• The Trembling of the Tiniest Flowers

    28. Jan. 2012, 20:04

    I first chanced on Flipron in a tent in the Huntingdon countryside at the Secret Garden Party Festival three years ago - a mad weekend of the most outlandish sights you‘ll ever see. But never mind how outlandish all the revelling there was - like a Mardi-Gras inside a Looney Tunes cartoon, the craziest thing was Flipron. By far. It was late at night when we drifted into that tent, and the band had the place buzzing like the most authentic haunted-house you’d ever seen; there in the middle of it all, crouched over first a lap-steel, then Hawaian guitar, then mandolin, then accordion, the wiry-haired Jesse Budd, who I’d soon realise was a maverick with zero peers in the current pop climate.

    I framed a whole festival article around Budd’s lyrics, which stuck in my head even though the band, their general sound and festivity was such a spectacle in itself. It was like stumbling on a show-band conducted by a lost poet in a Tim Burton Wonderland, the effect long-standing and slow-burning. Two albums of sumptuous, wiry, baroque pop kept the Flipron flame burning in my quarters for the next two years, along with a few more live gigs, each of which revealed a different, hugely-satisfying layer to the band, before the new Gravity Calling came though the post late last year, a treasure-box of songs that takes the old sound and sails even further into sumptuous musical waters.

    Budd has described Gravity Calling as Flipron “stripped down” to its essentials like a drag racing car, and Budd himself in it has gained another degree of lyrical gravitas, grown another hand full of magic dust, especially in a couple of songs that twinkle around the album’s moon with a particularly blinding glow. These two songs are ’Orpheus Inconsolable’, which steps out of a casual walking-whistle into a poetic, melodic mystery tour where a glimpse of lost love is the recurring treasure; and ’A Scoundrel’s Apology, Almost’, a song that drifts with a piano that sounds like it’s played by a melancholy ghost from the ’50s, in which Budd’s lyricism is so eloquent and touching that it approaches magical poeticism. ‘A Scoundrel’s Apology’ is as good as something Rumi would have written after ever having felt himself to have even slightly betrayed a love, as if in an attempt to cast light and beauty on a thing that’s pulling him apart.

    And the whole album has this certain inspiration which makes it stand out with Rumi-like charm, a certain spiritual embrace of the colour of language informing each song. ‘Winding Up the Clockwork Morning Through the Night’ has this intricacy in which Budd as a songwriter bursts aeons beyond the band’s albeit brilliant show-exuberance, his hoary, star-serenading voice trembling as he sings a song of sunny wonder directly to his love. ’Something Lost’ is another touchingly melodic celebration of love in the face of ever-encroaching time, Joe Atkinson’s easily-twinkling virtuoso piano and an odd squeeze of organ dancing through it. And then the show-pieces, which are like Rumi’s Greatest Hits, songs that could make Tim Burton’s Wonderland erupt in dancing fever, and still have the Flipron heart.

    Flipron’s party songs hit the pleasure button with a certain lustre, Budd crawling through mythological hells and coming up in bountiful pleasure gardens. ‘Dreams of Wealth and Power’ has a new addition to the Flipron cannon - the Flipronettes - on cooing backing vocals, a rollocking guitar from space, subtle organ and piano flourishes that lift it high up off the ground. It’s a stormy, tempestuous, ambitious and magnificent pop song in which Budd holds onto his delicate love in the storm. “There are forces and functions and mysterious powers in the burning of stars and in the trembling of the tiniest flowers / and there’s nothing that can save you from falling - there’s nothing that doesn’t hear the voice of gravity calling” is the call of impending doom that’ll lead to love in the magnificently bone-shaking title track, full again of unlikely musical wonder. ‘Tropical Disease’ is slightly different dream, a frenzied, comical celebration of sensuality with merry organ flourishes poking out fantastically in its excitable whirl; and ‘Zombie Blues‘, where Budd plays the lead mummy singing a song of a dead-man’s enchanted rebellion, hearing “the moans of a new nation - of a great zombie choir”, can send a shiver up the spine.

    Gravity Calling is - like the two albums that preceded it - a rare treasure, one to make you sit up and wonder, feel joyous at music and its possibilities. It matches subtle sensuality to beautiful redemption, material mystery to spiritual enchantment; it has the kind of tempos Rumi could have written poems to, and the kind of lyrics that would have made his dervish come home. Budd and his band are firmly outside the box, singing what they see in the most colourful, soulful revelry, re-writing the pop rule-book for anyone who dares to dream and feel ecstatic. To see or to hear them is a recurring pleasure.

    © 2009 Neil Jones

    /TheTremblingOfTheTiniestFlowers.htmlFlipronGravity Calling
  • Magic Fairytales and Symphonic Worlds

    23. Jan. 2009, 18:32

    It’s great again to feel the incoming breeze of rebel music and energy of freedom after a few months of rather bourgeois considerations. And it’s great to say that one melody by new Ooberman project Symphonika can wipe out what seems to have been years, but what was actually weeks of “trying” to make positives out of negatives, trying to keep rebel flames flying in the face of strong winds, when of coarse positives always exist on their own and are separate of negatives anyway, and rebellion is always way past trying. The beauty of a Hermann Hesse story is not that it was adversely inspired but that it was poetically inspired. Different planes, different motives, spectacularly different results.

    And actually these few weeks involved in the thrust of planning at the “Tabu project” in Cardiff have been an edifying journey into the storm. I think the best, yet most painful part of it was the night that Primal Scream came to town, and I was listening to The Jaynes at home, who we’d had play a couple of times at the club, and having to go out that night was like getting out of a warm bath in the cold, going into the packed university to see the Scream swagger and swear, rather inanely, when everything had the colour of rebel poets and affectionate Pop at home. Anyway as an ode to that look out for The Jaynes track on this oncoming mix.

    So where to start? A lot has been said about twee pop of late, calls of “Kill Twee Pop” an educated reaction from the rebels who perceive the fashionable sensitivity that’s hardened around the genre. But one of the bands who’ve been acclaimed by the twee pop press have caught the ear around these parts. Norway’s Je Suis Animal are an elegantly mis-shaped bunch judging by this picture under a fashionable archway, and their ‘The Mystery of Marie Roget’, which takes its title from an Edgar Allan Poe detective story based on the murder of a perfume shop assistant, has enough sophisticated allure and fascination to turn the head of a man in a neck brace. The way that singer Elin Grinstad rolls the “g” of “Roget” round her tongue in ebullient gallic fashion and bobs along with effortless wonder as the song collects and springs out into shimmering keyboard flourishes, the way an alarm bell rings on lyrical cue in the middle like an inspired, off-key insertion in a Hitchcock film, all points to Je Suis Animal’s debut album Self Taught Magic From A Book on Angular Records being a lesson in Pop cleverness, humour and mystery.

    Continuing on down the path of mystery and otherly allure, and Marissa Nadler’s ‘Leather Made Shoes’ has the beauty of a rich landscape coated in light mist. A wonder shrouded in melancholy. Nadler is, unsurprisingly, a painter, excelling in “encaustic painting”, in which coloured pigments are added to heated beeswax and applied to wood, and the kind of texture that this style allows one to envisage is also evoked by her music, which has a dreamy, oily, colour-speckled individuality and a certain depth of warmth and beauty. One can get lost in the lyrical, swaying world of Nadler’s ‘Leather Made Shoes’, all light shades and personal wonder as it is, sweet flourishes and twists, resplendent of hand-crafted magic with a touch like a lover’s thumb on the forehead. Nadler is really something, and though she springs from Massachusetts in the US, every credit (as snooker’s John Virgo would say…) to the Cardiff label My Kung Fu for putting out her Diamond Heart / Leather Made Shoes set that this track can be found on.

    Glastonbury’s Flipron have always had an otherly allure too, just the way their songs can evoke the tenderest moments amidst such dizzy melodies, the way too that they can spin the most satisfying of surreal poems to the craziest rhythms, place homely sentiments amongst exotic melodies, and ‘A Scoundrel’s Apology, Almost’ is one of their finest bits of sorcery yet, a poem of pure feeling that has an astonishing beauty, twinkling piano as if played by a weeping ghost from 1940 and a swirling-sad accordion and lapsteel running through it while Jesse Budd’s honest-to-god voice dances under good-natured stars. ‘A Scoundrel’s Apology, Almost’ is a thing of rare beauty, and one of many a variegated, brilliant cut from the band’s recent Gravity Calling set on Northampton’s Tiny Dog Records.

    Flipron have a definite earthy wonder that evokes lots of genres, they feed on the most otherly-inspired corners of music history like vampires from the Outside of Everything, so it’s easy to move from them to anything under the sun. Alela Diane is a gypsy folk artist from Nevada City who taught herself to play guitar and had a stint in slow grass band Black Bear before being plucked from obscurity by the helping hand of Joanna Newsome. And Diane’s ‘The Pirate’s Gospel’ is a magnificently soothing track, full of inspiring lyricism in the finest, uplifting gospel sense and finely honed gypsy colour and sensuality, her voice a wondrous thing above it all, broad and rich, of sensuous grace. Diane’s debut LP, also titled The Pirate’s Gospel, is out now on Portland’s Holocene Music.

    From Nevada City to Serbia on the gypsy gospel pirate ship via Diane, where we sail into a startling instrumental piece by Vojvodina violinist Lajko Felix and his collaborator Boban Markovic. Lajk・ is known to excel in a variety of musical styles, traditional string music of the Hungarian (Pannonian) plain, Romani music, folk music, classical music, rock, blues, jazz and improvised melodies too. In concert he plays zither, but mostly the violin, either with his small group or solo, and has played with a large number of “well-known” Serbian bands and musicians, including as accompaniment for famous Japanese bhuto dancer Min Tanaka. All of which might point towards him being a crassly-brilliant circus act, except that in his playing is found an individuality and concentration of epic proportions, and this track, the mysteriously-named ‘Felix Kolo’, from a compilation LP simply entitled Serbian Ethno, is marked by whirling-dervish festivity and maverick emotional play that could hypnotise a whirlwind. Lajko’s latest LP, Remeny, is freely available from website shops, but I can’t seem to track down the label for it… More dancing Serbian ethno magic awaits.

    Sailing the pirate ship on to Northern Sweden next, and Robertsfors’s Frida Hyvonen has had albums released on The Concretes’ Licking Fingers label and Jens Lekman’s Secretly Canadian. ‘London’, from her latest LP, Silence is Wild, on Licking Fingers, chimes out with dizzy opening lines of “upside down to Italy and then again – London, you’re not my friend, but you can be”, redolent of a million future dreams and adventures, with a shimmer that sweeps you off your feet. ‘London’ is a track bursting with passionate lyricism, Hyvonen’s regal voice, deadbeat, aristocratic and sumptuous over music that dreamily sways with longing and beguilement, piano melancholically trickling and keyboards lightly playing on its surface. It’s epic Pop in the shape of wonderful constellations, and Hyvonen is no doubt one to pursue further.

    The romanticism of Yorkeshireman David Thomas Broughton is of a more barbed, more convoluted nature than any of the above, but still follows on down the “otherly” trail – for one imagines Broughton sitting on the very edge of New Folk, in the jester’s seat, concocting his own poems of the deep, and rubbing mud in his beard all the while. With Broughton you get none of the earnest thumb-twiddling and pretension of the beard-brigade, instead a fascinating and satisfyingly strange beguilement. ‘Execution’, from his The Complete Guide to Insufficiency, on Plug Research Records, creeps along with claps of coconuts, a pinch of humour and blasphemy, an air of deep, earthy, obsession and affection, and a dark compositional fascination. It’s as strangely affecting as you get.

    Indie outsiders with yearning souls and a penchant for subtle poetic sentiments might remember Ooberman of a few years ago, who emerged from a hand-crafted world of upper-twee beauty into increasingly abstract territory, spurred on by literary, philosophic, and classical music passions, slowly morphing into Symphonika, who’s orchestral work The Snow Queen has a warmth, beauty and imagination to set one alight. The Snow Queen is an exotic adventure into the eye of a wonderful winter storm, a journey through smiles and torrents of tears, through darkness and out into bright lights, both charmingly innocent but also charmingly accomplished in the hands of burgeoning composer Dan Popplewell, and ‘Fast Sledge Past Blurred Robin’, is its sweeping-most track, the spectral voice of ex-Ooberman princess Sophia Churney chiming in stunning new orchestral climes besides the strings of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Popplewell has always been a substantial outsider indie figure, able to make music ring with a deeper lyrical, spiritual-poetical magic, and inspire his small fan-base to take all sorts of tangents in the wider world of art (Ooberman’s Hey Petrunko set was dually dedicated to Hermann Hesse and Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian, sending wide-eyed and fascinated legions of fans scurrying out to get lost in the magic fairytales and symphonic worlds of both), and, brilliantly, he’s now completely free of commercial cares, being paid to compose music for film trailers and documentaries, so is in a position to give the whole Ooberman back catalogue away, along with a clipped versions of The Snow Queen and another recent work Dark Fairytales, all of which you can find sitting here. Please find it in your heart to put something in the contributions box though… and watch out for Popplewell and Churney’s enticingly-named Magic Theatre project this summer.

    As I said earlier, Cardiff’s The Jaynes have been one of the highlights of my journey into the eye of the storm promoting a Cardiff club recently. If they ever read this I’m hoping they can reimburse me the CD I naively gave to a Merthyr celebrity on the night Primal Scream came to town (one of the band members hails from the industrial Welsh valley town so I thought the celebrity might be able to dip into his pocket for studio time for the band, or some such sponsorship), but I do have some tracks from The Jaynes’ demo left onto the computer, of which ‘Katherine’ is a short and sweet song of melancholy tones and subtle writer’s shades that equals beautiful, hand-made rebel Pop.

    And then Kutosis, The Jaynes’ more commercially viable brothers, more commercially viable because there’s still a market for three-minute punk songs that kick like a mule while Pop weeps in the margins. ‘You Told Me Devro Decides’, from Kutosis’ Yoyoyoyoyoyoyo EP, is the sound of the kids off the street smashing the right windows, reclaiming indie for the humble and excited, musically concise, rebellious, and more exciting than any bitter social commentary could ever be. It has the precocious bubblegum indie shimmer and death-rattle of Screaming Tea Party, and a dissident cool to slay Topman manikins like Sinbad did skeletons. All suffices for a decent mix I think, a small haven where the otherly meets earth and indie sparks fly.

    © 2009 Neil Jones

    Je Suis AnimalMarissa NadlerFlipronAlela DianeLajko FelixFrida HyvonenDavid Thomas BroughtonSymphonikaOobermanThe JaynesKutosisAsh
  • Where are the Kids for the Pop Show?

    27. Okt. 2007, 13:20

  • Dogboys Vs Monsters

    24. Mai. 2007, 0:49

    So here I am sitting with my four variants of posters and pea-sized bit of plasticine reflecting that Friday night was quite a spectacular one in a number of ways. Went down to meet Flipron at five o’clock-ish, and it became apparent straight away that not too many people were going to turn up. There was a football do in the club opposite, and one just up the road where Kevin Radcliffe had been assigned to chat (rather them than me) and of all things Nobby Stiles’ son was going to tell jokes, and the outlook wasn’t good. To top it all off it was rainy, windy and grey outside, but knowing just what kind of band Flipron were it was worth forging on whatever the scenario.

    The band arrived just after 5.30 and I pulled the short straw of the heavy amp to haul up the club steps. The boys from the Robin Hood of Rhondda Valleys cover bands, The Con Artists, were all there, and as the Flipron guys unpacked their myriad instruments from antique boxes they must have thought I was insane. The soundcheck perhaps fortified this. yet a sense of quiet exultation accompanied the strains of ‘Skeletons on Holiday’. An early highlight of the night was Con Artists singer Jonny’s eager phone conversation in the background with his brother: “Steve, you’ve got to hear this!”

    Credit to Jonny’s Con Artists for kicking off the music “scene” (hate that word – can’t wait for an anti-scene, as ever) in my hometown area, and it was great to be able to pair them with possibly the most original and creative, certainly downright strange yet still brilliantly Pop band in the UK. The Con Artists kicked off proceedings at 8.30, cutting a slightly more effeminate sight than usual behind Flipron’s Hawaiian island-effect stage garlands, and were again fantastic. I’m not in the least a fan of The Fratellis, Razorlight, Kasabian or The View, but the way CA play them takes away any sense of cock-rocking ego that those bands themselves stupidly project, cutting straight to whatever's at their core.

    The Undertones, The Magic Numbers, Manics, Beatles, and those great Killers singles, it’s another feast of indie fun that kicks the Monophonics clean over the fence. 9.30 and they make a clean break, moving aside for our new Somerset pals. Adam plays a few tracks out from the system and … what’s this? – a little bit of Roy Smeck as an unlikely "welcome to the valleys". The inspired Hawaiian tones of ‘On With The Dance’ segue into one of the most surreal and best gigs I’ve ever seen. ‘Rusty Casino’s Casino Rustique’ with its fine tale of No Entry resignation, ‘Big and Clever’ with it’s brilliant defiant riposte of “my arse is big, my arse is clever cos it knows you want to kick it but it knows that you will never ever ever get close enough to give it a try” (remember this one being one of the first songs to really get at me when I saw them for the first time last year – wonder if anyone has that feeling tonight?), ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on the Dead’, ‘Hanging Round the Lean-to with Grandad’, ‘Big Baboon’ and, oh yes, ‘Skeletons on Holiday’ replete as it only is with Jesse’s pre-song monologue genius.

    Even a call for ‘Viscous Car and Love Poem’! Fucking ace. Am I dreaming? My younger brother and his pals absolutely love it, and it’s a shame more kids aren’t here to witness it all. Fucking Kevin Radcliffe. Or the weather. Or Nobby Stiles’ son. When Budd stands and makes heroic shapes with his accordion towards the end it’s like folk ingenuity liberating rock’n’roll from its hellish current incarnation, but I’m sure the lightning that I seem to remember flickering around him as he stood there amidst the shaded garland forest is merely a fragment of my over-active imagination. Perhaps not.

    Outlandish, poetic, instrumental orchestration to die for, the show is fucking ace. Even the landlord is singing their praises like a large songbird in my ear, and the boys from the band seem genuinely moved by the post-song acclamation. Come the end they have more to pack up than most, and do it while chatting to enthusiastic new fans and well-wishers. The people here tonight I feel are genuinely intrigued and beguiled. The romance of the unlikely turns to a euphoric tingle. Flipron are most definitely the new folk heroes of the Valleys.

  • Screaming Tea Party - Death Egg

    14. Mai. 2007, 1:15

    "Girls and guns," Godard famously said, and this white-hot blast from guitar pop heaven is the musical equivalent: a cut-glass concoction of melody and elemental noise. What a trademark guitar sound to have. Niyan's heroic axe shards emerge like lighting from the floor and set you on fire from the feet up. The emotion even flows from his feedback like tears streaming from the Mona Lisa. The tracks on this EP contrast like water and wine, opener 'Between Air and Air' swamping your head with a stuttering blast of trans-world cool to make the hairs stand on end. Lead singer Koichi swaps the most contrasting musical sentiments imaginable with co-singing-star Teresa, yet underpinning everything is a narrative of astounding substance. 'Death Egg' is like a pastoral poem from Gorky, evoking images of pretty girls, before guns, and when the guns come in Reckless Rabbit they shoot like rocket-stars. 'Let's Do Not Say Another Word' is the most poignant bit of sci-fi comic heroism you'll here etched out this side of anywhere, capturing you from inside and floating you in the air with its sheer romantic fervour, while 'Cracked Up Dietrich' and closer 'Shayou' compliment it with a starry flow of cosmic tears. A shout from the deepest reaches of soulful cool, Screaming Tea Party are a truly unhinged band of melodies and brilliance.Screaming Tea Party
  • The Mix

    26. Apr. 2007, 2:50

  • Voxtrot

    12. Mär. 2007, 21:05

    There’s something joyous in the air at the moment, grand, poetically empowering, and slowly spreading via the coolest corners of the web.

    There’s the Swedish pop revolution led by Lucky Lucky Pigeons and A Smile and a Ribbon; the emergence of another underbelly of Scottish bands from the lineage of Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura (see The Hermit Crabs and California Snow Story); random London strirrings in the form of Let’s Wrestle, Decoration and Pete and the Pirates; the new Welsh pop underground led by Little My and Radio Luxembourg; and a sprinkling of new bands from the US, including Texas’s Voxtrot, that have gracefully tapped into the Magic of Pop.

    Voxtrot’s 'Trouble' compresses the kind of rambunctious exuberance of countrymen The Hidden Cameras and the sublime euphoria of The Little Ones into a heady mix of beatific noise. Jangling guitars, infectious rhythms, twisting melodies and Ramesh Srivastava’s essence of indie lyrics, it’s music cut in the library and played out to dance-floors with the greatest, most gratifying pop sentiments, bravely distinct in a thrillingly complicit new world.

    This is mixtape heaven away from the grasp of grubby industry hands, a haven for the poetically-inclined and commercially dumfounded, and an open invitation to strangers on desolate paths.
    VoxtrotLucky Lucky PigeonsA Smile and a RibbonThe Hermit CrabsLittle MyRadio Luxembourg
  • You make me want to measure stars in the backyard...

    12. Mär. 2007, 21:02

    How they’ve escaped much attention in four years of subtly illumining the New York underground is beyond me, but the sounds of Brooklyn’s Au Revoir Simone are really something to behold.

    Slender and graceful looking, the three girls that make up the band could easily populate the pages of Vogue, but here is a photogenic magic tied in with truly sentimental poetry. Beautiful electronic flourishes and subtle tempos lay behind Erika Foster’s gently melancholic vocals, and the myth that great female beauty causes a) madness or b) vacuousness is consummately slain.

    Simone’s second LP, The Bird of Music (Moshi Moshi), rises and falls with dulcet profundity. Feminine beauty and poetic substance, electronic music was made for it…
    Au Revoir Simone
  • Idlewild

    12. Mär. 2007, 20:58

    When the hell did Idlewild become uncool? Mentioning them to some new Pop upstarts recently and the doubtful frowns kind of took me aback. I stood up to them though, matriculating the fact that Woomble and the boys have always been merely on the borders of super-success, never really crossing them because they weren’t careerist mercenaries.

    Idlewild’s evolution from poet-punk upstarts to spectral pop purveyors in the mist of heady industry acclaim is a story of blinding integrity. So many paths beckoned with pound signs, and after refining their sound to a swooning T on Warnings/Promises Woomble scampers off to forage deep into his roots and make a beautiful folk album!

    Now the band are back with a track that parps along in the same wistful kind of glory as Warnings’ leading tracks, Woomble informing it with his quintessential riddly garble. Place it between a twisting ballad and a full throttle angular punk blast on an LP, or between My Chemical Romance and The Kooks on daytime MTV2, and it’ll glow like a beacon.

    Undoubtedly one our greatest successful bands, it’s good to have Idlewild back and firing. Idlewild
  • Achtung Bono

    22. Feb. 2007, 17:29

    Apologies for a tragic lack of alacrity, but, wow, how good is the latest album from Half Man Half Biscuit?

    Turning days of light drizzle into torrents of heavy rain, it’s a fantastic sounding monster of pensive observation (“I can find my way home from Sierra Leone but I’m lost without an inside pocket” / “Keeper, you’ve just made a decent save, so why do you feel the need to rant and rave?” / “We all knew someone at school who had a very powerful magnet”) and random hilarity (“it fills me with joy to see moshers out jogging” / “Oh help me Mrs Meddlicot I don’t know what to do, I’ve only got three bullets and there’s four of Motley Crew”).