Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Geisha - 'Thre' EP (Splatterkore Records, Free Download)

If you take pleasure in extremity, look no further. Geisha used to be one of the UK’s angriest, most intense noise-rock bands. Then their drummer quit and chief conspirator Anton (who I interviewed here) moved to Berlin – a situation that should probably have buried them. Well, nobody expected Geisha to come back with a set of wistful long-distance relationship songs, but ‘Thre’ is the sickest quartet of tunes they’ve ever produced. While the FX-stacked guitars and live drums have been replaced by gabba kicks and red hot synths, there’s no mistaking these punishing breakdowns and tortured off-mic screams for anyone else. They’ve simply found a brand new way of unleashing their beautiful brutality.

Blood Red Sounds rating 8/10

This review originally appeared in Venue.

Grab the EP here. Free download!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Various Artists: Worth The Weight - Bristol Dubstep Classics (Punch Drunk Records)

Like every bass loving resident of Bristol (is there any other kind?), I was gutted to hear that the city's best vinyl shop, Rooted Records, is about to close. It'll be a huge loss to the local scene. Luckily, Rooted's Tom 'Peverelist' Ford is going from strength to strength, and as the head of the fantastic Punch Drunk label he's just released the definitive document of Bristol's bass music scene in the dubstep years. Here's a short review of it I wrote for Venue, and if you ever need to get nostalgic, here's a download link to the great Bristol dubstep documentary 'Living Inside The Speaker', which includes scenes filmed at the shop.

These are vintage years for Bristol bass music, and you won’t find a better overview than 'Worth The Weight'. CD1 mines the thoughtful dubstep we’re known for worldwide, unearthing speakerbox-troubling gems from Appleblim, Headhunter, Jakes and Forsaken. CD2 gives a broader context, drawing a line from the soundsystem skank of Smith & Mighty’s (recently re-issued) classic ‘B-Line Fi Blow’ to the glitchy future garage of Hyetal and Shortstuff.

There’s no filler, but the highlights are Pinch’s scene-defining ‘Qawwali’, Peverelist’s exquisitely poised ‘Roll With The Punches’, and the dizzying MIDI symphonics of Joker’s ‘Stuck In The System’ and Guido’s ‘Orchestral Lab’. For the bass-curious, this is a one-stop education with sleevenotes to match. For committed steppers, it’s a timely recap of a breathlessly evolving scene. It's 100% essential, either way.

Blood Red Sounds rating 9/10

This review originally appeared in Venue.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Godspeed You! Black Emperor & Dead Rat Orchestra, Sunday 12th December @ Anson Rooms, Bristol )

It’s the night of ‘The X-Factor’ final, and a group of lads are yelling “Vote for One Direction!” as they drive past the Anson Rooms. Do they realise we’re waiting for the second coming of the Anti-Cowell? For tonight sees the return of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the world’s most passionately uncommercial rock band.

Inside, Colchester’s Dead Rat Orchestra get things started with a set of folky improv. One bloke plays violin solos, while his two associates fiddle with an oddball collection of whistles, bells, and what appears to be a meat cleaver being sharpened on a length of four-by-two. They’re an eccentric but charming bunch, and the sounds they make are varied enough to keep things interesting.

And so it comes to pass that the venue fills with disciples, and Godspeed return to reign for what, at times, feels like a thousand years. The projected backdrop reads “hope”, although the accompanying din – a black drone overlaid with grey noise – suggests despair. Ten minutes of that, and another ten of chugging space-rock, lead eventually to a money shot in which the band hijack an arabesque melody and – gorgeously – ride it into orbit. That they follow it with a part that sounds like a pompous film soundtrack, and a couple of gratuitous false endings, is a source of no little frustration. Half an hour in, is it unreasonable to suggest the first song might have gone on slightly too long?

It sets a pattern for the rest of the show. Sections of blistering intensity lead nowhere, and exquisite melodies give way to long, treacherous quests for the fourth chord. Sometimes they’re tight as hell. Sometimes they struggle to stay in time. They’re like an eight-piece human aerial, tuning in and out of greatness.

This review originally appeared in Venue.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Divided Circle - 'Nowhere’ EP (Lonely City Records)

Jon Rees was the songwriter in criminally overlooked indie-rockers The Sky Is Blue, while Krystian Taylor - who I interviewed here - is best known for the dark, atmospheric dubstep of Forensics. Their first release as The Divided Circle is one of the year’s most striking debuts. Contrasting Krys’s rueful baritone with Jon’s fragile, expressive tenor, the title track is a real heart-stopper. It sounds like Depeche Mode, re-imagined by Brian Eno, after five years immersed in the soundsystem techno of Basic Channel. If the other songs don’t quite match that improbable standard, they’re never less than well crafted – this is an EP of ambition and imagination that suggests the start of something special. File under ‘Essential Futurist Pop of 2010’, alongside the Darkstar album, and not a lot else.

Blood Red Sounds rating 7/10

This review originally appeared in Venue.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Bambikill - Arachne (self released EP)

Enchantingly packaged with a suitably creepy illustration of haunted woodland, this self-released EP is perfect for Hallowe'en.* The work of solo artist Christelle Rox, it consists of five heavily layered and processed guitar pieces, all of them apparently summoned from the darkest nooks of their author's mind. Drones are droned, strings are bowed, and spindly melodies career into the night sky on broomsticks of analogue delay. At a little under twenty minutes, ‘Arachne’ is just long enough to get under your skin, and best enjoyed as a single composition, with the eastern-flavoured ‘Forest Mantra’ and ‘Wolf’s Milk’ at its densely woven, trance-like centre. As the closing lullaby ‘The Eagle With The Sunlit Eye’ ebbs away, the listener’s left feeling as strung out as De Quincey after an unexpectedly torrid date with the poppy. Bambikill’s grown-up fairy tale soundtracks are compellingly weird, and weirdly compelling.

Blood Red Sounds rating 7/10

This review originally appeared in Venue magazine.

*I wrote this about a month ago. It made sense at the time. A Bambikill isn't just for Hallowe'en.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Subloaded 6th Birthday. Friday 29th October @ Motion Ramp Park, Bristol.

Subloaded isn’t just a club night - it’s part of dubstep history.

When Pinch staged the first one in 2004, this music was the preserve of a small clique around FWD>> and the Big Apple record shop in Croydon. The early Subloaded dances triggered an explosion of local creativity, and within two years dubstep was a global movement, with Bristol rountely referred to as its "second city". Subloaded is where we started, then. Is it still where we're at?

After a typically modest, musically inclusive warmup from Peverelist, the answer comes from Digital Mystikz, as the night’s first plunging bass drop unleashes the sound system’s weight. If you’ve never heard dubstep at battle volume, you’ve never really heard it at all. There’s nothing like the physical shock of this music through a serious PA, and this one is serious. It shakes your teeth, your bones, the fabric of the building. It sucks air from your windpipe, and inhibitions from your mind. Within seconds, the head-nodding is consigned to history.

Brixton’s Digital Mystikz [pictured left, with Loefah] work a ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine that sums up the genre’s contradictions. In theory, Mala’s hypnotic percussion and psychoactive subs explore dubstep’s reflective side, while Coki’s doomy horns and cocky, abrasive synth riffs channel its aggression. In practice, they’re two halves of the same unstable personality.

Ice well and truly broken, fellow DMZ man Loefah steps back from the abyss, and steers a course between the extremes, riding the tension.
Heavy on material from his fine Swamp 81 label, it’s the most satisfying selection so far. Stripped down and austere, but with pain-staking attention to detail, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Loefah – after all, his own bass sound is the only man-made structure visible from space.

As always, Bristol receives Pinch rapturously, and as always he earns it. His style is less minimal than Loefah’s, but no less powerful for it. Tribal drum patterns and eerie half-melodies add colour and texture, but they don’t soften the blow - the pressure barely drops for a second.

Dubstep isn’t the only music on offer tonight. There’s a rootsy vibe in the tunnel, peaking with a live PA from men-of-the-moment Dubkasm, while Dub Boy and Atki 2’s karnival house (or is it UK Funky?) brings rays of tropical sunshine to the cave. Even the main room lets off steam eventually, as Metalheadz legend Doc Scott tears off a spectacular string of 90s classics, including the ricocheting snares of J Majik’s ‘Your Sound’, and the claustrophobic joystick jungle of Jo’s ‘R-Type’.

He’s followed by Breakage, whose restlessly inventive set finally tears down the walls between genres.

We all know why we’re here, though. Dubstep’s purest form is often its most powerful, and the music at Subloaded’s heart is as pure as it gets. With this lineup, and that sound system, it has rarely sounded as deadly as it does tonight.

This review was originally published in Venue magazine. Thanks, as always, to Ellen Doherty for the pics.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Mongrel Vs Agro Part 2. Sat 23rd October @ Lakota, Bristol

We were promised a beast of a party, and tonight’s three ring circus was just that.

Room 2 is the first to come to life, and two hours of minimal techno from Pupfish & Waxmouse gets bodies moving early. Meanwhile, after a bruising set up from Svengali’s low-punching dubstep, Room 1 takes off with Point B. His woozy, sunlit UK garage is like locking on to a late 90s pirate station on a radio with dodgy batteries.

Next – and packing enough machinery for a pre-laptop Kraftwerk - Neil Landstrumm blends austere warehouse techno, starry-eyed 8-bit melody, and bumpy dancehall bass. Landstrumm has been around since the mid-nineties, but he’s making his best music right now. Despite serious competition, he proves impossible to beat.

At 2am, Boxcutter’s addictive bass medicine goes up against the attack dog breakcore of Kid 606. It’s a clash on paper, but in terms of depth there’s no contest - I’ll take Boxcutter’s heady light and shade over one-paced aggression any day of the week. Meanwhile, local legend Parasite brings ragga-jungle delirium to Room 3.

The headline slot goes to crowd-pleasing Bogdan Raczynski, whose hard-jacking 4/4s and rampaging breaks are upholstered with tonight’s plushest synths. Raczynski strikes a rare balance – his music is bloody clever, but it has a hard-headed logic that’s hard for a raver to resist.

Tokyo assassin Goth Trad does punishing and meditative in equal measures, and tonight he proves he’s among the dubstep greats, but it's Panacea that finally reduces Lakota to rubble. The gold-toothed Berliner's vengeful scum & bass may have "outsider status" written all over it, but it's the perfect rinse-out for a night like this.
Three rooms, as many continents, and 57 varieties of sickness. Bristol electronica lineup of the year?

A shorter version of this review appeared in Venue magazine.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Melt Banana / Exit International / The Big Naturals. Thursday 14th October @ Thekla, Bristol

first caught Osaka tech-punks Melt Banana back in 2001 (my uncomfortably breathless Choke review is here). Nine years later, I was forced to watch them again, this time on behalf of Venue, and was pleased to discover they're still one of the most thrilling and innovative bands in the world...

Supporting a band as inventive as Melt Banana is a mixed blessing, but Big Naturals make a good fist of it. Jesse drums like Dave Grohl after a weekend drinking Bitches Brew, while bassist Gareth's fancy fretwork is driven home by a trio of Marshall stacks. They occasionally slumber into hard-rock clichés, but at their best they're pulverising and hypnotic. Note to the curious: don't even think about typing 'Big Naturals' into your browser at work - it could well result in disciplinary action.

Exit International are surprisingly upbeat for a band named after a pressure group for assisted suicide. Their industrial strength party rock is like a night out with the lads – good fun at the time, but somewhat hard to recall in the morning.

Osaka's Melt Banana have scanned the punk rulebook, warped it beyond recognition, and deleted the original from their collective hard drive. Rika [left]'s upfront basslines are informed by acid house, while the punishing double-time beats - courtesy of whoever's drumming for them this week - owe more to gabba than Black Flag. Meanwhile, Agata's Hendrix-meets-Public Enemy lead playing marks him out as the 21st Century guitar hero to beat, and the perfect foil to Yasuko's surreal, channel-hopping lyrics.

Melt Banana's debt to non-rock sounds is made explicit in tonight's opening section, as Yasuko and Agata summon a firestorm of electronic noise. After three songs, some of the audience begin to show symptoms of confusion, but the main set is just what the doctor ordered. 'Shield For Your Eyes' is Chemical Brothers re-imagined by Thor, while the fractured punk-pop of 'Call of the Vague', and shredded Pixies of 'Cracked Plaster Cast' inspire havoc in the moshpit.

The encore's “ten short songs” showcase Agata's shock and awe imitations of lasers, sirens and controlled explosions, before the blistering ‘Blank Page of The Blind’ - with its thrashing breakdowns and samples of barking dogs - propels us reluctantly back to Earth.

Melt Banana are ecstatically, brutally, impossibly entertaining. It's such a shame there's only one of them.

This review originally appeared in Venue magazine. Thanks to Tim Alban for the pic.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

New Venue website

Good news! Venue - the magazine I work and write for - has a new website.

Venue's been going since 1981, and its old website was developed some time in the pre-cambrian era. It didn’t have much useful content, and the navigation was a bit mad.

The new one's a big improvement. It will include most of the reviews and features from the weekly magazine, although you’ll still have to buy the print edition for gig and event listings (please do buy it, or I’ll have to go back to working at the mushroom farm).

In other words, it’s a proper website at last – one that will grow into a valuable archive of Bristol and Bath’s music, art, theatre etc.

In the meantime, here's what I got up to at Brisfest.

Friday, 17 September 2010

20 Years Of 2 Kings: Blood Red Sounds meets Henry & Louis Uptown

Extended version of a feature I wrote for a recent issue of Venue, celebrating the 20th anniversary of 2 Kings Records. I caught up with Andy Scholes - half of Henry & Louis - to talk Jamaica, dubstep, and the enduring appeal of roots reggae.

Reggae's influence on British music runs deep, especially in Bristol. Few people know this better than production aces Henry & Louis, otherwise known as Jack Lundie and Andy Scholes. They’ve been associated with drum & bass, trip hop and dubstep, without ever straying far from their roots.

Jack and Andy started making music together in 1988, forming 2 Kings Records two years later.
Both were steeped in the sound system culture of St Pauls. “Bristol's always had a big roots following”, Andy remembers. “If you went to St Pauls in the early 80s you could go to Sam’s Blues, Green Street - those shebeen blues things were massive in Bristol. Going back further you had The Bamboo Club. The Wailers played here”.

Inspired by dub pioneers Scientist and King Tubby, the fledgling producers used their heroes’ analogue techniques as a starting point. Their first single was ‘Too Late’, with Jamaican singer Prince Green. “It was hard to sell reggae back then”, says Andy. “There were only a few shops, and we had to go to London to press records at Jah Tubby’s. Distribution was practically non-existent”.

2 Kings struggled on, but when they finished an album Henry & Louis decided to turn elsewhere. ‘Rudiments’ - a collection of sure-stepping dub versions - came out on More Rockers, the imprint of Bristol Sound pioneers Smith & Mighty.

“Rob Smith was a mentor from day one. He’s a very humble guy”, Andy recalls. “He wouldn’t say ‘that’s wrong’, even when it was definitely wrong. It was always ‘have you thought about trying this?’ ” Jack and Andy also spent time at Smith & Mighty’s studio, 40 Ashley Road, contributing to their low end classic Bass Is Maternal. The sessions also led to some timeless jungle-dub collaborations, like ‘Rwanda’ and ‘How Can A Man’, which ended up on 1994’s ‘More Rockers Dubplate Selection 1’.

Bristol’s first great drum & bass album - arguably its best -, it was a health and safety nightmare. “Rain was pouring down the wall”, says Andy, “and Rob’s got electrical equipment everywhere. He’d say, ‘don’t worry, it’ll be ok…just don’t lean on the wall’.” He remembers Ashley Road as “a legendary studio” though: “the people who passed through there - Roni Size, Krust, Die. Rob had every analogue machine you can imagine.”

Next stop, Jamaica. Andy spent a year on the island, hunting down the best reggae vocals he could find. Packing ten dubs he’d made with Jack and another nine of Rob’s, he moved to Duhaney Park in downtown Kingston. “I went to see Sugar Minott”, says Andy, “who set me up with Johnny Clarke, Willie Williams, Tony Tuff” The vocals were recorded at UB40’s studio in Port Maria - previously owned by Bob Marley.

If I’d mixed it in England it would never have sounded like that”, Andy believes. “In Jamaica you live and breathe reggae. It’s in the food you’re eating, the smoke you’re smoking”. The singers were respectful that he’d gone to live downtown, “because it’s rough place, but I’d never have got vocals like that anywhere else. I recorded twenty-six, and used nineteen. There are still vocals I’ve done nothing with. There’s more to come.

The resulting album, ‘Time Will Tell’ is a contemporary roots classic, combining the U.K sound system styles of the 90s with timeless reggae vocals. Dub legend Augustus Pablo liked it so much that when Andy returned to Jamaica in ‘98, he was invited to stay at Pablo’s house. “There I was, on Tangerine Hill, looking at him with that thing in his mouth…” His melodica? “No, the big smoking chalice”. Sadly, Pablo passed away six months later: “he had cancer, but like Bob Marley, he wouldn’t take the treatment”,

Andy remembers. “He couldn’t eat. He just sat there drinking this thing called bitters, and smoking. When I left, he gave me these boxes with ‘Rockers 1’ written on them, - ninety 7” singles, all his own productions. They’re probably worth thousands.”

‘Time Will Tell’ was finally released in 2001, on the American label B.S.I. Meanwhile, 2 Kings continued to grow, as cuts such as ‘Love Like A Diamond’ benefited from a new explosion of roots awareness in dubstep’s wake. “It was already building for us”, Andy says, “but without dubstep, it wouldn’t be selling as well today. Kids want to know where their music comes from, and that turns them on to roots and dub”.

2 Kings released treatments of ‘Answer’ and ‘Rise Up’ by Bristol dubstep mainman Pinch, and RSD (their old sparring partner, Rob Smith). “Pinch has something special about him”, thinks Andy. “Every time he drops something it’s like, ‘Oh my God’. He’s a humble guy as well - he reminds me of Rob Smith 20 years ago.” Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobbs called her two-hour showcase of the local scene ‘Bristol Rise Up’, using a sample from Henry & Louis' track throughout the show. "Yeah, where's our money? Where's our royalty for that?", jokes Andy, adding, "It's flippin' hard to get on the radio. We've been lucky with Mary Anne Hobbs."

A third Henry & Louis album - ‘Increments’ - followed in 2008, and this time Jack and Andy released it themselves. A production masterclass, it pits contemporary roots rockers like ‘Lion’s Den’ against seismic steppers such as ‘Revelation Dub’. At twenty years old, 2 Kings is still in the vanguard of the UK Roots movement, with releases planned for Prince Jamo and the late, great Mikey Dread. A ‘20 Years of 2 Kings’ retrospective is due for release this autumn, packed with previously unreleased tracks from the label's archive.

Their next move is 2KD - a sister label with dubstep producer KDub. “We started putting dubstep out on 2Kings", Andy explains, "and people were getting confused, because we're a roots label. We're starting 2KD to prove you can have a roots-conscious thing on dubstep tunes”. The new label’s first release will be Pinch and RSD's remixes of ‘Love Like A Diamond’.

They're not just playing it safe, though. A big part of the 2KD plan is to work with Bristol’s next generation. Aware that good reggae vocals are hard to come by, they've handed theirs out to young producers like Rogue, Superisk and Widelows. If the results are as good as they expect, 2KD will release them next year.

Their priority is 2 Kings, though. “We’re not going to stop putting out roots”, says Andy Scholes, putting reggae’s long-lasting appeal down to “the message. It’s the experience of life - the reality of life”. Having seen sound system music mutate through dub, trip hop, jungle and dubstep, they’re more aware than ever of the value of the music that started it all. As Andy puts it: "We’re giving the dubstep thing a go, and we hope it will work - but this - roots reggae - we know this works.”

Prince Jamo - ‘Dance’ and ‘Lord’s Prayer’ are out now on 2 Kings Records.
‘20 Years Of 2 Kings’ is due for release this autumn.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Skjølbrot - Maersk

Skjølbrot is Daniel Bennett, sometime guitarist of the inflammatory rock band Hunting Lodge. His debut solo album Maersk is a more contemplative affair, evoking a horror far removed from the slapstick violence of Energy Czar.

The opening track, Rue Victor Masse to Gare d'Austerlitz, brings to mind a valedictory stroll through the streets of a dying city. Its mournful piano chords toll amid a gathering storm of demented church bells and melting machinery. Migrated is an exercise in pure tension, as massed bird calls ring out over ominous drones and rumbles of bass. Both pieces suggest that it's time to get out fast.

The most conventionally beautiful two minutes are provided by I Am Better Now - a sanctuary of soft, wordless vocals and meditative ambience. It's a teasing intake of breath before the jumpy, Sci-Fi terror of Shipbreaking and morbidly wasted Idle Fleet. The album's highlight is the 8-minute Ballad of Windfarming, a rousing din of Velvets-style cacophony and mutant folksong. It might be a tribute to the techno-pastoral future, or the soundtrack to a Maoist propaganda reel, or possibly both.

Such uncertainty is immediately laid waste by the segue into Emma, a sort of purification by burning. It's the catastrophe that's been hinted at throughout, and when it comes it's a relief. Here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. Return to track 1.

No doubt Skjølbrot's music will please Wire-reading aficionados of that sort of thing, but it's also humane enough for lovers of thoughtful electronica - sharing ground with Global Communication, Burial, and Ben Frost. You won't hear another record like this in 2010, but it's not an exercise in clammy-pawed experimentation. Maersk is recognisably a product of the urban environment, circa now.

Blood Red Sounds rating 9/10

Monday, 6 September 2010

Various Artists: Avon Calling 2 (Bristol Archive Records)

This raid on Heartbeat Records’ vault captures no-budget Bristol in the fertile years 1978 – 1980.

Heartbeat was the city's first proper indie label, releasing the original Avon Calling compilation in 1979. It was described by John Peel as "the compilation all others should be judged by”, (possibly the reason it's taken thirty-one years to release a sequel). Hats off to Bristol Archive Records for unearthing this loot before it was lost forever.

It's a diverse affair. Social Security's Self Confession is a minor snot classic celebrating the rock 'n' dole lifestyle. It's so debauched that it doesn't even bother to rhyme.

Sneak Preview’s offerings are out there in a truly Bristolian way. Mr Magoo meets the ghost of Andre Breton in an afterlife of freak-out organs. I Can’t Get Out confronts a predatory tranvestite before escaping into a fog of dub. Both are surprisingly catchy.

Equally fine are the two Apartment tracks - the slasher atmospherics of Broken Glass, and hurtling panic of Retrospect. Apartment share DNA with The Only Ones and early Joy Division: they're the post-punk heroes you’ve (probably) never heard of.

A smattering of generic power-pop aside, the music collected here is playful, individual and proudly uncommercial. Songs begin with tape-phase effects, and end with reverb explosions. Essential Bop’s woozily portentous Audition Room sounds like a Doors album track played at 45 RPM. Not all of it stands up today, but it's surprising how much of it does.

Avon Calling 2 is alternative history, from which the mysterious Sean Ryan emerges as the Gary Numan that never was. It comes highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the early years of the UK underground.

Blood Red Sounds rating 7/10

A shorter version of this review appeared in Venue.

For further information on Bristol's punk / indie history please visit this website. No really, do. It's a goldmine.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Forensics Interview

Krystian Taylor, AKA Forensics, is best known for his work in dubstep, both as a left-of-spectrum producer, and tireless champion of the scene through his imaginative (and generously circulated) mixes. He's also the man behind the slowburn indie-electronica of A Bridge Far Away. Blood Red Sounds caught up with him to talk about Forensics' "retirement", his new project The Divided Circle, and what on earth he means by the "111 Movement".

BRS: You were involved in the dubstep scene early on and were pretty evangelical about it. How did you get involved?

Krystian Taylor: The first dubstep records I bought were DMZ001 & DMZ002. I’d say Horrorshow by Loefah was the track that began my transition from onlooker to consumer and participant. Seeing Plasticman (now Plastician) play at the first Subloaded in Bristol also had a big impact. I started recording mixes, posting on the forum, and running a club night - Ruffnek Diskotek – with a friend (Dub Boy).

BRS: Dubstep has fragmented a lot since going global in 2006-7. Do you still feel a strong connection with it?

KT: I still feel connected, although my finger's a long way from the pulse when it comes to the commercial end of things. I just ignore the things I don’t like, and keep pushing those I do through my mixes.

BRS: Is Forensics still a going concern? You announced that you’d retired the project a while back but you keep posting mixes, and new tracks have appeared from time to time. What’s going on?

KT: I retired Forensics about a year ago, and then picked it back up around six months later - mainly in a DJ-ing capacity. I did record a few tracks, which have since been released on Methodology Recordings – the ‘In Shadow’ mini-album & ‘Lament’ on a compilation. I’ve also done a few remixes more recently, but Forensics is definitely more of a DJ entity now.

BRS: One of your recent tracks is an unofficial remix of Alex Reece’s ‘Pulp Fiction’. Was jungle / drum & bass a big influence on you?

KT: I was into jungle for a fair while. It was the first form of electronic music I took a real interest in, having only really been into ‘guitar music’ prior to that. I’d say early, minimal drum & bass has influenced my productions.

BRS: A Bridge Far Away seemed to evolve out of Forensics’ collaborations with vocalists, like Indi Kaur. Did you consciously re-brand your music to distance it from straight up "dance" music?

KT: Not sure I’ve ever made straight up dance music, but anyway!

BRS: That's true, but the Forensics stuff fits well in your your dubstep mixes. Dubstep is still typically designed for club systems rather than home listening isn’t it?

KT: A Bridge Far Away is an outlet for my non-140bpm stuff. I guess it was born of an urge to collaborate more, and to get back to making ‘proper music’. I'm not claiming to have achieved that, but the urge was there!

BRS: There's an implication there, however tongue in cheek, that dubstep isn't as "proper" as some other music.

KT: It's just how I've viewed things. I started off writing songs, and then went on to view electronic music as an escape from the emotions associated with songwriting, which resulted in me making a lot of completely soulless music for a while! I've been slowly heading back in the other direction since realising my mistake. A major turning point was recording Forensics' 'All to waste' with [Pinch collaborator] Indi Kaur. It definitely put the idea of writing songs firmly back into my head.

I'm not saying dubstep can't be 'proper music', but as you've said, it's principally dance/club music - which perhaps isn't something I have in me production-wise. I've always been on the margins of dubstep, and never made tracks with a dancefloor in mind. I enjoy DJ-ing a lot more now that I'm not really producing dubstep - I can play a set more as a consumer, and enjoy it as such.

BRS. Your new project The Divided Circle is described as a '111 band'. What does that mean?

KT. 111 is a new music/art project, info on which can be found at It essentially means that our tracks are recorded at 111bpm, for the time being at least. We’re actually the first 111 band, most 111 music has been electronic so far, so we’re pioneers or something! The Divided Circle is definitely my main focus at the moment. It's really good to be writing songs, and working with my good friend Jon Rees [of The Sky Is Blue / Dusk Ensemble] again.

BRS. Is there an aesthetic to 111, or is it just a good tempo to work with? The manifesto on the one11bpm site suggests there's more to it but doesn't give any specifics.

KT. We call it "the divine tempo" - it's great to work with! 111 is a particularly vibrant movement because it covers such a range of styles: anything goes in terms of genre. The constraints come into play in terms of approach - a large emphasis is placed on meaning and artistic value. The "Rules of engagement", which spell things out in detail, are also on the website.There's more to it than music - it's also art, photography, film, words...111 is going through a bit of a rebirth at the moment, so watch this space!

BRS. If A Bridge Far Away is a natural progression from what you were doing with Forensics, this new project looks like a radical change of direction - the brooding atmospherics are more at the service of the song than before. I can hear Joy Division and Eno in there, but what are the key influences?

KT: I suppose it's quite a radical shift. I'm back to where I started really, writing songs with Jon. And what's coming out isn't all that different to what we were doing as youngsters. We're both fans of downbeat indie music - people like Sparklehorse, Low, early Grandaddy, the various Mark Kozelek projects...I wouldn't say we have any key influences as such, though. We're not writing with anyone else in mind.

Forensics plays at
Subharmony in Riga on 10th September, and Knowledge Magazine's night at Fluid, London EC1 on 1st October. His 'In Shadow' mini-album is out now on Methodology Recordings. There's a free limited download of the original instrumental version of killer Forensics track 'All To Waste' here.

Here's a mix he recently recorded for Dub Concepts Radio, which stresses the unity of UK bass music, bringing together the deep, atmospheric dubstep of his 'Pulp Fiction' remix, the Mancunian rudeness of Virus Syndicate, and Smith & Mighty's classic 2-step inspired 'B-Line Fi Blow' (2002). I LOVE this.

There are no plans for Bridge Far Away gigs, but you can download the
very lovely 'Killer Bees' here. The second ABFA album 'Reverence' is out now, also on Methodology.

The Divided Circle will release their debut EP shortly on new label Lonely City, with live performances to follow. Listen to them

For more on the 111 movement, see

Government cuts - an exclusive preview

[Above] A government spokesman

A Whitehall memo including advance details of public sector cuts has been leaked exclusively to Blood Red Sounds. It includes a raft of cost-cutting reforms to be included in the autumn spending review. Some of them are very sensitive, but I'm at liberty to share a few of the less worrying ones with you.

A radical approach to taxation. VAT will be increased to £95% on all purchases, while children's clothing and baby food will be subject to an additional levy of 50% to discourage feckless reproduction. The top rate of income tax will be abolished on the grounds it's "practically unworkable".

A “two strikes and you’re out” policy on crime. The Conservative manifesto recommended “three strikes”, but one of the strikes is to be removed for being unnecessarily bureaucratic.

Taking waste out of the education system. "Mickey Mouse" qualifications will become a thing of the past, as the government removes everything from the national curriculum except maths, cricket and military history.

"Health & Safety nonsense etc." to be abolished. In what will no doubt be seen as a populist move, the government plans to boost enterprise by revoking any previous legislation that promotes safe working conditions, trading standards, equal opportunities or basic common decency.

"Pest control revolution". Huge savings to both agriculture and social housing are expected from a move to put pest control "in the hands of communities". However, Liberal Democrat backbenchers will be pleased to hear that participation in money-saving blood sports will be "actively encouraged" rather than "compulsory".

This is pretty exciting stuff, I think you'll agree. I'll post more as soon as I've finished filling out this visa application.

Silence In Court: Could the Bristol Community Festival ever return?

Here's a recent article I wrote for Venue magazine, looking at Bristol's much mourned Ashton Court Festival and whether anything like it could ever happen again.

For 33 years, the Bristol Community Festival - as it was known for most of them – was the centrepiece of the Bristol hedonist’s year. Everybody went, it never rained (well, almost never) and most of the acts performed for nothing because, like us, they wouldn’t have missed it for the world. For a long time the entrance fee was whatever loose change you had in your pocket as you walked up that tease of a hill.

Growing purely by word of mouth, the festival was drawing around 60,000 people by 1998, the year Portishead and Spiritualized played and everyone agreed they’d had the best time ever. Then, three years ago, disaster struck. The site became waterlogged and the event was cancelled halfway through, immediately scuppering hopes of recouping losses from previous years. It never came back.

Not least because of its beautiful location, it’s been held up as an ideal ever since - the “bring back Ashton Court music festival” Facebook group claimed 20,000 members in 48 hours. Could it be revived? “I’d never say never”, says Jennifer Crook, who co-managed the festival in its last four years.“I really hope it will be back, as does everyone who was ever involved”.

The Ashton Court Estate remains the venue for big events like the Balloon Fiesta and Kite Festival, and there have also been some smaller attempts to bring music back to the site. Last year's bijou Summer Fayre, which celebrated the Estate's 50 years in the public domain, was true to the spirit of the Community Festival with sets from local talent like Get The Blessing, Rose Kemp and Health and Safety At Work Act from 1974", (the year of the first Community Festival). Since then, "there have been clarifications and minor amendments", but the main thing that’s changed is public opinion, fuelled by disasters like Hillsborough and the death of two fans at the 1988 Donnington festival. "It’s easy to rage against a ‘safety culture’”, Tim adds, “but if people died against the pit barrier the press would demand to know why nothing was done" - a fact made all the more unavoidable by the horrific events at this year’s Love Parade.

The law can be ambiguous, though. “The 2003 Licensing Act was really designed for pubs and clubs, not outdoor events, which is why so much can come down to local interpretation”, says Jennifer Crook. “It’s a very vague piece of legislation”. An extreme example is that of the 2008 Moonfest, which lost its licence after police cited the Act, claiming that Pete Doherty could cause a "whirlpool effect in the crowd". Less surreally, "licensing complications" were recently blamed for the cancellation of the 'Summer Nights' concerts at Ashton Court. The 2003 Act’s call for "adequate security personnel" is also open to interpretation. "It's common to find quirky and illogical licence conditions which may stem from inexperienced local government officers", says Tim Roberts, adding, "I DO NOT suggest Bristol City Council are guilty of this".

Will David Cameron much trumpeted “war on red tape” help? Ben Hardy thinks not. “There aren’t any signs that the new government will change anything – other than the fact that local authorities will be subject to further budget cuts.” He also points out that the current climate tends to make things even tougher for would be promoters: “there are less sponsorship purses available and members of the public have less disposable income”, he says, “with less money being spent, smaller traders and caterers tend to be fewer on the ground which affects the revenue that an event can generate.” Not, perhaps, the news that shoestring Eavises want to hear.

Despite these obstacles, the sprawling, carnivalesque Bristol Festival shows that community events can still thrive in the city centre. Poppy Stephenson, its formidable co-ordinator, says it would cost five times as much to hold at Ashton Court. “It’s the remote location”, she says, “There’s no street lighting, water or power points, and expensive metal tracks are required so that emergency services can reach all areas.” To make things worse, a quirk of geography means that promoters need licences from two local authorities.

Now in its third year, the renamed Brisfest is a community festival in all but name - the product of thousands of hours of unpaid work by a 77-strong volunteer force. “The reason we got involved in the first place was to save Ashton Court and that is what we've been trying to do”, says Poppy, “with local acts, reasonable prices and true Bristol style”. Sensitive to the public’s aversion to concrete, the team will consider moving to a greener space if this year’s festival is a big enough success. “We would love it to be in a beautiful park”, she adds. “Next year, who knows!” As if to prove their commitment, they plan to turf part of the site for Brisfest 2010. There will also be nine outdoor stages, a casino bus, beer garden and something called a “recursive function dome with 360 degree visuals”. Factor in five hundred performances, club nights, boat parties, a ton of workshops and zero council funding and it’s hard to believe it can be done for a fiver a day.

It’s a huge task. In the run up to to the first festival in 2008, Poppy slept for an average of 3-4 hours a night for the best part of a year. It’s got slightly easier as new volunteers have joined the team - each of them putting in between three and ten hours a week. “We’ve had several people splitting up with partners and actual hair loss”, she says. “You lie awake worrying about disasters, worst case scenarios and emergency situations”. Then there’s the money, a tightrope walk between value for festival-goers and making ends meet - “There was just a couple of per cent in it last year”. Poppy’s research suggests that people are simply not ready to pay the £18 or £20 per day it would cost to stage the festival at Ashton Court.

The issue of what people are prepared to pay for their entertainment is clearly decisive . “We struggled hugely with the legacy of being a free event when we had to increase charges”, says Jennifer Crook. “In Bristol, we are spoilt for choice with free events. It’s one of the city’s selling points but it raises expectations”. Tim Roberts agrees, saying that Ashton Court’s biggest challenge was “massive popularity, coupled with a strong desire on the part of the public to get it for nowt. If punters had stumped up £10 a head then we’d probably still all be trekking up that hill”.

With that in mind, whether ‘Ashton Court’ has a future depends on what people want from it, and how much they’re prepated to pay for the privelege. “As we always used to say, it’s not 1974 anymore”, says Jennifer Crook. “Is a community event one which thousands of people from all across Bristol can go to, or one with little or no entry price that fewer people can attend?” In the current climate, it looks increasingly like a two way choice between a commercial festival with a big name lineup and a truly local one built on the talent and passion of the city. If it’s the second option we want, we already have Brisfest and it’s getting stronger each year.

If the stress, risk and sheer hard graft involved in organising a community festival sounds a little daunting, it’s refreshing to hear how upbeat the organisers themselves are about the experience. “It’s so rewarding when you see it all come together” says Poppy, “and think 'Wow! this is what can be created when everyone pulls together’”. “It was exhausting and it took over my life for four years”, says Jennifer, “but when it ended I felt like my best friend had died. If I could bring it back to life this minute, I would. It was the best job I ever had”.

Brisfest 2010 takes place from 24th - 26th September. For more information, see

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

David Wrench & Black Sheep - 'Spades & Hoes & Plows' (Invada Records)

Stretching four songs over 65 minutes, this album is guaranteed to provoke a reaction.

Casting aside the synthpop mischief of his last record, Welsh maverick Wrench turns to radical folk, with its cast of clubbed peasants, lynched priests and mutilated strikebreakers. His sleevenotes are worth the asking price alone.

Backed by Black Sheep – a mob of musico-political subversives marshalled by Julian Cope - Wrench tackles revolutionary ballads with an irreverence that’s perversely sympathetic. War drums march funereally beside blasted guitars, while Wurlitzers and Mellotrons summon ancient melodies to eerie half-life.

At their best – as on the gripping ‘The Blackleg Miner’ - the group’s outsider theatrics force the listener to confront the Otherness of political struggle. Through them, we glimpse a world in which collective action means “freedom and blood on our bread”, not a Rick Astley singalong in a public space.

Blood Red Sounds rating 8/10
This review originally appeared in Venue.
See Head Heritage for further information.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

It's My Property

The image above shows a typical group of young British users. The high is written all over their faces, but the long term effects of "property" can be devastating.

I don’t make a habit of linking to F.T articles but this one is well worth a read. It’s the clearest explanation I’ve read of the UK's addiction to property speculation, and how a Land Value Tax could prevent it from damaging the economy again.

Land taxes shift the balance of taxation from wages to assets, so this is basically required reading for lefties.

More fun stuff soon, I promise.

In the meantime, here are Mooz with a brilliant song about property.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Antoni Maiovvi - Interview and free download

A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of "Spaghetti Dance"

Five years ago Italo-Disco enjoyed a double revival. Crate diggers re-discovered its influence on House. Hipsters squealed at its camp machismo and lost-in-translation lyrics. The movement’s pioneers started coming out of the woodwork, among them Torino legend Antoni Maiovvi, whose limited edition comeback album Maiovvi Vice sold out so quickly that nobody's quite sure it ever existed.

Since then, Maiovvi’s worked at an impressive rate - hooking up with style icon Fortuna for a series of live PAs, before releasing solo sets Electro Muscle Cult, Shadow Of The Bloodstained Kiss and The Thorns Of Love. Maiovvi’s mature sound revisits the aching synths and 4/4 kicks of his 80s cuts, adding low budget cinematics, deadpan Euroticisms and the occasional agonised croon. The results are compellingly eccentric; curiously beautiful.

Antoni Maiovvi is also the alter ego of Anton Maiof - the prolific experimentalist of My Ambulance Is On Fire and howling anchorman of Geisha.

BRS: You recently left England for Germany. Is it going well for you over there?

AM: It's been interesting. I'm not sure of the sense in moving to a country where I don't speak the language. But it's been good. There is a nice community of weirdos making excellent work, you can always get a drink and life is cheap...and the girls, man, the girls.

BRS: You’re not the only producer connecting Berlin with Bristol. Pinch, Appleblim et al have forged links with German techno. Digital Hardcore was an inspiration for the anti-establishment breakcore of Death$ucker. Do the cities have something in common?

AM: There's a similarity in the pace of life. Berlin is pretty laid back for a capital city. Not much closes and you can party all night. People are in less of a rush. There are social problems because of that, of course - there are a lot of burned out people. Bristol and Berlin are both transient towns - both have big universities and people will come here to study and have a good time and then leave to go get a job somewhere else leaving music scenes to get glossed over. Techno is king here - most other things get ignored.

BRS: Who is Antoni Maiovvi? What’s the idea behind the alias?

AM: Antoni Maiovvi is a composite character - equal parts Harold Faltermeyer, Giorgio Moroder, Philip Glass, Maurizio Merli, Jeffrey Dahmer and David Duchovny. With hindsight I should have thought of something easier to spell.

BRS: A lot of your work with Geisha and My Ambulance Is On Fire was dark and nihilistic. The Maiovvi project is inspired by Italo-Disco, a naïve, hedonistic sound. Pure escapism on your part?

AM: Some Italo stuff could fit in a horror movie I think, some stuff is just agressively gay, some of it is so cheesy and bad it's like a bad joke. The amazing tracks are truly amazing; psychedelic and sexy - just like Whitehouse.

BRS: There's another aspect to Maiovvi - a sort of diseased longing, thinly disguised by the plastic heroics. Are you a hopeless romantic?

AM: There's this theory about the writer Philip K Dick. His twin sister died after they were born prematurely. He went through his life knowing that there was another part of him that was gone forever. I can understand that - I've no idea what the other part is but I miss it. In short, yes.

BRS: What’s happening with your other projects? Are the rumours of new Geisha material true?

AM: Everything is still going. Geisha will never die until one of us does. Circumstance has been the bane of that band, but we're going to keep going in whatever form just to spite it. Also we like working together.

BRS: What I've heard of the new Geisha material is very different from anything you've done before. Did you leave your guitar in Bristol?

AM: Well, it was time to experiment but I did leave the Geisha guitar in Bristol, yes. I have a guitar here but it's not the same. We keep losing drummers is the short answer to the change. I've a general disgust for most rock music these days.

BRS: The Russians are coming and the train leaves for Paris in an hour. There’s enough space in your luggage for two records and two films. Which do you choose?

AM: Movies are easy. The Thing and Robocop. For the records it would probably be more useful to get some lathe vinyl that has been sharpened for ninja dj know, just in case.

Antoni Maiovvi's 'The Thorns Of Love' is out now on Caravan Records.

Free Download! Antoni Maiovvi, Live at the Italo Elite club, Amsterdam.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Finesse - Summer Bass Mix Vol. 1

Here’s fun. Bristol’s DJ Finesse is best known as a champion of the liquid tendency in drum & bass but he’s certainly no one trick pony.

Summer Bass Vol. 1 sees him immersed in the deep end of dubstep and future garage, dropping selections from local legends like Forsaken, Headhunter and Komonazmuk and recent classics from Joy Orbison, Martyn and El-B.

It’s the perfect soundtrack to a dyspeptic crawl along the A38, as the weekend glows seductively from the eyeholes of Monday’s burkha.

Finesse – Summer Bass Vol. 1 [download]
1. Martyn – Broken (Revolve:R)
2. Ramadanman - Humber (Apple Pips)
3. Hyetal - Neon Speech (Soul Motive)
4. Claude Vonstroke & J Phlip - California, Julio Bashmore Remix (Dirty Bird)
5. Addison Groove - Footcrab (Swamp 81)
6. El-B - Son De Cali (Soul Motive)
7. Joy Orbison - Hyph Mngo (Hotflush)
8. Headhunter - Prototype (Modeselektor Rmx) (Tempa)
9. Kouros Ft. DRS - Tears (Estate)
10. Komonazmuk - Miss Her (Hench)
11. Forsaken Ft. Joker & Ben Blackmore - Last Saloon Swagger (Soul Motive)

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Labour leadership candidates - Who are they and what do they want?

As a card-carrying Labourite, I'm in the enviable position of helping to choose the next leader of the opposition.

Many will assume this is a pointless exercise; that whoever wins can only become Prime Minister by tugging a forelock at the markets and Mail. I take a less cynical view, of course. Politics without optimism is like a pub with no bogs.

So who are these brave souls, selflessly gambling their reputations on a shot at greatness? More importantly, who is likely to win?

David Miliband: The former Foreign Secretary and "heir to Blair" is distinguished by an unshakeable faith in his own genius. Miliband isn't completely self-obsessed, though - he famously took one for the team when he gave Hillary Clinton a good seeing to on a diplomatic trip to Helmand. Leadership potential 8/10.

Ed Miliband: With his mild manners and puppydog eyes, Ed looks more like a history teacher than the future of socialism. Don't judge a book by its cover, though. Wrestling his own brother for the party leadership shows a contempt for the natural order that could kill a Tory at twenty paces. Leadership potential 8/10.

Ed Balls: The Phil Mitchell of the centre-left, the former Education Secretary is a balloon-faced psychopath who shits 24 hour tribal politics and cites Suge Knight and Cardinal Torquemada as heroes. Balls allegedly convinced Yvette Cooper not to stand for the leadership by threatening to cut her face. Leadership potential 4/10.

Diane Abbott: A lifelong contrarian, Abbott’s early onset Alzheimer’s has led her to believe she’s still fighting the battles of the '80s. The Hackney MP can often be seen wandering aimlessly around Greenham Common, or chanting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie! Out, Out, Out!” on late night discussion shows. Leadership potential 3/10.

Andy Burnham: A diehard party loyalist who looks like George from Rainbow, Burnham joined Labour after reading an NME interview in which Noel Gallagher referred to Thatcher as a "Tory twat". He claims the current clamour for constitutional reform is "a sideshow for people who read books”, and that David Cameron and Nick Clegg are, “toffee-nosed Southern ponces, up to their arses in rugby and croissants.” Leadership potential Nil.

I'm still not quite sure to vote for to be honest. Anyone got any advice?

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Workers' champion Clegg squares up to the markets

Here's what our esteemed Deputy PM had to say about public sector cuts back in March (conveniently, some months before he had a say in the matter). It's from an answer given at the Yorkshire Post Question Time.

The decisions about how we govern this country shouldn’t be decided by fear of what markets want. Let’s say there was a Conservative Government and they announced, in a macho way: ‘We’re gonna slash public spending, slash this, slash that. We’re gonna do it tomorrow because we have to take early tough action.

Just imagine the reaction of my constituents in south-west Sheffield. I represent a constituency that has more public servants as a proportion of those working than any other constituency in the country – lots of people working in universities, hospitals and so on. They have no Conservative councillors and no Conservative MPs as far as the eye can see in South Yorkshire.

People like that are going to say: ‘Who are these people telling us they are suddenly taking our jobs away? What mandate do they have? I didn’t vote for them; no-one round here votes for them.

If you want to check Clegg's man of the people act out for yourself you can enjoy the speech in all its retrospectively surreal glory here.

At least he didn't mention Forgemasters. Poor Sheffield.

Thanks to Teacher Talks for the link.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Plaid & Southbank Gamelan Players / Peverelist, Arnolfini, Bristol, Thursday 10th June

The meeting of musical traditions is fraught with danger. Too often the result is a well-meaning compromise or unholy din.

Luckily, Southbank Gamelan Players are well versed in it. Trained in Indonesia but based in London, they’ve worked with people as varied as Bjork and composer Symon Clarke. Their collaboration with electronica duo Plaid aims to reconcile a 2000-year-old tradition with one that only dates back to the 1980s.

The first half hour belongs to the ensemble alone, using xylophones, gongs and chimes to create cyclical melodies from interlocking parts. Their set takes in ceremonial pieces, sung poetry and contemporary music for gamelan. To the delight of electronica fans, it ends with a beautiful version of Aphex Twin’s Actium, its timeless LFO bassline recreated, impressively, on a pair of three-foot gongs.

Plaid’s involvement starts with an anticlimax – initially their cosy synth textures dull the mesmeric effect of all that struck brass. Thankfully their second piece - written with composer Rahayu Supanggah - is less polite. Rubber Time gets right to the heart of cultural exchange as genres flirt and clash to dramatic effect. In the closing section techno and gamelan become indistinguishable as studio effects transform ancient instruments and western rhythms submit to the fluidity of the East.

As owner of the world’s best record shop (Rooted) and one of its more interesting labels (Punch Drunk), Tom Peverelist Ford is a major player in Bristol. His intricate, reflective take on dubstep should compliment the headliners perfectly but tonight he suffers from DJ Support Syndrome, whose symptom is being ignored by an audience who’ve come to watch rather than dance. Even the epic push and pull of Circling fails to stop the chatter.

For all the distance between London and Jakarta, the chasm between live music and DJ culture seems harder to bridge.

This review originally appeared in Venue magazine.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Free 2hour Luke Vibert set!

Click here to download a 2 hour set from Luke Vibert. It was recorded at the massive Mongrel Vs Agro night at Lakota (Saturday 6th June).

Thanks to Sven at Mongrel for sharing!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Sleigh Bells / Kites & Flags / Drunk Granny Tuesday 25th May @ The Louisiana, Bristol

It isn’t Drunk Granny's day. Drummer Edie Pain has spent the afternoon vomiting and guitarist Debi Withers gets electrocuted twice in the first three songs. If Young Ones-style calamity explains their stilted performance it's no excuse for material so thinly sketched it might have been written in a free period between P.E and double Maths. Still, there's knockabout relief to be enjoyed in closing number Big Hairy Lesbian Sex Beasts, whose two minutes of angry grunting are the closest this duo get to an articulate statement.

Competence isn't an issue for Kites & Flags - they're studio-slick. Their bitcrushed synths and dub effects suggest fingers on the pulse but the songs are more Crowded House than Electro-House. While the indie-dance moments are well executed enough the two-piece are at their most affecting when their rich vocal harmonies and arpeggiated guitars are allowed to breathe. It’s then that these traditional pop-rock craftsmen are revealed beneath their hipster clothing.

Brooklyn's Sleigh Bells are hair-raisingly intense. In almost total darkness they unleash a pincer movement of disarming art-pop and pulverizing industrial hardcore. Derek Miller’s guitar throws fierce, atonal squawks and slamming power chords at a backdrop of psychotic disco beats and booty-troubling bass. Singer Alexis Krauss moves so relentlessly she defies the Second Law of Thermodynamics and her vocals are no less dramatic. Incendiary punk-rap verses give way to operatic hooks - placing Sleigh Bells in a lineage of infectiously mannered pop from Sparks to Kelis.

Extracting honey-coated violence from new wave, metal, rave, R&B and all styles between, songs like Infinity Guitars and Treats are as refreshing as anything you’ll hear in 2010. Sleigh Bells are what happens when two people inhale the last 35 years of radical sounds and blow the whole lot in your face.

This review originally appeared in Venue Magazine
Alexis Krauss photographed by Ellen Doherty