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Rainbow Arabia: Boys and Diamonds

15 Jun

Such is the exotic, multi-cultural appeal derived from Boys And Diamonds that it would be very tempting to begin this review with an indulgent, slightly over the top narrative of  descriptive imagery, so lets not go there (although naively the first 1 or 2 drafts say otherwise).  But at the very least Rainbow Arabia will induce an urge to be in the open air amongst like minded people and preferably a cold drink at arm’s length, certainly on the first listen anyway.

This, the third release from the wed locked Los Angeles duo, (Matthew and Tiffany Preston) is a master class in sound technician with an almost obsessive attention to detail that manages to curb the slippery slopes of over production.  There are similarities to the Arabian/Oriental flirtations expressed by Siouxsie and the Banshees and even the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s most recent output, but in particular The Knife, emitting strong comparisons both musically and vocally, albeit on a lighter, worldlier note.

There’s plenty of reverb injected into her more than capable voice, but the concession should be made that in terms of pure brass, vocal attitude, Mrs Preston is perhaps better suited along side Shakira than say, Karen O.  But don’t let that put you off.  In fact, what might put you off is that from the opening title track you may think for a split second that you’ve been transported to an all singing all dancing stage performance of the Lion King, or a tribal welcome party in the heart of Africa.  The feeling of being subjected to an exotic travel commercial never entirely filters, but more over and perhaps more disappointingly, an issue of motive develops asking which is more important for this couple, making music or being cool?  This may appear a little too harsh for what is essentially an enjoyable album, but from this, perhaps overly cynical critic, it’s pop in denial.




7 Jun


Bandlands, as the album title implies, doesn’t disappoint in portraying a somewhat David Lynch-esque inspired landscape of nihilistic dystopia, with the blurred faces of Martin Sheen and Cissy Spacek never too for in the background, or indeed Denis Hopper inhaling his…well, you get the picture.

But to simply relate the music made by Alex Zhung Hai, AKA Dirty Beaches to a few snapshot recollections of various cinematic flicks would be wholly unjust, because it’s not merely the images stirred which draws the attention but the feelings that are awoken alongside them, and it is this which (although musically it’s nothing new but indeed quite familiar) attracts us again and again to this particular mode of escapism entertainment. 

Badlands would certainly not sit out-of-place as the solitary remaining vinyl of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, perpetually repeating itself in this vast backdrop where the only other remainder is the howling wind of eternal lament.   The tracks ‘True Blue’, ‘Lord knows best’, or even ‘Black nylon’ perhaps convey this most accurately.  The rather short album holds a slightly antique sound quality, giving an impression that it’s just been dug up from beneath the earth with Zhung Hai’s Orbison sounding voice gently nursing the music.

As with a lot of his earlier work, the issue with Dirty Beaches is the uncanny resemblance to Suicide which at times may be difficult to distinguish by the not too familiar listener.  His cover of ‘Horses’ could easily pass, or be mistaken for an Alan Vega et al endeavour, and also ‘Sweet 17, except we discover more of a Rock ‘a’ Billy surf approach tinged by ‘The Cramps.  On the whole it’s a thoroughly commendable record endorsing a largely under-appreciated genre which Zhung Hai taps with obvious sincerety and affection, but it’s unfortunately nothing new to wail about.

Twin Shadow

3 Jun


Twin Shadow, AKA George Lewis’ debut LP Forget, is an interesting and thoroughly engrossing array of accomplishments.  Co-produced by Grizzly Bears’ Chris Taylor and released on 4AD, it manages to reveal an influential past by paying tribute and giving homage to it, yet it sustains sufficiently in offering an entirely new and refreshing tonic which dusts off any of those cobwebs, and is thus able to hold its own in the unsympathetic courts of originality.

There is a definite 80s footprint left by The Cure and Bowie and even The Smiths for instance, alongside various similarities to the ever confusing genre that is ‘Post punk’ (you be the judge) and, if it may be said, a likeness to Edwin Collins.  The album was apparently written entirely from Lewis’ apartment in Brooklyn and it certainly has that bedroom feel to it.  Although it may not disclose any dark or unnerving closet secrets, Forget does portray a list of songs that were written in relative solitude, displaying a creative flow that perhaps benefits an artist further when expressed in privacy.

Tracks such as ‘Slow’ and ‘Castles In The Snow’ stand out in particular but not by much, which is a credit to the consistent quality within the whole piece.  If pressed to submit a down side, it would have to be the seemingly luck lustre attempts at vocal harmonising in certain areas, which may be deliberate of course, but only serve in presenting a finished article that is slightly undercooked and which merely required a little attentive patients.  This is a minor criticism which for some listeners may go relatively unnoticed because on the whole Forget is triumph and deserves nothing but praise.  Enjoy

Retrospective: Scratch Acid – ‘The Greatest Gift’ (1991)

10 Mar

Scratch Acid – ‘The Greatest Gift’

(Touch and Go Records)

This lesser known classic is (yes I know this is patronising) not for the faint hearted. Scratch Acid – ‘The Greatest Gift’, released in 1991 consists of a mega twenty eight songs! It’s a compilation of three previous albums from the Austin trio (1982-1987) who, in true and unfortunate punk rock fashion were ripped off by there then record labels.

Although, the guys separated and went on to form numerous other bands, notably The Jesus Lizard, and deservedly experienced a sip or two of that long sought after elixir known as success. To the average you and me this means ‘BEING DULY PAID FOR THE HOURS PUT IN’, and yet it is arguably Scratch Acid who stand alone and in most cases rise above.

Along with other bands such as the Butthole Surfers and Big Black, Scratch Acid contributed in giving unholy birth to that early-to-mid-eighties U.S. scene where a rather more extreme alternative was offered to an already alternative genre. In tracks such as ‘She Said’, ‘Lay Screaming’, ‘Owners Lament’ and ‘Crazy Dan’  themes of rape, murder and insanity are not just touched upon but delved into with David Yow (vocals) and his debauched howling, coming through the speakers like that of a condemned opera singer clinging to the last remnants of what was once a soul.

This is built from the foundations of a solid bass/drums combo and some of the most unsettling, eerie guitar playing ever to be strung which all serves to present an Audio Nasty experience of the most depraved and therefore highest quality.  Think of being ten years old again and watching Texas Chain Saw Massacre for the first time after a day of Tom and Jerry, intrigued? You should be.

Favourite Album of 2010: Adebisi Shank – ‘This Is the Second Album Of A Band Named Adebisi Shank’

1 Feb

"...a futuristic Japanese computer game sent back in time and presented in audio format."

Adebisi Shank – ‘This Is The Second Album…’

(Big Scary Monsters Records)

And so here we are, with level 2 from the Wexfordian ragamuffins.  For those of you poor unfortunates still unfamiliar with the trio we at The Quilted Generation are here to help.  It’s quite simple really, they are comprised of a drummer, a bassist, a guitarist and a shit load of effects thrown in for good measure.

Technically an instrumental outfit, voice overs aside, Adebisi Shanks style of play is like a hi-fidelity attack on the ears. Best described as a futuristic Japanese computer game sent back in time and presented in audio format.

For those of you who are familiar with these guys and enjoyed their first album then this, their highly anticipated second, is indeed an advance on that. Certainly in musical progression and production; a level 2 if you will. Adebisi Shank are at their aural best when gathering momentum and tension, continually building on it until reaching what can only be described as a juggernaut of rhythm. With the steadfast beats and off-beats of the drums and the intensified Primus-esque bass, they relentlessly march on, led by the ‘which way is North’ guitar playing and effects alike.

Although much the same as their debut album in terms of their uncompromising approach in style and energy, there is a sense that the group are attempting to reach a wider audience. No more so is this evident than on fifth track ‘(-_-)’ which sees the band employing a more laidback tactic. Clearly geared toward the radio friendly masses, it may come as a breath of fresh air to some listeners or a misleading introduction to others.  Nevertheless, it is fantastic stuff.  More please.