Monday, March 06, 2006

Issue 6

It's said that good things come to those who wait. But you, dear Sleephouse listener, have waited so very long. Therefore, without further ado, I present to you: Sleephouse Issue 6. Please accept my humblest apologies for the delay.

To listen, simply download the audio file of the show (by clicking the image below) or use the flash player in the sidebar. This show can also be subscribed to as a podcast by copying the address of the RSS link in the sidebar into the podcast receiver of your choice. It’s all so simple…

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(42MB, 45 mins. MP3 file)

1. McLusky: Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues (Too Pure)
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Any excuse to play foaming Welsh punkers McLusky is always welcomed here at Sleephouse. And though they imploded nigh on a year ago now, the greatest hits set, Mcluskyism, proves that the touch of Father Time’s wizened hands shall never dilute their legendary piss and vinegar.

The greatest hits compilation is out now and comes in two handy sizes: a mega-blowout 3 CD odds, sods and rarities version, and the perhaps more sensible straight-up single CD version. A messy, sweary, sonic juggernaut of misanthropy, McLusky were made for days when your boss treats you like shit, you step in dog turd as you trudge home in the rain and then the man at the corner shop informs you that your bankcard has been declined. Listening back to the raw energy of their greatest work only confirms the fact that their demise leaves a hole like an exit wound in the British music scene—and I’m sure that’s just the way the miserable bastards would have wanted it.

2. The Gossip: Standing In The Way Of Control (Kill Rockstars)
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If the world in my head ever became a reality, The Gossip would be a top pop band. Their killer single releases would consistently strafe the upper echelon of the billboard charts, singer Beth Ditto would be a regular guest on The View and Oprah, and anyone switching on Cribs would be greeted by guitarist Brace Paine showing off his broken guitar collection and the inside of his empty fridge.

Until such a day, however, we’ll just have to make do with the Portland-based honeys releasing yet another indie label-based album that garners just a little bit more praise and public awareness than the last, not to mention patronage and props from the likes of Le Tigre and Sonic Youth.

Though I can’t say that I don’t miss the old recorded-in-a-leaky-shed Gossip sound slightly, this new taut punk funk version fairly rollicks along, and Beth Ditto’s southern howl could still strip paint from a wall at fifty paces. Hey kids, why don’t you just buy this fucking album? Make this old man happy. I just want to see Brace turn the camera and say, “MTV. This is how we do. Portland-style!”

3. Guillemots: Trains To Brazil (Fantastic Plastic)
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Trying to avoid music hype while living in the UK is like trying to run through rain drops without getting hit: bloody hard. And you can trust me—I’ve had plenty of practice. So when the BBC listed Guillemots as one of those bands to watch in 2006, I snorted with derision and continued tapping my foot along to the obscure punjabi nose-flute record I had just ordered from Syphilitic Pigeon Records.

Well, somewhere along the line, I stupidly allowed a rogue mp3 from Guillemots to be downloaded onto my system. A week later, and I’m completely in thrall to their Aztec Camera as-produced-by Belle and Sebastian preppy indie pomp.

Maybe it’s the fact that ‘Trains to Brazil’ pushes all the right pop buttons, exhilaratingly teetering on the edge of cheesy but never fully falling into the syrup, or that it captures the mood of London during the summer terrorist attacks perfectly. Whatever it is, I’m sure Guillemots will find much success in 2006 and I will begrudge them not a jot of it. After all, it’s nice to hear pop that’s actually about something.

4. Man Man: Engwish Bwudd (Ace Fu)
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Drifting into the arena of the unwell and crowbarring even more WEIRD into the term New Weird America we have Man Man. This Philadelphia five piece are neither shy of moustaches, facepaint nor mining nursery rhymes for lyrical content. To their credit it all comes off amazingly well--musical pirates sailing the high seas with a wailing Tom Waits tied to the mast while Captain Beefheart sights land from the crow's nest.

Their second album, Six Demon Bag drops on Ace Fu this month, and you can catch their, by all accounts, frantic live show on a short tour, or at the by now essential SXSW showcase at the end of March.

You can also check out an interview with lead singer, Honus Honus, over at the jaw-droppingly brilliant Indie Interviews Podcast.

5. Os Mutantes: A Minha Menina (Souljazz)
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In the mid sixties Brazil was ruled by a military junta, while its music scene was dominated by the Bossa Nova and Samba that had prevailed since the 50s. Not unsurprisingly, the younger generation, by now exposed to American Rock and Roll, British Psychedelia and French New Wave cinema, decided a revolution was in order.

Soul Jazz's recently released Tropicália: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound compilation seeks to highlight and celebrate the movement that from 1967-1969 initiated a sea change in Brazilian popular culture. It was a movement of imagination and of revolution, a cannibalisation of foreign music and a new take on Brazilian styles. Spearheaded by Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Tom Ze and Os Mutantes the movement challenged the military government and regular listeners alike. Perhaps most importantly it asked what Brazilians could achieve in the realm of the arts. The answer was “Everything is Possible!”, a sentiment borrowed for the title of Os Mutantes' Greatest Hits collection released years later by David Byrne on his Luaka Bop label, and something very much in evidence when one listens to the music that the Souljazz compilation offers. Os Mutantes, my personal favourite, exemplify the philosophy whole-heartedly, and sound every bit the unhinged psychedelic space warriors that they were. ‘A Minha Menina’ is simply one of the best songs ever, sheer joy and creative zeal transferred directly onto a piece of magnetic tape. If we broadcasted songs like this into space we’d be fighting off extra-terrestrial visitors with a specially constructed, atmosphere-scraping stick.

The super hot news is that Os Mutantes (well, two thirds of them) are reforming for one concert to be held in London. The show takes place on May 22 at the Barbican. Tickets will be, shall we say, scarce.

6. Gilberto Gil: Procissao (Souljazz)

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The second presentation from the Souljazz’s Tropicalia compilation comes from Brazil’s current Minister for Culture Gilberto Gil. An appointment roughly approximate to the UK handing the post to John Lennon, and a move whose strange refreshing genius is clear when one reads articles on Gil that feature lines like:

“The minister himself […] sat on the floor, cross-legged and barefoot, cradling an acoustic guitar in his lap.”

And to think, Tony Blair once thought he could nervously strum a Telecaster to get the youth vote. All glibness aside, Gil was not always so popular with Brazilian government bods. The Tropicalia movement was effectively ended when Gil and Caetano Veloso were imprisoned in the 1969, accused of anti-government activities, and forced to flee the country, living in exile for years before being able to return. The movement may have ended in a concrete sense but what Gil, Veloso and others started continues to inspire today. Listening to ‘Procissao’ and, indeed, the whole of the Tropicalia compilation, it’s easy to see why. I therefore recommend this compilation like no other record released this year. This music is essential to existence. Find out more here or you might just expire.

7. Églantine Gouzy: 12h12 (Monika)
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After I featured a wonderful song from Monika-based recording artists Cobra Killer a couple of issues ago, a regular listener and friend suggested I check out a compilation released on the very same label earlier in 2005. Well, that compilation was 4 Women No Cry and I’m very grateful for the heads-up.

The compilation does exactly what is says on the tin: four female artists, some great music and absolutely no tears. Of the four it’s Églantine Gouzy that burns brightest, re-igniting the kind of laptop electronica that offered such hope just a few short years back but has of late had to take a back seat to more organic music from, well, anyone with a bongo, an acoustic guitar and some windchimes, really. Gouzy’s Gallic cool very definitely re-enforces the notion that if you’re looking for refreshing computer music the backstreets of Paris might just be the place to begin your search, and with 4 Women No Cry being promised as the beginning of a series of compilation releases, Germany’s Monika records is a similarly worthy port of call.

8. Tape: Sand Dunes (Hapna)
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Beautiful acoustic guitar based ambient music straight from rural Sweden. Tape have been going for a few years now, and I’m ashamed to say that I have no previous experience of them until their album Rideau was released at the end of last year. But these three musicians work together to seamlessly weave processed loops into their delicate beatless chamber music, creating a sound that’s as welcome and warming as the morning sun breaking through your bedroom window. Unless, of course, it’s Monday morning and that’s another story.

9. Psychic Ills: Another Day, Another Night (Social Registry)

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Although it’s been threatening to make a come back for umpteen odd years now, I find it entirely appropriate that a genre that’s built on a certain apathetic distain seems to find it so hard to jumpstart a proper movement into motion. 2006, however, might just be the year that shoegazing and spacerock finally makes a ramshackle bid for the mainstream yet again.

Giant Drag may have already gathered a commendable amount of column inches with a more radio-friendly unit-shifter variety, but Psychic Ills are now staking a claim for the more esoteric end of the market. Releasing their debut full length, Dins, on the stonkingly cool Social Registry label, the band drifts in on a hazy reverbed flight of fantasy, repetitive melody line and a mix that keeps the vocals just this side of incomprehensible. Which is as it should be. If everything goes to plan okay we’ll have you chugging cough mixture, wearing cardigans and growing that all-important fringe by Christmas. Just remember to start scouring eBay now for those original Spacemen 3 vinyl releases, it’ll make it so much easier to claim you’ve been into it all along, when you’ve got convincing concrete evidence to back up your scurrilous claims. You lying dawg, you.