Groove Tunes

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Nought - self titled

Where do I start with Nought? I doubt many people reading this blog will have ever heard of them. The band formed in Oxford, UK in 1996. They were loved by John Peel and apparently they toured for a while in Russia. They've never become very widely known, which is a shame because they are an extremely talented bunch of individuals.

I'm not even sure quite how to describe their music. The sound is experimental, noisy, has elements of prog-rock, math-rock, post-rock, jazz, industrial, modern classical, and is very avant-garde. They have been compared to likes of Miles Davis, Steve Reich, Sonic Youth, Philip Glass, Stravinsky, Glenn Branca, Nation of Ulysses, John Coltrane & The Fall. I don't think this does them justice though, they are highly original and almost virtuosos. They improvise heavily while performing although if you have ever seen this band play then you have probably lost a little bit of your hearing.

I first started watching Nought in tiny little venues and was completely mesmerized by the two Fender Jaguars laying horizontally on stands, with a drill sitting on top of one of them, the insane time signatures, the discordance, and the almost inhuman drumming and bass playing. They were certainly something to behold at that time.

They have gone through a few line up changes since then, which is a shame because I don't think they've ever been quite as good as they were with the original members. I didn't understand the music at the time and I probably don't understand it now. The main member of band is not far from a genius, he composes everything and directs the band. I can only imagine what goes on in his mind.

It was a while before they released an album although they did release a couple of singles on Shifty Disco which were excellent and really did a good job to represent how the band sounded on stage.

The album itself is, in some ways slightly tamer but more crafted and mature. It contains quite a few of the old songs that they always played, including the one with the drill and a telephone ringing, but it is well produced and has more sophisticated air about it.

You can buy the album at their website here - NoughtMusic
or at the Shifty Disco website here - Shifty Disco

It is only £5 at the Shifty Disco site although you can download a couple of tracks from their website.
This is a download from their site: Ignatius

I can't find a video with music from this album but there are a couple floating around of their live performances, pretty noisy! Please just download the song because this video is really not a good representation of the band's talent.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Calle 13 - Entren Los Que Quieran

If you've never heard of Calle 13, there may be a good reason. They are a Puerto Rican group who make rap/hip hop/reggaeton and their songs are only in Spanish. They are huge in Latin America though and almost a super-group, it could be said. The tag of reggaeton often puts a lot of people off and actually gives the wrong impression of the band, they are so much more than reggaeton but there are influences of the genre in their music. However, only in a good way.

This is their last album, released in 2010. The album marks a distinct change of direction for the band, although not an unexpected one. Calle 13 (street 13 in English) have always been had a diverse range of influences in their sound and Entren Los Que Quieran is just the natural progression of that.

The direction of this album is that of a more organic sound. There are a lot of guitars, often distorted and rock sounding, violins, and more real sounding drums than their previous albums.

It starts with an introduction track, which is slightly strange, sounding like a tv or radio advert. This seems to go one for ages but the real songs are worth the wait. The second track, Calma Pueblo, begins with a distorted guitar that sounds like it might be the intro to a Deftones song. However, the beats and the slightly funky bassline soon comes in, along with Residente's characteristic vocals. You can tell right from the first thirty seconds that this is going to be a strong album as this track is powerful, with the guitars and the classic Calle 13 sound working perfectly yet giving them a huge sound.

The next track begins with some strings that sound like they are from a middle eastern film and then an almost bhrangra style line comes in just before the ska-like deep horn and the drums. There is a slight reggaeton feel to the rhythm but this has to be the best reggaeton you will have ever heard, if that's what you wanted to label this song as.
A female vocalist accompanies Residente throughout the song, with some lines that quite honestly sound a little crazy, but excellently fitting at the same time.

The rest of the album progresses and changes styles all the time, both in pace and influences. For example the fourth track is much slower than the previous, again with the female vocals beautifully taking control of the chorus. The sixth song, Vamo' A Portarnos Mal, is almost pure ska. Muerte En Hawaii takes on a complete reggae feel, although it is more or less just an acoustic guitar, a lovely slide guitar and Residente singing.

There are definite pop sensibilities about this album, as there always have been with Calle 13. The influences come thick and fast but the band seems to be growing stronger and stronger, their sound becoming more defined yet diverse all the time. It's a great album. It seems that this band can't put a foot wrong.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Kode9 & The Spaceape - Black Sun

I, like a lot of people, have been waiting what feels like a very long time for Kode9's follow up to the hugely influential Memories Of The Future album. It was always going to be difficult to make a come back album after an album regarded as a true classic in the dubstep world, which is perhaps the reason for it taking so long to arrive. 

Many people will listen to Black Sun and think that it is not as strong as Memories, or even that it hardly sounds like the same artist. The latter is true enough, it does sound very different. Is it as strong as the previous release? I would have to say yes it is, I can't deny that it took a couple of listens as it was nothing like what I was expecting, but it is an excellent follow up. There were two directions Kode9 could've taken; make an album in a similar style to Memories and guarantee a happy fan base, or make whatever came out, following the creative direction and integrity that probably has always driven him, the will to write something ground breaking and fresh. 

Fresh it certainly is. In a genre that is getting more mainstream, and more aggressive yet predictable (and almost cheesy) and paradoxically soft, this sounds very new. In fact, it could be argued that it is barely even dubstep at all. 

There are the hallmarks of the artist all over the album, such as the almost jazz extended chord stabs and pads, but there are massive innovations in the sound. For a start, Spaceape sounds completely different at times. Gone is the close-microphoned and super deep lines, replaced with a much broader palette of sounds, styles and textures. He seems to spent the time away practising and honing his skills all round. 

I don't know how to describe the new style that the album has taken, it's completely original although there are still the disjointed beats, lovely basslines and sharp lyrics. The opening song starts with some timpani drums, a dub siren and some soft female vocals, which are all the last things you would expect. But then the track kicks in and a touch more familiarity comes with it, with Spaceape's vocals reassuring that, yes, this is the same group. 

The rest of the album is equally varied but at the same time still typically Kode9 & Spaceape. I'm sure lot of fans will be disappointed, especially when you consider the direction that dubstep has taken since the last album was released with the clichéd blow-your-face-off wobbly basslines and simple beats barely reinforcing the rhythm, but that is what is so great about Black Sun, it is the opposite of those clichés. The beats are quite complex, the basses are not necessarily the main focus and, above all, there so lots of other layered sounds building up the tracks. 

While maybe not a classic on the first listen, Black Sun is definitely a grower, it seems to get better and better every time you hear it. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

No review today

No review today, should be back with one tomorrow though. The reason I'm not posting one today is that I've just finished a new tune which I thought I would post here.

This is a bit of a different style from what I normally do.

Winter Me feat Asher Dust by Meef Chaloin

Monday, 23 May 2011

Groundation feat Don Carlos and Congos - Hebron Gate

Firstly, this Hebron Gate is not new and I have not just discovered it but it is one of my most favourite albums of all time so I thought I would write a review for it. If you ask a dedicated reggae fan about this album he will probably think it's a mainstream album but at the same time he will most likely hold it close to his heart, while casual reggae listeners may not have discovered this beauty yet.

From seeing the names featuring on this you know that you're in for something special; reggae giants Don Carlos and Congos. Groundation is no small name either and mix them all up together and you create a behemoth of a super-group.

The album starts with a surprisingly jazzy feel, with the rattle of a snare rim, the trumpet exploring the scale, the keys playing some nice extended chords and the bass also joining in on this little noodle, you could be forgiven for thinking that you've stumbled across something other that what you expected. But, in reggae, the introduction is always a chance to explore and why not, these artists certainly are influenced by a large range of musical styles, particularly jazz.

Having said that, after nearly forty seconds the staccato stabs and chops of reggae come punching through the speakers. The first thing that you notice (or maybe it's just me) is the quality of the production. The album sounds incredibly clean and well recorded, every instrument sparkles and the whole is something warm and clear, a masterpiece of engineering and production.

And these skills are not wasted on the songs, they live up to this standard, each one on the album being a classic. The chorus of the first song, Jah Jah Know, explodes with such pace and energy, with the organ skanking along playing a lovely line and the lead vocal being backed up with great sounding female singers accenting key sections and ooohing and aaahing behind the scratchy tones of Don Carlos. In the middle the song stops and veers of into a jazz interlude, expanding and exploring the theme of the intro. Shimmery organ, syncopated drums and the modal trumpet improvising around the theme, this section is well written and somehow does sound right in the song. In fact, I would love to hear a pure jazz album from these players.

After the jazz the song slips back in to the staccato rhythm and the wonderful vocals. The jazz part actually creates a strong contrast to the rest of the song and contributes the dynamic pace, which just keeps on building up and up until the end.

I could write pages and pages about Hebron Gate, as I said before, every song is as strong as the rest and are all classics, there isn't a weak track on the whole album. The pace varies a little, and sometimes styles as well, but all the time the impressive vocals, instrument playing and production is present and never lets up.

It is albums like this that make reggae fans annoyed that everyone else only really knows Bob Marley. If you do only really know Bob Marley as far as reggae goes then please have a listen to this album because, in my opinion, this is as strong (or perhaps stronger) as any of his albums. It is easy to listen to and I can't imagine anyone listening to it and being disappointed. It is broad enough for anyone to like but strong enough that reggae heads love it as well.

This album also stands up to hundreds of listens without making you not want to listen to it again for a while, I have been listening to it for years now and I still love it and am not bored or sick of it at all. Every time it is soothing and simply beautiful.

Rodrigo y Gabriela - self titled

Rodrigo and Gabriela are two guitarists from Mexico who started out playing thrash metal but got bored and moved to Europe. While in Europe they decided to start busking and touring, except they dropped the metal and started to play something entirely different. Something one hundred percent acoustic. Their style is extremely varied but unmistakeably Latin yet thrashy, jazzy, and even Middle Eastern at times. Sounds intriguing? It is!

There is no question that these two guitarists are virtuosos, the playing is ferocious, incredibly fast and sometimes aggressive but it is perfect and extremely complex at all times. They often play without a plectrum in the typical flamenco styles, somehow playing complicated finger-picked melodies at the same time as playing percussion by slaps and punches against the guitar body, but it's not like much flamenco that you will have ever heard. You can tell that they the thrash metal experience and background when you hear how tight, precise and fast the playing is; it really does sound like what it is – two thrash metal guitarists from Mexico playing acoustic guitars but somehow you can't prepare for this for really imagine what it sounds like.

Their self titled album isn't their first one but it is extremely ambitious, boasting not only a cover of Orion by Metallica but also something completely sacrilegious to some people; Stairway To Heaven.

The former fades in with the recognizable riff being played along with the acoustic being slapped to make the rhythm, which is all reasonably unassuming at first but the structure and playing slowly builds up to an impressive pace. The solo is just beautiful, very well played on a lovely sounding guitar ringing with reverb but there is also the insanely complex rhythm playing behind. This track is actually quite slow for the duo but it doesn't need to any faster. I'm not sure what Metallica fans would make of it but I think this does the original justice.

And then there is Stairway To Heaven. You may think it's quite brave to attempt covering this, and it is, but when you hear this you will understand that they are justified in doing so, this isn't just another cover. Their version totals 4min 44secs and somehow they seem to cram the whole song in. Of course, they do drop out a few of the verses (being an instrumental it would be unnecessary to have too many) but all the important parts are included.

You can tell from the first few bars that this is going to be a bit different with the Latinized introduction littered with little lines of improvisation. This goes on for nearly a third of the song but it's not too much, at all. The verse is sheer brilliance, the two guitars sounding heavenly.

The solo quickly comes around and you won't be disappointed, if you're expecting it to be a bit lame because it is played on an acoustic guitar, you would be wrong. Impressive isn't the word. It's difficult to put in to words what they do, so just go and listen to it. I will say though that this isn't even the best song on the album.

This is such an amazing album, even if you're not particularly enthralled by this style of music, I can't imagine that you would unimpressed by the talent of Rodrigo and Gabriela. Anyone who has ever played a guitar will be able to appreciate the brilliance. Certainly different but not one to miss.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Meef Chaloin & Asher Dust - Revolution Solution

This is an free album that in collaboration with Asher Dust. We did this a couple of years ago but it is still up for free download and now I am writing blogs I thought that I would post it on here.

You can get it for free here - Meef Chaloin & Asher Dust - Revolution Solution - Free Album Download


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