuff, so I'm pretty sure we'll get the album done before the end of the year. Hopefully Stratovarius won't do some gigantic 2 and a half year tour after Polaris...

To the second part of your question, for me, music is not just music, it's not just what's on the outside, it's what's inside. I want my music to be like a good book, that is not just words or sentences, but what comes out of them. I honestly feel like I'm reading a book or watching a movie when I listen to music - I'm following a storyline as an abstract concept, which applies also to documentaries and other non-fictional stuff. A good book is like another world you can enter again and again, and forget the real world surrounding you. That's what I want albums to be like - a world in which the different situations, in this case parts of music, follow each other naturally, like in a story. Absurd and surprising situations can also be natural, if they lead to something interesting. That's why I really try not to think about what instruments, players or styles of music should be covered, I hope the music will tell me that."

Thanks to RotGB, PMotHotH, PbtBotG, WSCC - TP, TOFtW, TOWWaN, TSotL aka Perttu for his time.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Name: Phelan Sheppard
Latest release: Harps Old Master [2006]
File under: Folktronica?

Back to something more serene now. Phelan Sheppard are a duo that create electronica-tinged folk music (with some ambience thrown in for good measure). They have 2 albums to their name, the most recent of which, Harps Old Master, I just had to purchase based solely on the strength of the divine "Weaving Song", one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard.

The rest of the album is very strong as well - an album of choice for taking to bed and falling asleep to. I've not yet heard their debut album, O Little Stars, but I certainly will do, as will I look forwards to more dancing cellos and violins on their upcoming third album.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in Phelan Sheppard?
David: "I am David Sheppard. I play a few different instruments, guitars, bass and drums, mostly. I also make the tea."
Kieron: "I'm Keiron, from London. Well, Dave plays drums, which I don't, and I play woodwind, which Dave doesn't. Other than that we play all the same instruments so, in a way, our roles are indentical. Except that I nag a lot."

Instruments are at the forefront of your music, and vocals used sparingly - though when they are used, they are to great effect; "Weaving Song", for example. Was the minimal use of vocals a concious decision or was it just natural?
David: "Neither Keiron nor I are distinctive vocalists (although we can both sing, after a fashion, contrary to rumour!) so we've tended to use specific 'guest' voices when that seemed appropriate, or just a fun idea. Sometimes a voice is 'just' an instrument, it has the specific tone or timbre that works with the existing music. Doing the Smile Down Upon Us project last year (with Japanese singer Mooomloo) was a further extension of that. We're working on some new material now which features various voices, including our own."
Kieron: "When we first started it seemed that purely (or mostly) instrumental music was where is was 'at', or should be 'at'. Now it's a far more crowded field, so looking to have a vocal presence becomes desirable. That's certainly why I kicked off Smile Down Upon Us with Moomlooo. I really wanted to work with a singer and think of the voice in a primary role (after ten years of not thinking that way)."

You are both part of various other musical projects. How do you think that having several different outlets as opposed to just one has shaped you as a musician, and can it be difficult to juggle several ventures at once?
David: "I think it's the other way round. Being versatile has shaped the nature and range of the musical projects we're involved in. Personally, I'm interested in lots of different areas of music and I like exploring... what usually happens is that you start two different projects at wildly different times and, by hook or crook they end up being released on the same day!"
Kieron: "Hm, difficult. It is musically rewarding to be involved in many different projects, but the downside is that some of these projects never quite get promoted to the extent they deserve, because one ends up hopping onto the next project. So, there's a lot of pressure on each album to just stand up for itself without any furthur assistance. It's a bit like sending your kid out for a long walk without any shoes on... actually, on the whole I'd advise people not to do it. Rather; do one big project, stick with it and then do your side projects later. Still, we are what we are. :)"

How do you feel the 2000s in music has compared to other decades?
David: "I'm not so keen on dividing music up into convenient, decade-long blocks like this. Somewhere music is always evolving, always in flux (even if the conservative mainstream says otherwise) and pays no heed to calendars. There have been some spectacular records in the 2000s, as there were in the 1990s, the 1980s etc... latterly it could be argued that there is simply too much music being made, that there's a glut of mediocrity obscuring the gems. More significant, perhaps, is the way recordings are being disseminated, marketed and consumed in the 2000s - that's the real historical sea-change."
Kieron: "The best music is always 'now', whatever the decade or year is!"

What is the future for Phelan Sheppard?
David: "We're making a new record right now. Hope to finish it this Summer and have it out ASAP."
Kieron: "We are recording a new album. But, as is usual for us, the parameters keep changing, so God knows when it will see the light of day. Hopefully this year. Oh, and there will be singing!"

Thanks guys. Keep an eye out for their next release!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Name: *shels
Latest release: Laurentian's Atoll [2007]
File under: Uhh...just read the article

When I'm bored with by-the-numbers music it's really good to listen to something different. *shels fit this bill nicely. At their heart I suppose you could throw a post-rock tag at them but that would be remiss because there are so many different elements to their music; one of those bands that you can't accurately pigeon-hole.

You'll find post-rock, sludge and a Middle-Eastern vibe to their mix. Add a progressive structure and an overall "experimental" feel to that as well. There's a very cinematic, symphonic feel to their music, and you'll spot some sounds where you think "what instrument is that?" which is all part of what makes *shels such a fantastic listen. Their debut full-length, Sea of the Dying Dhow is an hour trip through the unconventional and unexpected, and a very promising follow-up later this year is certainly on my list to check out in 2009.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in *shels?
Medhi: "Mehdi Safa, currently living in Southern California and I play guitar/write for *shels."

*shels have a very unique sound - there seem to be a lot of influences in your music. What are your main influences?
Medhi: "People (like yourself) we meet and interact with, movies, music, art... different perspectives - above all, nature..."

Part of the band is based in the USA and part in the UK. Can this be a problem with writing music?
Medhi: "Not so much with the writing - technology helps with our communication - it's basically just Tom [Harriman, drums] and I working on the writing anyway, so things aren't that difficult in terms of communicating - we send eachother music, and work on it, develop ideas until we're happy."

What are the challenges faced with being in a band AND running a record label (*shels music) at the same time?
Medhi: "Good question - mostly it's the lack of time available in the day - so you won't be suprised to hear that most of the new *shels album was written in the shower or while dropping the kids off at the pool :P - folks find it weird when they see a guitar and notepad in the bathroom. There's financial challenges as well, and when one of your bands NEEDS money for a release, whether it's to help with promotion, manufacturing, recording, touring or whatever... ultimately, that money comes out of one pool... so, it affects what you can do for the other bands, including my own stuff in *shels. But that's where budgeting and planning comes in - and so far we have no major complaints (knock on wood); all the bands on the label are awesome, and the people are all like family... there's a lot of love and understanding for what we are doing and what we're capable of - we're a small, DIY label and although resources are limited, we all help eachother in different ways."

What are your views on the Internet's role in music today? Not just the illegal downloading, but the exposure it presents to artists?
Medhi: "I think it's great. Whenever new landscapes emerge (such as the Internet) new voices get heard... but, eventually it all gets muddy with a lot of noise and advertisements, and something else will come about... I think for now, the technology has made it much easier for folks to produce, release and promote their music - and that's a good thing - there's more music than ever today, more folks expressing themselves creatively... and as other artists out there know, we all strive to find our own voice in the crowd... so as things get busier and noisier and more muddy, it will drive us to work harder and come up with something better, so we can stand out from the crowd and be as unique as we were meant to be."

Thanks to Mehdi for his time. Be sure to check out not just *shels, but the other bands on their record label at the link below - it's becoming one of my favourites.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Name: Mono
Latest release: Hymn to the Immortal Wind [2009]
File under: Post-rock
Venue: The Croft (Bristol, UK)

The Croft isn't the most comfortable live venue in the world. A small room which probably holds a couple of hundred people maximum, when I saw Red Sparowes there last July it was like a sardine tin - so much so that the door couldn't even be shut due to the mass of people packed in. Luckily, this time it wasn't as packed, and I had a good view from the front, to the left of the stage. With comfort not an issue this time, I was free to enjoy Mono's music alone, and I wasn't disappointed.

A show to promote their new album, they played every song from it except one ("Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn"), opening with the stunning "Ashes in the Snow", perhaps my new favourite Mono song. With no microphone on stage it was down to the bands' instruments and actions to do the communicating, so luckily the sound was perfect and Mono were on top form, sending chills down my spine at many points.

During "The Battle to Heaven", the band, especially Taka, really came to life. At the peak of the song Taka kicked the stool he was sitting on over and headbanged his way to his knees, all the while still playing - his cut and bandaged arm didn't stop him from being this animated throughout the night, at points playing his guitar upside down and on his knees. All of them were headbanging during the climactic sections and exhuded a real passion for what they were playing. They didn't need a microphone to convey that.

More cuts from their new album followed, along with a couple of older songs - "Lost Snow" being perhaps the best performance of the night, a near 20 minute rendition which left Takada slumped over his drumkit as the rest of the band set the room awash with guitar drone and noise to close the song. "Everlasting Light" ended the night, the band crescendoing to one final zenith.

The crowd cheer and the band leave exhausted (especially Taka and Takada), but not before giving some wry smiles and almost embarrassed bowing as if they weren't worthy of such a reception...and if they really did feel that way, then it was about the only thing they got wrong all night.


Ashes in the Snow
The Battle to Heaven
Follow the Map
Pure as Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)
Burial at Sea
Lost Snow
Everlasting Light

Friday, February 27, 2009


Name: Graf Orlock
Latest release: Destination Time Tomorrow [2007]
File under: Grindcore

Grindcore isn't the most dynamic genre. If I were to listen to 100 songs by 100 different grindcore bands, chances are I'd only be able to pick out one or two afterwards as being particularly unique. If Graf Orlock were in that century though, I'm pretty sure I'd be able to recall them.

Graf Orlock play a fusion of grindcore and... movie samples. From Aliens to Zoolander (don't quote me on that) they'll sample it. This movie theme is found in the album packaging and also their lyrics. It's not just a gimmick though - it fits in superbly with the music they create. The closer to Destination Time Tomorrow, "The Dream Left Behind", has an epic, beautiful finish that belies the image of the majority of grindcore. Well, you're not going to find Napalm Death using a sample from Jurassic Park...


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in Graf Orlock?
Jason: "My name is Jason, I sing, play guitar and do samples. I am from the beautiful and completely destructive city of Los Angeles, particularly Studio City."

Who came up with the face-hugger and chest-burster designs for your album Destination Time Tomorrow?
Jason: "This was a thematic idea continuing on from Destination Time Yesterday to Destination Time Tomorrow, which would have to involve space. Aliens was deemed the best choice and executed by our drummer Alan who tends to hit a laptop screen until those things materialize."

Have you encountered any copyright trouble with your use of lyrics or samples?
Jason: "No. Those legal entities can eat shit and burn in an entertainment hell hopefully populated by "artists", lawyers and asshole managers lifting money out of their accounts.

Do you think there is a danger of you being known as just "that grindcore band with the movie samples" whereas you feel that there is a lot more to Graf Orlock than that?
Jason: "I feel like there is much more to it, considering I am in the band. I don't worry too much, we are separated from a lot of scenes in a lot of different ways and if people think it sounds like something else, or think it is stupid they can also burn in entertainment hell (see answer 3)."

If you could have written and played the soundtrack to any movie ever made, which would you pick and why?
Jason: "Personally I would do Platoon, that one is amazing. But as a band I would more than likely do Die Hard, or Return of the Jedi with the "Ewok Victory" song (the first version). I remember banging my head and trying to choke myself when I was 4 or 5 to the song, so it has a special place in my little black heart."

Don't fuck with Jason.


Name: Ghastly City Sleep
Latest release: Ghastly City Sleep [2007]
File under: Post-rock, ambient...

I really hate the term "post-rock" sometimes. It seems to be used to describe any band that utilise atmosphere and write songs over 5 minutes long. I'm at the point now where I'm not even sure what it is anymore due to the term being thrown around so much. The best way I can describe Ghastly City Sleep is ambient post-rock. Throw in some shoegaze too. Maybe. I just don't know anymore.

Anyway, GCS use a variety of instruments to create a very relaxing soundscape. Maybe that's what the Ghastly City is? The opener of their self-titled debut EP, "Ice Creaks" is the highlight of the release, a 9 minute jaunt through their post-ambient-gaze sound. The EP features the services of members from Gregor Samsa, and whilst the band may be similar in parts, clones they are not. GCS' debut full-length will be out later this year.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in the band?
Brandon: "Brandon Evans, Richmond, VA/Brooklyn NY,
singing/guitaring/synthesizing/keyboarding/stressing/depressing/struggling for the uplifting..."

What's the story behind the band name?
Brandon: "Originally Jeff Kane and I, when we were in City of Caterpillar, were contemplating starting our own label to put out our records and we decided to use the name "The Ghastly City Sleep"... we never got the chance to bring it to fruition. When City of Caterpillar split up, it just seemed right to continue on and use that as our name, though Kevin never really did make it to practices... and the band took about 17 lightyears to gel and cool and form... yet it still feels right as for our name. It's a state that we as humans naturally reside in... it's hard and rare to break through, it's just not in our surroundings most of the time... not in these societies we build."

Can you explain the EP sleeve; the format and what the text refers to?
Brandon: "The record sleeve contains the lyrics to the songs and other writings. They are broken up in fragments/shards of the whole, to give even less of a stable end-meaning, but more a means to apply emotions within each individual, to their own lives and stories... not mine as me so much... just states of flux and drift, struggle or triumph... set up like an old newspaper or classified, revolutionary propaganda flyer... you could pick it up and read any little bit to spark off personal interest/insight."

With the GCS members adept at so many instruments, do you spend much time deliberating over which instrument will play a certain section of a song?
Brandon: "Yeah, for sure, of course... it's quite the nature of the beast really, and it could be much more, if we were more adept at more instruments, or maybe simply if we had more... depends right... hah. However, we, for the most part, still stick to more standard rock instruments, whether it be guitar, bass, drums or keyboard, you know... but then experiment from there on out; adding whatever we feel like expanding out to in which the song may be calling for/or what spacial depth it contains to stretch... I think holding on to those instruments comes from our backgrounds, and the way we like things to feel in the live setting... but yeah. It's goddam nervewracking sometimes the amount of time we can waste when we get caught in one of our own snarls trying out a million different little ideas or tones that maybe just dont matter... or they do more than ever... who knows... it's just it happens for us."

How has the band evolved since the 2007 EP and how will this evolution be noticeable on your upcoming full-length?
Brandon: "Well, the most influential and noticeable impact effecting our songwriting for our upcoming full-length has been Pat adding a sampler into the gear mix... many of our new songs now involve as a starting focus in writing... electronic beats, and sometimes drones, that we then build upon; or spark the interesting skeletal-structure melodies... better yet, it is now a constant instrument added into the mix of songs, like bass or guitar or keys. It's become a staple... not just a flare or frequent additive. In addition to the sampler, I feel we are experimenting with minute little parts for more instruments now and the layering a trifle more than the last... the new songs feel more beatbacked moving... a sorta sexy slight bodydance sadness maybe. That, and we are sort of hoping to do a little more of a dubstyle mixing to the whole this time. With this new stuff, I get images of being in a blanketed, arctic white... spanning out, and deep below; a drift you can just keep holing and holing into its depths without a change; just sheer, glimmering shininess that evokes a loneliness where you become comfortable and reach moments of dancing to yourself without a care... just quick, fleeting moments that take forever to form, you know. That's my crazy head though..."

Thanks to Brandon for his time, and a shout-out to Janelle of GCS too for being really sweet. Visit the links below!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Name: Foxtail Somersault
Latest release: Fathom [2007]
File under: Shoegaze

The first thing that attracted me to Foxtail Somersault was their name. It's so playful, happy and it just rolls off the tongue. It's also a good indication of their sound. Shoegaze is often a grumpy climate, but nobody told Foxtail this. Fathom is their only release so far, a very upbeat and dreamy set of songs with some very catchy melodies and lyrics. Influences are obvious but Foxtail have very much their own sound. It's impossible not to sing along to the likes of "Divingboard" and "Escalator" (in your head at least) and the journey ends with the very post-rockesque "A Love Song Part 1". The fact that they have remained in my top 10 most played artists on despite only having one official release (and just 5 songs at that) is testament to the quality contained within it. The band have undergone some line-up changes since, but hopes are certainly still very heady indeed for any upcoming material. Some words from the band themselves, then...


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in Foxtail Somersault?
Seiken: "I'm originally from Okinawa, Japan, grew up in Los Angeles, and currently reside in San Francisco. I play guitar and write some of the songs."
Brian: "My name is Brian, I’m from Santa Cruz and I play bass for Foxtail."
James: "James, from San Francisco. My role in Foxtail is to provide comic relief, Dr. Phil services, artwork, accounting, and I’m also our backup lead guitar player."
Mark: "Mark. I'm originally from Syracuse N.Y. and now reside in Oakland. I provide beats, and being from Oakland, the street cred (just to perpetuate the stereotype)."

Shoegaze is obviously a huge part of the music you make. What is your personal favourite album and song from the genre?
Seiken: "Favorite song: a toss up between "Thorn" and "When You Sleep" by My Bloody Valentine, album: Loveless [My Bloody Valentine], I was blown away the first time I heard it, and it still amazes me everytime I hear it."
Brian: "It’s funny, I’m actually not really much of a shoegaze authority. I guess I’d still have to say that Souvlaki’s [Slowdive] my favorite overall shoegaze staple, and my favorite song off it would be "Country Rain"."
James: "It’s hard to zero in on a single album, but I think A Storm In Heaven by The Verve is one of best."
Mark: "Like Brian, I don't carry a huge knowledge base regarding shoegaze. I have been drawn to the more dreamy or experimental sound and the atmosphere it creates. I'd have to say the Godfathers of the guitar sound of shoegaze, The Jesus and Mary Chain, are up there, Catherine Wheel, and I really dig Curve's shoegaze-electronica mix. I think the most indelible for me though, was Lush's second album Spooky and "Nothing Natural". I'm struck by how that song can be all at once beautiful, pretty, powerful and angry."

You recently parted ways with vocalist Catherine. How is the search for a replacement going, and do you think a male vocalist could work with Foxtail Somersault?
Seiken: "We're going into new uncharted waters moving forward, we now have two female vocalists, Becky Uline and Elizabeth Anderson (no relations with our bass player Brian Anderson). I've entertained the idea of a male vocalist, but was never serious about it."
Brian: "Well we’ve just now resolved our vocalist situation and have actually brought on two singers. We’re very excited about the potential. As far as a male vocalist goes, it’s simply hard for me to imagine it... we’ve featured female vocals even before I joined the band and it simply seems like the way it should be with us. When it comes to shoegaze, my preference is always for the material with female vocals."
James: "Finding a replacement is difficult and we’re admittedly a difficult band to audition for. We’re working on a situation now that could involve a pair of equals, vocally similar to Stereolab without the quirkiness. I think it would be hard for us to plug a male vocalist into the mix, the sound we’re looking for is “pretty” and/or “sexy” (... but not too sexy). It would be amazing to hear a male vocalist pull that off, but it might make for some long and awkward road trips."
Mark: "It was a difficult decision. She's [ex-vocalist Catherine] unflinchingly positive and upbeat. It's been quite a process replacing her, but in the long run, with two vocalists coming in, we quite serendipitously found something much more original than we could have imagined. As far as a male vocalist goes, the groups I mentioned, Catherine Wheel and The Jesus and Mary Chain, both have male vocals, but I wouldn't describe their sound as really that pretty. It's tougher to balance that aggressive guitar sound with a male vocal."

The band embarked on last year's Lollapalooza tour in Chicago. How was the experience and how were you received?
Seiken: "I had a wonderful time, it was unpleasantly hot in Chicago, but performing on a stage approximately 15 meters wide, with our backs to a great lake, and facing downtown Chicago was incredible. I could really crank up my amps with no fear. The people listening seemed to really enjoy it. One of the attendees was Marcus Collins who works for Apple, and we were offered to take part in an Apple sponsored itunes download."
Brian: "Lollapalooza was an absolute blast. It was the first time I’d ever done any extended travelling with a band – we drove there and back in a large Ford van that had its share of problems, but we made it in one piece with no theft, no drama between us, and no speeding tickets. We stopped by Kansas City on the way there and played a small show for a group of people who’d heard of us and were really excited to have us. As far as the actual gig went... well, we were the very first band to play and had the 11:30 am slot on Friday morning, so we didn’t have a huge crowd. But, it was nice to lure away a few people who were sprinting across the park to stake out a good spot on the lawn for Radiohead. It means a lot to me to think we might’ve cost a few people ideal vantage points for Radiohead – I don’t know if I’d be willing to risk it myself."
James: "Lollapalooza was as insightful as it was amazing. We were playing pretty early, so we didn’t get to play for thousands of people, but the experience of being there and playing on a big stage was invaluable. It was also nice to take a long road trip with the band, we’re all best friends and we had a blast."
Mark: "Lollapalooza was such a great experience. Even the adverse events of van break downs and my "rock and roll" moment backstage during Radiohead lent to great memories. While we were billed for early Friday, we can say that we opened Lollapalooza. Yep, the whole shebang! And while we played, virtually every music fan saw us as they ran to stake their place for Radiohead. So technically, we can say we played for as many people as Radiohead... just not all at once!"

In what ways does your upcoming full-length differ to Fathom, and when can we expect a release?
Seiken: "As much as we would love to do a full-length, the next release will be another EP. The difference mostly will be the composers behind the tracks. I was the lead composer of Fathom, but for this next release, we all contributed much more - James composed a couple of the tracks, and Brian another. I have over a half dozen tracks that need some attention for our next next release, which will most likeley be our first full-length."
Brian: "I think we’re hoping to get this thing wrapped up my mid-March. It’s going to be quite different from Fathom due in large part to our new singers – we’ll probably be trying to incorporate two vocal parts on everything we do and see how that works out. The songs have a slightly different feel... a bit more rhythmically driving and riff-based, maybe a bit more rocking than either "Divingboard" or "Motionland", but not quite as dark as "Call and Respond". And, "A Love Song Part 1" will finally have a sequel."
James: "Our next release will sound a little louder than Fathom, but sticking to the same set of formulas in terms of instrumentation. The vocals will obviously be different. We put two vocal tracks together as an experiment and it transformed one of our recordings into a completely different song. If that scenario works out consistently across the entire album, the vocals will be much more of a highlight on this release. Release date is TBD... we’re perfectionists. :-)"
Mark: There's still that trademark guitar sound, so that hasn't changed. Nor has the presence of an instrumental. There are a couple of more "groove oriented" tracks which lends to a nice change of pace, from one release to the next. As far as a release goes, your guess is as good as mine, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's before my wife gives birth!"

Many thanks to the band for their input. Keep an eye on their progress and check out the links below.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Name: Cloudkicker
Latest release: The Map is Not the Territory [2009]
File under: Technical instrumental metal

How ironic that after my opening salvo stating that I wouldn't be linking to full albums, the first artist I feature sees me doing just that. It's alright though, because Cloudkicker just loves music, not money. Freely available on Cloudkicker's website are 2 releases of hard, loud and melodic instrumentation akin to a vocalless Meshuggah. Highlights include The Discovery's eponymous epic and The Map is Not the Territory's opener "Hold On", something you'll need to do for the entire experience. Cloudkicker could easily package this formula up and sell it (I'd buy it), but that's not the aim of Cloudkicker's game...


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in Cloudkicker?
Ben: "My name is Ben Sharp, I grew up in Los Angeles where I lived for 22 years before moving to Columbus, Ohio where I now live and work. My role in Cloudkicker is to write and record the music."

What was the reasoning behind making your releases free? You say they cost nothing to make - surely there were recording costs?
Ben: "It costs me absolutely nothing to create the music. Zero dollars. I record all the guitars and bass straight into my laptop and program the drums using this one sequencing program, then I mix and master everything myself. The only thing that costs money are guitar strings, but I have a full-time job so it's no big deal."

You are often likened to an instrumental Meshuggah - what are Cloudkicker's main inspirations?
Ben: "I guess Meshuggah is the only real "main inspiration"--you know, the whole odd time signature and polyrhythm thing. Other than that, the kind of music I listen to is really a revolving door of genres and styles. I actually try to keep whoever I'm listening to at the moment in my stupid little "top friends" thing. If you check it right now, there's not really that many "heavy" bands listed. I don't even think I've listened to Meshuggah for a few months, but I guess they're still the only band I can really point to and say "this is what gave me the idea for that"."

Did you ever consider adding vocals?
Ben: "No."

Finally, apart from the fact that the music is freely available, why should people listen to Cloudkicker?
Ben: "No reason. If people like what they hear, then that's awesome, if not, that's also awesome. I wouldn't expect anyone to listen to anything for any reason other than liking how it sounds."

Thanks to Ben for his time. A refreshing view on making music. Give Cloudkicker a digital spin.


Music can be a wonderful thing. I love music. A lot. In fact, I wrote the original draft for this introduction on paper from a handmade notebook sent to me by the wonderful Nikki King of Gregor Samsa, whilst using Mark Kozelek's lyric tome "Nights of Passed Over" as a makeshift desk. Seriously.

Music can evoke the most powerful emotions in me. I've imagined my wedding day, myself and my bride embracing as Jónsi soars through the verses of Sigur Rós' "Hafsol", and, slightly more macabre, I can see my coffin being lowered as mourners are subject to Efrim's cries in A Silver Mt. Zion's "There's a River in the Valley Made of Melting Snow". Whilst not everything I hear hits me as hard as these two examples, my love for music is such that I've decided to go down the well worn path of a music blog.

It's nothing new. There are thousands of music blogs out there. So what's different about this one? Firstly, I'm not going to be linking to .zip files of the latest leak. I still buy physical releases and this blog will aim to shift some albums of the artists it features. Anyway, if you're even slightly adept with Google, you can find pretty much anything elsewhere.

I'm not going to be reviewing anything. Reading reviews is boring. I'll be giving you facts, certainly an opinion here and there, but no wall-of-text reviews. You can read the facts, have a listen and make up your own minds.

So, I'll be featuring artists you may not have heard of, songs I love and words from the artists themselves. Give some new stuff a listen, you may like it. If you don't, so what? It's all relative.