20 Oct 2014

Album Review: Dowling Poole "Bleak Strategies"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Sugarbush Records have really kicked into second gear of late with a steady stream of vinyl issues of classics both new and old, some of which have already sold out and become collector's items. Chief bush-dweller Markus Holler has an ear for a classic pop tune that is unmatched, and you can pick up anything on the label assured of something deserving cult status.

Dowling Poole are a duo consisting of Willie Dowling and Jon Poole, who have a long history behind them in various bands, and pool everything they've learned into their wonderfully eclectic debut "Bleak Strategies". The first thing that becomes apparent is that these gents obviously know their way around the various knobs and faders in the studio. "Bleak Strategies" sounds amazing, and importantly, they have tunes to match too.

Their songs are hard to pigeon-hole and are blessed with enormous power-pop hooks, but also startling progressive sensibilities, with the pull between the two bringing to mind an updated take on 10CC or dare I say it, E.L.O, without actually sounding like either band.

XTC is obviously a looming influence, with tracks like "Twilight Subplot" sounding so much like them that you'd expect them to be outtakes from their vaults, were it not for the fact that they are so damn good that no one in their right mind would leave them off of any record. "Clean" on the other hand is pure Steven Wilson melancholy - I'm curious whether they're fans, or whether the similarity comes from synthesizing similar influences. Either way, I'd wager this is better than anything Wilson has conjured lately (and that coming from a fan). Best of all is the wonderfully Beatlesque "Getting a Licence" with it's pounding "Tomorrow Never Knows" drums and bouncy Macca bassline, it couold quite easily find a home on Epic's peerless lost classic "Sunshine State" (how about a reissue of that Markus?)

In many ways "Bleak Strategies" sounds like a knowingly reverential update of the Turtles "Battle of the Bands", with the duo updating their influences so lovingly and expertly that they give some of their influences a run for their money. Certainly those who have enjoyed recent genre hopping efforts from the likes of Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab and Schnauser will find plenty to obsess over here, with the creepy sleeve art holding few clues to the melodic gems contained within.

Vinyl available here.

19 Oct 2014

Album Review: Paul Parrish "The Forest of My Mind"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Detroit may seem like an unlikely point of origin for such a heavily orchestrated piece of psychedelia, but that's exactly where Paul Parrish's debut was put together in 1968, where it would have seemed very out of place amongst all of the Motown and proto-Detroit Rock City releases of the time.

"The Forest of My Mind" is cherished among collectors, and not having heard anything from it before this arrived in the post, I semi-suspected its reputation to have been elevated by its scarcity, rather than its quality, but this is one lost classic that very nearly lives up to the tag.

Produced by Clay McMurray, featuring a fine selection of Motown's Funk Brothers affiliated musicians, and arranged by Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore (who refined a lot of what they do here when they produced Rodriguez's "Cold Fact" in 1970), "The Forest of My Mind" is a unique meeting of baroque, psychedelic pop, English chamber arrangements (courtesy of Coffey who was studying classics at the time), and light soul.

And while it might be pushing things to suggest that this is a bit of a "Cold Fact", it's at the very least a "Coming From Reality" in terms of quality. Donovan comparisons seem to be a common theme amongst those who discuss this album, and while Parrish himself sounds very little like the Don, the arrangements here certainly find a comfortable middle ground between the lush psychedelia of the "Sunshine Superman" album and its swinging "Mellow Yellow" followup, and it's not too much of a push to suggest that those who enjoy that period of Donovan will find a lot to enjoy here.

McMurray insisted on a couple of covers which see the quality dip a little. "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" (which Parrish admits he was reluctant to record, in the excellent sleevenotes) is a lifeless arrangement with an uncommitted performance from Parrish. The Holland-Dozier-Holland classic "I Can't Help Myself" fares better, but largely due to a superior arrangement, rather than the appropriateness of the material for Parrish.

Parrish's originals on the other hand are uniformly excellent, and a great match for the arrangements, which could easily outshine lesser material. The title track has the most vocal support among collectors, and it's certainly the most overtly psychedelic track on offer here - both lyrically and musically - but the real lost classic to me is "The Painter", underpinned by an inventive and propulsive string arrangement.

One can't help but feel that if it weren't for the overtly psychedelic nature of the music here, that it would have been a serious contender for release by Light in the Attic. So, much more consistent than a number of debuts of the era, and not far from a classic, with plenty of high points.

Now Sound's excellent CD reissue (their fiftieth release, and probably their best so far) also includes several excellent, punchy mono mixes which offer a substantially different listening experience to the more expansive stereo mixes found on the album.

Available here on CD.

You can stream the full album here if you require further arm twisting:

17 Oct 2014

Album Review: The Young Sinclairs "This Is The Young Sinclairs"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

I've heard and reviewed singles and E.Ps by this Roanoke, Virginia based group of folk-rockers before and always loved what I heard, but this new full length vinyl / digital collection from Ample Play is nonetheless, a bit of a revelation. Previous releases of theirs that I've heard were the work of an obviously accomplished band with a classic folk-rock mindset that mixed the jangle of the Byrds with anglophiliac harmonies ala The Who. That sound is still often present here, but freed from the confines of a shorter medium, the Young Sinclairs are really given free rein here to shine and show their versatility.

Part of the Magic Twig Community of like-minded musicians (who have their own recording studio, deep in the woods where they have produced and engineered all their recordings), there's an unhurried, rural charm to these recordings, which really benefit from the opportunity to gestate at their own pace and in their own environment. The relaxed nature of some of these tracks reminds this listener of  the "among friends", early communal recordings made by solo CSNY members around 1970, as well as some of the Band's earlier "Big Pink" output. And speaking of The Band, just check out "That's All Right", and "Dead End Street" for two of the best Band deadringer's you'll hear this side of Brinsley Schwarz. Exceptional.

Elsewhere, there's plenty of clean, garagey jangle charmers with massive, yet subtle choruses (and harmonies to die for), a gorgeous, melancholy Big Star style tune ("Turned Around"), and on "Never Uneasy", an unhurried Crazy Horse lurch with lashings of simple, lyrical lead guitar worthy of Neil himself.

"This Is The Young Sinclairs" is like all of your Desert Island Discs rolled into one and assimilated with a confident mastery which oozes affection for the sources that inspired it, without ever sounding limited by them.

Available on vinyl and digital formats here.

16 Oct 2014

Guest Mix: Sky Picnic "Her Dawn Wardrobe" Influences & Inspirations

We've got a guest mix today from Brooklyn's Sky Picnic, who have just released their third album "Her Dawn Wardrobe" (reviewed glowingly here).

The mix, compiled by Sky Picnic's Chris Sherman features a selection of cuts on heavy rotation during "Her Dawn Wardrobe"s gestation period.

Set the stream running here and read on with Chris's commentary below:

"One of the first things I have heard about our new LP from people is that it seems we’ve grown as a band and have picked up some different influences as evidenced by some new sounds. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to work on a creating a mix of what Sky Picnic was heavily into for the writing process (and sometimes the recording and mixing too) of Her Dawn Wardrobe.

The Byrds and the Who open up the set; “Change Is Now” has amazing harmonies, which is something Leah and I really strove to incorporate on HDW, along with a super-fuzzed out McGuinn solo, which was a sound I was really after during recording. “Our Love Was, Is” showed exactly how much you can fit into three minutes, and the lyrics fit alongside nicely with where I was mentally on this album.

I suppose every musician goes through a phase where they cannot listen to anything in their respective genre for a while, and for me, that road led to jazz, specifically Coltrane. I really could have picked anything from A Love Supreme for this selection, but this piece captures the feel that Pete brought to some of our songs. “Some Time Alone Alone” by Melody’s Echo Chamber and “Waterfall” by the Stone Roses both have a bounce to them; the groove is contagious, and having that sort of vibe is something that had eluded us to this point, yet came to the forefront this time around for us (seriously, I cannot begin to explain the abundance of Stone Roses we binged on).

The Police are another favorite of ours; Sting’s lyrics have this foreboding and dark vibe, which I have always gravitated toward and Andy Summers turned into a huge influence for myself over the last year, particularly as I learned more about leaving space in the material and playing with a more minimalist vibe. Of course, the same can be said for Robert Fripp. I honestly could (and should) have just added the entire Red LP to this mix, and called it a day, but, we were big into capturing dynamics in our new songs, so “Fracture” is the obvious choice to demonstrate that influence.

Then you have the folkier side of things, represented here by the Amazing and Donovan. These are songs that made me want to write touching acoustic pieces that would complement, yet also be the perfect dichotomy to the rest of the material. Dungen’s “Blandband” probably wins the award for “song I have listened to the most over the last two years”. It’s a sweeping motion sort of song that will forever now be associated with the imagery of driving through the hills and trees of the northeast on the way to a gig last year. Coincidentally enough, it seems to move at the exact speed of a vehicle on the highway. And yes, Reine’s guitar tone will forever continue to awe. “Hung Up On A Dream” by the Zombies still gives me chills to this day (particularly the volume swell chord after the bridge). Another of my fondest memories of traveling is the band sing-alongs of the Odyssey and Oracle album.

I closed this mix out with the first single from the new album, “June Sunshine”, which is really just a taste of what the rest of the LP holds. I hope you not only dug this, but it will perhaps lead you to check out the new album, released this week on Mega Dodo Records (UK)."

You can buy "Her Dawn Wardrobe" on CD or vinyl, or stream it in full here.

Album Review: Listening Center "Cycles​/​Other Phenomena"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Following swiftly on the heels of his appearance on the second release in Ghost Box's "Other Voices" 7" series, comes Listening Center's "Cycles​/​Other Phenomena" - a self released full length album, which illustrates very clearly just why the shadowy council behind the Ghost Box label decided to welcome him into their fold.

Those enamoured with Ghost Box's chief exports Belbury Poly and the Advisory Circle will find much to dampen their trousers here. Unusually for music of such a unmistakeably English nature, this was put to tape in New York, although there would be few who would argue that the spiritual home of the Listening Center's David Mason is deep in the recesses of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

Like his U.K brethren, Mason's focus relies on lovely warm textures created by an array of vintage analogue synthesizers, creating naggingly familiar melodies that bring to mind seventies nature documentaries and after school science programs. Where Mason's approach differs, is in his use of percussion (natural as Mason is a drummer also), which gives much of "Cycles​/​Other Phenomena" a greater sense of momentum gathering than you'll hear on most other releases bundled under the 'hauntology' umbrella.

Winsome closer "Looking Ahead" on the otherhand demonstrates that this isn't the only trick up his sleeve. With both subtlety and grace, Mason here conjures something delicate, and quite lovely.

It's a lovely album, and I find it kind of surprising that Ghost Box didn't opt to release the whole thing (although there's likely to be some further story to this that we don't need to know), as it fits in seamlessly with the niche that they've so carefully carved, and is in many ways the most quintessentially "Ghost Box" sounding album that I've heard released this year - certainly more so than anything the label itself has released recently (although I've certainly enjoyed those releases also).

That in itself should send plenty of you scurrying to his webstore, and those of you who do are in for a lovely, warm, fuzzy treat. Highly recommended.

Cassette and digital download available here:

15 Oct 2014

Album Review : Amanda Votta & The Spectral Light "Secrets To The Sea"

Reviewed by Robin F. Hamlyn

Anyone familiar with the work of The Floating World, The Hare and the Moon, and The Great Attractor will be well aware of how formidable the talents showcased by this new recording are. And yet, on "Secrets to the Sea", Amanda Votta (vox, lyrics, slide baritone guitar), Grey Malkin (guitar, atmospherics), and Neddal Ayed (songwriting, guitars), strike out in entirely new directions, delivering an utterly compelling album, beneath the opulent beauty of whose surface lies a penumbral, elegiac complexity. From the opening, crepuscular drone of "Black Doom", to "Feathers and Goodbones" valedictory cymbal stroke, the listener is held in a strange, liminal, volatile aural space, where ghostly swirls of feedback drift and mingle with clouds of strange atmospherics.

"Black Doom" launches into a coruscating guitar drone, reminiscent of Neil Young’s "Arc Weld", and recalling the lush pastures of distortion that characterized The Jesus and Mary Chain. This track however, has a quite singular identity, as Votta’s voice emerges, like a cold pearl in the fog, and vanishes beneath an exquisite sea of echoing guitars. "This is How They’ll Find You" is ghostly and intimate, featuring an old-timey parlour guitar being strummed against a backdrop of gauzy atmospherics. Votta’s breathy, child-like voice finds its counterpoint in a male whisper that transforms into a menacing baritone. "The Shepherdess and the Witch" is built upon an intermittent, arrhythmic bass drum around which stacks of harmony topple and gloriously spill. Votta’s voice surfaces, evincing shades of Liz Frazer and Kate Bush, and is carried along by the song’s strange, halting pulse. "Dream at Daybreak", for me the highlight of the album, is a master-class in slide guitar, with Ayed’s echo-soaked tones transporting this listener to a place somewhere in the orbit of Pink Floyd’s "The Narrow Way", "Garlands"-era Cocteau Twins, and mid eighties Nick Cave. Again, though, these musicians fuse their individual voices so seamlessly and organically that what emerges seems newly minted. "Moonflowers" inhabits darker sonic territory, with deep, phased guitar tones roiling and revolving like a black mist. The vocals here are composed of long, evanescent susurrations, with an insistent little feedback pattern eerily recalling John Cale’s viola on "The Black Angel’s Death Song". "I Am the Moon" is underpinned by a simple drum machine dialed into a rigid march tempo  over which Votta delivers a spooky, off-kilter vocal, doubling with herself in a quietly obsessive colloquy. "Feathers and Goodbones" leads us to the album’s densest, darkest textures, its final clangs, strums, and eruptions once more recalling the psychedelic wilderness of early Velvets.

It’s fair to say that, compared to Votta and Grey, this album is somewhat closer in spirit to Ayed’s previous work, although, as with all successful collaborations, the fresh chemistry brings out new elements of his voice. Grey’s seminal work with The Hare and the Moon is quite removed from this album’s sound-world, and yet somehow his emotional sensibility is imprinted on the record. As for Votta, the album’s producer ---- and described by Grey as the “gatekeeper” of the project ---- her ability to balance delicacy, aggression, and subtle evocation, is a thing of wonder.

Don’t miss out on this album. It’s a haunted, beautiful record. Let’s hope these brilliant musicians get together again.

Amanda Votta & The Spectral Light on Facebook.

Last few copies of the CD available from Reverb Worship here - get in quick!

13 Oct 2014

Album Review: The Coral "The Curse of Love"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

In mid 2005, Bill Ryder Jones announced that he would be leaving the Coral. Coming off the artistic growth shown on "The Invisible Invasion", this was a bit of a shock for the band and fans alike, but the Coral soldiered on, and "The Curse of Love" came into being. Ryder Jones was then enticed back into the fold, and it was decided that rather than continue on with a set of songs that he had no involvement with, that the recordings would be shelved - until now that is.

I had high hopes for "The Curse of Love". It was recorded between my two favourite Coral albums ("The Invisible Invasion" and "Roots & Echoes"), and a bit of emotional turmoil is always good to get the artistic muse fired up, so how could it possibly disappoint? On the other hand, there was always the possibility that maybe the band realized that these songs weren't up to snuff, and took the opportunity to start afresh with a breath of relief? So which is it?

Any lingering doubts over that latter scenario are quickly dispelled on first listen here. "The Curse of Love" may lack the immediate hooks that characterized their albums up to this point, but there's a noticeable maturity on show here, which makes the quantum leap in songwriting depth between "The Invisible Invasion" and "Roots & Echoes" make a whole lot more sense.

Ryder Jones' absence also seems to have encouraged the remaining members to branch out a little more too (something that they've never been adverse to anyway). The gorgeous "Wrapped in Blue" for instance, manages to effortlessly merge an acoustic skiffle shuffle with pulsing krautrock (quite prescient, considering how in vogue this currently is), with fluttering backwards guitars.

And while the choruses may showcase a subtlety that rewards those who listen actively more than ever, the exotic, eastern tinged arrangements on tracks like "The Curse of Love (Part 1)" are to die for, and entice the listener to invest the time needed to reap the full benefits of this extremely rewarding set.

Pre-order the CD here, and if you're quick, you can snag the limited edition vinyl LP here.
NME have an exclusive stream of the full album here now!

Album Review: EDJ "EDJ"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

When the Fruit Bats closed up shop last year, frontman Eric D. Johnson was quick to clarify that he wasn't abandoning music itself, and "EDJ" is the album which that statement was foreshadowing.

Arriving on new Indie label Easy Sound (which will also be seeing new releases from Marianne Faithful, Vetiver and Isobel Campbell in the near future), "EDJ" isn't a huge stretch from the Fruit Bats sound in all honesty, but it's a much more intimate and personal affair, allowing the listener to get much closer to Johnson than they ever have in the past. This common trait of solo albums is often hamstrung by the feeling that the participant is holding their best material back for the band - a problem which Johnson does not have to contend with, with EDJ being his full time project now.

"EDJ" is a lovely sounding record. It's sparse and direct when it needs to be, but also has the capacity for explosions of mysterious sound to allow it a few peaks. Fans of Jim James' evocative solo work will find much to enjoy here, with it sharing a similar sense of reverence for West Coast classics of yesteryear, as well as a desire to assimilate and much that has come since then, giving it a very contemporary sound.
Johnson's vocals resonate throughout, and guest appearances from members of Vetiver and Califone enhance rather than distract.

Those not quite on the right wavelength may accuse "EDJ" of being a little samey, but once you're fully entrenched in its world, this uniformity makes a whole lot more sense. It doesn't sound like an album that's intended to have tracks lifted from it and isolated - it's an album that's intended to be played from beginning to end, with highlights like "A West County Girl" sounding even stronger when propped up in their natural environment.

Special mention too must be given to moody "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" evoking closer "The Mountains on Fire (In The Rearview)". It's gently peaking crescendoes certainly don't feel like a postscript of what has just preceded it, so perhaps it's a taster of what's to come?

Available on vinyl, and CD here.

12 Oct 2014

Album Reviews: United Bible Studies "Doineann" "The Box Social"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

United Bible Studies, the celtic wyrd folk collective, are nothing if not hard working. A shifting membership and startling degree of creativity certainly helps but it is impressive nonetheless to have two incredible albums emerge (almost) into the daylight at once. If you are a new student to United Bible Studies then do delve into their teachings; any starting point is a worthy one but special mention should go to the epic "The Jonah" and the chamber folk of "Spoicke". Extensively prolific, but yet with a finely tuned quality control, there is a library of riches waiting for you in their back pages.

The first of the new releases, "Doineann", features such well known and respected names in the current folk music field as Michael Tanner (Plinth), David Colohan (Agitated Radio Pilot, Raising Holy Sparks), Richard Moult, Áine O'Dwyer and Alison O'Donnell (Mellow Candle, Firefay and The Owl Service) and was recorded variously in England, Germany, Ireland and Scotland. Opener "Helix" enters on a waterfall of cascading piano, the combination of Richard Moult's buzzing electronics and field recordings alongside Colohan's organetta providing a clearing for the notes to shimmer and repeat. It is utterly beautiful but also icy; there is a sense of winter in this music. "Clay in my Hand"  is a spectral lament, O'Dwyer's harp providing a skeletal framework for Paul Condon's vintage synth sounds and folk rock blasts of psych guitar. Completely timeless and otherworldly, there are moments of Mike Oldfield's "Ommadawn" recalled here, particularly in the building tension, layered orchestration and the fluid yet restrained guitar work. "Doineann" itself is a weather beaten landscape, a lonely wind whistling through chiming percussion, plucked autoharp and mournful jazz inflected saxophone. A solitary drum beat counts time and adds a sense of momentum and storm; an approaching thunder amongst the wide open sounds of birds and squelching synths. This is music that is organic, natural, utterly alive with the sense of its roots and origins; it is from and is of the landscape. "Across The Blackened Fields" by contrast is a hushed and intimate lullabye, Alison O'Donnell's distinctive vocals adding shade and colour to the tense and quietly dramatic, pulsating backdrop. O'Donnell truly adds a sense of magic here, a sprinkling of snowy grace upon the icy musical backing. Deeply affecting and utterly unique, this is a song for late in the year, to be heard when there is a chill in the air during the long winter months. "Seachránaí" begins with David Colohan's harpsichord invoking a regal and sorrowful procession before his plaintive vocals emerge freeform, lamenting into the void. Richard Moult's synths then emerge to create surely one of the most crystalline and heartbreaking moments you will ever hear in modern music, before all is silent save for the howl of the arctic wind. "Halo", a thirteen minute epic of a song, begins with Moult's strident and evocative vocals before autoharp and shimmering guitar feedback encases all in a reverberating chill. It beggars belief that this, some of the most beautiful and emotive music presently being made, does not have a wider audience. Or perhaps that is part of the spell; this is music that touches on a level that only certain listeners may wish to hear. Perhaps UBS are a best kept and much loved secret. As the song draws to a close a choral wave of voices underline the sacred and ancient nature inherent in the United Bible Studies craft and its sheer timelessness. This is true folk music.

"Doineann" is available as two separate limited editions from A Year In The Country. The first is a very limited white/black CDr album in 8 page string bound booklet packaging. A second boxset edition contains the album on all black CDr, a 10 page string bound booklet, a 45mm pocket mirror and a 45mm keyring both in their own packaging.

The second recent release from United Bible Studies, "The Box Social", is a live document recorded in 2009 at the venue of the album's title in Dublin. The collective really come into their own in live performance where their innate sense of psychedelic experimentalism and innovation can create vast and unique slabs of wyrd and often terrifyingly transcendent noise. Previous live releases such as "Live At The Warehouse" and "Harry Potter Gone Evil" can comfortably serve as evidence of this. The show begins quietly with a few muttered words before an almighty "Saucerful of Secrets" style drumbeat and bassline ricochets around the speakers, vocal screams accentuating the dark psych landscape. Discordant guitar bursts (again reminiscent of Syd Barret's live astral jams) merge with improvised vocals and a deranged Kosmiche groove breaks loose, with the UBS coming on like a Celtic Amon Düül. It's a thrilling rush - to have witnessed this show would have been something truly memorable, however this recording ably recalls the sheer excitement and sense of unpredictability. Flanged guitar enters over the motorik beat as vocalist Alison O'Donnell's unearthly incantations reach crescendo point.

It is worth noting that this is a different United Bible Studies incarnation than that on "Dioneann", with O'Donnell the only constant. Here she is joined by regular UBS member Gavin Prior (also of Tarracóir) and a completely different clan of players. This is one of the fascinating things about the Bible Studies; they morph, adapt and undoubtedly take on the form of whoever is passing through their ranks. It is arguably one of the crucial factors that makes their output constantly exciting, alive and in a highly creative endless loop of development. Where "Doineann" is spectral, icy and song based 'The Box Social' is frantic, soaring and improvised. Both are equally representative of UBS and demonstrate the different strengths and sides of the project as well as the lack of limitations that they place on their sonic exploration.

"The Box Social" continues with some serious freak out involving an unidentified brass instrument before settling into another space rock bass run, shards of fuzz guitar shimmering over its surface. Fans of Thought Forms and classic Hawkwind will find much to enjoy here as will aficionados of classic 70s Kosmische such as Sand and Cluster. A massive tidal wave of feedback soaked guitar builds the tension further, O'Donnell's vocals punctuating the noise in a ritualistic and almost shamanistic manner. Suddenly, there is a hush save for guitar chimes. A muted rhythm begins and is joined by the hum of a heathen choir before the build up to the song's conclusion begins in earnest. Loud crashes of percussion echo around what now sounds increasingly like a woodland grove; if there is ever a (decent!) remake of "The Wicker Man" produced then this would be an ideal fit for the finale. Indeed, the music's creeping dread and sense of ancient rites are the perfect soundtrack to something deeply pagan and terrifying. As the song ends it is clear that, without let up, the United Bible Studies have expertly conjured and woven this hour long track in and out of the shadows, raising the tension to peaks of psychedelic noise and tremor. It is also a significantly affecting piece and one which pulls the listener along on both a head and gut level with its ritualistic and hypnotic dance.

'The Box Social' is available via the ever splendid Reverb Worship label with individually hand made and numbered sleeves.

So, two different United Bible Studies albums in both form, line up and style. Yet completely alike in their quest for creating something that is genuine, beautiful and vital. This is real modern folk music, respectful of its past but in no thrall to have to fit within any conventions. You could find no better school to study at. Open your books and begin the lesson.

"Doineann" can be streamed here:

10 Oct 2014

E.P Review: Des Roses "Des Roses"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

I began this post with the intention of writing a "Free Download Roundup", but the more I hear of this "Des Roses" E.P, the clearer it becomes that it is much too good to share space with a bunch of other releases where it may get inadvertently buried. There's been a lot of talk lately about hyperbole on the internet, and I'm sure that our policy of only writing about material that we really like makes it appear that we suffer from it more than most, but fuck it; I think I've discovered the greatest unsigned band in the world right now, and hyperbole can be damned.

"Des Roses" are a young three piece dream-pop band from Nantes, and their self titled, debut E.P has totally knocked my socks off. These three tracks of melancholy splendour are simply wonderful, and quite easily a match for the big names in this field, past (the Cocteau Twins), and present (Beach House) and there's a very good chance that if you like either of those bands, that you're totally going to lose your shit when you hear this.

There's no one thing that makes it stand out from the crowd - it's a total package thing. The songwriting is deep, hooky and appealingly melancholy. The production sounds like a million dollars. The arrangements sound like the work of seasoned professionals, not fresh faced debutantes. And the way the lovely female voices wind their way around Louis Lemoine's deep and slightly hesitant vocal is absolutely sublime. 

In a fair and just world "The Bond" would be one of the biggest songs of the year - it resonates perfectly, and is achingly lovely - but every second on here is great, so much so that when closer "Nothing Goes Ahead" lurches to a sudden, unexpected halt, I begin to remember what it felt like as a child when your balloon popped.

Make no mistake - this is a fabulous E.P, and I'm more than a little obsessed with it at the moment. It's available as a free download from their Bandcamp page, but is crying out for a physical release, so hopefully someone from a label with impeccable taste sees this and pricks up their ears - everyone else, get it free while you can!