Frankie Rose – ‘Interstellar’ – Album review

Originally published: The Stool Pigeon

Frankie Rose’s second solo outing, Interstellar, contains a significant lack of fuzz. Which is quite a surprise considering her career thus far has been blanketed in various reverb-laden projects. Her time in Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and Dum Dum Girls weighed heavy on her eponymous debut with The Outs, resulting in something of an homage to Phil Spector’s wall of sound. Interstellar is of a different plane; a cleaner, scenic, more demure record than you’d expect, given its maker’s history. Resonating with eighties synth-pop grandeur, ‘Know Me’, ‘Night Swim’ and ‘The Fall’ shine brightly on what is a brilliantly polished album.

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Allah-Las Interview

Originally published: The Stool Pigeon

‘We’re just nerds that play music’, say the light-fingered quartet from LA

Allah-Las’ story and sound first took shape in LA’s Amoeba Music. An independently owned record store on Sunset Boulevard, it’s frequented by music nerds that socialise awkwardly while skipping over records with light fingers in search of an original find.

It’s a familiar narrative — like the plot line to a rehashed, low budget indie film — but Allah-Las weren’t the guys front of set in the spotlight; they were the ones at the back, doing the bum jobs.

“We worked in the storeroom, cleaning up bins and bins of unwanted records and putting them out on the shop floor,” explains lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian. “Eight hours, five days a week, you’d be sat there, swapping broken cases for new ones, playing stuff by bands you had never heard of before.”

“And in some cases, that can be really lustful,” elaborates Miles Michaud, singer and guitarist, “especially for a young, curious employee who is not working, but digging through stacks of records and pocketing what he wants.”

Along with Spencer Dunham (bassist), the three taped many of their five-finger discounts and passed on their recordings. Their love of sixties-style guitar rock and its many variants (The Gories, Flamin’ Groovies, Further, Teenage Shutdown compilations) weighed prevalent among their acquisitions, unifying Pedrum and Spencer when they began jamming in 2008, with friend Matt Correia joining on drums (having never played the instrument before).

The years that followed saw a succession of hashed shows and substandard recordings that struggled to appease the band’s fanaticism for the crackly records they listened to in Amoeba’s stockroom, as well as the influence of their home state and its musical lineage.

“We’re just nerds that play music and love recording,” explains Matt. “None of us really had the drive to be in a performing band; we just wanted to make music that we liked the sound of.”

It wasn’t until Matt introduced their music to producer-friend Nick Waterhouse that things clicked. Recording them at The Distillery, an all-analogue recording studio in Costa Mesa, Waterhouse (California’s answer to Mark Ronson) managed to nail the four-piece’s Sunset Strip garage sound.

‘Catamaran’, their debut single produced by Waterhouse, was released as a limited edition 45 last year on Pres and is soon to be re-issued by Innovative Leisure. Along with the single’s b-side, a cover of The Roots’ ‘Long Journey’, the release resonates like a lost 7” from California’s Acid Test era, surfing on a wave of psychedelic jangle pop, imbued with the warmth of its reel-to-reel treatment. It sounds authentic but somewhat archaic: are they worried about being perceived as a revivalist band?

“Lots of people say we have a strict sixties sound,” says Miles. “It’s our common ground. I don’t think we’re a throwback band, though. That’s a term we’re kind of wary of.”

With a self-titled album due this summer, the Allah-Las are also wary of the fuss their name might cause. “Eventually we might run into trouble and offend some people,” says Pedrum. “The only people it’s offensive to are those that associate it with evil which, quite frankly, is bullshit. Every religion has an element of evilness to it.”

Allah-Las – Catamaran by Nick Waterhouse

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Gang Colours Interview

Originally published: The Stool Pigeon

Is that a Dictaphone in Will Ozanne’s pocket, or is he just pleased to see us? Oh…

It’s the day after the night before and Gang Colours, aka Will Ozanne, is harbouring a bastard behind the eyes. Having played to a packed-out crowd at Pop, a late night cocktail lounge in his hometown of Southampton, he’s had to endure a day of telephone interviews with a hangover. “It was self-inflicted,” he explains of his alcohol-based war wounds. “I only have myself to blame. I knew I had to do a lot of these.”

Despite all this, Will’s answers are — a bit like his debut LP The Keychain Collection — well-formed, comprehensible and recollective, but free to roam in tangents and metaphors. Take, for example, the beautiful ‘Tissues & Fivers’, a track written about things his grandma’s dog used to eat, which opens with a plaintive piano akin to Radiohead’s ‘Codex’ before being layered with dubbed-out glitches.

“I used to collect keyrings as a child whenever I used to go on holiday,” he explains of the album’s title. “I’d keep them in my grandfather’s old cigar box and I liked the idea that each one told a different story. I wanted that to come through in the album — I wanted each track to say something, not just be random.”

At first glance, many of the track titles appear very telling (‘Heavy Petting’, ‘Forgive Me’, ‘To Repel Ghosts’, ‘I Don’t Want You Calling’) in their subject matter, but the lyrics keep their cards held tightly to their chest. Instead, Ozanne chooses to use his vocal as an evocative tool to undulate and haunt the electronic mix of soundbites, while the beats are left to supply a sense of narrative thrust.

“Everyone has written about love and lust. I just tried to keep it on the low — I didn’t want to overdo it. I wanted to touch on the subject with the experiences, but I wanted the beat to do the talking,” he says.

Ozanne carries a Dictaphone everywhere with him, recording the world as it goes by. Each soundbite is as good as a photo for him — but more useful. The wash of a coastline, the squeak of a chair, friends juiced up after a night out — each one a sonic ‘Kodak moment’ that’s been fed into a computer and weaved into The Keychain Collection.

“It’s really important to catch those moments,” he explains. “Like when you think that you have your camera there to capture that image that will never happen again. A picture can tell a thousand stories, but a recording is what it is. It’s exactly the story that is happening there and then. I find it really interesting having the audio opposed to the visual.”

Curiously, Ozanne cites The Streets’ ‘Has It Come To This?’ as an early example of the kind of music that spoke to him. Sat in the back of his mum’s car returning home from school, there was something about Mike Skinner’s stoned, stumbling verses and mellow UKG groove that felt more tangible than the US hip hop and rap artists that he was listening to at the time. “I just thought it was so English and I could relate to it all,” he enthuses. “The emotion and the stories… I’m forever trying to find that.”

Records like The Streets’ Original Pirate Material and Dizzee Rascal’s Boy In Da Corner would go onto inspire the bedroom producer to find his own voice, narrative and sound. “They were all elements that I wanted to get across in my samples, which are all UK garage derived,” he says. “And, obviously, my voice is English — so I guess that’s as English as you can get.”

His debut EP, 2010’s ‘In Your Gut Like a Knife’, played on his dancier tastes, sampling UK garage, trip-hop and dubstep — anything that had its roots set in home soil. “But the natural progression for me was to use my own vocals and piano pieces on the album. I wanted it to be personal.”

The Keychain Collection, then, emerges as the musical representation of Will Ozanne’s England: as he sees it, hears it, and reproduces it with snippets of audio ‘moments’. Tracks like ‘Botley In Bloom’ evoke his home village in spring, while ‘On Compton Bay’ ruminates on a childhood holiday spent off the south-west coast of the Isle of Wight; both blossoming as electronic manifestations of moments in his mind’s eye. Though intimate, these are tracks accessible and open enough for the listener to forge their own connections with, and enjoy their island of Isness.

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Talk Normal Interview

Originally published: The Stool Pigeon

Sleepy-headed Brooklyn duo chat nonsense about their alarming sound

Photography Mickey Gibbons

Trying to remember a dream after a night’s snooze is tough. Awake, you rub the sleep from your eyes, and the once-vivid images are erased from memory, or blurred into some lysergic, incomprehensible fantasy compared to what lays before you — reality.

Talk Normal’s guitarist Sarah Register is struggling to recount a dream she had a few years ago. Sat across the table, she balances her head on top of her hand, trying to stay awake. The Brooklyn duo have just arrived at London’s XOYO venue, following a four-hour journey stuck in traffic from Brighton, where they’ve been supporting Wire on their UK tour.

“Russia!” drummer Andrya Ambro interjects like an obtrusive alarm bell. “We were going to play a show and you couldn’t find your hat.”

“No,” Sarah wheezes out with a long yawn, “that’s not it. I’d lost a hat… Something about a glove… There was a hill… There was definitely some sort of struggle… The hat was very fuzzy and warm…”

The slumberous setting Sarah is labouring to recall became the title of the group’s acclaimed debut record, 2009’s Sugarland. “We wanted the record to represent some kind of fantasy land,” explains Andrya.

They are an unassuming pair. Both in their early thirties with teddy bear-brown hair and soft eyes, they appear more girls-next-door than girls-that-make-discordant-rock, as they do in Talk Normal. Along with 2008’s ‘Secret Cog EP’, their hypnotic dissonance has drawn comparisons with the likes of DNA, Sonic Youth and Laurie Anderson. But how would they describe it?

Andrya, tongue in cheek: “I’d say it’s like Bad Moon Rising meets Kanye West.” Whatever their nonsense patter and more ‘aggro’ elements of their music, Talk Normal’s output to date is surprisingly focused and free of extraneous detail, a fact the pair chalk up to the example set by their moniker: “It just reminds us to be more simple,” explains Andrya.

Like their music, Talk Normal’s conversational chemistry flows with sibling fluency. This is probably down to the close relationship they have held since meeting at NYU a decade ago on music-related courses. Both sound engineers by day, they are due to put the finishing touches to writing for their second record on returning to the States.

Is it hard knowing when to stop touching up your own work?

“Generally we agree whether or not the thing that we agree on yet,” explains Andrya, sort of. “Does that make sense?”

No. I thought you were supposed to talk simpler?

“In our minds [the record] is going to be the same thing,” she tries, again. “But whether or not what exists at the moment is that thing, we’re not sure yet.”

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Outfit – Camden Barfly, London – Live review

Originally published: NME

It’s been almost a year to the day that Liverpool’s Outfit first formed. Cause to celebrate, you would think, but a show at Camden’s Barfly will soon quell any commemorative mood. A small crowd gathers front of stage, looking static, stern and determined to burst the birthday balloon of one of 2012’s hotly-tipped bands. Not that the five-piece should care, though. It’s been a year in which they lived in a Merseyside mansion for next to nothing, became darlings of the local scene and blogosphere with their synth-pop seductions, and moved to London to capitalise on their precocious talents. They’ve already had their cake and eaten it.

And tonight’s show warrants the hype they have received. Opener ‘Vehicles’ cruises with Hot Chip-like electronic flourishes, before flowering into the pop-curious ‘Every Night I Dress Up As You’. And while they may have deracinated themselves from their Mersey motherland, their musical roots still run deep: there is as much a Beatles-inspired boy band charm and confidence to their performance, as Teardrop Explodes brooding behind ‘Everything All The Time’. ‘Without Trace’ twists and turns like a more rhythmically challenging Late Of The Pier track. But it’s the subtle, pop-on-ice single ‘Two Islands’ that steals and settles the night, blooming with Wild Beasts-tinged beats and celestial guitar solos. One year on, Outfit are already into a self-assured stride.

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The Dø – Hoxton Bar and Grill, London – Live review

Originally published: NME

The idea of a French/Finnish indie pop duo is enough to send a shudder down the spine of the average man. But as The Dø takes to the stage in front of throng of Euro-pop loving proponents, the only sensation that is felt is one of fondled balls in excitement and anticipation. Returning to the capital for the first time since the release of their second album ‘Both Ways Open Jaws’, the duo of Olivia Merilahti and Dan Levy are in sprightly form – and the crowd are more than happy to be showered in their saccharine, scattered pop.

Continuing on from their ambitious and fun-filled debut, 2008’s ‘A Mouthful’, the group persevere with their augmented pop in their new output. Opener ‘Gonna Be Sick!’ lopes to a loose reggae beat and, similarly, the M.I.A.-inspired ‘Slippery Slop’ continues to warm and unwind the audience with its Caribbean lilt. All good, you would think, but as the live five-piece get into their groove, there are moments when you feel like you’re watching the whitest band alive take on funk in all its gaudy derivatives. And Olivia (dressed in a pink tutu) and Dan (wearing a porkpie hat) do little to help the awkward imagine as they skank and bound across the stage.

In spite of this, their set is executed with precision and finesse. ‘Playground Hustle’, ‘On My Shoulders’ and ‘Aha’ are well-received, and hallmarks of their genre-spanning innovative pop. Just a pity they look like spanners doing so in the process.

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Shabazz Palaces – Madam JoJo’s, London – Live review

Originally published: The Stool Pigeon

Photography: Matt Wash

Shabazz Palaces are packing heat. But few would have thought that their inaugural show in the UK would have sweat dripping from the ceiling a mere few songs into their set. The release of their debut album proper, 2011’s Black Up, was something of a loaded gun forced to hip hop’s temple. A rude awakening for a genre that has, in recent, sat back on its laurels and subscribed to a formulaic routine of chartable hits and resulting pop icons. The Seattle-based outfit held a mirror to its peers and questioned their integrity and myopia while offering something different in return – a visceral, listener-focus record that was as much informed by jazz’s freeform movement and expression as hip hop’s heaviness and flow.

And similarly to their record, their live show is focused, lean, muscular and progressive. From the opening snaps and loping beats of ‘An Echo From The Hosts That Profess Infinitum’, their slow and queasy analogue sound is equally as dark and dense as it is luminous and light. Palaceer Lazaro on the mic taunting the hip hop “Kings at leisure time”, “Who do you think you are?” repeatedly with his battle cry.

Better known as Ishmael ‘Butterfly’ Butler of former Grammy-winning act Digable Planets, Palaceer has found a new path fronting Shabazz Palaces’ leftfield leanings. And with Tendai Maraire in cohort, their unity and sense of direction through a set of darting and disparate sounds is mesmerising. Little about their music will even cusp the mainstream sphere of listening (which is part of its overriding glory), and something Palaceer acutely points out amid the oscillating, low-end bass whomps of ‘Free Press and Curl’: It’s “Catchy yes, but trendy no.”

But in hop hop’s current sea of mediocrity, Shabazz Palaces are floating on a slipstream of artistic integrity. With psychedelic beats for paddles and chatting poetic breeze for flow, the audience struggle to bounce in time with their off-kilter nuances, but can’t help but nod in agreement with their crusading direction away from convention. Again, a consensus of arms going up with the outfit’s rhetoric during ‘Youlogy’: “Let me make a toast with champagne to all the years that thuggin’ went mainstream, where stars rise and fall like organised regimes.”

Shabazz Palaces are packing heat. But the only thing that they are unloading on are the doors to hip hop’s perception and pedestrianism in a very brilliant way.

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