Electronic Sound: Reviews (Issue 79)

Reviews originally published in Issue 79 of Electronic Sound magazine, July 2021:

Get Up Sequences Part One
(Memphis Industries)

Want to know if your favourite artist is truly “pop”? There’s an acid test… try to imagine them as a 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Little Mix? Years and Years? Absolutely, with knobs on. Coldplay? Ed Sheeran? Dear God, no. The Go! Team, even on their sixth album, make the job a doddle. Here comes Ninja, in loon pants and star-shaped shades, shoving a neckerchief-sporting Ian and Sam into the back of the pedal-powered Go! Kart that chugs and splutters to all their gigs. But not before the karate-kicking Simone swoops from the sky to poleaxe Dick Dastardly in his hot air balloon. Hooray! He would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for these…

Meddling kids? Well, 17 years on from that Mercury Music Prize-nominated debut, The Go! Team still sound as though they live entirely on Sherbet Dip Dabs. Album opener ‘Let The Seasons Work’ boasts hyperactive Stax horns and clattering James Brown drums, and the pace barely relents from there. ‘Cookie Scene’ is fuelled by Sesame Street flutes, and – courtesy of Detroit-based guest star Indigo Yaj – the most adorable old-school rap since Tanya “Sweet Tee” Winley hung up her headband. “It’s the DY, it’s the DYC…” she beams. That’s the Detroit Youth Choir, whose contribution to previous album ‘Semicircle’ has forged a heartwarming and ongoing exchange programme between Brighton and Michigan.

Listening to a Go! Team album in one fell swoop can occasionally feel like being battered around the head with a bottle of fizzed-up Lucozade, but – to their credit – they know when to screw the top back on. So while ‘A Memo For Maceo’ boasts a car horn harmonica that may remind more mature readers of ‘Groovin’ With Mr Bloe’, ‘We Do It But Never Know How’ is a wistful, August lament. With a spoken word bridge that would make the Shangri-Las blush with pride: “It’s like when you take the mirror away and the room looks strange…”

But it’s fizzbomb single ‘Pow’, a riot of punchy psychedelic hip-hop, that’s the perfect encapsulation of everything so great about this deliriously daffy bunch. Hepped up on Scooby Snacks, they’re here to save the summer.

Album available here:

Lover’s Walk
(Spoken World)

It’s the little details that break the heart so badly. The “white dog with black spots, chasing torn newspaper sheets”. The post-takeaway kiss, “soft from the greasy chips”. David Boulter’s spoken word follow-up to his holiday memoir Yarmouth casts a similarly wistful eye over formative memories, but boasts an emotional wallop that is genuinely devastating.  

Boulter, a founder member of Tindersticks, conjures a characteristically cinematic score. Flutes and glockenspiels add colour to this tale of a teenage liason: a stolen weekend in a grimy B&B with a lover whose parents despaired of Boulter’s “tin bath” origins. It’s all there: the cover story, the nervous bedtime tears – and God, the heartbreaking years of silence that followed. Then, decades later: “She was ill, seriously ill”. Again, it’s the details. “She ran her thumb over the gold ring on my finger,” he recalls, as strings swirl above the hospice bed. “The ring she’d bought me that Saturday in the antique market…” Love, loss, death and beauty combine on easily the most poignant album of the year. Beyond beautiful.

Album available here:

The Goatman
(Library Of The Occult)

Ah yes, the soundtrack to the cult and conveniently missing 1973 horror classic The Goatman gets a deluxe vinyl reissue on a label positively fuelled by offerings to ancient gods and elaborately-carved goblets of Ribena. The story? Newlyweds Frank and Susan decamp to rural Somerset on their honeymoon, where they are ultimately menaced by the dark, malevolent majesty of… well, go on. Take a wild guess.

Purportedly recorded by psychedelic duo Klaus Morlock and Simon Magus, it’s a terrifically rendered homage to a golden age of camp horror cinema. A riot of wobbly vibraphones, twinkling harpsichords and twangy guitars. ‘Susan’s Dream’ is a genuinely beautiful reverie with a drifting Mellotron, and ‘Passion In The Woods’ has – ahem – an appropriately throbbing organ. And if you can hear the ‘The Goatman And His Maidens’ without picturing David Prowse dancing in a pair of giant rubber horns to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop then, frankly, your soul isn’t worth saving.  

Album available here:

(Frequency Domain)

“I wanted to create something dense and overwhelming,” explains prolific Preston knob-twiddler Stephen James Buckley, permanently mired in a tangle of modular cables. So he completely overloaded his Eventide Harmonizer, resulting in a purposefully glitching slab of complex ambience designed to emulate the information bombardment of 21st century life. Or, rather, two slabs: ‘Gargantuan Part One’ and ‘Gargantuan Part Two’ are 25 and 28 minutes long respectively, so put the kettle on and prepare to find solidarity with that poor, overworked processor.

The experience is overwhelming, but there are moments of beauty, too. ‘Part One’ begins with a genuinely uncomfortable assault by buzzsaw synths, but settles into a soothing, arpeggio pitter-patter occasionally punctuated by dramatic, melodic swoops. ‘Part Two’ veers more towards the sensory overload he threatens: it’s mental burnout in musical form, although it draws to an epic and inspiring conclusion. As impressively restless as his compositions, Buckley remains a uniquely thoughtful contributor to 21st century electronica.

Album available here:

The Family
(Spun Out Of Control)

Those lurid VHS titles hidden in a dusty corner of Blockbuster? The ones you and your mates watched with two litres of Merrydown cider? With leather-clad centrefolds wielding blood-soaked chainsaws on the cover? Here’s the soundtrack to them all. Glaswegian Alan Sinclair goes all out for 1980s synth bombast in this tale of “satanic biker gangs”, and it’s pure John Carpenter campness: ‘Don’t Move The Body!’ conjures images of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper on a Harley-Davidson and ‘I Think She Likes You’ is the obligatory soft-focus sex scene where the tape goes mysteriously crackly. Great fun.

Album available here:

The Abbey Of The Black Hag
(Woodford Halse)

“Irish witches and haunted places have always fascinated me,” says Jonathan Deasy, eschewing the amniotic bliss of previous album Zener_25 for the dark, foreboding folklore of his homeland. There are three 20-minute tracks here: ‘Cailleach’ is a hypnotic wheeze beneath an insidious hummadruz; ‘An Gaorthadh’ the sound of a crackling turntable overwhelmed by sinister church organ. And ‘The Ballad Of Bridget Cleary’ – named after a 19th century Tipperary woman murdered by her husband, who claimed she was a fairy changeling – is suitably elegiac ambience. An album of creeping shadows.

Album available here:

You Can Never Leave
(Front & Follow)

Inspired by a video promoting the grey utopia of Manchester’s Deansgate Square, the likes of Field Lines Cartographer and The Burning Trestle create their own sardonic soundtracks to luxury apartment living, with all proceeds going to homeless charities.  It’s a hugely impressive, eclectic collection. Hattie Cooke’s ‘Groundhog Day’ is a glacial hymn to charcoal kitchen units; Rupert Lally’s ‘Stepford Home Dreams’ the niggling drone of affluent ennui. “We are so much better, better than what came before” intone the authoritarian vocals of Nicholas Langley’s ‘The New Day, The Gated Canal’. Wonderful.

Album available here:

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