Screw No. 399 ~ Kyoka

I’ve been foregrounding music with an emotional hue recently, sonic microcosmics as with AWALthe1st and bine for example and besides a cursory listen to what is to all intents and purposes a heartbreaking break up album by Bjork, I’ve been thinking it’s time for us all to get out of ourselves for a moment.

Hence and therefore try Japanese born, Berlin resident Kyoka on the famous german electronica label Raster Noton. Bleeps, buzzes and blips follow sinewy percussion like pilot fish around sharks, engaging the sensual via the musculature. It’s liquid and hefty at the same time and best ingurgitated under strobe and in grubby late night warehouse parties.

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Screw no. 398 ~ Kerbdog

While not quite in line with my previous “Under-rated Irish” posts, the career of Kerbdog in the 90’s has always left me with the feeling of an opportunity missed, that there could have been just that little bit more. Not that their success was negligible, but that it wasn’t sustained. Victims of record label economics and politics perhaps, certainly not victims of their own lack of talent, or work ethic. And despite reforming and playing plenty of sold-out shows around the place since their initial shot and planning some new material, I still get the feeling that Ireland, in the main, has forgotten it had one of the best alternative rock bands of that period in Kerbdog. So you can imagine my surprise as I sat in one of those craft beer pubs in Dublin over Christmas and their entire eponymous debut was played on the stereo. Having never heard them outside of my bedroom and live shows, it was refreshing to say the least.

Formed in Kilkenny in 1991, they very quickly garnered massive attention from their early demos and signed to Vertigo / Mercury in 1993. Their debut was released in March 1994 and saw the band, along with Therapy? and Whipping Boy, lead the charge of great Irish alternative rock, surpassing in my view, what was coming out from the UK at the time, bettered only by American output. “Kerbdog” was a truly great album. While it didn’t quite scale the heights of “Troublegum” or “Nevermind”, it did contain timeless classics such as “End of Green” and the anthemic “Dry Riser”.

Their sound was certainly more US influenced, also somewhat moulded by singer/left-handed guitarist Cormac Battle’s use of a right handed guitar upside down, but not in the Hendrix way – Battle kept the strings upside down and always tuned down the E-string to make power chords easier to play. This is part of the reason Kerbdog sounded the way they did – heavier than they might otherwise have. You could say having the legendary Jack Endino produce was likely a bit of an influence on the sound as well.

By the time of their second album “On the Turn”, things were indeed beginning to shift. Despite, from my best recollections, being almost darlings of the UK rock press, they don’t seem to have translated that into massive record sales and the second album did not sell well enough. They were dropped, which does not always spell the end, but in Kerbdog’s case, they were unable to get away from Mercury, despite offers to buy out “On the Turn” and bring the band to America. They weren’t helped by the infinitely inferior Placebo, when they as headliners decided to forbid Kerbdog from using the PA at a label showcase gig in Belfast, because they were scared of being completely blown away. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be.

Post-Kerbdog, Battle and drummer Darragh Butler formed Wilt. A bloody good band who released two albums on Mushroom records. Kerbdog reformed a couple of times and the gig I got to around Christmas 2007 in the Village was a sold-out, sweaty old school cracker. Battle continues to work as a DJ on RTE 2FM, while the rest of the band have got on with careers and jobs elsewhere. They still gig occasionally and released a live album in 2014 entitled “Congregation”, which includes the song “Electricity”, a track re-worked from the 1997 demo sessions, with which they were trying to secure a deal.

The story of Kerbdog to date, while not a glorious one, is certainly one with far more success than failure, and one that should engender great pride for those involved. A rock band from small city/town like Kilkenny; suffused with US underground influences alongside metal and grunge; getting signed direct to a major label from their first demos; having a legend produce your debut; featuring all over Kerrang and on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball; releasing acclaimed albums; touring; splitting; then reforming to play to an adoring fanbase, who will never forget them.

There’s few enough with a story that great to tell.

And there’s more to come in 2015 with hopefully some new material and more live shows.

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Screw No. 397 ~ bine☃

Continuing the theme of slow narcotised music that can be unearthed while trawling Bandcamp, last week was AWALthe1ST’ blend of the urban and the folkish, this week is Bine’ vaporwave leaning, chiming and glistening orientalism. Less cold and chrome-like than Fatima Al Qadiri’s fetishism of the east – it’s cuter, brighter, ornate in places and more aqueous, synths provide a suggestion of the urban gothic at times and yet the familiar trap rhythm’s provide ballast.

Good stuff.

bine☃ ~ WATCH ME

bine☃ ~ CHANGED

bine☃ ~ FUELED BY RAINWATER

bine☃ ~ JEALOUSED

bine☃ ~ HYUNDAI SLAB

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Screw No.396 ~ Natalie Prass: Album Release & Whelan’s Gig

Natalie Prass

We’ve featured a few articles previously on the great music that’s coming out of Richmond Virgina with Matthew E. White and his Spacebomb project. So far we’ve had releases from White himself, Howard Ivans and the Zappa-esque Grandma Sparrow & His Piddletractor Orchestra. White’s debut album Big Inner is now the stuff of legend as it lay down the ground work towards defining the Spacebomb sound. A sound steeped in horns and string arrangements that can bring you from the chill of laid back tracks such as White’s “One of These Days” to Howard Ivan’s 80’s disco drenched stomper “Red Face Boy”.

Their latest offering will feature Natalie Prass as the fourth artist to come into the Spacebomb fold. A schoolfriend of White, Prass plays Upstairs in Whelans this coming Sunday night January 25th with a launch of her album the following morning. The album was recorded nearly three years ago but has been shelved until now. Spacebomb allowing themselves the time and energy to give it the love and release attention it deserves. “It’s important to find the right context, the right time, the right team and the right way to get music to listeners,” White recently told Uncut Magazine. “Releasing records is a skill, just like making records is a skill. We’re a really small label, and we wanted to have the right things in place to support a record that we felt was really worth supporting.” The album (as with all the greats) is mostly a lament to heartbreak in light of her break-up during the recording process with then boyfriend and co-writer Kyle Ryan Hurlbut. Prass’ voice is one of soulful and reflective calm as she sings her way through lush horns and string arrangements that reinforce the Spacebomb sound with every beat. Think Janet Jackson a la “That’s the Way Love Goes”. Prass has already given a reverential nod in the direction of Ms Jackson as she beautifully covered “Any Time, Any Place” on the B-side to her Spacebomb single “Bird of Prey”.

All in all Sunday night promises to be a cracker of a gig that’s not to be missed with a bonus chance of grabbing an early copy of yet another Spacebomb classic.

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Screw No. 395 ~ Björk: Vulnicura

Bjork

Today sees the surprise release of Björk’s ninth studio album Vulnicura, via an announcement in a handwritten note by the artist on Facebook. According to Stereogum, there was a leak of the album over the weekend, which was due to be released in March. A classic case of “The internet abhors a secret as nature abhors a vacuum”. An inconvenience for Björk, who has not announced any plans for a 2015 album tour yet and has released no videos on YouTube or anywhere else. It is of course a nice treat for her fans, who have been waiting since 2011’s Biophilia to re-enter the weird and wonderful world of Iceland’s finest artistic export since the Sagas. Björk continues her theme of working with cutting edge producers. Vulnicura is produced by Arca (co-writer of two songs) with the help of The Haxan Cloak, two of the most forward thinking electronic artists of the last couple of years. According to Björk, the Venezuelan born Arca approached her to do a collaboration at the perfect time. She claimed it would have taken her years to produce the beats herself. “But this enchanted Arca would visit me repeatedly and only a few months later we had a whole album!!!” she gushed. “It is one of the most enjoyable collaboration I have had!”

Björk ~ Stone Milker
Björk ~ Black Lake
Björk ~ Family
Björk ~ Atom Dance

Vulnicura is essentially a breakup album, Björk’s Blonde On Blonde if you will. She initially feared that this might be too self-indulgent, she eventually “felt it might make it even more universal.” Adding, “And hopefully the songs could be a help, a crutch to others and prove how biological this process is: The wound and the healing of the wound. Psychologically and physically, it has a stubborn clock attached to it.” The opening song “Stone Milker” is a beautiful string-drenched ballad, reminiscent of much of her work in the 90’s. The song is about the period nine months before the breakup, its lyrics seemingly showing a person in denial as the wheels slowly fall off. As the album continues, it gets further and further from the sunshine of the opening track. Arca’s twitching beats begin to feel like distorted thoughts under the string-veneer of normalcy; building in intensity, song by song, until the very definitive shift in mood by the fifth song “Family”. This is where Vulnicura gets dark and pretty much stays dark, with the opening lines of “Family” you are left in no doubt as to the state of the relationship: “Is there a place where I can pay respects for the death of my family?”.

Björk’s confidence to bare her soul has certainly paid off on Vulnicura, as complete an album as Björk has made in some time. Björk’s only scheduled live dates this year are a residency in March at Carnegie Hall, New York, where she will be joined by Arca for two performances (I believe the guys here at Screw Music have nominated me to cover the gig!) March also marks the official opening of Björk’s Museum of Modern Art exhibition in New York. Titled Björk, the exhibition will feature a visual narrative of the singer’s career as well as a deeply engaging 3-D film from director Andrew Huang.

Vulnicura is out now on iTunes. Enjoy.

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Screw No.394 ~ Belle And Sebastian: Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance

Belle and Sebastian

Due out 19 January, Belle And Sebastian’s ninth album Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance is instantly listenable, instantly likeable, and as with all Belle And Sebastian albums it gets infinitely better with each listen. Which begs the question: how many bands mature in their late-forties without dropping their guard? Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and The Flaming Lips come to mind. There are others, but they are few. It has been five years since the bands last album, Write About Love. Lead singer and self-appointed bandleader, Stuart Murdoch, has kept himself busy with other projects including directing and writing last year’s film God Help The Girl. The film is about a Glaswegian girl dealing with emotional problems, who starts writing songs as a way of getting better. This has essentially been Murdoch’s songwriting M.O. ever since the band’s album debut, Tigermilk, in 1996.

Belle & Sebastian ~ The Cat with the Cream

Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance opens with “Nobody’s Empire”, a straight up Belle And Sebastian sun drenched grown-up pop song. Over the cherry blossom melody Murdoch references his struggle with ME. Even on what seems like an uplifting tune, Belle And Sebastian always provide an edge. Morrissey, no doubt, is looking on in approval at his songwriting successor; of course he’d never admit it. Murdoch has said he wrote the new album from the perspective of a young woman named Allie, with “Allie” being the second song on the album. Whether it’s about this character or Murdock himself, the album still feels personal, lived-in and universal.

Belle & Sebastian ~ Nobody’s Empire

The album flicks between acoustic and electronic, with “Enter Sylvia Plath” bouncing in like a Gay Pride march after the solemnity of “The Cat with the Cream”. “The Party Line” sounds like a mix between Pet Shop Boys and Arcade Fire’s recent dip into white boy funk, with “The Power of Three” continuing the theme with Sarah Martin’s ever shimmering lead vocals. Often the sign of a good pop song is when it sounds familiar on first listening, as is the case with “The Party Line”. I would be very surprised if many of the songs on this album don’t get an airing on day-time radio; something that has often eluded the band in their nineteen year career. Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance is Belle And Sebastian’s strongest album since 2003’s, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, the album it most resembles. I myself, have been listening to the band for these nineteen years. Belle And Sebastian are a band that I listen back to more often than almost any other in my collection. They create timeless, complex pop albums which really can’t be pigeonholed into any other category other than pop. Thankfully, in 2015, Belle And Sebastian has produced another album that will require many further listens. Long live these Glaswegian twee-proto-hipsters.

Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance is out next Monday, 19 January

Belle And Sebastian, 'Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance'

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