Saturday, 24 January 2009


I'm unconvinced as to the extent to which My Girls and Your Love work together. It feels a little forced. Isn't the whole idea behind this mashup malarkey to juxtapose unlikely things over each other rather than just spotting similarities between synth lines?

I don't think it quite syncs up either, although towards the end the addition of a kick indicates that lurking inside My Girls' baggy shuffle there's the makings of a great disco mix.

Anyway, if it's reworks of Your Love you're after you're better off with Edinburgh's xvectors who covered it a few years ago. Imagine a grumpy Chic fronted by Elvis Costello and you're half way there.

They play Optimo in Edinburgh on the 31st and will apparently be playing a heft of new tunes.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009



persons unknown, in their infinite wisdom, have decided that this blog merits nomination in the "Best Personal Blog" category of the Irish Blog Awards!

thank you mysterions! i am flattered and charmed at your benevolent generosity in the face of repeated procrastination, barely comprehensible rambling and inelegant, overcomplicated phrasing.

the lovely logo at the top was created for the wonderful Confessions of a Film Critic blog by Annie and stolen by me from her comments on the Irish Blog Awards site.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Together we're stronger.

So, Merriweather Post Pavillion is finally out after what feels like a whole year of claims and counter-claims as to its ability to cure the sick, lame and wounded. It's a wonderful, charming piece of work that will surely satisfy anyone who has taken an even passing interest in their varied and extensive body of work over the last 8 years. I got a vinyl copy and was delighted to get a little card that entitled me to a 320kbps mp3 version although I had to wait for the official digital release date last Monday to redeem it. Thankfully this meant I was able to listen to it on the bus through to Glasgow on the way to see them. As the bus trundled along the M8 and the setting winter sun blinded me through the window I got completely lost in the spiraling, morphing beauty of the closing "Brother Sport". Most of the talk has been about "My Girls" but for me they've kept the best 'til last- from the opening round-singing to the blistering finale it represents the band in all their exuberant, yelping glory. The album had a real buzz about it, I spoke to someone in Glasgow's superb Monorail shop who said that they'd sold more than 35 copies in the first week of release, pretty much the biggest seller they've had for years. He also said a lot of those sales were to people they'd never seen in the shop before. The record has obviously captured the imagination of the storied Download Generation as well as format gonks like yours truly.

The anticipation was palpable at the Art School with the venue jammed well before the start of the gig and queues at the bar delaying much needed liquid refreshment. The Art School used to be cheap for beer, it appears that even in Glasgow you have to work hard to find a pint under £3.
Even Nice and Sleazy's, Glasgows alterna-mecca isn't immune, I was charged a mindboggling £4.50 for a pint bottle of Deuchars as I waited for the wife to come through from Edinburgh.

The band were on promptly and launched immediately into "In the flowers". All three stood in front of a big bank of lights and speakers behind their consoles of synths, samplers and various electronicey odds and sods. As the music built to the first collective peak, the lights behind them ignited, dazzling everyone and creating a neat visual ambience to go with the circling, spiralling pulse. Some of the people I was with found it offputting, a little blinding and disorienting whereas I was transported back to my window seat on the CityLink earlier that day with the sun blinding me as I pressed "repeat" on the album as we pulled out from Harthill.

The set was probably the most conventional I've seen from Animal Collective with them playing more than half of the new album and songs from Strawberry Jam alongside a number of extended works in progress that is their trademark (see edit/apologia below).

Still and all the gig was superb, a blinding carnival of sound, light and euphoria and the crowd lapped it up. "Summertime Clothes" a highlight with it's repeated layered refrain of "I want to walk around with you" and a hint of Battles' robo-deathkill anthem "Atlas" clattering its way through the second section. With the arrival of the spiralling opening synth
line of "My Girls" and the attendant whoops and cheers, I found myself thinking that this band's time has come. Avey Tare bouncing on the balls of his feet, whooping his heart out, as Panda Bear intoned as simple and heartfelt and beautiful a love song as I've ever heard. I was left with the feeling that the song has been sung better. In fact, you get the feeling that this incarnation of Animal Collective could really change someone's life in a different setting, outside, on a big stage, in front of a huge crowd, there to maybe see someone else. In an ideal world they will follow Orbital's return to the stage at this years Big Chill and emulate that bands fabled Glastonbury "arrival" in their own way.

The lengthy version of "Fireworks" strangely enhanced by smatters of clapalongs from some enthusiasts down the front, a supremely tense, trembling "Peacebone" (edit 21/1/09: i haven't remembered correctly, it was actually "Grass", well, at least as far as I can remember it was, a subsequent interview indicates it might actually have been another, at the time unrecognised, gem from the back catalogue!)
and a rousing rendition of "Brother Sport" saw them leave the stage and return for three more works in progress. The wheels occasionally come off in these jams with ideas disappearing off into the ether. As I said before it's possible that the muddy sound and indoor venue meant that the gig never quite soared, there was no massive epiphany, no bombast, just an ecstatic babbling throb. And no mean feat in itself.

They're a superb live band that have been on a rich and complex musical journey, similar in a way to Four Tet in the way that they've consistently subsumed musical influences into their work without ever really sounding like anyone else. The crackling, burbling effects and clickety-clackety drumsticks never far from the sprawling horizon they conjure. But what's strange about a band so rhythmic is how resolutely unfunky they are! Sure, there are technoey tinges to the new material; Panda Bear and Geologist are clearly talented electronic musicians but there's no bounce to the beats, it's impossible to really cut a rug to this stuff beyond doing what a friend described years ago as the "indiekid twitch". On the mix CD that accompanies the vinyl in Rough Trade shops, Kode 9 & LD's "Bad" sits alongside Erykah Badu's "Telephone": These are tracks with some serious bump. You get the feeling that elements of these tracks are more aspiration than reality, it's the next frontier for them; how to move from a pulse to a throb, from a jam to a groove?

This is where they maybe lag behind fellow travellers Black Dice, Gang Gang Dance and TV on the Radio, bands from similar backgrounds achieving similarly jawdropping feats with recent releases. All of these bands have the funk, particularly Gang Gang's appropriation of 2 step and TV on the Radio's searing Princeadelic stylings on their albums from last year. It's not that I don't love Animal Collective. It's just I feel they, as artists, are funkier than they sound. They're not incapable of it, parts of Panda Bear's "Person Pitch" album and his collaboration with Scott Mou on the Jane albums contain the elements I'm struggling to describe.

Anywwhat. No trip to the weej would be complete without a trawl through the racks of rubadub and monorail!

Great detailed dubbiness from Herr Betke. Heard this live a few months ago and have been eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Nice edit of a Loleatta Holloway track but the real gold is on the b-side. 2 deep groovy slowmo disco treats!

Beautiful beautiful beautiful time capsule of a variety of old 78's from all over the world. Bengali begging songs, a phonetic guide to the english alphabet to a beautiful old folk song "Sprigs of Thyme" sung by Joseph Taylor.

Note: Late night edits. Tidying up "grammar", occasional revisionism and general award-nominee anxiety going on here. And additional tag malarkey afoot. Drink taken. Etc.