Wednesday, 4 November 2009

4x12 Compilation - Nice Words

So the latest compilation came out last week, its had some lovely words written about it so i thought i'd collate them. Artrocker have given it 'Single of the Month' and NME included Esben and the Witch in their 'On The Stereo' section


Wooahhh - beware! The opening track is by utterly-thunderly Chickenhawk who have previously ripped my cochlea from their drums on a previous release of theirs, the "A Or Not" EP back in August (reviewed on this very site, noise fans). "Scorpieau" is not exactly a picnic in a breeze, more like a spit-roast in a hurricane. Only one way to describe these maniacal Leeds urchins - waaraagargarwgarggh! Yeah, I like them!

Next up is another quality track provided this time by Esben & The Witch's "Skeleton Swoon". I'll ignore the wrist-slap of a title and move onto the rather beguiling and trippy music it embraces. Think Siousxie Sioux and Adele Diane having a good old snog with Aphex Twin and Brian Eno doing the soundtrack to it. Easy now - I said just 'think'. Hear that? That's rather lovely isn't it? It all builds into a eerie crescendo that sounds like the Doves for some tenuous reason before eerier chimes tinkle like a tobacconist's door-bell - DTTR you have a winner with this band. Yeah, I like them also!

Back to more familiar territory with indie-chunks hurled from the mouth of Olfar - but rather tasty chunks you understand. Olfar is one man who 'likes the sea that he can't see and wet feet on a winter's day'. Sounds like he has spent far too many chilly nights in youth hostels but I'm keen to hear more thud, strum and bluster from him so, yeah, I like him also.

Finally, Manchester offer up the acceptable tones of Airship singing and free-wheeling their way through "Spirit Party", another Halloween-linked song that is, by turns, safe and sound, strum n drum. But it's not bad - in fact, their Screaming Lights-esque sound is a fair mash of the pumpkin.

The last DTTR EP was a vinegar-soaked old whore of a record - this release has been brushed down, dressed up and had a decent floss of the choppers. Yeah - I like this a lot.

Artrocker (Single of the Month) -

Chickenhawk rule the roost on the latest in Dance To The Radio’s excellent 4x12 series. Kicking off the a-side, this Leeds 4 piece excite the metal tastebuds with a fat riff sandwich of a tune. It’s feisty, it’s shreddy but clich├ęs are avoided. There some Lightning Bolt style sonic wizardry at the start of tune, giving way to a meaty stomp, before the Andy Falkous style vocals. It’s fucking great.

Eben & The Witch finish side A with some Siouxie Sioux meets Portishead style tuneage. There are some nice layers of fuzz and white noise, but it’s not really my cup of tea. I keep putting the (admittedly virtual) needle back to the start of the Chickenhawk track.

Olfar starts side B. From the press release, he’s a bit of an enigma. It’s a brilliant song - pop with intentional trip ups on the drums and a killer hook of a chorus. There’s a folky tint to it, a pastoral anthemic quality that reminds me a bit of The Waterboys. It’s the kind of tune you’d get most out of listening to on a cliff buffeted by gales and spray from stormy seas. It could be from the lyrics - "don’t leave me on the shore, leave me in the sea, all rusted over".

Airship close off proceedings with a nicely crafted indie pop tune. It’s low key and understated. They’re touring with Editors soon - which makes perfect sense.

Full marks to Dance to the Radio for providing yet another awesome slice of eclectic vinyl wonderment. You might not like all the tracks, but you can understand why they were chosen - DTTR have an ear for the interesting and awesome and a disregard for genre.

Leeds Music Scene 3/5 -

The third instalment in independent, Leeds-based record label Dance To The Radio's 4x12" series, kicks off with a brand new song from Leeds' Chickenhawk.

'Scorpieau' sees the band trading their usual shouting, squealing and screaming for an off-kilter, spoken-word vocal line that brings some catchiness and humour to the song's twisted bleakness.

'Scorpieau' is a menacing gallop of bristling riffs that twist off into spazzcore-influenced shapes. When the guitars aren't out-right snarling, they're chugging darkly away in the background, occasionally unfurling into long, gritty guitar lines. Song highlight comes when 'Scorpieau' breaks out into a riff-heavy swagger that marks the end of the song's accessible (or as accessible as Chickenhawk get) first section, and the beginning of its experimental second section. Here, Chickenhawk really indulge their penchant for the unusual; unleashing a headlong, punkish plunge of squealing riffs that collapses into a crackly, bass-heavy fug, before screeching to an abrupt finish.

As always, Chickenhawk push the boundaries of metal, but what's really surprising, is how catchy the opening half is. Splitting 'Scorpieau' into an accessible first section, and an art-rock second section, is a clever move. They lure the listener into their strange world, before shooting off on a full-on, experimental tangent, and dragging the unsuspecting listener along for the ride.

And, staying in Leeds, Dance To The Radio have found a song that performs a perfect balancing act between quirky indie, and instantly likeable, chewy-centred pop, in the form of 'Husk' by Bear Driver member, Olfar. The lurching guitars and marching drumbeats, lay down kooky indie-rock foundations, while Olfar's lilting, poppy vocals provide a sweet contrast to all that angular indie. The chorus in particular, has some serious sing along potential.

Next up are a Brighton trio who cite their influences as "glaciers, caverns and waning moons" and describe their sound as "nightmare pop." And, to continue the beautifully, darkly poetic theme, they've called this song 'Skeleton Swoon' and go by the band-name 'Esben and The Witch.'

The song itself is a languid meander across glistening, moony soundscapes constructed from frontwoman Rachel's ghostly vocals, lashings of icy sound effects, and voiceovers about X-rays, shadows and spontaneous combustion. Rather than a tune, the effect is a sensation of space, with the sound effects that account for approximately 90% of 'Skeleton Swoon' echoing away into the song's cold, distant corners. As a piece of mood-music, it evokes a powerful atmosphere, but it's too insubstantial to be a song, in the traditional sense.

Everything about Manchester foursome Airship's contribution is understated. From the subtly military-tinged drumbeats, to the slippery-slick bass coiling away in the background, and the backing vocals breathing and sighing behind frontman Elliott Williams's vocals, 'Spirit Party' is luxuriant, unhurried grooviness, from start to finish. Despite a construction similar to indie anthems, the chorus is also curiously understated. It goes for a softly expansive feel, with sweet, high notes courtesy of Williams, rather than chasing after that big, garish, stadium-filling blow out. It's a refreshing bucking of the 'anthemic indie' trend.

'Dance To The Radio Volume Three's major draw is the new Chickenhawk song 'Scorpieau,' but Airship's contribution is also a solid, indie-rock track that just may have you checking out more of the band's back catalogue. OlfarEsben and The Witch's contributions definitely have a rough-around-the-edges, 'new band' feel to them, but are nevertheless an intriguing introduction to acts you probably won't have previously heard of. An eclectic round-up of four bands who hover just outside of their chosen genres.

High Voltage 4/5 -

The first track on Dance To The Radio’s new mini-compilation is Chickenhawk’s ‘Scorpieau’ which is a bit like Reuben at their angriest, or maybe Helmet. The song is a fast charged, juggernaut of a rock song, not the ‘thrashing metal’ that the NME so helpfully describes it as.

Esben and The Witch’s ‘Skeleton Swoon’ is a completely different affair, a lithe little echo of a song that could have been oddly at home on post-Waters Floyd albums like had it not been for Rachel Davies’ ringing vocals that dominate any cavernous spaces in the track. Dark but not too cold, a particularly clever thing is ‘Skeleton Swoon.’

‘Husk’ is Olfar’s new demo, is a more conventional and accessible being, with some nice and pleasant chords, vocal melodies, percussion and choruses. Almost like a little cousin of Wintersleep (czech ‘em out). One of those songs that really grows on you.

From the start Airship’s ‘Spirit Party’ sounds exciting. It’s one of those tracks with a lot of promise that starts off in a lazy garage rock way before flourishing out of its chrysalis into a beautiful butterfly. A great song, which is nicely in keeping with the other expertly sourced songs on Dance To The Radio’s concise new release.

This Is Fake DIY 6/10 -

Onto Volume Three in the brilliant Dance To The Radio EP series, and the objective is clear. Rather than providing a cohesive collection, DTTR are bringing you samples of the underground from all over the place. Yes, you could just download these tracks from blogs, but it's not quite the same as having them on a nice 12" record is it?

Side one here is cracking, featuring Dance To The Radio hallmarks of REALLY loud rock music and something completely from the left-field. The former slot is filled by Chickenhawk's hardcore thrash track 'Scorpieau'. With excellent drum fills and some double kick action underpinning a frighteningly lively song it's exactly what you'd not expect from the label that bought you The Pigeon Detectives. Neither is 'Skeleton Swoon', by Ebsen and the Witch. Samples of dialogue, discussing the advent of X-Ray scans, opens the track before giving way to Florence (and the Machine) style vocals and a twinkling xylophone backing. Interspersed with more vocal samples it manages to be both prettily epic and oddly minimal.

Side two falls down slightly, however, meaning that thus far this is the weakest EP in the series. That's not to say that the music's terrible, you understand, just that it's entirely expected. Both Olfar's 'Husk' (Demo) and Airship's 'Spirit Party' are jangly, pleasant indie-pop songs that are neither here nor there, unless of course 'there' is your standard hipster blog – in which case they certainly are 'there'. The former of the two sounds as though it has its roots in British Sea Power's second album whilst the latter opens sounding like Pixies. Not just a little bit like Pixies but EXACTLY like Pixies. The bassline is to thank for this, having the same steady harshness that Kim Deal is famous for. Sadly, instead of exploding in a completely copycat fashion 'Spirit Party' sort of plods along like Voxtrot without the heartache or Good Shoes on a slow day.

A slight dip maybe, but still worthwhile for Side A. Hopefully the conclusion to the series will bring it back up to the usual DTTR

Rock 4/5 -

Christ, we like Chickenhawk here at Rockmidgets. You guys really should too. Lucky for us this latest edition of Dance To The Radio's 4x12" series is headed up by their track, 'Scorpieau', a three minute searing blast of noise that incorporates their frantic riffery and outstanding drumming, and is yet another storming track for their catalogue – even if Paul's vocals do sound a bit like Zed from Police Academy here...

But we're not letting our favouritism push aside the other three artists involved; Esben And The Witch offer up an eerie slice of dreamy alternative, and Airshipmassive effort from Olfar (which is only a demo!). 'Husk' manages to stomp and soar, complete with infectious chorus and majestic piano, it's a total contrast to Chickenhawk but only highlights the eclectic skills of Dance To The Radio's offerings, on this third edition of 4x12", it's beauty and
prove why they're the perfect band to support Editors on their current tour with their Joy Division-meets-Flaming Lips anthem, 'Spirit Party'. But better still is the simply beast that stand out.

Teletext 9/10 -

An EP that fits Esben And The Witch's sample-filled mournful beauty, as mysterious as when Maxinquaye was released, with Airship's stunning open-hearted anthemic passion.

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