Honestly, I just can’t see why everyone is so hung up on the Nineties all of a sudden.

Any decade where Pat Sharp and some twins are seen as appropriate children’s television can be tossed into the dustbin of history if you ask me. Yet despite my advice, more and more groups are switching on their fuzz pedals and rocking out like it was 1991 all over again.

Responsible for the first wave of deodorant dodging grunge types, J Mascis has responded by unplugging his guitar – the grouch that he is. Releasing a new acoustic album, the Dinosaur Jr kingpin is among the artists rated in the latest ClashMusic singles round up.

Elsewhere, Oxford newcomers Trophy Wife continue to impress while Chilly Gonzales returns with some bonkers disco-house. However it’s a chap from Wolverhampton of all places who impresses the most…

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Single Of The Week

Bibio – Excuses

Dogged with labels – folktronica, hypnagogic pop – Bibio has at times struggled to find his own identity. 2009’s ‘Ambivalence Avenue’ was a breakthrough, hinting at an emerging pop sensibility. Returning with a new album, the first glimpse from said ling player is ‘Excuses’. A far from straight-forward return, the track is nonetheless one of Bibio’s finest achievements to date. The production is impeccable, matching a mournful opening passage to a glitchy, kaleidoscopic climax. Yet the two moods interweave effortlessly, with Bibio really seeming to find his stride. Another step forwards for the producer, ‘Excuses’ is the sound of Bibio coming into his own.

Bibio – Excuses

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And the rest…

Trophy Wife – The Quiet Earth
After the chaotic press scramble caused by their debut single ‘Microlite’ Trophy Wife were always going to struggle with a follow up. The Oxford band’s latest cut ‘The Quiet Earth’ is nowhere near as immediate as their debut, but it’s soundscapes are just as impressive. Swapping their pop touch for something deeper, ‘The Quiet Earth’ replaces immediacy with a rather more mature approach which hints at great things from their approaching full length.

Chilly Gonzales – You Can Dance
The ever-buoyant Chilly Gonzales returns with another blast of disco pop. Splitting opinions last year, Chilly Gonzales can at times seem throwaway. However there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of good humour from time to time, especially is its done with a charming wink and a nod. ‘You Can Dance’ will never win over the detractors, but with the Spring sun coming out its perhaps time to drop a few of those reservations and get a little Chilly into your life.

Pangaea – Inna Daze / Won’t Hurt
Perhaps best known as the co-owner of Hessle Audio, Pangaea has been responsible for some deeply soulful dubstep cuts. The Gladys Knight sampling ‘Memories’ made his name, before last year’s double pack established him as one of the finest young producers around. Opening 2011 with a new twelve inch, ‘Inna Daze / Won’t Hurt’ demonstrate two different sides to his persona. Ever flexible, no matter how lairy he gets there is always an innate sense of melancholy to draw you in further.

Dutch Uncles – Face In
Now signed to Memphis Industries, Dutch Uncles have become more focussed. The Manchester band’s cerebral indie remains, but there is a growing subtlety. ‘Face In’ is far from the most the immediate thing the band has put their name to, but the track’s glorious sonics still impress. Repeated listens reveal traces of post-punk beneath the shimmering guitars, raising hopes ever higher for their forthcoming debut album proper.

Face In by Dutch Uncles

J Mascis – Not Enough
The fuss over J Mascis turning acoustic just demonstrates the esteem in which he is held. It also demonstrates his contrary streak, with the grunge pioneer reaching for his twelve string the minute young hipsters start donning plaid shirts and switching on their fuzz pedal. ‘Not Enough’ is as you would expect, with Mascis’ drawl to the fore. By his standards hardly reaching for the stars, this is nonetheless perfect slacker fare. Except unplugged, y’all.

Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From A Young Man
Missing out on a Top 40 placing with ‘Some Kind Of Nothingness’ Manic Street Preachers ended a stunning run of hit singles. Release after release broke into the charts, forcing some bizarre pop culture moments – ‘Faster’ anyone? The title track of their epic, reinvigorated set ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ is as good a point as any to begin a new run of hit singles. Not drowning but waving.

Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From A Young Man

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‘Big Papa’ aka, Philip Green unveiled an elegant, refined collection for Topman Design. The show conjured a 50’s Parisian mood for this year’s Autumn Winter collection. Elegant suiting was paired with thin, patterned neck ties, round neck sweaters and faux fur stoles. There was lots of heavy tweed – a clear trend for menswear this year. Printed shirts were very retro and trousers were high waisted, clinched at the back worn with heavy, buckled belts. Styling was simple yet effective, the silk neck scarves and small hoop earrings added a roguish flair. Jaquared evening suits were worn over white waistcoats, it was decadent and luxurious yet still very wearable. Models strolled out to the sounds of Chapel Club’s, ‘Surfacing’ and Django Django’s, ‘WOR’. Romance and rebellion coalesce and result in a dandified rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic.

Words by Camiila Felici

It’s at the point when Tim Harrington is suspended upside down from a balcony by his legs, with only a few fans keeping his head and a ten foot drop becoming friends, that you realise Les Savy Fav are not like most bands. Everyone who comes to New York’s wildest knows this though, it’s what makes seeing Les Savy Fav so alluring. In the course of tonight’s show, Harrington goes on to surf through the crowd on a bench, dress as assorted members of The Village People and give sweaty bear hugs to those who want them and some who don’t.

If Harrington is a force of nature then his band are the sturdy foundations who stay strong when he gets wild. Les Savy Fav have reached a point now that just the opening chords of a song like ‘Raging In The Plague Age’ send the audience wild. Elsewhere, the scatter-gun barking of ‘Appetites’ whets the proverbial early on but it is material from the bands 2007 album ‘Let’s Stay Friends’ that really gets the party started. ‘The Equestrian’ sees Harrington climb from the aforementioned bench up to the soon to be hung from balcony, never missing a beat as he barks the words directly into the faces of those gathered around him. As he makes his way back onto the stage, that fourth wall of reality restored, the party tones of ‘Patty Lee’ kick out and Les Savy Fav go from snarling to shimmying in one fell swoop.

The band can however be hoisted by their own petard. Half way through this evening’s set they throw out what must be thousands of neon glo-sticks into the crowd. Flashbacks to 2007 aside, what follows is that the sticks are then thrown back at the band for a good twenty minutes, at one point drummer Harrison Haynes has to remove his cymbal to protect his face from an onslaught of nu-rave memories. It feels curmudgeonly to criticise a band for doing something different but Les Savy Fav’s songs are so good that sometimes it would be nice for them to play it straight and dial down the wackiness a little.

A delve into their back catalogue does the trick however with Harrington and co slamming the crowd with both ‘Who Rocks The Party’ and ‘The Sweat Descends’. Never before have two song titles so perfectly told the story of this unmissable live band. We just pity whoever has to clean up after them.

Words by David Renshaw
Photo by Sakura – http://rockphotographer.net

Alessi’s Ark are set to release their new album ‘Time Travel’ through Bella Union on April 25th.

Real name Alessi Laurent-Marke, Alessi’s Ark have a real independent streak. Not yet 21 the songwriter has already turned her back on Virgin, choosing to depart for the more relaxed climes of Bella Union.

Signing with the celebrated indie, last year’s ‘Soul Proprietor’ EP saw Alessi’s Ark move forwards. Maturing with every release, her plaintive acoustic styles now have a renewed confidence.

Heading straight back into the recording studio, sessions were split between Brighton and Wales. Deliberately secluding herself, Alessi’s Ark focussed so much on songwriting that time seemed to fly by.

“In Brighton, we did 12 hour days and had no idea what was going on in the outside world. In Wales, there was no phone signal, and it felt far away from everything” she explains.

Check out the new track ‘Wire’ below…

Alessi’s Ark – Wire by Bella Union

Due to be released on April 25th, Alessi’s Ark will follow ‘Time Travel’ with a series of British shows. Opening on May 18th in Oxford the tour continues with shows in Cambridge, Leeds and more.

Playing the Bella Union showcase at Liverpool Sound City, Alessi’s Ark are due to play London’s Bush Hall on May 26th.

Tickets are on sale now.

Alessi’s Ark are set to play the following shows:

May
18 Oxford Jericho Tavern
19 Cambridge The Haymakers
20 Leeds Brudenel Social Club
21 Liverpool OId Bombed Out Church
23 Glasgow Captain’s Rest
24 Birmingham Hare & Hounds
26 London Bush Hall
27 Brighton Green Door Store

Click here to buy tickets for Alessi’s Ark!

The gods had slung a star carpet over the peaks of Chamonix and the temperature was so overdrawn it was gonna get a letter from the bank. It was the kind of cold that makes it painful to walk further than 200 metres, that excites deep wells of energy once relieved within a warm space with large drinks and music, perfect then, for the purposes of Winter Sessions’ warm-up gig at The Podium in Chamonix.

It was Clash’s first time in Chamonix, yet sophomore fears were eased by a kind friend, George, who had spent a season getting her gnarl on and retained a tight group of friends; it was thence that we headed, to a warm up house party full accommodating skiers offering up stubbies and a warmer welcome then this London-twisted scribe had received in a while.

It was onto The Podium, for a line up that had Chamonix buzzing for some time: the MBE, The Kiss FM cavalier, the Rare Groove Godfather Norman Jay was representing on the platters that matter, alongside Chamonix notoriety G-FUNK, local DMC champion DJ Skillz and Ninja Tune associate DJ Flo. Room two saw DJing from Joe Volpiere and Corin.

The room was gearing up prematurely for Valentine’s Day with cut-out hearts and camo netting whilst DJ Skillz cut up a mix of house to amp up an already refreshed crowd. More needle abuse than a Glasgow YMCA followed with Skillz dropping Dead Prez’s ‘Hip Hop’ and later segueing in with the excellent Costello Girl’s ‘Speak Louder[Donique remix]’.

G-FUNK appeared soon after to reception sweeter than French vanilla butter pecan chocolate deluxe from the Chamonix crew, dropping Lords of the Underground cult cut ‘Funky Child’, some Gangstarr, Pharaoh Monch, chain jigging above the shirt of the New York skyline as he bounced to the byline and…..! pulled a fade-away jumper with one second on the clock: La Saga by IAM! This cut features soldiers from the Wu-Tang army, straight New York devilry laced with bled-muffled verlang of the south of France ‘From Medina to Marseille’!

This gave Norman Jay some serious boots to fill, and he amply and promptly complied. Jay’s set varied wildly and assuredly from Paradise Garage-era funk to Native Tongues New York hip hop, to the most unexpected and wildly unpredictable twist of the night – Norman’s predilection for skid mark-dutty jungle! Ragga-sampled amen breaking stormers came thick and fast, the raving faithful not so much having ‘Good Times’ so much as having a aneurism.

All that was left for Clash to do was to walk through what seemed to resemble nitro glycerine but was later found to be the night air, back to board and bed, via a baking factory which kindly catered towards non-wholesale clients. Best night of the year, all year.

Words by Miguel Cullen
Photo by Alice Skinner

Discodeine’s music is rooted so deeply in the heart of house euphoria that this album is essentially a lesson for all the blog-clogging fakers in how to build atmosphere and drop the tension at exactly the right moment.

Unfortunately, large sections of the record can also feel quite dry, as if you are being shown a textbook example of something great as opposed to the 3D reality. Guest vocalist Baxter Dury charms fleetingly on ‘D-A’, but it is left to Jarvis Cocker to save the day, expertly turning his indie geek-chic into dancefloor maestro on the massive ‘Synchronize’.

6/10

Words by DAVID RENSHAW

Staff Benda Bilili are set to return to the UK for a series of very rare live shows later this year.

Hailing from Congo, Staff Benda Bilili are one of the most unusual groups on the planet. A band of disabled musicians, the collective began performing music as it was one of the few ways they could earn a living.

Drawn to each other through a shared set of circumstances, Staff Benga Bilili would play almost constantly. As a result the group developed its own bizarre musical language which is difficult to define.

Rhythmically, Staff Benda Bilili recall African music but with a definite rock touch. Using specially adapted instruments, the mind expanding sounds at times drift into psychedelic territories.

Directed by Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye, a film made about the band named ‘Benda Bilili’ triumphed at the Cannes Film Festival last year, with a nationwide release due next month.

Set to open on March 18th, the film will be accompanied by a series of tour dates. Staff Benda Bilili are a truly unique group, with this representing a rare chance to catch the African collective in action.

Opening in Gateshead on May 12th, the tour continues in Birmingham, Norwich, Bury St Edmunds and more. Reaching London’s historic Roundhouse venue on May 15th, the show is one of the band’s largest to date.

Ending in Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on May 21st, tickets for the tour are set to go on sale shortly.

Staff Benda Bilili are due to play the following shows:

May
12 Gateshead The Sage
14 Birmingham Town Hall
15 London Roundhouse
18 Norwich Theatre Royal
19 Bury St Edmunds
20 Bristol Colston Hall
21 Manchester Bridgewater Hall

Click here to buy tickets for Staff Benda Bilili!

Crystal Stilts are set to release their new single ‘Through The Floor’ on British imprint Fortuna POP!.

Hailing from Brooklyn, Crystal Stilts were amongst the first shoegaze outfits to come crawling out of Williamsburg. In love with classic indie, their shambolic style belied a tender and often sophisticated songwriting style.

Sure, the ghosts of Ride and My Bloody Valentine were there but a clear love for Flying Nun was also on display. Skeletal, delicate sonic structures Crystal Stilts were rewarded with widespread acclaim.

Completing work on their second album, Crystal Stilts are set to release ‘In Love With Oblivion’ later this year. Taken from the new LP, future single ‘Through The Floor’ is a pounding return from the Brooklyn crew.

Due to be released as a digital download, Crystal Stilts have teamed up with Fortuna POP! for the single. The cult British imprint is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary with a series of special events.

Recently hosting a series of shows in London, Fortuna POP! have arranged shows for throughout the year. The label are pushing outwards, signing acts who regard them as an influence.

Releasing a single from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, the imprint is now set to turn its sights on Crystal Stilts. Tinged by 50s pop, ‘Through The Floor’ retains the fuzzed up glamour of their debut.

The band touch on psychedelia, with the unhinged fuzz erupting from their guitars. Lasting for just two and a half minutes, Crystal Stilts prove that they may have matured but they still love brevity.

The second track to be taken from their upcoming album, Crystal Stilts recently released the free download track ‘Practically Immaculate’ on their website.

Crystal Stilts are set to release ‘Through The Floor’ on March 28th.

Read on for Clash’s pick of our ultimate international independant boutiques. The very best in fashion finds from London, Tokyo, New York and Portland.

LN-CC

The original idea behind the London based LN-CC project was to create an all-encompassing world, combining the roots of traditional retail twinned with the progressive nature of the online boom. They wanted to achieve this in a way that has never been done before and that will, hopefully, never be subsequently bettered. LN-CC have covered every single product arena that is important to them and subsequently their devoted followers – from independent publishing to high-brand fashion – packaging these in the most discerning and wellconsidered shell possible.

From the products through to the Gary Card-designed ‘concept store’ aesthetic, website and the people who contribute to the project, they have not compromised on one single element of this idea. And that level of quality and integrity truly shows in what they are now presenting on London’s Shacklewell Lane.

This is essentially a platform for the audience to experience and engage with. “We don’t care if you come here but don’t actually buy anything,” they tell Clash. “We are happy for you to take whatever you want from this, whether it be product, information or knowledge.” Truly inspirational shopping.

LN-CC, 18-24 Shacklewell Lane, London E8 2EZ
For an appointment call: 0203 174 0736

Stand Up Comedy

Stand Up Comedy is a shop for clothing, printed matter and objects. Its interest lies in content as a form of inquiry, rather than of a specific aesthetic. Its method is one of “decentering a standard shopping experience”. Its structure is made up of default rules. Its output is variable and relational. Its name is reference to a strategy for looking at the world we live in now. The modest layout of the shop and website can be a shock to the senses in the best possible way, especially when one is used to flashier showcases for designer items – from Acne to Maison Martin Margiela.

“Neither of us particularly enjoys fashion but we are interested in style and its interpretation through product,” admits Diana Kim, who, along with business partner, Rachel Silberstein, opened Portland boutique Stand Up Comedy nearly two years ago. “We’re both interested in the absurd, so the name and the shop are a kind of challenge to ourselves, to remember,” Kim says. “We love comedy and stand up especially and are interested in its practice as a way of looking at the world we live in now… To laugh is to be on the edge of crying, right? The intangible quality that exists in between those two impulses feel very subversive. It’s like, what if you had an idea but no words to express it? That’s why the shop exists.”

Stand Up Comedy
811 E Burnside Street, Portland, Oregon
Tel: 503.233.3382
www.shopstandingup .us

Candy

Tokyo is famous for its maze-like streets and tiny stores, but the Shibuya district’s Candy brings a whole new meaning to the words obscure and independent. Candy greets customers with overwhelming, sartorially artistic pieces by uber-underground designers like Junya Suzuki and Balmung that would ping and flash on Lady Gaga’s fashion radar. Upstairs is its off-shoot store ‘Sister’ that goes a little bit more girly, if you consider surrealist banana and mesh headpieces girly.

They used to be tucked below ground in Shinjuku’s 2-chome district until April 1st 2010 when they joined the ranks in the heart of Shibuya in one location. That doesn’t mean they’re not off the beaten track, as they sit in an alleyway behind Loft that even I hadn’t known to exist until I was forced to search for it.

Candy publicist Shogo Yanagi said: “We moved to Shibuya but we purposely chose this secluded atmosphere. There’s a lot of scary stuff that goes on on this little street, and I wouldn’t recommend hanging out further on down,” he added, only half-jokingly.

Candy
Udagawa-cho 18-4, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03 5456 9891
ww.candy-nipon.com

OHWOW

Drawing inspiration from stepping patterns commonly found in Navajo blankets, Rafael de Cárdenas constructed the new retail space for OHWOW in the summer of 2010. The OHWOW store is located below street level in a landmarked historic brownstone on Waverly Place. At 150sq ft, this pocketsized store was conceived by de Cárdenas to echo a classic black and white, pre-war NYC bathroom. Its shelving units appear stacked one atop the other and the negative space behind the shelves lends a floating sensation. A layered pattern of streamlined brushstrokes on the walls, coupled with reflective angular mylar shapes and sharp fluorescent lighting give the space a sense of disorientation and chaos, fitting in OHWOW’s vision of creating a heterotopic arena for cultural projects.

OHWOW, established in 2008 by Al Moran and Aaron Bondaroff, is a hybridized operation – a gallery, a publisher, and an ongoing project – largely meant to be undefined. Through collaborations with various creative sectors, OHWOW becomes a cultural amalgam and an artistic incubator.

Rather than being location specific, OHWOW prefers to maintain a ubiquitous image. By arriving in different cities, at various times of the year, using myriad methods, OHWOW aims to disseminate its vision and identity globally without restriction.

OHWOW
227 Waverly Place, New York
Tel: 646.370.5847
www.oh-wow.com

Compiled by Rob Meyers

Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello has joined ongoing protests in Wisconsin.

Rage Against The Machine reformed in 2007, apparently as a response to increasing conservatism in American society. Playing a series of titanic shows, the band were as outspoken as ever.

Playing a one off show last year, Rage Against The Machine are now apparently on hiatus. However the band’s main songwriting team have not lost their thirst for activism, with both Zach de la Rocha and Tom Morello joining recent projects.

The pair united to condemn the treatment of workers in a South Korean guitar factory, while Tom Morello went it alone in order to join protests in Wisconsin. The state is aiming to impose new legislation, which some claim is anti-trade union.

Speaking to SpinnerMusic, Tom Morello revealed the reasons behind his decision to join the protests. “I was asked to go to Madison by the individual workers and more than one union, to come and play and energize people on the street and the kids in the capitol,” he explained.

The guitarist has worked tirelessly for left wing causes in the United States, often travelling long distances at his own expense. Continuing, Tom Morello described the scenes in Wisconsin.

“I was so inspired by what I saw in the streets and in the capitol building, the students of Madison, Wis. have occupied the state capitol and they’re not giving it back,” he said.

“There are plenty of students there, but these are firemen and policemen. It’s like it’s every stripe, every creed, every color, there are kids, there are religious groups, there are teachers, old hippies, they were very militant and wound up and it was very exciting.”

With Rage Against The Machine taking a break, Tom Morello has focussed on a number of collaborative projects. Street Sweeper Social Club toured in 2007, while the guitarist also released an album of folk influenced material under the Nightwatchman moniker.