Having formed after a midnight jaunt to a renowned art gallery, (whatever happened to the Barfly?..) it was always evident Saturation Point were going to have a little more going on that mere 3 chord pop singles. So much so they’ve decided to write four albums in twelve months, handily titled ‘One’, ‘Two’, ‘Three’… you get the picture.
‘Three’ finds them in their dark place, a menacing, prog mountain of post-rock riffs and desert crawling psychedelica (‘Three Point Two’). But it’s the spaced dynamics and layering guitars that really overwhelm, bringing to mind a liquor doused polyrhythmic missile being fired into a Marshall Stack. Forget regimented song structure or even a chorus for that matter (no vocals here, folks) – this is mile high amp debauchery, like Battles if they’d got an F- for mathematics at high school. When ‘Three Point Four’ culminates in an apocalyptic choir of shredding guitar clatter, It’s a fittingly thunderous finale to progressive post-rock fans’ new must have album.
Episode 2 – Sir Paul McCartney
Starting things off with a two parter, Macca discusses his legacy, The Beatles’ quality control and highly sensitive pretension meter, his method for dealing with overzealous fans, why Sgt Peppers was his baby, and even gives a generous insight into the songwriting process with an exclusive example.
Life-long Beatles fan and Clash Editor, Simon Harper, met Sir Paul armed with pages of questions and challenged him to justify his place as the magazine’s cover star. Paul responded with his usual charm, modesty and one of the most revealing interviews in years.
No-one really every asked for electro-pop-folk, and yet somehow, first with Get Cape and now Passenger, it has become part of the musical landscape. Hence the lightweight hooks, paper-thin melodies and insipid vocals that weighs down this album.
Driving force Mike Rosenberg is obviously a talented songwriter, and still only 22, but the bland vocal delivery and some incongruous moments, including the frankly creepy stalking jaunt ‘Walk You Home’ turn adequate songs into three-minute trudges.
There are bright spells; the title track at least corrals the band’s talents into one place and ‘For You’ shows a willingness to experiment, but by and large the impact is negligible, and even the relatively short 40 minutes of this record fail to hold the attention . This album is reaching out to be embraced, to be cuddled by all, but ultimately it isn’t cute or clever enough to take into your arms.
Sigmatropic is the chosen monikor of musician/producer Akis Boyatzis, a man with quite a musical history in his native Greece. The first Sigmatropic long player ‘16 Haiku and Other Stories’ featured a diverse and rather impressive line up of 18 guests including Cat Power, Robert Wyatt and Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo.
This new album ‘Dark Outside’ also features a number of guest vocalists but on a slightly less ambitious scale to it’s predecessor. Robert Fisher of Grant Willard Conspiracy lends his baritone to two tracks, while Howe Gelb, Carla Torgerson of the Walkabouts and Jim Sclavunos of the Bad Seeds and Grinderman each lead up one track a piece. New addition to the core band Anna Karakalou shares vocals with Boyatkis on the remaining tracks, her breathy sensual delivery complimenting his droll, intense, semi-spoken manner. The overall mood blends breezy Mediterranean touches with atmospheric scope to create a timeless sound not unlike the Blue Nile or late period Talk Talk. The album supplies a complete world for the listener to discover as it slowly and languidly unfurls across it’s near hour long duration. A welcome release from an unlikely quarter, it’s refined, sophisticated nature will appeal to the more discerning listener.
In the cut throat world of MC-ing, Skilf is a man who has paid his dues. From teenage days distributing flyers and selling tickets, he has grown from humble roots to present this full length debut album.
Originally a Garage MC, Skilf spread his wings into Drum’n’Bass before finding his forte within the lyrical freedom of Hip Hop. The move also coinciding with his increasingly regular forays into the recording studio. The permanent nature of recorded material necessitating clarity and depth of lyrics over Drum’n’Bass’ furious ‘of the moment’ flow. Now resident at two of Brighton’s biggest nights, Blaze and Dub Pressure, Skilf has supported and so witnessed some class acts (including Ghostface Killer) and has clearly been taking notes. This debut takes in all stops on his musical journey so far from the hook laden ‘Rain Rain’ to the Grime fury of title track ‘Original Visions’. An exciting talent breaking barriers with his own agenda.
Personality Clash: Swayzak Versus Troy Pierce
Two gargantuan figures in the world of dance music; Swayzak are one of the most consistent dance acts on the long running !K7 label. This duo forming in London harboured their secret yet burgeoning talents for what seemed like for too long.
Eventually after friends badgered them they self released an EP and the dance community literally swallowed them up. 1998’s ‘Snowboarding in Argentina’ was voted 1998’s best dance LP by the US electronic bible Mixer and ever since James Taylor and David Brown have been touring their lush dance edge.
Troy Pierce; a relative new comer has made fast impact with forging a wide niche on techno’s almost sacred minimal label – Minus – making him not only the envy of many of his peers but a massive pull in his adopted home of Berlin.
Two gargantuan figures in the world of dance music
Clash pitched them together to find out what they had been up to…..
Swayzak : We met at Fabric one evening when we were both playing, I was very impressed with your live show and you concentration levels! You seemed very serious when playing. Was it nerves or are you always like that?
Troy Pierce : Fabric was a great night; that was one of the rare Louderbach live gigs. I’m pretty much always like that whether it’s a live or DJ gig. I stopped getting nervous after Sonar three years ago. Magda and I were DJing together at the Sonar by night venue – the outside one with no roof. It was so amazing but so nerve racking. The guy before us – who shall remain nameless (but HE knows who he is!!!) – was playing so hard and fast and this was like at 11pm. It was a ‘Minus’ stage with Marc Houle, Mathew Jonson and Rich (Hawtin) playing after us. We had done a sound check in the afternoon setting up all of our gear – separate mixers, samplers, tons of stuff – and when we arrived later – to pounding techno – this guy had changed the mixer, and unplugged all of our gear. When he finished, we plugged our stuff back in and the power on the stage went out. Just Magda and I on stage (with my mom in the corner) oh, and 10,000 people in front of us… Then we just got on with it and had one of the best parties ever… Nerves went and never came back… I have never been a ‘hands in the air’ jump around DJ, I’m always doing too much other stuff, loops effects, no time to wave a record sleeve in the air.
Swayzak : I enjoy the underline label and minus releases too but louderbach is my fave! Do you have a fave Swayzak track (better not say no!!)
Troy Pierce : Of course… top three…
1. Ping pong – when this track came out, it was so unique, so stripped down and simple. It really made a lasting impression on me (such a bomb, I still play it)
2. Make up your mind
3. State of disgrace (but the headgear remix, does that still count?)
Swayzak : You seem to dress in dark in all your images, are you a goth ? Or do you like the current trend for dayglo colours ?
Troy Pierce : Depends on your definition of a Goth… I don’t smoke clove cigarettes (all Goths where I am from in Indiana smoke cloves, these awful smelling little brown cigarettes) but I love Bauhaus. Dayglo, please. Turns my stomach.
Swayzak : I got a white label of Depeche Mode bootlegs, really rocking when I play it! Was this you? Is it bootleg or did you get clearance ?
Troy Pierce : It was me actually. It was an official remix from Mute that I did along with Ricardo, Heartthrob and a few others. But it was sent out only as a DJ promo CD. So I guess some genius decided to press it, bastards. I bought my only copy in Japan.
Swayzak : What was your first band? First band I ever saw was Joy Division, it changed my life though I was only 12.
Troy Pierce : I think the first band I ever saw was Journey… with my mom when I was 12/13. Didn’t really change much in my life. They just played typical American rock ballads. I don’t really remember being wowed by any bands until Danzig, what a bad-ass band… Ooooo moootha!!!!
Swayzak : When we met you mentioned our older tracks, we released on minus way back in 1999, what were you doing then ?
Troy Pierce : I lived in New York from 94 – 04 and studied photography from 94 – 97. I was always buying records and started playing out at small parties in 95/96. There were quite a few really good shops there with great records. We mostly played in small bars or did our own private parties at lofts in Brooklyn.
Swayzak : Everyone thinks we have glamorous lives, I don’t (anymore) but do you? Perhaps a drink in the Ritz? Speedboats and villas in Ibiza?
Troy Pierce : Depends I guess, is hanging out with Magda glamorous? Some might think so. Last Sunday we ate pizza and watched Norbit (a movie with Eddie Murphy where he plays most of the characters – super funny) in our hotel in Romania, how glamorous is that?
Swayzak : You lived with Magda, and Konrad (Todd) black in Berlin, who did the washing up? I bet it wasn’t Todd !!!
Troy Pierce : We pretty much all took care of our own knickers.
Swayzak : I live in London where its jolly damned expensive, you lived in New Yoik, similar expense! but cheap pizza! Do you think Berlin helps in your career or would you like to move to say Scunthorpe or more cutting edge places ?
Troy Pierce : Berlin is perfect for me. When I was in New York I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. But once I moved here it all made sense. I couldn’t have made the music I have made here, in New York. Too many distractions, too many friends. In Berlin I am a little bit of a recluse, I rarely go out here. I have a lot of friends in the city but we are all doing the same thing which means studio/gigs all the time.
Swayzak : My mum says our music is good, do I believe her? What do your folks say?
Troy Pierce : Remember the crappy drawings you did when you were 7? Yeah, straight up on the fridge gallery. My mom likes my stuff, she loved ‘25 Bitches’ when she heard it, thought it was hilarious. My dad on the other hand, I am not really sure if has ever listened to anything, he is really into country music and thinks he won’t get it so he doesn’t listen I think. He says he does but when asked for a favorite… um… all.
Swayzak : You mentioned before she was at the Sonar gig – does your mum come to a lot of your gigs?
Troy Pierce : She has come to a few, the last being my birthday party in Berlin. she stayed until 3am or so. She was so happy when i started playing because, as she put it “everyone was screaming when you started to play”. Luckily when I crawled home at 4pm the next day she was out to lunch.
Swayzak : What would you remix her for 500 euros? We all have a fave Madonna track apparently. Mine is ‘Borderline’, and I can visualize her now on Top of the Pops.
Troy Pierce : Flock of seagulls – ‘I Ran’ (I forced my “classic rock” guitar instructor to teach me, he must have been mortified) I would do that one for €500. Prince – ‘Little Red Corvette’, i would do that one for free!!!
Swayzak : I got the remixes you did of Cybotron on Juno. Very good (I prefer Troy mix) but whats the difference between Troy and Louderbach? Did you get two fees?
Troy Pierce : Louderbach vs Troy Pierce. Louderbach is a collaboration between myself and one of my best friends Gibby Miller. Louderbach is darker with more vocals (Gibby writes all the lyrics and sings). We came up with the term minimal gothic. All of our stuff is sad and about love or losing it. My solo stuff is a little more dancefloor oriented I guess but still a little dark. I am not really into much upbeat/happy stuff…. we only got one fee for that one which was okay with me, it was such an honor to be asked to remix that track, and they liked the Louderbach ‘cover’ version so we were super happy.
Swayzak : In the music business there are many sharks to watch out for, but we found Rich Hawtin to be the kindest label boss!!!! Does any shady music biz persona owe you money? would you like us to send our boys round ?
Troy Pierce : Totally!!! and they are probably just around the corner from you.
Swayzak : Ok, your favorite club and why? or show?
Troy Pierce : There are so many cool places it’s tough… Sonar 2006, on the beach with Matthew Dear was one of the most memorable gigs. The worst sound ever but one of the best parties. Hot chicks in bikini’s with cowboy boots frolicking in the sand. We ended up playing from 3-10 (Rich didn’t show up til 9:30) with people going totally crazy, rammed all the way to the water, the largest crowd I had ever seen at a Sonar beach party, it was amazing and so much fun.
Robert Wyatt Talks About His Forthcoming Album “Comicopera”
“Writing songs doesn’t come easily to me. Some people like Elvis Costello are right on it, these guys are natural songwriters, but I still feel like an intruder into someone else’s craft. I’ve always got loads of fragments of tunes, fragments and words and things I want to say, but bringing them all together into coherent little things called songs is another matter entirely.”
Robert Wyatt doesn’t churn out albums like other artists. In fact, it’s been four years since the release of his last long player, Cuckooland, whose inclusion on the Mercury Prize shortlist brought him to the attention of a wider and possibly younger audience. “Yeah, that was a bit of a surprise, but I was grateful to be nominated. I didn’t really know what it was to be honest, but I got to go to London, have a free meal at a big table and see some music. It was a really good night out.”
Now perennial indie champions Domino, home to the likes of Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys, are set to release Comicopera, Wyatt’s multi-lingual socio-political drama in three parts. It’s also one of the best records of the year so far.
“This album is an opera in the sense that it’s full of different characters,” explains the extremely affable Wyatt. “It’s not a grand opera of course, because I don’t have the technical skills to write grand opera . . . and I’m not grand.”
Despite Wyatt’s typically modest protestations, this album is full of clever thematic devices dealing with a vast range of issues, both political and personal. For instance, the concluding part of the opera (“Away With The Fairies”) is sung exclusively in Spanish and Italian and constitutes a definite statement of Wyatt’s disillusionment with Britain’s decidedly one sided “special relationship” with the United States and their joint jaunts around the globe.
“There’s a sense that I can just about get along with Englishness, but then when you link it up to the wider English-speaking world that’s when it gets to me. We are still doing that old Empire thing of going around the world, wagging our finger and trying to sort out Johnny Foreigner. But what exactly do we think our moral authority is based upon? I mean the United States is a wonderful place, but it’s founded upon the extermination of the indigenous population of an entire continent, plus slavery and the death penalty. It’s not a country whose foundation makes me think that they have all the answers.”
But Wyatt remains realistic about the potential world changing properties of his creations. “It’s not like I think I can make any difference, but if I am writing songs they need words and these are some of the things that are going on in my head, so they are going to come out in the tunes one way or another.”
Aside from the weighty matter of western imperialism, Comicopera also turns its attention to the minutiae of everyday life and Wyatt’s own relationship with England, such as the spoken word section that precedes “A Beautiful Peace” where Wyatt witnesses a litter of squashed rabbits whilst taking a country walk somewhere in rural Albion.
I mean the United States is a wonderful place, but it’s founded upon the extermination of the indigenous population of an entire continent…
“English walks are meant to be such wonderfully idyllic things, but I find them quite boring actually,” grumbles Wyatt. “Often what you see in our green and pleasant land is lots of squashed dead rabbits and thrown away food packets with chips spilling out of them, stuff like that. When people talk about country walks they seem to phase out reality, glorifying nature by looking at it through rose-tinted spectacles, but on the album I am simply saying that the reality of what I am seeing while I trudge along the road is this. It’s just a bit of reality.”
While Cuckooland bombarded the listener with its dizzying overload of musical information, Comicopera sees Wyatt strip things back, highlighting its rich melodies and complex themes with minimum fuss. The tender fragility of songs like “You You” and “A Beautiful War” would not have seemed out of place had they appeared on 1974’s magnificent Rock Bottom.
This pairing back was born of a new inclusive approach to song-writing that saw him work in greater conjunction with his collaborators, who this time around included Paul Weller, Brian Eno, vibraphonist Orphy Robinson, trombonist Annie Whitehead and, as ever, his wife Alfie Benge. “For the new album I worked more closely with the band in building up the tracks, rather than doing my usual thing of working stuff up on my own on the keyboard. I had to be much clearer, more specific and decisive about what I wanted the group to play,” explains Wyatt. “I wanted a leaner sound, one where you could actually hear the presence of the people playing the instruments.”
Wyatt’s creations are inherently personal artefacts; tiny bits of himself set to music and offered up for public consumption. It is small wonder that a self-confessed perfectionist with an acute eye for detail, who is essentially so private and even a little shy, is prepared to spend that little bit longer and extra effort on getting right the wonderful records with which he continues to gift us. “An album can’t be like flicking through a magazine”, he says. “It has to be a sustained thing, a specific state of mind and I’m the only one who can and must know what that should sound like.”
So, what does Robert Wyatt have planned for the near future? Will he begin work right away on another album, perhaps? Maybe he will change recent habits and put in the ground work for a gruelling touring schedule? No, it seems, nothing like that. “While I am working on a record I’m very blinkered, just concentrating on making sure that I get what I have to do right. But now I would very much like to take a break, read a few books and spend more time with the missus.
We’ve got some life to have at home, so we’re just going to take it easy for a bit. But I never plan ahead, so I don’t know what I am really going to do next,” a cheeky smile spreads across Wyatt’s bearded face. “I haven’t even decided if I want to do this for a living yet.”
Wyatt’s first album since the slightly disappointing, albeit Mercury nominated, Cuckooland sees him pairing things back and cutting loose with a lighter live feel, allowing his beautifully weary and quintessentially English set of pipes to take centre stage.
It begins with a triumvirate of tender love tunes. “Just As You Are”, has Wyatt in duet with Monica Vasconcelos, recalling classic Wyatt works like Rock Bottom and Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard, while “A Beautiful War” is an inspirational rallying cry to the eternal pessimist. But just as you think he’s delivered a straight ahead pop album along comes “Out of the Blue”, a chaotic account of a western military operation upon a civilian target, which dramatically changes the mood. Tellingly, for the duration of “Away With The Fairies”, the album’s final section, the terrain gets a little rougher, the chords conjuring darker and more ominous hues. It’s noticeable that Wyatt sings these final songs in Italian and Spanish, eschewing his native tongue, seemingly in protest against Anglo-American imperialism and the cultural wing which serves it. Comicopera is a fantastical journey and an endearingly coherent tri-lingual polemic. Mr Wyatt, you’ve done it again.
Following up the success of 2005’s ‘KC Rules O.K’, Kenny Anderson aka K.C may have travelled far and afield by now but what soon becomes apparent on opener ‘Leslie’ (“it wasn’t a particularly sunny day/ In Fife”) is that his songs are still deeply rooted in the midst of his homeland.
If ‘KC Rules..’ was often seeped in the d.i.y electronics administered by collaborators The Earlies, ‘Bombshell’ is a more direct, less quirky folk fare. Single ‘You’ve No Clue Do You’ is K.C at his upbeat, wry best: like a soul-strumming Eagles cruising the East Neuk in a beat up Cadillac, whilst ‘Church As A Witness’ recalls a dispute which occurred whilst KC was out cycling in Anstruther. It’s here KC has always triumphed, shimmering folk tales with a blissful disregard for rock n roll cliques or trends of the day-only this time it’s both bolder and at points bleaker, possibly making ‘Bombshell’ his best record so far. KC Rules?
You may well have noticed already but there are a hell of a lot of new bands around these days.
Differentiating between all those Maccabees and Fratellis must be pretty difficult for the casual observer, but every now and then an act turns up with that extra something special. They used to call it the x-factor, before Simon Cowell came along and flushed a perfectly good phrase down the toilet.
Whatever the terminology, Cajun Dance Party definitely have it. The youthful North London quintet have enjoyed a rise that can confidently be described as meteoric, even in the modern indie climate. Formed for a school battle-of-the-bands competition 18 months ago, they recorded a tune called ‘The Next Untouchables’ at their first demo session, which then went onto their MySpace page and, within a week, led to a flurry of phone calls from major labels itching to know more.
It eventually emerged as a limited 7” on Way Out West back in April and was widely regarded as an early Single of the Year contender, by everyone from seasoned rock hacks to the huge ‘underage’ audience who’ve pounced on them like brightly-coloured hyenas. The follow-up single, a violin-soaked anthem called ‘Amylase’ is, dare we say it, even better. So assured, in fact, that a huge swathe of serious rock fans will soon be lauding it, then wondering if they’re allowed to like it, what with the Dance Party being so young and all…
“That pisses me off,” says floppy-haired frontman Danny Blumberg, looking slightly bewildered in a trendy London gastropub. “An interviewer asked me that the other day – ‘I’m 30, should I be embarrassed to listen to your music?’ – but if that was the case then the only record he’d be able to listen to would be the Fratellis’ debut album, and that would be embarrassing. Every great record was probably written by someone under 30. We’re one year younger than Kate Nash, and no-one asks her that. Music’s for the ears, it’s not for, er, feeling our young flesh.”
One older chap who did take an early interest was Bernard Butler, who contacted the band in the midst of that initial flurry of label interest. A timely intervention it was too, as the former Suede guitarist and all-round indie legend ended up producing ‘Amylase’, which certainly has the sort of grand orchestral sweep you’d expect from a Butler production. He’s now working on their debut album too, and is directing operations in a labyrinth-like underground recording studio when Clash comes to spirit Danny away.
Also in attendance are Robbie Stern, Cajun’s classically-trained lead-guitarist, string-arranger and creative heart (the Bernard Butler, if you like); keyboardist Katie Freund, who also doubles as their sleeve model because “she just has amazing dresses”; and, always last, bassist Max Bloom and drummer Will Vignoles.
Actually multi-instrumentalist Max was instrumental in Cajun getting together, as he’s the link between Blumberg and Bloom, a friend of the former and schoolmate of the latter. When Bloom decided to put a band together for his in-school competition, Danny was the obvious choice as frontman. Well, he’d done a bit of singing.
“I’d always played the piano and sung and stuff, but I’d never written any songs before,” says Blumberg. “I feel quite lucky and privileged, because I’d never really wanted to be in a band – it’d be like me saying I wanted to play for Spurs without ever learning to play football. ‘The Next Untouchables’, that’s the first song I’d ever written in my life. I’d never really listened to much music in my life either.”
Music’s for the ears, it’s not for feeling our young flesh.
Prompted by Bloom, though, he’s been doing the knowledge in recent weeks, genning up on The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Syd Barrett in particular. Which is possibly a bit of a shame, as Blumberg’s fresh approach is clearly a pivotal part of the Cajun sound, when married to Bloom’s obvious rock nous. Thankfully they’ve an album’s worth of material already written (“we’ve held our best songs back”) and they’ll be in the studio with Butler throughout the summer, working on their debut album.
Throughout the summer holidays, to be specific, as they’ve all got a year of A-levels still to negotiate, before giving this music lark their undivided attention. Danny is actually attending the school that previously spawned another hot indie prospect, Les Incompetents, who also formed for a battle-of-the-bands competition, but split up at the height of the buzz as various members went off to university instead. So might Cajun do the same? Do they dream of their studies while strumming away in the studio?
“Not at all, absolutely not. At school I’m always thinking about the next gig, writing lyrics and stuff. I can’t wait to finish now, as this is what I want to put all my energy and time into. I think it’s more rewarding than anything at school – although I’m not saying that people shouldn’t go to school. The rest of the band, I don’t think the label would have signed us for however many albums we got signed for if we all weren’t totally committed.”
How many albums did they get signed for? “Well… more than two. It’s a big commitment, for all of us. We’re Cajun Dance Party and we have been from the start, we’ve never had a different line-up and we never will.”
And, as Blumberg observes during our amiable amble back to the studio later on, they already have a 15-year lead on the Fratellis. So there’s no need to rush.