So ShadowPlay’s first foray into Oh-Nine-Online comes in the form of our reviews collection, a chance to round-up and rinse out the music that’s been passing through the ever-changing letterbox of 1 ShadowPlay Street. Kicking off this month is Stonephace, I’m not sure when it became cool to replaced Fs with PHs or if it even ever has been but my guess is that the 24-year career of member Larry Stabbins who waqs in Working Week and has worked with Robert Wyatt, was in music at the time. This is a relaxed, spacey kinda record, beginning uptempo with inflections of jazzy sax before the sax takes hold and guides the record through its Sunday morning feel. Some offbeat electronica spices things up at time but for the most part its enjoyable if over-trippy fare from the Tru Thoughts act.
I’m not gunna lie, my thoughts on the new Sergeant Buzfuz record, High Slang, wasn’t heading towards the glowing fires of over-exuberant adjectives until it hit Cockney Rebel – a Camden-bashing, speedy chuntering piece of Wave Pictures-esque lyricism which elevates them beyond simply the Sheffield-origins and nice minimalist artwork which had previously counted in High Slang’s favour. It’s a really varied record, steering from Cockney Rebel’s cheeky charm to some genuinely beautiful instrumentation, investigate. I’m not sure I’ve ever used the phase, a French Tom Waits, before but it has to be applied in the case of Le Skeleton Band who’s broken strings and gravely tones do actually merit the high accolade. Entertaining, dirty fun throughout for Waits fans who want a little more of the great man’s irresistible style. This is stark contrast to Smilex who show no style in thrashing out seven screamed pieces of filthy Damned-style rock which doesn’t do a thing for me except to realise how many English words rhyme but are completely unrelated. Likewise imagine this but at the other end of the scale, Unfinished Drawings are a sappy, over-ambitious version of this but I don’t like ripping into small bands so I’ll leave it there. Again The Curfew’s intentions seem good with their new record Inside but it’s attempt at early 90s style Massive Attack style slow-beat soaring female vocals just turns into ten overly-long songs which don’t add anything to the musical sphere worth keeping once its gone. The same can bee said of 28 Costumes who’s album sampler does little to whet the appetite with repetitive and quite irritating shouting.
An altogether more sprightly album presents itself in the form of Navvy’s Idyll Intangible – a perfect collection of angular pop from the Sheffielders which keeps ears on tenderhooks and the mind on edge. They’ve definitely got something, punky charm or nice heavy harmonies. Watch this space, then grab it up. Another enjoyable effort this month is St Gregory Orange’s Things We Said in Bedrooms which sails along a sea of reverb with a kind of distance, unreal sound reminiscent of Winter North Atlantic with its Boards of Canada-lite ethos.
ShadowPlay favourites Le Reno Amps have returned with their beautiful brand of punch-drunk indie pop in the form of new record Tear It Open funded bizarrely enough by the Scottish Arts Council so I guess they must be contributing more than ace songs to society. Teaming up with Brakes’ Marc Beatty you can definitely see the Brighton bands influence on LRA with some electrifying thrashy fun and bizarreness. Pick this one up on release in March.
As far as singles go it’s a breathless one this time as Light Sleep/Heavy Dreams’ Leon Millar gets all home-studio-y with the minimal crunching excellence of WILD (Wake Initiation of Lucid Dreams), Depth Charge up the anti on that Mecha Squirrel finally getting a release in all its razor sharp glory – a triumph of samplin’n’dancin’ from ‘burbs to bars. Vile Imbeciles double A-side Tramp and Jennifer teaches us to make a guitar squeal in many ways and is value for money with a 30 minutes racket, I mean, b-side. A real gem comes in the form of Cuddly Shark’s Woody Woodpecker/ Bowl of Cherries double A with the former a glorious tribute to our little blue friend even including a ‘peck peck peck’ refrain while the latter tears through its two minutes with venom, a great little band. As are Kids Love Lies who’s debut single Count in My Headhas some topsy-turvy charm though steers a little close to the Winehouse wind at times. Another debut is Siegfriend Sassoon’s Muscle Beach which shows just that with angular harmonies, the flip features Laura Mary Carter of Blood Red Shoes fame. Wakefield label Philophobia is also releasing the Rocket Footage EP featuring the Lapels and the Sponge Wings in March with the former fun little faux-American jobbie and the latter reminiscent of something from a musical of Kate Thornton’s life, yep that good. Finally The Ironweed Project reminiscent of Chicken Legs Weaver’s raw croakiness and Tenek's Submission is a bit mid-80s and underwhelming in it’s overarching attempts to be dancey get epic. And where better place to leave you than Herman Dune who’ve released Try to Think About Me from Next Year in Zion, one of the best tunes from the record it is a surprisingly hopeful song for the Swedes who simply go from strength the strength as the years go by. See you again soon, keep stuffing those ears fulla music.