top of page

New Strings For The E-Bow

Starring


Almost Nothing, David Boulter, K-Lone, Lee Gamble, Peter Kruder and Roberto di Gioia, Terry


The Front Runners


Almost Nothing : Almost Nothing


Almost Nothing is the name of Roddy Woomble’s (Idlewild) new band. It’s a thoughtful and likeable collection of pop electronica.


There’s always a worry when a figure from the past returns in a new guise. How much is he trading on his name and past reputation? The good news is that, from the off, Almost Nothing feel like a band worth getting to know. This sounds like no artistic dabble in a new genre, but a successful transition to adopt a new string to his E-bow.


Woomble has become one of a select band who had their turn in the commercial spotlight that has now moved on. They’re left with a legacy and, more importantly, the chance to test their excellent songwriting ability in new ways. Lloyd Cole and Roddy Frame are two other members of the club.


Initially you might feel that Woomble has adopted the role of a gloomy seer, singing cold songs of foreboding. They still work. The bouncing to and fro and throbbing but propulsive bass line of ‘Almost Nothing’ is almost worth the price of admission alone. His voice sounds as if its feeling the strain, but it works in the context of the songs


Listen well but fear not. As the album progresses, a warmer, poppier style emerges to balance the album. They bring with them a human touch. Songs such as ‘Returning Shadows’, ‘Dialogue Trails’ and ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ are immensely likeable, with enough different touches - the odd tunings of ‘Returning Shadows’ for example - to avoid the dreaded generic tag.


Almost nothing? Not at all. This is something of value and quality.


Taster Track : Returning Shadows



The Chasing Pack


Displaced : David Boulter




This is a curiosity. In brief, it’s the soundtrack to a documentary showing the identity crisis of third-generation Turks growing up in Belgium and the Netherlands. 


Also in brief is the running time - 12 tracks in just 14 minutes and 48 seconds. That makes for a very fragmentary listen, as if you were listening to the album through the 90 second preview tool on i-tunes. ‘Black Cat’ for example, consists of 7 flute notes in 22 seconds.


More than any other album I’ve listened to, this needs to be heard in the context of the film it soundtracks. It feels incomplete as it is.


Don’t get me wrong. The music here is lovely. It blends acoustic guitar, flute and cello in a way that provides an Eastern feel in a Western setting. Surprise surprise, it’s as if it was about displacement. It’s one of the prettier albums to deliver what it says on the tin. 


This is an album of snippets, an advert and promotional tool for the film. David Boulter’s work deserves more than that, a lot more.


Finally, the last thing connected to the album that is brief is……. this review!


Taster Track : Displaced Opening Titles



Swells : K-Lone


Not just dance music, not just chill, not just listen at home music. This collection from K-Lone occupies a space somewhere between all three.


This is music that sounds absorbed in itself, but is also absorbing to us at home. It’s like that guy dancing by himself on an empty dancefloor. You can’t take your eyes off of him, and you can’t take your ears away from K-lone. There’s always some move to bring you back, some evolution in the sound that regains your attention if you’ve begun to wander.


There are faint echoes of 00s chill in a track such as ‘With U’, a more soulful take on Air, perhaps. ‘Love Me A Little’ has a dance beat for the end of the night. You can’t truly describe this as ambient or library music, but parts of ‘Shimmer’ call to mind the tinkling sound of dripping water. The heavier beats of, say, ‘Gel’ eventually sink into the song like a body into a beanbag.


‘Swells’ is an appealing, calming listen that’s melodic without having overt melodies. It’s built on sound and effect, probably a few samples too. So far, so generic but K-Lone has a knack with specific touches that are precise and purposeful. The result is like a smart, soft fabric you’d like to wear close to your skin.


As a title, ‘Love Is’ captures the feel of the whole album. It could be an incomplete phrase and you have to work out from the music where it’s going and how you get there. Or it could be a simple, complete statement that carries a whiff of profundity about it. 


You decide - the music will provide the perfect accompaniment to your musings.


Taster Track : Love Me A Little



Models : Lee Gamble


Lee Gamble’s set of electronic wizardry is hard to describe, but vocoder heavy, fractured, hypnotic and experimental are good places to start.


The opening track, ‘Purple Orange’ has been done before in various ways.  It’s quietly distorted, the heavy vocoder vocals lying over a heavily synthetic and minimal backing. Think Imogen Heap’s ‘Hide and Seek’ or the more familiar, chart troubling sound of Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’. It’s not been done quite as wholeheartedly as Lee Gamble does here though. I’m left feeling impressed but secretly hoping that we’re not in for an album’s worth of the same.


Gamble takes it further, diving deep into experiment and twisted sounds. The key question for me was : “Who or what is trying to make contact with me through this music?” And answer came there none. Ultimately an album that seemed to be about the challenges and failures of communication, failed to connect.


It’s undeniably hypnotic, particularly on ‘X1th c. Spray’ with its Eastern shaman vibe and ‘Phantom Limb’ with its percussive clicks. The gaps in the music seem significant as if they’re coming from a transmitter that isn’t properly tuned in. ‘Juice’ is an example of this. ‘She’s Not’, which comes with lyrics on Spotify that help to show how the effects are worked, and feels more ambient.


‘Models’ is a collection that seems to have stripped out all conventional elements of pop music. It’s beatless, although there are percussive elements - a surprise from a man who is also a highly respected DJ.


Sadly it didn’t work for me, but as I’ve said before that doesn’t make it a failure or a bad record for others. For an alternative view, here’s Pitchfork's review which awarded it a highly satisfactory score of 7.3.


Taster Track : X1th c. Spray




“- - - - - - - -” : Peter Kruder and Roberto di Gioia


Electronic maestro Peter Kruder meets German pianist Roberto di Gioia to sombre and unsettling effect.


This is an album that’s big on atmosphere, big enough to swamp melody, rhythm and beats. There is melody but it's of secondary importance. Rhythms are there to provide tension and threat. They may have decided to dispense with beats because this is the kind of music to accompany a film where your heart is pounding in your head.


There’s something of Harry Lime and The Third Man about ‘Bella Arp’. It’s a generally quiet album, but it’s filled with the quiet that spells solitude and the dawning realisation that the unthinkable is about to happen.


There’s barely any attempt to lighten the tone. Once you’re in, you’re in.  Even the song titles work against you. ‘Clock Tick Tock’ makes it clear that time is running out. ‘No Love On The Enterprise’? Well, there’s not a lot of love anywhere on this album. It’s a grey, concrete and cold East Germany of a record.


From the odd and deliberately unpronounceable album title - ‘Quote dash dash dash dash dash dash dash dash Unquote’ anyone? - and the upside down positioning of the album cover picture, this is an album that throws concern for the listener in their face. 


However…. There is pleasure to be had from listening to the sound of the electronics. They’re clearly the work of a man who has perfected his art. The throbbing bass pulse of ‘Endless’ is a big, fat sound. The gulping synthesisers of ‘Kusine Limusene’ and its keyboard sirens have been precisely crafted. ‘Meteoriten Schluckauf’ is a compendium of bleeps and effects that might prompt you to marvel at the sounds that can be created these days by a master craftsman.


Towards the end, there’s some relief. It’s the relief of the horizon beginning to lighten after an endless night, or the first sight of a rescue team through the dusty fog of war. ‘Sequenz’ seems to bring more life to the album, simply by speeding up. ‘Meteoriten (Reprise)’, the closing track, manages to source the beauty that’s buried deep within the music.


If you’re inclined to horror films rather than romcoms, to nighttime rather than the day or to gritty holiday locations rather than tourist traps this may be for you.


Taster Track : Meteoriten (Reprise)




Call Me Terry : Terry


Terry’s  jolt of a DIY indie record is a return to simpler times, brimful of hopeful and enthusiastic playing.


By rights, this record should never have navigated its way through the record release system to see the light of day. With a minimal presence on line, it’s surprising that anyone beyond their immediate locality has heard of them. With a style that is best described as DIY learning on the job, you’d be forgiven if, as an A&R man, you suggested they come back later when they’re more polished.


Terry is a band that you like because no one else does. They’re yours, and you’re happy to keep it that way. They’re the kind of band that might be cheerfully and enthusiastically adopted as the next big underground thing, a band for a new generation branching out away from the mainstream. They’re a band from the age of independent fanzines.


What they need is a polished producer. No. Correct that. The last thing they need is a polished producer. At 62 I’ve moved on a long way from this style of music. But at 17 I’d have been proud to declare myself a fan.


These songs are fuzzy and a little discordant. Listening to them and, in your mind, you see them as a band setting out. It’s as if they are playing at the pace they can manage because they can’t play any faster. You can hear concentration oozing out of songs which are kept simple and deliberate while they perfect their craft. You can also imagine them smiling as they play, knowing that they have upset your expectations and loving every minute of it.


Their confidence grows as the record goes on. ‘Gronks’ certainly has more certainty about it. I have no idea what they are singing about in ‘Jane Roe’ but I like its style. ‘Excuses’ is a time travelling trip back to the punk of 1976 when it genuinely didn’t matter how adept you were with your instruments. ‘Golden Head’ is the closest to a mainstream song.


Thank Terry for their reminder of what it’s like to be at the start of something potentially special. And if their dreams are realised, congratulate yourself on being there at the start.


Taster Track : Golden Head



Playlists


As ever this week's Taster Track playlists can be accessed at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7cSveL7NpVp1xgrKxPe4av?si=SkFlSnvySeuYFpgG0WJFmA or via the Spotify link on the Home Page.


Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page