Casual Sex – A Perfect Storm / Pissing Neon

Casual Sex deliver a brilliant double A side in the form of A Perfect Storm and Pissing Neon. A Perfect Storm sees the band tame their sound since The Bastard Beat EP. Soft electronic sounding drums sit alongside a click-like beat, synth backing, phased noise and simple guitar lines. The chorus is infectious and the long fade out leaves you wistfully wanting more.

If A Perfect Storm is as mellow as Casual Sex have gone, AA side, Pissing Neon is the opposite and as aggressive and impulsive as National Unity and What’s Your Daughter For. The increase in energy makes up for the slightly less hooky tune, and this comparison between the two sides is what makes this a great double A, each side complimenting the other and showing the band have more than one trick up their sleeve.

Buy it here – http://casualsex.bigcartel.com/product/a-perfect-storm-pissing-neon-7

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Tuff Love – Slammer

Tuff Love reveal new single, Slammer, out November 24th, along with video, below. This comes alongside the announcement of forthcoming DROSS EP, out February 9th. Slammer has a more refined sound than the Junk EP, keeping the dream-pop vocals and grungy guitars, but rightfully bringing vocals more towards the forefront, letting the hooks shine through. The video is suitably silly coming from Lost Map.

Go and see them 16th November at Old Blue Last.

The Son(s) – The Things I Love Are Not At Home

It’s difficult to say exactly what it is that gives this album its endearing charm. The warm, lethargic psychedelic pop gently creeps through ten songs spanning 35 minutes, feeling like it’s over just as it’s begun. Opening with an instrumental mood setter that sits like an overture, introducing sonic, rather than melodic, themes that occur within the album, which draws you in to a collection of songs that flow with familiar ease. Heartfelt collaboration with RM Hubbert, The Long Fuse, closes the album and sits slightly aside from the rest in tone and timbre, but rounds off the record with its sheer beauty, both in terms of singing and from Hubby’s immaculate playing.

Death, With Castanets is a beautifully infectious pop song, Underneath The Arbor an understated ballad and …A Lick On The Ear a driving psych-indie tune. The drumming throughout is superb without overstepping its mark, the arrangements are excellently put together and the singing charismatic. What really holds the album together is the strength of the songs, as displayed perfectly by the soft melodies of Paint Eyes On Your Eyelids, which play off each other, progressing on to ever more infectious lines, through halloween-tinged synths to almost barber shop vocals. It’s ridiculous, but works remarkably well, going by you without ever raising an eyebrow.

The Things I Love Are Not At Home is a record that will pull you back in time and again. It doesn’t initially beg re-listening, but will quietly request it from you, and with each listen open new lines, melodies and intricacies that are hard to resist.

Dear Lara – Cape North EP

Cape North follows on from Dear Lara (David Lan)’s first EP, Plans, which was issued on tape as part of cassette store day last month. While Plans’ charm comes from its simply recorded and intimate feel, Cape North adds xylophone, harmonica and a cello to support the the guitar and voice, which, in spite of being recorded in a caravan rather than the loch-side cabin of Plans, sounds far beyond its means. Both Steven Forrest’s recording and Lan’s have improved, allowing the songs, rather than the timbre, to set the tone.

Although the framework is much the same as Plans, the songs here have a slightly poppier tinge to them. The songwriting progresses in parallel with the EP, with each track slightly improving upon the last, Bookclub and One I Know shining in particular. The vocals sit longingly behind the beat as David slides between notes through more interesting chord progressions and melodies. The delivery, combined with the poppier sensibilities and hints of optimism, implies that, while the subject matter may stem from personal tales, nothing cuts to deep to hinder shrugging the matter off through the songs on display, and this is what gives the EP its inviting charm.

The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave

The opening notes of Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave introduce the album perfectly. The reverberant guitar of Andy MacFarlane starts, followed by Mark Devine’s quick-delayed drums and a simple vocal from James Graham, You’re not coming back, you’re not coming back from this. At the end of this line Johnny Docherty’s bass enters with a similarly low-key manner, but its force is staggering. As the first verse progresses, piano and synth lines enter the fold, creating something that, on paper, could sound dense. Instead, the dynamics build up subtly, before cracking towards the end.

The album takes the most crucial element of change from No One Can Ever Know, the space. The band’s two albums are aggressively in your face. This huge and loud sound is the sonic identity the band became known for, and the huge shift from Forget The Night Ahead to No One Can Ever Know was not due to the keyboards replacing the guitars, it was the less dense, more spacious room that the keyboards gave the band. Nobody Wants To Be Here translates this back to the guitar, stripping the layers and toning down the distortion. The focus is on the quality of each individual part, and their place in the context of the production, creating a whole just as powerful as the first two albums.

With this more subtle dynamic, the band have the ability to impact even harder when necessary. In Nowheres opens remarkably heavy, before increasing levels during the first pre-chorus with a heavily distorted, prominent bass as James coos over the top. The title track begins indebted to My Bloody Valentine, with the guitars taking a more reverberant chordal approach, with very low-in-the-mix drums and a vocal sitting outwith the band. The drums pound in to climax, with counter melodies supporting James before a triumphant trumpet line, reminiscent of The Antlers, tails off.

Overall, Nobody Wants To Be Here is as close to straight indie as The Twilight Sad have come, particularly on I Could Give You All You That You Don’t Want, Drown So I Can Watch and Pills I Swallow, albeit their distinctive and loud take on the style. Despite track titles the album is more optimistic, musically, with James’ lyrics as unsettling as ever (I see you at night and I stare at you, you don’t care for me, move out of the light, still glare at you, look away from me) but at times slightly more direct.

The album is also more melodic, littered with melodies that complement the vocal lines. The aesthetic of No One Can Ever Know has blended with Andy’s guitar from Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, presumably from touring the guitar-heavy debut back-to-back over the last year. Having already carved out their sound, The Twilight Sad do not need to assert themselves, giving the band a sound of being completely at ease which has created an album devoid of duds, one with an underlying sense of maturity and seamless composition.

Hidden Orchestra, Origami Biro & Poppy Ackroyd at Union Chapel

The Union Chapel is the perfect venue for tonight. Despite the fact it can hold 600 or so, the chapel, due to its layout, always feels intimate. Add to that the hot chocolate, tastefully placed candles, wooden roof and its acoustics and you have one of London’s finest venues. Certainly a huge improvement from Scala, where Hidden Orchestra played this time last year.

Poppy Ackroyd beging the evenings show geared with a Nord electric piano, sequencer and visuals from Lumen. Poppy’s emotive modern classical style is accessible and warm and the balance between her elegant performance and sepia tinged projections make the performance an engaging spectacle. The music, however, never strays too far from the recordings, due to the presence of backing tracks, the violin sounds nasal and cold, meaning the recording lacks the intimate characteristics of last year’s Escapement. We are told that her show on the 20th December at Cafe Oto will be live piano and violin and closer to the the original aesthetic of the recordings, rather than a reenactment of the album. In spite of this, Poppy’s music is always a delight to hear, and encouraging that the title track of new album, Feathers, hold up well against Glass Sea and Rain from Escapement.

Origami Biro stand out tonight for using their own visuals, made with a camera on stage focused on film prints. Their music straddles a point between experimental, drone and post rock, with the use of looped sounds of scrunching plastic and clattering beads hinting at beats, while the music folds together and unwraps to understated moments of bliss. The guitar jumps between chords that are ambiently bowed and slowly strung out, much like Farewell Poetry, whilst the double bass glissandos between notes creating an expressive and powerful sound.

Up until now the visuals have been a pleasant addition to the music, but not much beyond a visual support. As Hidden Orchestra take the stage this seems to continue, but with the screen supported by 12 drum skins that are also projected upon. Throughout the first song the back wall of the chapel quietly lights up with perfectly mapped visuals enhancing the venue’s design. As the set progressed these visuals only improve with Lumen effortlessly lighting up the chapel’s most subtle elements. During Strange the rose window is replicated and kaleidoscopically circles around itself. Hidden Orchestra have always put focus on the visual aspect of their live show, and given the music, this seems wise to add a transformative dimension to their euphoric music. In the past, however, this has never quite met the peaks of the music and not added to their immersive sound. Tonight is different, though, and the audio and visual experiences are perfectly married, each complementing the other.

As for the music, the band feel full of an energy that has been missing over the last year or so, whether this is from the setting, the visuals or the sound is unclear, but in comparison to their last gigs here in London, at Canary Wharf Jazz Festival and Scala, the music shines through in a way that was lost earlier in the year. Whilst on record Joe Acheson is the key mover, live it has always been about Tim Lane and Jamie Graham. Tim’s rigid technique plays perfectly off Jamie’s more loose style, with the duo combining brushes, sticks and beaters and controlling the dynamics of themselves, as well as the band, so well to create a thrilling backdrop of percussion. Long time collaborator Phil Cardwell joins the band for most of the set, while Floex makes an appearance for Hushed, Hidden Orchestra’s remix of Clarinet Factory’s Five Steps and on Dust, where Tomáš Dvořák (aka Floex) replicates Joe’s more laid back playing, taking tonight’s performances away from the sound of the recorded versions, and towards a live identity of its own. The band play a set full of gems, from Spoken to Flight, and end on Strange, only to return for an encore of Antiphon, the energy is consistent and there is never a low point. It’s refreshing to hear a band play this well and interact with their surrounding, both visually and architecturally, as effective as this.

Emily Scott – Stray Light

Emily Scott is an unsung hero so Scottish music. Despite her debut, Longshore Drift, second album, abcdefg…etc…, and third album, I Write Letters I Never Send, coming 17th, 20th and 30th, respectively, in Avalanche’s All Time Best Selling Self Distributed Albums. Between this and her close ties with Fence (King Creosote features on two songs, Heavy Clouds and How The Moonlight), Emily has never quite gained the reception she deserves, which might, in this case, be a blessing in disguise, and allow her to make a bizarrely beautiful record like this.

Emily composed all the music for Stray Light without instruments, only armed with a pen and paper. The results are less immediate, but more rewarding than previous albums. Moments of sheer clarity and breathtaking beauty still preside, particularly on Did You Hear and Underwater, but these moments are disguised amongst string parts that gently meander and modulate their way through the pieces.

The string writing here is incredibly interesting, with the parts sitting truly in the foreground as opposed to the back seat of previous efforts. They form the backbone and at times, an unforgiving accompaniment to Emily’s voice. The body and depth behind this voice, however, pulls through, juxtaposing folk infused melodies with arrangements that have more in common with early twentieth century string quartet writing than they do with folk. This album pushes Emily outside of her comfort zone, creating a completely different album to her last, whilst maintaining the power of her voice and songwriting, which, at 37 minutes, never outstays its welcome.