A German Soft Machine

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Ah um.

While we’re at it, following on from the previous posts, I have some Swiss-German krautrock tracks to share too.

Klaus Johann Grobe

Having done a quick post on these two chaps before Psychfest, I bought the new album – Im Sinne Der Zeit – and did some proper homework on them. It’s a pretty good record, full of clumpy beats and melodramatic organ swirls – a German Soft Machine if you will…

Last set on the oddly shaped Blade corner-stage, with Besnard Lakes on the one main stage and the dazzling, wonderful Suuns on another, I’d imagined there’d not be so many around for this one, but I was of course wrong. The small area filled up quickly and soon get very warm indeed. In truth, what seemed like a very long wait while the three members fiddled around with leads and sounds, made more than a few punters a little irritable (by the end of the weekend, I was heartily fed up of the sight of earnest young musos pointing to the ceiling and mouthing “more, more, turn it up!” to the sound desk).

Anyway, eventually they got it sorted and kicked off into a marvellously gloopy, occasionally menacing, occasionally funky set, dominated by the syrupy electric organ of Sevi Landolt. The extra third member of the group was a bassist and he managed to drive the proceedings along with pace and purpose.

The two strongest tracks from the record – “Kothek” and “Between the Buttons” – made early appearances which launched a sweaty bunch of punters off straight away but did mean the set tailed off a little.

Again, quite a lot of “atmosphere” in the recordings but well worth a little listen:

Raus

Between the Buttons

Aufstand

Out on the water’s where you’re gonna find me

Allah-Las_Press_Photo-640x424Well, back from Psychfest. A good time was had by all – loads of good bands, a few average ones, a chance to meet up with a few old friends. Yeah it was a good time, although in truth, not as all-encompassingly brilliant as some of the summer festivals I’ve been to. There’s no substitute for a massive field to bask around in when it’s all getting a bit too much for you. Psychfest was, of course, a much smaller affair and there was nowhere really to get away to – it was a bit like being in a giant 14-hour psychedelic ironworks at times.

Set my recorder to “everything” for the weekend, but unfortunately (I’ve a feeling you know what’s coming here)… well, let’s just draw a discrete veil over it and say there was an “operator failure” and that I didn’t get as many sets as I’d hoped. Sadly, one of the casualties was a stonking Saturday evening set by Woods, the last that I saw of the weekend. They were really very good, re-frying the more pastoral set I’d seen at End of the Road to one that was a little more suited to the occasion.

I did, however, captured this lot:

The Allah-Las

Actually, this was the best set of the weekend, and sad though I was to lose the Woods one, if I’d had to choose…

Strolling out of the desert like a Da Capo Love, all fringed jackets and beatle boots, the Allah-Las looked every inch the study in sixties cool that they clearly are. I’d had to choose between seeing them or the highly promising Early Years where a number of my more-knowing friends were, but I didn’t regret it for a moment. They were brilliant.

From the opening bars of “No Werewolf” right to the closing twangs of a glittery 45-minute set, they were very tight and strutted through a series of tracks from their two records with a needle-sharp guitar sound and a groove that set a drunken crowd jigging and, well, frugging (no other word for it…)

Cracking versions of “Catamaran”, with all its Stones / Standells echoes and more of that acerbic, twangy guitar, “I Had It All”, “Busman’s Holiday” and really pretty much the whole set – all of it skin-tight, none of it straying over the four-minute mark.

Quite a lot of noise over the recordings, I’m afraid, but that was a feature of the whole weekend. Although that annoyed me at times over the two days, here, with groovy youngsters jumping about enthusiastically, chatting, singing along, it just felt like I was in my own bootleg “live” album in a Seeds on Sunset Strip style…

Here’s a little selection:

501-415

Busman’s Holiday

Catamaran

Sandy

The usual stuff: love, personal struggles, society’s stupidness, nonsense…

klausjohanngrobe_1Standing in The Shed, glimmering floodlights ushering in the start of the Gloucester-Exeter game is probably not the first place that would occur to you to receive a bit of a “hot tip” about Kosmische sounds to catch at Psychfest. Actually, I’ve certainly had stranger conversations waiting for the rugby to start (“Krautrock” turns up more often than you might think…) and the bearer of said hot tip, my mate Steve, has been known to come up with some diamonds…

Klaus Johann Grobe

It’s not clear quite whether Steve is operating from a position of exhaustive research, having studied the Klaus Johann Grobe catalogue, read all the relevant Quietus articles and rifled through the Internet for obscure German blogs, or whether in best Partly Porpoise fashion he has been drawn moth-like to the pretty blue flame that a name like Klaus Johann Grobe clearly conjures up. (I’m saying nothing… although I clearly owe him a drink…)

 

My own exhaustive research has revealed that KJG are actually a duo (neither of whom are called Klaus or indeed Johann); are not German but Swiss, based in Zurich and signed to good ole Trouble in Mind and are a little more Daft Punk and a little less Neu than the name suggests. (You want more? C’mon? You never heard of Pitchfork?)

This clip suggests it’s going to be a great weekend…

Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion

Grumbling-Fur-The-Ballad-of-Roy-BattyWith everyone else frolicking around at Green Man, End of the Road or other such sunny paradises, I’m currently left at home, working the days and feeling a little sorry for myself of an evening. No worries, I tell myself, I do still have September’s Psychfest to look forward to and am increasingly turning to the organisers to choose my next favourite bands…

Grumbling Fur

These are an interesting pair, featuring on the Saturday in Liverpool and generally getting a good deal of coverage in all the interesting places of the net. Only looked them up because of Psychfest but when I did I realised I’d sort of been there all along, buying one half of the Fur (?), Alexander Tucker’s records for a few years now. I had no idea that his unconventional brilliance was one of those behind Grumbling Fur (probably better…), but to be honest I really don’t think there’s any way I’d have spotted a link even if I’d been paying attention – there’s not a lot of Portal or Old Fog in either of these new releases with Daniel O’Sullivan.

I bought Glynnaestra a month or so ago from Fopp in Bristol, and listened to it pretty exclusively for the next few weeks until, lo and behold, Preternaturals came out… Consequently, the two records are pretty much intertwined in my head, with no space between them at all. I quite like that really – they almost seem like one big (quirky) double album.

As I said, there’s been a lot written about them recently, most of it trying very hard to cultivate some sort of neo-psychedelia element to their sound and to be fair, Tucker and O’Sullivan’s Albarn-esque confessions of Misadventures with Mescaline have pretty much fed into this.

But I can’t see it to be honest, far too much like a lo-fi dance record to go that way for me, an idea that usually turns me off to a record pretty darn quickly. Occasionally, though, a record is strong enough that even if the cut of its trousers is all wrong, the crown jewels still come through (that’s an analogy I’m going to regret when I read this back…). I’m generally pretty quick to dismiss anything that has a few too many electronics in it (and conversely, far too ready to shell out on any group of long hairs that brandish guitars), but this all works.

Both records (as I said, currently inseparable in my head), are choc-full of studio fumblings, “found sounds” and dubby playfulness. But what stands out most for me are the soft, measured vocals of both men that emerge from time to time from the spacey confusion around them. The obvious but still stand-out track is The Ballad of Roy Batty, with its Tears in the Rain monologue which even though I have no affinity at all with Blade Runner, I still find intensely and inexplicably moving:

 

 

Really looking forward to seeing this in September…

Now I feel so much better…

LaHellGang_291113Being one of the more self-conscious (not to mention idle) bloggers around, I’ve been increasingly aware that these days most of the material eddying from these parts is pretty, well, Latin. Great dollops of chicha, second (and third) helpings of cumbia and side dishes of Spanish indie… Maybe I should just carry on ladling it out, but I guess that in the interests of balance and fairness, I could make it clear that I do spend a fair amount of time listening to other stuff…

So, anyhow, I give you La Hell Gang.

La Hell Gang

We-e-e-ll… turns out that La Hell Gang are from Santiago and whilst technically this makes them as Latin as everything else I’ve been posting recently, in spirit they’re as far away from the accordion folk sounds of Cumbia as it’s possible to be. In truth, I didn’t realise any of this until a good couple of weeks after I’d started enthusiastically tucking into the boisterous guitars of Thru Me Again (released last month on Mexican Summer – the “thru” bothers me, by the way…). But by then, it was all too late.

Some wag has made a flippant remark on one of the La Hell Gang vids on YouTube referring to Sigur Ros, but you shouldn’t let that bother you (no matter how much this also bothers me…) It’s principally a massive slab of psych-ey, guitar-dominated indie-rock – vocals well down the mix, drummer on half-time, wah-wah and all manner of other jiggery-pokery echoing about the place. And, my friends, I really like it. Maybe, you will too…

 

One of the reasons I didn’t link this lot to their Chilean chums The Holydrug Couple and Föllakzoid is that I initially misread their name as LA Hell Gang (while we’re onto things that bother me…) and to be fair it’s not hard to make some sort of languid biker gang connection, when you see the photos and hear the first strains of Inside My Fall.

Actually, I’ve only just found out that despite reading to the contrary (I’m sure) Thru Me Again is not actually their first record – 2009’s Just What Is Real was released in South America (and probably over here) on BYMRecords. And I’ve just found it on Emusic too. First listen tells you it’s a much more garagey affair than the new one, and makes you realise that no matter how raucous and coarse the new record sounds, there’s actually been a certain amount of “maturing” going on here… Scary!

Witness..

 

Looking forward to getting into the childish stuff!

Energetic and sincere, addictive and accessible…

vicente pratsI’m going to talk about Spain again, which seems a bit ridiculous – it’s over a month ago that we were there – but work has barged in again and, gosh darn!, I’ve done almost no posts about it. What’s the matter with me?

In fact, it was almost a month later before I picked this record off the shelf and ripped it to my laptop. Criminal, really…

Vicente Prats

Came across this record on the Discos Amsterdam website, as it featured heavily on one of the 39 Sonidos de Juan Victorio podcasts which the owner of the shop does periodically (and which are worth a listen, I should add…).

I’m now not clear whether the gentleman I met in the shop in Valencia was actually Juan (he said he was) but at any rate, when I asked about the Vicente Prats record both he and his lady friend became very enthusiastic (far more so than my cack-handed Spanish could cope with…).

Vicente Prats is a Valencia-based singer and band leader who clearly has a strong connection with earthy, powerful pop songs – songs that display old-fashioned pop sentimentalities, unashamed, unrepentant.

Interviewed, here, for Efe Eme magazine, he wears his heart well and truly on his sleeve:

“I make pop songs that are energetic and sincere, addictive and accessible, just as pop has always been. Songs that you can sing and hum along to, that will remain with the listener.”

Here they are playing Tiempo Perido on YouTube:

 

The record I bought in Valencia is his self-titled debut, released officially this year, I think, but actually written and recorded at home five or six years earlier. And it’s a lovely, rich collection of eight songs. Reviews of it make mention of the Byrds, Big Star and Los Brincos (need to look that one up), but unsurprisingly the strongest influence that comes through is from everyone’s favourite band, Teenage Fanclub. Now the line between “influenced by” and “blatant copyist” is a little bit in the eye of the beho¡der. I just don’t have a problem with bands sounding like one of my much-loved, pet sounds – there’s not been enough from them in recent years, in my book – but I suspect there’ll be those who hear this record and think that it’s just too close to the Fannies. Fair enough, but you’re missing out, my friends…

 

And by the way “Tiempo Perdido”, is currently free to download from Sr Prats’ Bandcamp page.

¡Vamonos!

¡Bocata de sangre! ¡Bocata de sangre!

Archivo-adjunto-al-mensaje-620x403Well, Spain was a lot of fun, but regrettably it’s been gone for a couple of weeks now. I would’ve been back on here earlier but I’ve been sprawled open-mouthed in front of the World Cup rushed off my feet with work.

Valencia was my favourite of the cities we visited and I could go on about it for a while given the chance. Suffice to say it’s a beautiful city with a lovely green river-bed park running through the heart of it. And there’s a fair few more-than-decent record shops where a so-minded tourist can easily lose a few hours… My favourite one was Discos Amsterdam which as well as having your standard Indie, Psych, Metal sections, was also well-stocked with Spanish and Latin American records. I spent a happy couple of hours there and met owner Juan who was patient with my Spanish and was politely surprised that I listened to his podcast.

Siesta!

As it turned out, the record I really wanted to buy by Valencia’s own krautrockers Siesta! had already sold out which was a shame. I’d done a little bit of prep before leaving for Spain (I think I wrote about it…) and was quite intrigued by what I’d heard on YouTube and Bandcamp. Turns out the vinyl record itself had only 300 pressings but the band have made the mp3s available on their Bandcamp page for free.

Woop!

It’s a cracker of a release as well – noisy, aggressive, full of energy. Siesta! are two Valencianos called Pepe and Jonathan who both play drums, keyboards and synths and are clearly big fans of synthy motorik sounds and a fair dollop of psychedelia. Not so many lyrics, but at least they’re all in Spanish (which I kind of approve of).

 

Rather charmingly, Siesta! describe themselves as “losers” and “two pissed off monkeys with drumsticks”. More specifically, there’s the aforementioned nods toward Neu and Can, but there’s actually quite a lot of scampering post-punk lines that I can hear too, some Cure, some Bunnymen – not my favourite references these days, but it all kinda works. It all makes for quite a nervy, adrenaline fuelled listen, pretty much the direct opposite of a restful snooze in the afternoon…

 

[By the way, if you were wondering, a “bocata” is apparently a sandwich made with French bread…]

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