Empathy Test and Vivien Glass Jura Demons tour

Long-time RRP favourites Empathy Test have joined forces with Vivien Glass for the Jura Demons tour. With a couple of dates already under their belts, June and July will see the two bands criss-crossing the UK, with support from local acts.

As well as the tour, Empathy Test have announced a remix EP, to be released on August 18 via Stars & Letters Records. They hope to release their debut album, Demons, later this year.

Listen to the Thomas Datt remix of Here is The Place from the EP:

Vivien Glass will release their second album, Jura, on September 1st. Listen to a teaser for the album here:

https://soundcloud.com/vivienglass/jura-album-teaser-part-1

The band’s effortless style seeps through into all aspects of their creativity. Whether it be their direction of their own romantic, film noir tinged music video for lead single “Julius”, or their exciting live performances, complete with; strobes, smoke machines and dramatic stage costumes.
Rhythym and Booze

JUNE 19: 24 Kitchen Street – LIVERPOOL – with TBC
JUNE 20: Kraak – MANCHESTER- with Factory Acts + Berlyn Trilogy
JULY 10: The Rocking Chair – SHEFFIELD- w/ SOFT RIOT + DRAG Radio Show DJs
JULY 11: The Fenton – LEEDS – with Sidewalks and Skeletons + Ravens
JULY 18: Sebright Arms – LONDON – with Eyeshadows + Automatic Writing
JULY 25: Chameleon Arts Cafe – NOTTINGHAM- with I Am Lono
AUGUST 15: The Hope & Ruin – BRIGHTON – with Vile Electrodes

For full details and to buy tickets, CDs and other merch, visit the tour page at www.jurademons.com.

And finally… listen to a playlist featuring Empathy Test, Vivien Glass, and some of the acts who will be supporting them through the tour.

https://soundcloud.com/empathytest/sets/empathy-test-vivien-glass-jura

The Charlatans – Sproston Green

A new decade
The radio plays the sounds we made
And everything seems to feel just right

So sang Richard Ashcroft on The Verve‘s song “A New Decade”, released in, er… 1995.

A new decade: a time of excitement, anticipation of what might be. But also a time of looking back. Thinking of what might have been. “They’re selling hippy wigs in Woolworths” lamented Danny as his decade of fug reached a close at the end of Withnail & I.

It’s the end of an era.

Madchester was looking good in the late 80s. In the city that had already served up a generous helping of seminal 80s indie – Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, The Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses – everyone was high on… I dunno I was too young for all that, and anyway with my customary timing didn’t get to the party until it was down to its last bulb… but high on something, let’s say. No matter how underground you start, get high enough and someone will notice. Clubs started closing, authorities starting taking dim views, and didn’t like what they found in murky corners. By the mid-90s, a Conservative government clinging, terrified, to the precipice of power (a MORI poll in August had them 33 points behind Labour), brought in the “Turn that racket down, don’t you lot have homes to go to?” act, which effectively banned young people from cheering themselves up with illegal highs and “sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats” (aka rave).

The Stone Roses still hadn’t released a second album. The Happy Mondays were probably still crashing golf carts on Barbados.

The Charlatans – probably the best Manchester band not to actually come from Manchester – had released three albums by mid 1994. The run started with Some Friendly, which went straight in at number one in the album chart. The pressure, or the glory, or something must have gone to their heads by the time they went back into the studio to record its follow-up, the mostly mediocre Between 10th and 11th, but partial redemption came in the form of 1994’s Up to Our Hips.

Two tracks from Some Friendly found their way onto two 1990 compilation albums of very different quality, both of which found their way into my music collection. Let’s get the less good of the two out of the way first.

Rhymes with Hit Pack

The Hit Pack was a 1990 compilation album that moves from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous in 24 chart hits. 24 because I bought the luxury cassette version with its extra tracks, and not the CD version, which was limited to 21. It starts promisingly: Deee-Lite‘s “Groove is in the Heart” takes Herbie Hancock‘s Bring Down the Birds and makes popsicles out of its bass riff. It’s largely a downhill journey from there, with everyone’s second favourite Black Box track, Fantasy, and everyone’s second favourite SNAP! track, Mary Had a Little Boy starting the ride.

Various Artists - The Hit Pack

The Hit Pack meanders around for the rest of its tracklisting without settling on any genre. I say meanders, but the transition from 808 State (“Cubik”) to Aztec Camera (“Good Morning Britain”) is not as bucolic as all that, while following “Show Me Heaven” by Maria McKee with Berlin‘s “Take My Breath Away” is as much of a transition as a non-committal step forward in quicksand. The standout track was “Then” by The Charlatans, with its baggy backbeat and Tim Burgess singing just outside the intelligible range of my tin ear for lyrics (the opening line is “I want to bomb your submarines”, apparently).

The worst is saved for last, however, with the unspeakably dismal “Fog on the Tyne (revisited)” by Gazza & Lindisfarne.

Skool Daze

Various Artists - Happy Daze

Let’s talk Happy Daze (Volume 1) before I start feeling retrospectively violent. In the words of Gary Crowley’s liner notes:

We feel it sums up the year the Indie Guitar Pop finally left the bedroom, hooked up with some strident dance grooves and had one hell of a bender / night out!

Not a bad summation. Apart from the curious selection of “Hippy Chick” by Soho, and the inclusion of a remix of “Circle Square” by The Wonder Stuff, it is for the most part a solidly danceable indie-dance collection. At the time it was my introduction to Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine (“Sheriff Fatman”), Ride (“Taste”), and the splendidly named New Fast Automatic Daffodils (“Big”). The Charlatans track on offer was “The Only One I Know”, which lifted lyrics from The Byrds’ “Everybody’s Been Burned” and swirled them around in a big baggy Hammond organ soup, with a strong bassline for a ladle.

I Know I’m Too Necessary

“Sproston Green” is the last track on Some Friendly, and was said to be lead singer Tim Burgess‘ favourite Charlatans song at the time. It’s the kind of song that sits up and begs to be played at a neighbour or parent-offending volume, and that’s generally how I listened to it. It’s one long groove driven by sustained chords and that insistent Hammond. Or, in the words Ian Gittins of The Guardian, it is “leaden psychedelia”. Listen to either the album version here, or the live version back up at the top of this page, and make your own mind up.

http://youtu.be/GgyS74IKxAE

Morrissey announces Autumn European tour dates

After the petty to and fro of his label dispute with Harvest over its handling of World Peace is None of Your Business, Morrissey today announced the more straightforward matter of an 18-date European tour this autumn. Countries whose Morrissey fans will soon have a better than average chance of having to work their way through the local refunds system include Poland, Italy (where Morrissey has scheduled six dates), Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

Rumoured dates in Budapest, Bucharest and Istanbul have not surfaced, unfortunately, possibly due to a perceived lack of vegetarian options in local restaurants. The tour kicks off, as promised, in Portugal, and concludes with a night at the O2 Arena in London.

Full schedule details:

  • Monday October 6 LISBON, Portugal (Coliseum)
  • Monday October 13 ROMA, Italy (Atlantico)
  • Thursday October 16 MILAN, Italy (Teatro Linear)
  • Friday October 17 BOLOGNA, Italy (Paladozza)
  • Sunday October 19 PESCARA, Italy (Pala Gpii)
  • Tuesday October 21 FLORENCE, Italy (Obihall)
  • Wednesday October 22 PADOVA, Italy (Geox Theater)
  • Friday October 24 VIENNA, Austria (Konzerthaus)
  • Wednesday November 5 HANNOVER, Germany (Capitol)
  • Saturday November 8 LUND, Sweden (Sparbank Arena)
  • Sunday November 9 COPENHAGEN, Denmark (Falconer)
  • Tuesday November 11 GOTEBORG, Sweden (Lisebergshallen)
  • Thursday November 13 STOCKHOLM, Sweden (Hovet)
  • Wednesday November 19 WARSAW, Poland (Stodola)
  • Friday November 21 KRAKOW, Poland (Laznia Nowa)
  • Sunday November 23 BERLIN, Germany (Columbiahalle)
  • Monday November 24 ESSEN, Germany (Colosseum)
  • Saturday November 29 LONDON, England (02 Arena)

(Header image from http://www.true-to-you.net)

Watch St.Vincent’s full Live on Letterman Set

You couldn’t walk, robotically or otherwise, for bumping into St.Vincent promotions back at the start of 2014. That lady was everywhere: all over twitter, facebook, fashion shows, and TV appearances. But in case you missed any of it, or long for those days again, when Annie Clark seemed like she was ten per cent of the music industry, and one hundred per cent of its excitement, good news is only a moment away.

On Wednesday, St. Vincent performed a 53-minute set for “Live on Letterman” at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, New York, and you can watch the full performance right here:

The performance included plenty of tracks from St. Vincent as well as some great cuts from earlier records. Throughout, Clark showed once more that there’s really no-one around who can combine an off-kilter art-pop performance with supreme guitar skills quite like she can. The full set-list is:

  1. “Rattlesnake”
  2. “Digital Witness”
  3. “Cruel”
  4. “Marrow”
  5. “Every Tear Disappears”
  6. “Surgeon”
  7. “Cheerleader”
  8. “Prince Johnny”
  9. “Huey Newton”
  10. “Regret”
  11. “Birth in Reverse”

The War on Drugs take Letterman by storm with ‘Red Eyes’

With their performance of “Red Eyes” on Monday, The War on Drugs stole the mantle of “Letterman performance that everyone is raving about”, and now look to be heading into to straight head-to-head with Future Islands for the 2014 all-comers title.

Watch them make sweet, sweet sounds with the track, taken from album of the year contender Lost in the Dream, below.

http://youtu.be/IpH-HwtPD-I

For reference, here’s Samuel T. Herring making shapes to amaze Letterman earlier in the year:

http://youtu.be/1Ee4bfu_t3c

Tweedy – Summer Noon

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (and also family Tweedy’s Jeff Tweedy) has released a video for one of the tracks from the forthcoming album Sukierae. Originally planned as a solo project, Tweedy now comprises Jeff and his son Spencer on drums. “Summer Noon” is a gentle strum, with those familiar Tweedy vocals (and less familiar Tweedy drum fills) lending its laid-back folksy vibe an air of quiet melancholy.

If you want to hear more from Tweedy, you can check out the whole of his Mountain Jam set, recorded last month.

Sukierae is out on dBpm records on 23rd September. You can pre-order the CD, Vinyl or digital versions as well as, er, a tattoo from the Tweedy store.

James – Government Walls

At a time when most people were discovering James through “Sit Down”, I was not the exception to the rule. There they were, Easter holidays 1991, on Top of the Pops, looking and sounding like they’d been dropped in from another planet.

It was “The Smiths play TOTP” all over again, 90s style. I was watching, thinking that this was definitely a good thing, thinking how amazing that this song could be not only in the charts, but almost at number one.

If it hadn’t been for that pesky Chesney Hawkes…

“Sit Down” eventually appeared on Gold Mother when it was released for a second time in 1991. While it’s hard not to like “Sit Down”, though, it’s hard now to really love it, so ubiquitous has it become. What was once an exciting breakthrough has since become hard to avoid – the song that everyone knows, the song that leads the musically ambivalent to say “hey, this is the sort of stuff you’re into, isn’t it?”.

Much more exciting, from the same album, is “Government Walls”, a beguiling combination of a soft-synth three-chord progression, brass, and Tim Booth’s currently apposite angry citizen lyric:

Ask a question and they’ll talk of secret services
Secrets from the people they should serve
When they can hide their crimes in a legal disguise
Truth will not be seen nor heard

Belle & Sebastian – The Boy With The Arab Strap

I don’t normally pay much attention to the Brit awards, but in 1999 I was delighted to imagine the look on Pete Waterman’s face when he found out the words ‘Belle & Sebastian’ were written in the envelope for the Best Newcomer award and not, as he had allegedly been told, “Steps”. Waterman furiously demanded the award be rescinded, or a recount, or whatever it would take for his brand of justice to be served. As a proud member of the “Sinister” Belle & Sebastian mailing list at the time, I had to laugh. As for his suggestion that the vote had been rigged by an enthusiastic set of fans each registering multiple votes in the online poll, I couldn’t possibly comment…

As The Boy With the Arab Strap was actually the band’s third album, after the vinyl-only Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister, winning an award for best newcomer on the back of it seems as strange as it was unlikely (although my understanding of the Grammy awards is that their best newcomer award is open to any artist who has never previously been nominated in another category, which must throw up even stranger “newcomers” from time to time).

You probably know largely how this album goes – proto-twee, hushed tones, shy male vocals, shy female vocals, a fey stab at northern soul that would provide a hint to later developments in their sound, and a drifting, rolling closing track (‘The Rollercoaster Ride) completely at odds with its own title.

Here’s the album’s title track for your delectation – or, as it’s sometimes known, that song from that programme that bloke who played Egg was in before he was Rick. It’s brilliant, and it’s got a recorder in it, and how many songs can you say that about?

The Waterboys – Mad as the Mist and Snow

William Butler Yeats has long been an influence on the song-writing of Mike Scott of The Waterboys, but only an occasional trickle of tracks had directly come from adaptations of the poet’s works. Then, in 2011, came An Appointment with Mr. Yeats – fourteen compositions that use poetry by Yeats as their lyrical source. The idea brought with it a very real risk of embarrassing, cloying, failure – music is not poetry; poetry is not music – but as Mad as The Mist and Snow shows, when treated right, the results can be spectacular.

It helps, naturally, if you have a proclaimed fiddle legend like Steve Wickham on hand to provide sensational energy and drive – in doing so, taking the fiddle far from its post as folksy add-on and dropping it square into the middle of the rock group.

Joanna Newsom – 81

Joanna Newsom may be something of an acquired taste; her songs and albums may be long and meandering. There is, however, something definitely worth savouring about a talented musician going about her business with such singular vision.

I was lucky enough to see her perform a special afternoon set at the Latitude festival one year; not even the presence of I am Kloot’s John Bramwell yapping through much of the performance right in front of me was enough to destroy the magical enchantment that Newsom was able to conjure unaccompanied except by her harp.

Eels – I’m Going To Stop Pretending That I Didn’t Break Your Heart

Reading what a few serious critics have to say about the matter, it seems that live albums are viewed with no little weariness and great cynicism. Perhaps they’ve been suffered one too many by-the-numbers- run-throughs of the greatest hits set; the live albums and EPs I know are mostly pretty interesting, and offer a fresh take on the material.

Doing the “with strings” tour is another frowned upon mid-life crisis moment for a band, it seems. And yet, and yet, they make for some of my favourite live recordings. This may be because in the case of two bands whose orchestral performances I’ve loved, the orchestra was very much a natural part of the music.

Firstly there was Tindersticks‘ 1995 album The Bloomsbury Theatre 12.3.95, with its beautiful live renditions of songs from their first two albums; songs that on record already featured the same orchestration, granted, but for obvious logistical and financial reasons the band didn’t tend to lug a full orchestra round with them everywhere they played, so it’s still a thrill to hear the songs played live with the orchestra. Admittedly, the whole thing was meticulously set up because it was to be released as an album, so great care was taken to position every mic for the recording as much as for the performance. In a way, it’s like a one-take album recorded in a big open studio in front of a warmly appreciative audience.

Secondly there was the 1997 album A Short Album About Love, by The Divine Comedy. It’s a live, but not quite live album, in that it was recorded at the sound-check before a gig, although versions of some songs from that gig would be later used as b-sides to singles from the album. Again, The Divine Comedy already had a strong history of orchestral and baroque material, so to hear them played live in their full resplendence is a joy, but not a total shock to the system.

With Strings: Live at Town Hall is quite different from each of these albums. In it’s own muted way, though, it is still full of charm. This is no warm, lush, swoony-stringed confection: the “strings” in the title are an intimate quartet; the arrangements uncurl slowly. Throughout, as Mark Everett rasps and strains, the mood is kept largely down-beat and unassuming. It’s not the cry for help that a tour with strings supposedly represents, so much as a heart crumpled, but always wanting to try something new.

Although a DVD was released with the album, I haven’t found a clip for “I’m Going To Stop Pretending That I Didn’t Break Your Heart”, but this TV performance captures a similar mood.

See Real Estate perform their new album ‘Atlas’ in full

In addition to streaming their latest album on iTunes this week, Real Estate gave fans another chance to experience Atlas before its release next week, playing the album in full for NPR’s first listen live. In what must have been a strangely muted atmosphere – Alex Bleeker’s early dance invitation doesn’t get much uptake – the band played through the new material before closing with a brief encore; the hour-long set ended with a cover of George Harrison’s “Behind That Locked Door” (although I’m not sure why I told you that, since NPR haven’t included the encore in the version of the video available after the event. Sorry).

Watch the performance here, then (surely) buy the album when it comes out next week. Look out for a review on these pages sometime soon.