The Comsat Angels – Fiction

16 11 2015

fiction2015Edsel records have issued remastered and expanded versions of the first three albums from the influential Sheffield band The Comsat Angels.

The Comsats released their third album Fiction in 1982. The final album in the Polydor trilogy, its an underrated album. Opening with one of the bands most haunting songs, the post-apocalyptic After The Rain.

Zinger has a slight Talking Heads feel, and a strong, fluid bassline. Now I Know has always been one of my favourite tracks from Fiction. The simple arrangement is the songs strength.

“So she took a drink from the radio”

Ju Ju Money (which was considered for the bands debut album) was finally included on Fiction. This take is a much more confident and powerful version of the song originally recorded in 1980.

The tribal drums on the reflective More place the album firmly in it’s time – with the post-punk music of Wah!, Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Cure, whilst also fitting in with some of the pop sensibilities of established acts such as Peter Gabriel and his fourth album.

Pictures has not dated – ambient keyboard swirls wash under the hypnotic beat that accompanies one of Stephen Fellows most reflective and sombre lyrics.

“Tear out all the pages one by one
Put them in the fire”

The most powerful song on Fiction is Birdman – with the return of the Fellows guitar harmonics! This song must have sounded amazing live in the early 80s – the rhythm section of Bacon and Glaisher was world class. Birdman still sounds amazing, even after all these years.

According to the informative sleevenotes, Don’t Look Now was improvised in the studio. Some wonderful interplay between all the band members on this song, including some guitar parts that surely influenced an Irish stadium rock band a few years later. Cough.

The final track on the main album What Else!? has always reminded me of The Beatles. Its a great 60s infused pop song – and I mean that as a compliment, pop is not a dirty word in my house.

fiction

Remastering / extra tracks

The remastering on the main album is more noticeable on Fiction compared to the first two albums in the reissue series. There is a noticeable increase in volume and power in these tracks compared to the previous CD reissue.

The bonus disc has two great Comsats singles – opening with one of my favourites – (Do The) Empty House with its trademark harmonics. It’s History was released prior to Fiction, and has a killer chorus. How this song wasn’t a massive hit single, I’ll never know.

The rest of the second disc is made up of a mix of b sides and album out-takes plus a couple of live recordings and a Peel session from late 1981.

Fiction (Deluxe 2CD edition)

DISC ONE
1. After The Rain
2. Zinger
3. Now I Know
4. Not A Word
5. Ju Ju Money
6. More
7. Pictures
8. Birdman
9. Don’t Look Now
10. What Else!?

DISC TWO
Bonus tracks
1. (Do The) Empty House
2. Red Planet Revisited
3. It’s History
4. Private Party
5. For Your Information
6. After The Rain (Remix)
John Peel Session
7. Now I Know
8. Ju Ju Money
9. Our Secret
10. Goat Of The West

VINYL – 180 gram heavyweight black vinyl
1. After The Rain
2. Zinger
3. Now I Know
4. Not A Word
5. Ju Ju Money
6. More
7. Pictures
8. Birdman
9. Don’t Look Now
10. What Else!?

Buy the album

Buy Fiction Double CD from Amazon

Buy Fiction vinyl on Amazon

 

Also available…


Buy Waiting For A Miracle Double CD from Amazon

Buy Waiting For A Miracle vinyl on Amazon

Buy Sleep No More Double CD from Amazon

Buy Sleep No More vinyl on Amazon

 

Buy Chasing Shadows / Fire On The Moon Double CD on Amazon

Buy Chasing Shadows vinyl on Amazon

Buy Fire On The Moon vinyl on Amazon

Visit The Comsat Angels – Sleep No More website

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Lone Wolf – Lodge

27 04 2015

lodgeLodge is the third (and final) album by Lone Wolf aka Paul Marshall. The idea for the album came after Paul found out that the place where he had recorded the majority of his material as Lone Wolf, a studio called The Lodge in Bridlington, was set to close it’s doors for the last time.

Holed up inside The Lodge studio with only his producer, James Kenosha and trumpeter David Wärmegård for company over a six day period, Lodge is the result of this organic recording process.

One stylistic choice that immediately jumps out is the absence of guitars on the album – Lodge is pretty much piano, voice, trumpet and percussion. It is also noticeable early on how the sound of the room has been captured – clicks, scrapes, amplifier crackles, feet shuffles and descending piano keys all leak into the recordings, and become part of the performances. Not in a “I’ll sample a buzzing bee and make a rhythm track” but as a natural part of the recording, and as such, they become an integral part of the songs.

Album opener Wilderness sets the scene – deep piano notes and a mournful trumpet line drop you straight into the mood of the album.

Alligator features Marshall’s powerful, soulful voice over one of the album’s key tracks. It sounds like Mr Lone Wolf is physically thumping the piano at times during the chorus, which builds to a powerful crescendo as cymbal-less drums carry the song to it’s conclusion.

lonewolf1

Crimes was the first track that I heard from the album, and I instantly fell in love with the song. It reminded me of late period Talk Talk, in it’s use of restraint and steady pace. Distorted trumpet takes the place of what would have usually been guitar and synth lines, and this gives a real feeling of continuity to the album.

Crimes has a chorus to die for and is already one of my favourite Lone Wolf songs.

“These crimes, these hideous crimes,
oh they make me want to lie my way out of your life”

The lyrics to Give Up seem to refer to finding something akin to a mirage in the isolation of despair.

“Maybe I’ll meet you in the water, maybe the water’s just dry land”

It’s amazing how a song with such simple, stripped back instrumentation can convey the mood of the song so well. The way Give Up shifts up several gears in one of the final choruses, before winding back down to a solo piano outro, is intensely moving.

Give Up contains a great vocal arrangement. It’s clear on this album, more than previous Lone Wolf releases, that the space in the arrangements really gives him the opportunity to soar.

Mistakes really sticks in your brain – I guarantee that this is the song you will find yourself humming long after the song has finished. The lyrics are a tale of the album – how we are hearing every note, including the mistakes. It’s the most uplifting song on Lodge.

Mess has a little of the feel of recent PJ Harvey releases – 2007’s White Chalk in particular, another album that eschew’s the artists usual way of recording.

There is a feel of real sadness throughout the songs and lyrics of Lodge, but as Mr Dwight famously once sang “If someone else is suffering enough to write it down…Sad songs, they say so much.” Lodge is a deeply personal and very honest album, and I think that the songs will resonate with a lot of people.

The tracks towards the end of the album took longer to work their magic, but if you stick with the songs, your patience will be rewarded, as Lodge is an album that bears new fruit after repeated listening.

Taking Steps is a case in point. The track didn’t stand out at first, but three weeks into living with the album, the track is now one of the highlights for me. The almost post-punk drum and bass-line intro section bleeds into a smoky, late-night jazz infused piece that I now never tire of hearing.

It would have been a safe and easy option to dress these songs up in studio effects and slap on layers of synths and strings, but that would have killed the raw emotion that runs through the veins of this album.

Art of Letting Go features a powerful vocal outro as the song finds it’s natural end point. Get Rough is moderately more upbeat than the songs that precede it, and feels more like the Lone Wolf of The Devil & I.

Token Water, the longest track on the album, picks up the night-club jazz feel again, before heading off into an almost Blue Nile like outro, as the song shuts down abruptly with a discordant trumpet blast.

Talking of blasts, that’s how the album closer, Pripyat, announces itself. Deep piano strikes, maybe acting as warning sirens, usher in the tale of the now abandoned Ukrainian city near Chernobyl. Some wonderful trumpet and vocal interplay brings the album to it’s close.

I’m sad that Lodge is apparently the final Lone Wolf release, but hopefully if enough people discover this beautiful album, it won’t be the end of the line completely, and it will be a case of RIP Lone Wolf, long live Paul Marshall!

Buy Lodge on Amazon

Buy the 1st Lone Wolf album  The Devil & I on Amazon

Buy the 2nd Lone Wolf album  The Lovers on Amazon





End of Year Favourites

28 12 2011

It’s that time of year again, and here are some of my favourites from 2011 as it draws to its close.

I’ve tried to include audio or video clips where they are available, but I will not upload unofficial media.  If you like what you hear or see, don’t steal the music, support the artists and buy their albums or films.

Gavin Castleton

It’s been a quiet year from Gavin – sadly no new album in 2011 but a couple of free downloads appeared on Gavin’s SoundCloud account, including one of my favourite tracks of the year, Swim Good.  

Swim Good is a track from Frank Ocean‘s Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape release.  Gavin takes the song to another level, underpinning Ocean’s song with my favourite Portishead track, Roads from 1994’s Dummy album.

Listen to Gavin Castleton‘s version of Swim Good below

Listen to Swim Good on iPhone or iPad.

More Gavin Castleton music on cdbaby or iTunes

The National – High Violet

The album that soundtracked my summer.  And yes, I’m a bit late with this album, as it was released in 2010.  If you don’t already have the album, I’d suggest picking up the expanded version which has 7 extra tracks. Lemonworld is my favourite track on the album:

“I was a comfortable kid
But I don’t think about it much anymore
Lay me on the table, put flowers in my mouth”

Runaway is another highlight, sounding like a song that could have come from any era from the 1950’s onwards. Lovely strings (and a rarity in alternative rock, trumpet) on this track.

Watch a live version of Anyone’s Ghost below.

Buy The National – High Violet (expanded edition) or regular CD on Amazon

Wild Beasts – Smother

Deeper (with its Blue Nile Tinseltown In The Rain sounding drums) and Loop the Loop were the tracks I played most from this 2011 album from Cumbrian band Wild Beasts.

There are echoes of the late, great Billy MacKenzie in the vocals at times, and a lovely warm production on this album that makes Smother a more rounded album than 2009’s Mercury Prize nominated Two Dancers.

Watch the band perform Lion’s Share from Smother on Later With Jools Holland

Buy Smother on Amazon

Niki & the Dove

Swedish electronic duo Niki & the Dove releasedthe 7 track  The Drummer EP in 2011. Sounding at times like Stevie Nicks backed by Prince, I wonder if the duo’s name is some sort of Prince homage (Darling Nikki / When Doves Cry?).

Mother Protect starts off like a Siouxsie & the Banshees track from Ju Ju before turning into a wonderful electronic anthem, with a monumental key-change rounding off the song. Pop music is alive and well in Sweden, it seems.

Listen to Mother Protect from the Niki & the Dove Soundcloud site

Watch the video for The Drummer

Buy The Drummer EP on Amazon

Yes – Fly From Here

My favourite Yes album is Drama from 1980, when Trevor Horn & Geoff Downes of The Buggles were in the band (the Yeggles lineup), so its no surprise that I enjoyed Fly From Here, which has Geoff Downes back in the band, and Trevor Horn back behind the mixing desk.

New vocalist Benoît David sits comfortably in the mix, and the album is built round a track that was written by Downes / Horn prior to joining the band in 1980. The Buggles connection continues with Life on a Film Set, which is based on Riding a Tide from The Buggles second, and final album, Adventures in Modern Recording.

Watch the Fly From Here video below

Buy Yes – Fly From Here on Amazon

Pink Floyd remasters

Some of my favourite Floyd albums were re-released this year, in remastered form, with Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall sounding better than ever.

Granted they sounded pretty good in the beginning, but the 2011 re-masters avoid the common trick of brickwall mastering, when there is no space for the music to breathe or hit peaks and lows, and the end result is a terribly clipped mix.

Watch the Pink Floyd remasters TV advert below (full 2 minute ad)

Buy Dark Side of the Moon double CD
Buy Wish You Were Here double CD
Buy Animals CD
Buy The Wall double CD or pre-order the 3 CD box-set

And some albums I reviewed earlier this year…

White Willow – Terminal Twlight

Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow

Thomas Dolby – A Map Of The Floating City

Steven Wilson – Grace For Drowning

Memories of Machines – Warm Winter

Slow Electric – Slow Electric

Releases I’m looking forward to in 2011

    • A new album from Lone Wolf (the follow-up to 2010’s The Devil & I)
    • a duets album from David Sylvian and Joan as Policewoman
    • InGladAloneness the final release from Dalis Car (the late Mick Karn & vocalist Peter Murphy from Bauhaus)
    • Hugh Cornwell‘s Totem & Taboo – which is being produced by Steve Albini in Chicago.  Live version (audience recording) of In the Dead of Night from the album below

Film

The majority of films I’ve wanted to see this year – such as Melancholia, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, I didn’t get round to seeing at the cinema, so I’m looking forward to their release on DVD / Blu-ray in early 2012. Hopefully I’ll review them soon.

Watch The Tree of Life trailer below.

TV

Boardwalk Empire

The quality of the writing, directing and the sets did not let-up for the second season. But in the final episode of the series, they killed off my favourite character.  I won’t give away the identity, but it was a shocker. Oh Nucky, how could you?

Buy Boardwalk Empire Season 1 on DVD or Blu-ray

Watch the Season 2 trailer

The Fades

The Fades is a British supernatural drama, about a teenager who can see spirits of the dead (the Fades). Some of the dead have not managed to make their way to heaven and so remain on earth, and become vengeful towards humans.

The battle between those who can see the dead (Angelics) and the Fades plays out over six episodes, and although the the special effects were not Hollywood quality, it really does not matter as the story was so well written. I’m hoping it pulled in enough viewers to warrant a second series, and a larger audience.

Watch The Fades trailer below

Buy The Fades DVD or Blu-ray on Amazon

Outcasts

Another BBC series was a personal highlight of 2011. Outcasts, a sci-fi drama set in the year 2060, has all the hallmarks of a future television cult classic.

The series is set around survivors from a dying Earth colonizing the planet Carpathia, and the developing conflict between the humans and the Advanced Cultivars (ACs) a group of artificially created humans. Good scripts, strong acting and powerful cinematography (Outcasts was filmed in an alien looking South African landscape), was not enough, and the series finished on a cliff-hanger ending, with no second series.

Watch the Outcasts trailer

Buy Outcasts on DVD or Blu-ray on Amazon








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