Tag Archives: chemikal underground

Rm Hubbert – Ampersand Extras

RM Hubbert can seemingly do no wrong. After the excellent Ampersand trilogy, containing First & Last, SAY award winner Thirteen Lost & Found and last year’s Breaks & Bones, Chemikal Underground release Ampersand Extras, a collection of eleven outtakes over the course of the trilogy. Albums of B-sides and extras should be approached with caution, often, although certainly not always, being a second rate release of material that was scrapped for a reason. In recent interviews, however, Hubby has been keen to point out that these tracks were, for the most part, removed because they didn’t fit in the context of the albums. Somehow this collection of works spanning from the last four years comes together to make a surprisingly cohesive album which is as essential as the trilogy.

Solo tracks Canine Shaped Frogs, Sticky Pine and Fucks Sake D Sit Nice are as beautiful playing and writing as anything Hubby has ever done, with his trademark flamenco technique to play acoustic music that sits far from flamenco. Hanging pointers is the perfect hungover antidote to For Helen, taking the same themes in a slower and more morose style. What made Thirteen Lost & Found the success it was was due, in part, to the wide range of brilliant collaborations. The collaborations on Extras are just as intriguing, from Alan Bissett’s passionate spoken word to Esperi’s Cajon. The real gems here come from the stunningly atmospheric Elliot, with Luke Sutherland (below), and Mo Ve’lla Bella Mia De La Muntagna, which acts as the perfect album closer.

Buy the album from Chemikal if not in your local store and see Hubby’s intimate live show at The Lexington on November 30th.

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The Phantom Band – Strange Friend

The Phantom Band, possible Scotland’s most interesting rock band, return after two critically acclaimed albums for Strange Friend. The band effortlessly fuse Rick Anthony’s folky melodies with bizarre synth sounds, heavy riffs and interesting arrangements.

The remnants of Anthony’s solo album, No Selfish Heart, are most noticeably present on Atacama, but can be heard throughout the rest of the album. The band, however, don’t just take this as a given and resort to folk backing band mentalities, they embrace it, while doing what they do best, and what has brought them so much love with previous albums, by throwing another strong influence into the melting pot. Its this weird concoction that brews within the band that makes them so special.

The first listen will draw you in, and by the second or third the album’s subtleties and intricacies will have you cooked. Strange Friend is another album from The Phantom Band without a loose link.

Two Loud Ones

         Amazing Snakeheads – Amphetamine Ballads (Domino)

         Holy Mountain – Ancient Astronauts (Chemikal Underground)

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‘Loud guitar music is back’ scream the broadsheets. Eagulls & Cloud Nothings have both been endorsed with strong reviews, while bands like Drenge and Honeyblood at hotly tipped by the BBC. Amazing Snakeheads swim in similar carefree, noisy waters.

 

This raw, garage rock infused album is full of energy. The pace of which doesn’t let up as the band rip through the first few songs. The playing is infused with punk ideologies. Intricate playing tracked to perfection while slaving over takes is not the direction of the Snakeheads, instead aiming to recreate their live performances. The scrappy playing, particularly the fluidity of tempos and clear lack of recording to click tracks, captures this dynamic effortlessly.

 

While Nighttime and Here It Comes Again are relentless in their energy, the latter half of the album lets up slightly. The introduction of Every Guy Wants To Be Her Baby recreates a perversely seductive Twin Peaks aura with sax countermelodies over slow and loose bed of synth and drums, while the final two songs epitomise the album’s title.

 

The real gem comes in the form of Memories. An unrelenting build up which lets out to the lines “take it by both bands, and shake it if it needs it”. The Snakeheads then proceed to shake the song to an oddly euphoric repeated saxophone line. This melody, along with the accompanying guitar line disintegrates into a dissonant rush of energy bringing the song to a close.

 

The production of this album perfectly replicates the band’s live energy and passion, through dynamic and loose playing. The songs have strength in build-up through dissonance, structure and almost euphoric release rather than melodies, subtleties and intricacies.

 

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Also released this month is another Glaswegian trio’s debut, Ancient Astronauts by Holy Mountain. This album is less gruelling and a lot more fun, although the band lacks a distinctive sound. This album is a pastiche or early rock and metal, notably Black Sabbath through relentless bluesy but dark single note riffs, Mark IV era Deep Purple for similar reasons, with a touch of influence from Iron Maiden’s progressive side.

 

This is an album of pure riffing. Iommi’s influence runs deep, while Ozzy’s influence is scarce – this is certainly not an album of strong vocal melodies, despite the title track’s doubling and octaving of vocals, a trademark Ozzy sound. The album definitely takes from others as well, with Luftwizard almost sitting in Hendrix’s riffing territories, before taking a leap towards Machine Head era deep purple with an organ/guitar unison solo. The title tracks pulls heavily from Powerslave-era Iron Maiden as the drumming behind the penultimate riff picks up a notch, before dropping into slow and pounding Black Label Society grounds. Star Kings even has characteristics of long-defunct Glaswegians, RAAR.

 

Toying with tempos is also a key element to this album, although not in the same loose, careless and charming manner as the Snakeheads. Instead this album really plays with the meter, either by speeding up riffs to meet the tempo of the next, or by sharply cutting from one to the next. This lends its own charm, and evokes the primitive and passionate songwriting of early metal, where you wonder if any one riff was written to be played next to the last, or whether it just happened to work.

 

As the album progresses, the energy and momentum keeps up. Taken individually, the songs do not better or worse, but the novelty begins to wear and gives way to a tiredness that often accompanies heavy rock and metal albums. The reason Black Sabbath were so appealing and long lasting was because of their softer songs, which did not love any value as the overdrive turned down. Both Orchid and Solitude provide a welcome break on Master of Reality, while drugged up twenty year olds would watch the sun rise to Planet Caravan during Balearic sets of 90s Ibiza.