Friday, 19 April 2013

Machineries of Joy, by British Sea Power

The new British Sea Power album is worth getting on vinyl - because you get a free CD of the album inside too! All my BSP stuff is on CD bar two little one-off singles, so I was a bit unsure when I got to Banquet Records and found they had no copies of the CD left (more due to come), and I wasn't banking on the £14.99 cost. But I had my loyalty card with me, and that knocked the price down, which was good - got new record needles, and a recent album by Gravenhurst into the bargain.

I had listened to the pre-release 'streaming' of the album before it came out, as I knew I wouldn't be able to buy it up on day of release (as I was out of the country - missed the band's cruise and gig party, but I had much needed sunshine to soak up). I wasn't sure I would like the album. I wasn't expecting so many of my favourite songs from the demo EPS to not be included, and some of the choices suprised me.

But it is growing on me more and more, and seeing them play live recently cemented it all really. The title track is just great. The video with the bike ride, and the images they projected live add to things - they've gone all nice, slow and thoughtful and epic sounding.

Spring has Sprung is an appropriate sentiment of a song finally, and it is my favourite song on the album - possibly closely followed by What You Need the Most, which conjures ballroom lights a-twinkle, slow-dancing.

I need to have an evening listening to the 6 demo EPs in succession, and then hearing the resultant album. But taken in itself, it is a refreshing sound; no other bands like them. Against their previous material (and I can do this, as I've been with the band since the earliest days of 2001, followed their changes and ascent), it is still very much the sound of a band that are precious to me, yet it's different sounding for them, development; and I'm glad.

Here is my latest BSP scout's patch (this band have the very best in merchandise):

At the gig, I gave in to buying a new BSP mug too. It seems essential getting-out-bed inspiration. It has a bee design, and something magical happens when you pour hot water in. The bee slowly fades away, and you're met with 'BEE' 'GONE' - alluding to both their song of similar (punned) name, and to the ailing bee population. Care for the environment - that is what I like in a band. On sale, the band also had a t-shirt that read BIPOLAR - two polar bears side by side. Onstage during the encore, we were treated to the sight of an 8 foot polar bear suited person stomping about, clspping its great paws, causing mischief. Doesn't get much better than this!

Record-buying is for life, not just Record Store Day

I really enjoyed seeing Allo' Darlin' live at Rough Trade in Notting Hill last year - rain and shine - as part of Record Store Day. The live events highlighting bands and inspiring you to go on and buy a band's stuff and become a fan is the bit about Record Store Day I enjoy, if I am honest (And it certainly changed my mind about Allo' Darlin', and now I couldn't imagine life without them).

It's not about ticking stuff off the list of official releases /showing off about what rare thing you got at all for me.

Anything that encourages record shopping/people flocking to independent record shops is positive, yes. But again, Record Store Day rolls around and I find myself tending to feel ambivalent about what is largely a bunch of re-releases that are overly priced. I feel sad that it has to exist, that it feels like a way of boosting sales, and I can't help but feel a bit cold. I wrote an article in the first issue of The All Thrills No Frills Music Bill paper fanzine last year to collate such feelings - I wish people would be as fervent about record buying all year round, essentially. I also wrote about record fairs and how they should be thriving if vinyl really has made the 'comeback' that gets written about. But it's the 'new' factor (as in shiny new objects) that rules instead.

I don't think I need to do more than casually hint at the kind of buying-and-selling-on mania/e-Bay type profiteering that gets ecouraged, and how empty and dispiriting all that is, either.

I suppose what I'm getting at is the alienation I feel when faced with the impulses that Record Store Day can inspire - almost like music is a mostly-downloadable thing all year round, but for this one day when you can buy up stuff that has been heavily promoted.

And I feel bad for those record shops not participating (did I hear right that stores have to pay to take part?). I've been in non-participating stores on Record Store in previous years and many were empty. I get to wondering if the Monday after Record Store Day isn't the quietest day of the year for all reocrd shops (well, after new year, perhaps). I think the thing to do would be to go in on that Monday (or that week) and buy stuff then, support the record shops that didn't take part on a day that is deadly quiet - support the lesser knowns, and the underdogs.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Haiku Salut, live at Buffalo Bar, London, 28th March, 2013

I was intrigued by Haiku Salut, from the moment I saw the playful and mysterious video for Los Elefantes. The instrumental music transported me a world away from any other new indie artists - combining tremulous piano cadences with French accordion; akin to Yann Tiersen's work on Amélie but with lively electronic beats and a sense of urgent pop underpinning.

Few new indie acts interest me so much as Haiku Salut who are promisingly unique and inventive. The focus being entirely on the music - and their classical musicianship - for one, marks them out. How many more four or five man 4-beat guitar/bass/drums bands can we take? I recently opened up two or three free music magazines on the same day to find that almost every page was adorned with men; bearded men. There was complete homogeneity in these gangs of men and their beards. It was totally dispiriting to see that any females that did feature in these widely distributed publications were afforded only tokenistic spaces. Even the blustersomely great Joy Formidable took a back-seat in the scheme of things.

In Haiku Salut we have three richly talented females, and if the world has any sense, their music-making and spirited approaches to songwriting will be celebrated from the rooftops - although, quietly, tenderly in people's hearts is perhaps more apt.

It was wonderful to see the band live at a How Does it Feel to Be Loved? night. The night was laced with true elegance. Never have I been to such a gently wonderful gig - nor with such a prominence of violins and other interesting and undervalued instruments in alternative music. Little Orchestra were just that, and there was a nice hush at times as we all strained to attune to this new experience of silence playing its part in between grand sweeps of classical-like compositions. I feel like I was being reprimanded for daring to squeeze past people to get to the toilets at one point! The next couple of bands were a bit different - there was a squeaky dog toy at one point. With Haiku Salut, there was a sense of expectancy and thrill in the air of welcoming such a positively creative new band. Here, the glockenspiel sound was particularly welcome, and the songs tinkled with dreamy delight. The sound of video game style electronic blips and beats hurrying gladly along work so well against the stark sophistication of piano, violin, acoustic guitar, and so on. I love the variety of acoustic drums too - sometimes just a primitive tap of drumsticks across the metal top of a bass drum, or some Jesus and Mary Chain style soft mallets played standing up.

I wonder if the indie basement retreat, the Buffalo Bar, was quite the right settings for such sounds, though. There ought to have been a revered hush, and not the gaggle of chatterers filling the air, but it was a Friday night atmosphere, what with it being the night before a long bank holiday weekend. Carried away by the grandeur of the cinematic sounds, and merry liquids imbibed, I said to my friend: They should be playing the Royal Albert Hall, not this place! A bit extreme at this stage, but I do mean it that this is the kind of new alternative music I want to be elevated to great heights, and Haiku Salut really feel me with imagination and inspiration.