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mini cd reviews

(Indiecater) By: Jon Leonard | 6.5/10

elephant stone - the seven seas

elephant stone

Though the name may lead to groans from doubters dreading another Stone Roses tribute act, Elephant Stone emulate bands from different music periods altogether whilst offering a little Eastern promise. ‘The Seven Seas’ is the debut album and – by and large – the formula is a successful one. ‘How Long’ and ‘Blood From A Stone’ are reminiscent of 60’s acts such as The Zombies in terms of the echo-heavy production and Rishi Dhir’s crystal clear vocals. Whereas ‘Boms Bomb Away’ and ‘I Am Blind’ are pure jangly indie pop; a bit throwaway but acceptable all the same.

It’s probably at this time that I should mention Dhir’s nods to his native Asian music but – in all honesty – ‘The Straight Line’ is a stamina-sapping instrumental which seems to go on forever and ‘Don’t You Know’ seems too gimmicky. Dhir’s sitar playing is admirable but in the context of the record, a more subtle use of it is recommended. So after these false steps, it’s a relief to hear the lemon fresh pop which Elephant Stone are clearly best served by; the title track being a particularly doleful highlight. Granted, ‘The Seven Seas’ offers nothing particularly new to the table and its experimental excursions are flawed at best. Yet for the majority of the time, ‘The Seven Seas’ is enjoyable enough melodic pop.

(Leaf) By: The Indie Dad | 7/10

wildbirds & peacedrums – the snake

wildbirds

This album from the Swedish two-piece has had numerous plaudits so I was eager to hear it. Aside from being well received in the recorded state they seem to convert those who see them live. This music is largely rhythmic (their Myspace ‘blurb’ is “drum circle” which effectively sets out their stall) topped by the ‘hard to ignore’ vocals of Mariam Wallentin. The phrasing of the vocals brings to mind (as theses things must) various female singers – all extreme in their own way, all ‘artists’. But that’s not to say every track isn’t distinctly Wildbirds – the rhythmic drive and other unusual instrumentation see to that. And Miriam is certainly her own woman – it’s just what’s come before in terms of female trailblazers are hard to disregard. From sepulchral mass on opener ‘Island’ (Diamanda Galas) to archetypal drum lead ‘There Is No Light (the Blues)’ they show you accurately what to expect in the first 2 songs. ‘So Soft So Pink’ uses breathing through a harmonica to produce a spiritual lullaby before moving to gentle yet powerful vocals that remind you of the work of later Kate Bush or Bjork. ‘Great Lines’ is a more accessible meeting of the 2 ends of W&P, tribal drums (and some splashy cymbals) and a melody working with rather than against.

Dip into this album for a couple of tracks and it is very satisfying but I personally find it pretty wearing as a continuous listen – but then I could say that about The White Stripes take on Blues as well. The strength of vision is admirable and I don’t imagine an easy listen is what they were after – “drum circle” is apt, something of immense power while you are immersed but from the outside a little off-putting.

(Gnome) By: The Indie Dad | 7/10

boomSnake – give & take

boomsnake

This is another U.S. album from last year that has only filtered to me this year from a kindly (and very groovy) plugging company. Boom Snake is one or two guys making dust covered Pop, filtering classic ‘tunesmith’ through a slightly bleak psyche. Starting with the dreamy fragility of ‘Busy’ (a “take time to smell the flowers” type plea), second track ‘Be Where How’ (points for the title there) is up-beat, pushing to an almost ecstatic conclusion. The Raspberries and Harry Nilsson are pointers.

‘Sticks Stones & Animal Bones’ wouldn’t be out of place on an album by The Finns, gorgeous double tracked harmonies across a surprisingly rhythmic track. By now we know we are in timeless Pop territory, with an assured and able guide in Boom Snake. ‘My Pretend Friends’ is a sound collage interlude that sort of clears the pallet before ‘Honey’ goes back to basics – acoustic guitar and ghostly vocals promising eternal love to someone (though the possibility is the affection is one sided). In Da Ground faux beat boxes in the mildest manner behind a melodic vocal Radiohead wouldn’t turn their nose up at. ‘Excuses’ (Ghost Toast) is Jazz Guitar, brushes and the ethereal vocal the title might suggest, again Radiohead wouldn’t be overstating it – probably this conclusion is the most likely to bring a wider audience.

(16K) By: Dez Innocent | 6.5/10

dextro - winded

dextro

2007’s ‘Consequence Music’ was a glorious mix of analogue and electronic elements. Ewan Mackenzie’s second LP as Dextro, Winded, tilts the balance more towards live instrumentation, with plucked acoustic guitar, shimmering electric and drums all to the fore. Comparisons to Boards of Canada are less apt than they were for the previous record. Instead, this has the same lustrous, cinematic flavour of European acts such as M83 and Port-Royal. Whilst it’s undoubtedly an enjoyable listen, many of the tracks aren’t particularly distinctive. The lush atmospherics and languid shuffle are allied with melodies that are pleasing but fairly ephemeral. It’s self-effacing music that acts like a relaxing balm rather than grabbing the attention. Pleasant and nice aren’t the sort of adjectives that set the pulse racing, but it’s hard to avoid them in this instance.

A few tracks do stand out. “The Unknown” is an interlude of mournful acoustic and angelic synth washes, whilst longest track “Momentary” introduces a muted vocal not unlike Jonsi Birgisson’s, coupled with a more muscular (and memorable) tune. Winded is by no means a bad record. It has a slightly melancholic grandeur about it that brings to mind sweeping vistas. It’s the sort of album you find yourself playing a lot, even though little of it really sticks in the mind. It’s easy on the ear, and has a yearning, wistful quality, but ultimately it doesn’t completely engage the attention.

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