CLOSE

NEW NOISE

scottwalker&sunnoSCOTT WALKER + SUNN O)))

Soused

4AD

Even Neil Simon would have been reluctant to throw up the idea of a drone metal band from Seattle and legendary crooner from the ’60s when ruminating on unlikely couplings. But that pairing is exactly what occurred when Scott Walker and Sunn O))) announced that they had been working on an album titled Soused.

Walker may have made his name as the chart riding ‘sibling’ in the Walker Brothers before launching a solo career that would see his rich baritone allow him to reach pop icon status. Since 1995, Walker has reinvented himself with a bleak trilogy of avant garde tunes that would reach a brand new audience. Soused by comparison comes across as a less challenging listen.

Sunn O))) are known for playing it slow and at a blistering volume, and on Brando find that Walker’s vocals sit perfectly amongst the menacing drone and sporadic burst of guitar. Where Brando is charming and haunting, Herod 2014 sounds like a man with a operatic voice trapped in an industrial bin as he bangs away to get people’s attention whilst vicious birds circle overhead.

There are times when the sense of discord makes Scott Walker + Sunn O))) sound like a dark angel sitting on Antony Hegarty’s shoulder, but it is this uncompromising exploration that makes Soused a success.

3.5 stars

CHRIS HAVERCROFT

raisedfist

RAISED FIST

From The North

Epitaph Records

 

Entering their 22nd year as one of the most renown live acts, Swedish hardcore punk rockers Raised Fist have returned with their sixth studio album built to slot perfectly into their high energy live set.

From The North is a perfect showcase of the band’s maturity and delivery, with a fluid recording sound, solid builds and huge choruses. Lead track Flow kicks off with a killer drum beat and never looks back pounding into a thunderous chorus that is sure to induce moshes across the globe. Alexander Hagman’s vocals epitomise the journey Raise Fist have been through, throwing everything they can into their live songs and producing only the best music they can for their fans, shouting ‘from the club to the squat, you people chose the spot’. Hagman’s vocal tone is a highlight throughout the album, aggressively leading the band through crunching riffs and bouncy melodies.

We Will Live Forever is another stand-out track that takes a slower approach which leads to an emotive chorus and tells a gripping story, whilst the vocal harmonies in Ready To Defy are memorable and catchy.

 

4 stars

AARON BRYANS

sleater-kinny

SLEATER-KINNEY

No Cities To Love

Sub Pop/Inertia

 

Seminal ’90s feminist punk band Sleater-Kinney have returned after a near 10-year absence with their new album, No Cities To Love. Usually a break that long would make even a longtime fan give pause, but Sleater-Kinney pull through with a great release.

The sound that garnered them so much respect in the ’90s is still present here, and their musicianship is every bit as rounded and passionate as before. There’s a Fugazi influence, and while noisy, all three members play so tight it feels like there isn’t a single note wasted. 

The classic dual guitar sounds of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein really fill the album out, proving there’s no need for a bass player in the band. No Cities To Love feels like a classic guitar album, with big effects and innovative playing on nearly every song. Highlights include opener Price Tag, which takes aim at capitalism, and Gimme Love, a track that really shows off some dominant vocal chops. Closer Fade is the slowest track on the record, but still keeps a solid pace and feel.

Sleater-Kinney prove that a ‘comeback album’ doesn’t have to be a dirty word with this true return to form. It’s a record that adds to their legacy, instead of tarnishing it.

 

4 stars

SPENCER SCOTT

bjork

BJÖRK

Vulnicura 

POD/Inertia 

 

Vulnicura abruptly hit the digital shelves last month, a rush release sparked by yet another early album leak. Hopefully it caps off a bad run for Björk – her new album documents the last gasps of her long-term relationship with artist Matthew Barney and it’s not an easy ride.

But it’s also an invigorating return to form, shaking out the unfocused excess of her past three albums and returning to her more established template of soaring strings anchored by throbbing, amorphic beats.

As the open wound on the cover art suggests, this is a very personal record. Musically, it has much in common with 2001’s Vespertine, but replaces that album’s sensual discovery of a new love with a stoic, analytical breakdown of a difficult break-up. The nine songs are broken into three parts: prior to the break-up, the months following and an undated final trio that closes the album somewhat open-endedly.

The opening song, Stonemilker, is also the most accessible, and would sound at home on 1997’s Homogenic. Lionsong grasps at hope with the chorus, ‘Maybe he will come out of this loving me‘, while Björk documents the intimacy of ‘our last time together‘ in the bittersweet stocktake, History Of Touches

Vulnicura is heavy but liberating, and it’s easily one of her best.

 

4.5 stars 

CHRIS GIRDLER

perchcreekfamily

THE PERCH CREEK FAMILY JUGBAND

Jumping On The Highwire

Vitamin

With a name like The Perch Creek Family Jugband you would expect the Melbourne quintet to play roots based music. But if you were expecting the moniker to be just an opportunity for the outfit to cash in on the ‘hipness’ of indie-country, then you may be surprised to hear that there are actually four siblings driving the band here.

The band has been invited onto almost every festival going around so as punters can get a slice of their good-time hoe-downs. Jumping On The Highwire is The Perch Creek Jugband’s second attempt to bring their party tunes to the studio.

With nearly all members contributing tunes and ideas, and no shortage of quirky instruments at hand (a washboard, jug, spoons and even tap-dancing), Jumping On The Highwire is far from cohesive which at times is a strength but also a weakness. Mother Of My Mother draws on the depression era with great affect, while Party On The Farm invokes images of hay bales and barn dancing

The Perch Creek Family Jugband have a reputation for high energy fun time live shows. Sadly this just hasn’t transitioned onto disc for Jumping On The Highwire, which is nothing more than a pleasant tipping of the hat to a bygone time.

2.5 stars

CHRIS HAVERCROFT

dorsalfinsDORSAL FINS

Mind Renovation

Gripless/ Remote Control Records

 

Liam McGorry, of Saskwatch fame, gathers together a 15-piece ensemble for his new band, Dorsal Fins. Eschewing soul in favour of an indie-rock palette the group has captured the energy of psychedelic rock while not being bound to it’s tropes. Mind Renovation is the gratifying result of a side project gone right.

Hidden away amongst the psychedelia are songs which are as exciting as they are anomalous. The poppy synths of Heart On The Floor make you want to stamp your feet. The guitar riffs in Sun & Stars could be lifted directly from a Japanese video game.

As they shift between psych-rock and a range of eclectic genres, from the powerful spoken word of Jacqueline to the ethereal ballad of Fell, it feels like we’re discovering secret tracks rather than following a simple progression through the album.

Consistent throughout is the Dorsal Fins’ dynamic horn section, which ties the album together when it might otherwise feel disjointed. McGorry’s influence as a trumpeter comes through strongly to complement rather than clutter. It elevates the good songs and makes the great ones even better.

This fusion is what makes Mind Renovation work. The band trust each other’s skills enough to experiment with a vast array of genres, and the audience enough to appreciate it.

 

4 stars

JAMES ROSS