Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pega Monstro : Alfarroba
























Satisfying rock experiments making one want to flip a cartwheel are captured on this new album by Pega Monstro.   ‘Alfarroba’ is comprised of ten dizzying songs displaying stellar reaches of what a core set up made up with drums, guitar and keyboard can truly achieve.  Sisters Julia Reis and Maria Reis are the pair behind Pega Monstro.   The name translates to ‘catch the monster’ but is also linked to a jelly shaped toy hand attached to a string that kids throw at each other in the band’s home of Lisbon, Portugal.  The sisters began playing music together when they were 15 and 17 respectively although they started out in other bands before making the move to write and perform together.  In 2010 Julia and Maria launched Cafetra Records, their own label with a focus on celebrating Portugal’s garage punk scene.  Pega Monstro’s momentum grew after self-releasing their first EP ‘O Juno-60 Nunca Teve Fita’, which was followed by their debut album in 2012 - and as if the band needed any further assurance things were going in the right direction B Fachada, a prominent figure in Portuguese music produced their work.   

And here we are, with the latest offering and second full length release from Pega Monstro ‘Alfarroba’ (Upset The Rhythm).  ‘Alfarroba’ references a sugary flavoured bean called ‘carob’ which can be found growing on wild trees that sprout up randomly along the Mediterranean coast.  The songs deal with love, growing up as well as reflecting on the process of writing songs and describing things from a woman’s viewpoint.   Maria’s guitar eddies and chugs through my song of the summer ‘Branca’, I don’t speak a word of Portuguese but now am singing “shoe, sha, shee” compulsively and some might argue incessantly – it’s so bloody catchy.  Bursting in fun with its dreamy melody and overdriven approach, ‘Branca’ aptly shows how unswerving and sensational this album is.  The interesting thing about Pega Monstro is it seems as though they draw from a frame of mind as opposed to sifting through their record collections for ideas.  What we’re given is something that purely represents them in the process, ‘Alfarroba’ isn’t trying to fit in anywhere rather it embraces sounds that come naturally, and for that reason it stands boldly amongst many bands using guitar, drums and keyboards.  ‘Estrada’ blasts bright hooks, angelic vocals, Julia's hyper drums and curiously plummets into metal groves which further unravel into psych inspired breakdowns; revealing the diverse elements incorporated into the album.  ‘Alfarroba’ has a softer side too ‘Fado d’A’gua Fria’ has a soothing sort of lullaby quality that envelops folk into a mesmeric moment on Side B.  Have you had enough of the gushing yet?  I really tried to rein it in here, but it all just came pouring out.  Pega Monstro does something vivid and exuberant in their song-writing and this just spills over to those who encounter it.  Truly an exciting new band worthy of your time – you have a chance to see them this Saturday too (15th August) at The Vicotria in Dalston BUY TICKETS HERE!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Rattle : Interview




* Photo - Simon Parfrement

Nottingham outfit Rattle have been making huge strides with their duelling drums and vocal performance up and down the country lately.  After seeing them a few times this year I had to know more about them, so here we are, a few questions shared with Rattle, if you've not had a chance yet check them out FACEBOOK & BANDCAMP or try and catch them at a show - totally worthy of your time!
 
Hi – after some digging I couldn’t find much in the way of interviews on Rattle so thought I’d kick this off with some ‘get to know you’ questions, how do you know each other?  I want to know about the start of Rattle!

KB: This is the first interview! 

Theresa and I both live in Nottingham; we’d both lived in Nottingham for quite a few years playing in other bands before we became friends. First of all we got together to trade music skills – the plan was that I would teach Theresa to play the guitar, and she would teach me to play drums. But instead Rattle happened.

TEZ: There was a period where I’d often go out and recognize people that were going to the same gigs, with the same coats on, week after week for about a year. It took a while before we started chatting and became friends, and fairly soon after we started making music. 

Did you have a goal in mind when you started Rattle? Is there something you want to achieve from this project?

KB: Rattle happened very organically, almost by mistake. I had a sneaking hope that maybe Theresa and I might make some good, worth pursuing music with me playing guitar and her playing drums, but all of sudden we were playing something that become the song ‘Boom’. It was very clear right from the start that we didn’t need anything else but the drums and voices. In terms of what we want to achieve or a goal - we both wanted to make an album, which is something we have very almost done, and I think we just wanted to play as many gigs as possible, and get out and about.

TEZ: When we started playing we were just working out how different rhythms worked together; they didn’t feel like songs until Katy added some vocals and we started structuring them. A lot of people asked if we were going to add any additional instruments, but it never felt like there was any space or need for anything else and it felt really freeing to focus on what people might overlook as ‘the backing track’, and to be really attentive and creative with that. I think Rattle’s also partly a response to hearing bands cluttering their sound with too many changes or instruments, I find that sometimes turns me off a bit and paring things down can be much more exciting.  

Bit of a straight forward question, but to get some background on Rattle I was wondering what kind of drummers you are drawn to?

KB: I am always drawn to anything that seems to me to be different and unusual. I’m really lucky to have met and have played with most of my favourite drummers, Charles Hayward of This Heat, Katherina Bornefeld of the Ex, Sayaka Himeno of Nisennemondai, Jim White of Dirty Three, Yoshimi P-We of Boredoms.

I also love Chris Corsano, Ringo….

TEZ: All of the above – I guess we’re both drawn to un-flashy, percussive drummers who can give a different feel to the song, I’d add to that list Mick Fleetwood.

On your Facebook page it says Theresa is ‘highs’ and Katharine is ‘lows’, I don’t play the drums could you outline what you both take charge of when you’re writing/performing?

KB: Theresa is highs, ie: high hat, cymbals, cowbell, snare, but also the low low floor tom. I am lows, which is the bass drum, toms, and snare.

I suppose it is a bit like a band with two guitarists sharing one set of guitar strings between two guitars.

Can you talk about the song ‘Starting’?  It’s really stuck in my head!

KB: Starting started with a Theresa rim beat, and I came in with the bass drum and the toms. I think on that one I was trying to be purposefully awkward in the best sounding of ways, to go against Theresa’s beat as much as I could in the catchiest way possible. Awkward and catchy are definitely two things I think I try to get involved in as many songs as possible.

Tez: It’s got a stop and start to it that is a bit cheeky, I really like stop/start or false endings, you enjoy the song so much you’re a bit sad when it ends, then it comes back again and you’re extra excited! It’s a good positive mantra of a vocal line. 

How long does it take to complete a song, and how do you get started? 

KB: We start with an idea, something that is made up on the spot or something that might have popped into my head in down times at a Kogumaza (the other band I play drums in) practice or through Theresa’s practicing. I write the vocal melodies and words, sometimes whilst playing in our practice room and more often later when I am driving in my car listening to practice recordings. It depends how complete and how good the starting point is I suppose. Some songs have become quite full in the first few minutes or even seconds of playing them, and we’ve been able to play them live after a few rehearsals and keep them growing slowly like mould. But some have needed some real elbow work to bend into shape. 

TEZ: It’s really easy to get together and make a beat/riff that works well, but it takes a while to get it structured so it resembles a song.  There are also loads of things that might be changed or added when we’re recording so it doesn’t feel fully complete until we’ve finished that stage. We’ve had stuff knocking around for a couple of years now that are finally coming into their finished form. 

To my ears at least Rattle reminds me a bit of Talk Normal – do you know that band?  What do you make of that comparison?

KB: I’ve seen Talk Normal once before, I do remember really enjoying them, particularly the performance aspect, definitely something quite natural and raw about them which I think is something I hope we do have in Rattle, even without the distortion and the dirty sounds you can get out of a guitar.

TEZ: I hadn’t heard about them at all until you mentioned them but now I’ve heard them I like them, so thanks. 

How do you feel about being compared to other bands in general – is it weird?  Do think it helps or hinders trying to get people to form an idea of what your sound is like?

KB: I think we are very lucky in Rattle and it happens very little. We often get told “I’ve never seen anything like that before” or “I haven’t seen anything like that for twenty years” which to me is very exciting and flattering. Do we want to see things we’ve seen before? It’s much more exciting to see something you can’t place. It’s Starting! Rattle would probably be quite difficult for the lazy journalist. We’ve been compared to The Raincoats a few times, The Slits, The Melvins and The Sugarcubes. Lots of ‘The’ bands!

TEZ: It’s been great generally as people don’t really know what to compare us to; we sometimes get some slightly off the wall comparisons which is flattering and a good way to find new stuff (as in your last question).   

How long have you been playing live?  It felt like you’d been doing it for some time during the shows I’ve been to this year

KB: We’ve been playing live since 2012. We like to play live with Mark Spivey, also from Kogumaza, who adds effects from the desk.

TEZ: We started playing live quite soon after we started and we’ve been lucky enough to get offered some really great, interesting gigs when we only had a few ideas put together. I think we’ve really developed what we do as a direct result from playing live and we would have gone in a totally different, probably much duller, direction if we hadn’t been able to get out of the house. When you rehearse you know you can always stop and start again if you make a mistake, you can think too much, but there’s loads of good pressure and good mistakes that come out of playing live that keep things fresh.

As a relatively new band I was wondering, do you find performing live is something to develop as you play more, or does the chemistry between you two feel spot on and it just works? 

KB: We’re definitely getting more comfortable playing live the more that we play. We don’t put on much of a show, but I think people find it interesting to watch the interplay between the two drums. I’d like to develop the ‘live show’ aspect of Rattle, we are both visual artists too and love making films and I think there is a lot we could do with that, and lights, and reflections, but at the moment the most important and fun thing for me certainly is playing the drums and singing, so any Rattle time we have is focused on that!

TEZ: We just work on the songs and getting them right, it’s good to give the impression when we play that we’ve totally improvised everything in the moment, but in reality we’re usually counting numbers and hoping we get the changes in time. As we’ve played more and more though we definitely feel more comfortable with just responding to what each other are doing, a lot of the time it feels like we’re carrying a tea-set on a tight-rope, but that’s when we can play the best gigs. 

What’s been the most memorable show you’ve played?

KB: We were incredibly happy to invite Charles Hayward (This Heat) up to Nottingham to play at our EP launch at a Nottingham gallery space last year. His set was amazing and he’s a really incredible and inspiring person. We also worked with Jim Boxall, a  visual artist who created some film projections for our set which worked really well.

TEZ: We played with The Ex a couple of times last year and that was awesome as they were so great, just so energetic and inspiring.  

Who have been your favourite bands to play with?

KB: Charles Hayward, The Ex, Obits, Sauna Youth, Xylouris White, Richard Dawson 

TEZ: … Konono no. 1, Sleaford Mods, The Wharves

If you could choose a line up to be on, any band, any era, which 3 bands would you like to share a bill with?

KB: Oh my. I like to dance after we’ve played. So:
Joy Division, B52s (circa 1979), Moondog

TEZ: Talking Heads, David Bowie, New Order 

Are there any bands you’d like to play with that are around now?

KB: We have been very lucky, a lot of my dreams have already come true in this respect. 

TEZ: ESG, Earth, Cate Le Bon, there’s lots

What’s the most memorable show you’ve been to?

KB: Neurosis at Dudley JBs in 1999. They were a physical force!

Tez: Thee oh sees at the Leeds Brudenell 2013 

You’re from Nottingham – what can you say about the music scene there? Is there anything you would change?

TEZ: Nottingham has a huge collection of talented people who are doing really interesting things, completely unrelated to each other artistically but socially connected and really supportive. It’s really uncomplicated and inexpensive to put a gig on at the Chameleon, JT Soar, or Stuck On A Name, and have amazing sound quality and people who really, really look after you and love independent music. 

All of this isn’t necessarily represented by the way the music scene is sometimes marketed, which is often represented by someone trying to make out there’s a certain ‘sound’ or to push for a no. 1 single, that sometimes feels at odds with people making a really independent and diverse scene that’s frequently amazing. 

What was the first album that really made an impact on you?

KB: Nirvana, Nevermind. That bit on Drain You with the build-up. Suddenly just listening to music was never going to be enough!

TEZ: This question has set off a BLUR (arf) of 90’s album listening and it’s hard to pin-point just one, but in terms of thinking about playing music I remember listening the Stone Roses 1st album and thinking I’d like to play the drums, Reni had such intricacies and riffs, what an ace drummer!  

What’s coming up for Rattle so readers know what to try and catch – shows, recorders etc!

TEZ: We’re playing Cops and Robbers summer bash in Leeds Wharf Chambers on 24th July, and at the tramlines fringe festival at the Picture House Social Sheffield on 25th July, in Manchester on 1st August and the double dot bash festival on 12th September http://www.doubledotbash.net/. We’re finishing off recording and mixing our first album and we’re hoping to put together some kind of tour in the autumn. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Solid Space : Space Museum






















Maf Vosburgh and Dan Goldstein make up UK based Minimal Wave band Solid Space.  ‘Space Museum’ started as a project in 1980, and over the course of the next two years the pair assembled eleven home recordings that would become one of the finest lost albums of its kind.  ‘Space Museum’ plays off drum machines and synths against acoustic instruments whilst also experimenting with found audio clips.  The songs deal with space travel and a general sense of dejection supported by bright pop melodies; just from the sheer finesse of the album it’s hard to believe the duo were teenagers when they wrote it.  The maturity of the album is best shown on ‘A Darkness In My Soul’, the track is so striking in how desolate it is, rivalling Goth Rock records that would start to come out long after this was written (The Cure’s ‘Disintegration’ springs to mind).  ‘Tenth Planet’ is my absolute favourite, totally joyful guitar riff offset by numbed vocals alongside layers of synths.   It seems like a lot of people have worked on trying to get this reissued, whether this will be out again for general release is still hard to tell but it can be found online to tide everyone over.  ‘Space Museum’ is incredibly forward thinking for when it was written and I wish I could write more on the band but I’ll be damned if I can find much background on these chaps presently.   Is it acceptable to write a “review” essentially saying “this is amazing, you should listen to it”?  I guess that’s what I’m doing – when something’s this brilliant one doesn't need to pick it apart and question it.  This is really simple for us both, just click below!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Obnox : Know America



Garage Rock / Punk has had some pretty big moments in music’s frontlines.  From new bands spearheading resurgence in the last decade to the 90s and casting back to the bottomless pit of the 60’s.  I’ve been fixated since living overseas for a few years in 2006 where I got a baptism of fire in New York.  I would say nearly all the records I bought and relished were garage rock.     It was new and exhilarating to me, after listening to a lot of albums some material started to feel like mimicry of what had come before, and ultimately a genre I had become enamoured with felt stale at times.  Sure, there are truly great innovators but I’m not going to tire you with a list, suffice it to say there’s been nothing quite like Obnox. 

Obnox’s recordings are thrilling and challenge its predecessors.   It is clear beginnings in 90s garage punk still play a vital part in what Lamont ‘Bim’ Thomas does, along with a penchant for all things underground.  I mean the Tommy Jay cover on this record gives a nod to one of thee great outsider albums made in Ohio – and anywhere else for that matter.  Previously working in several other garage and punk outfits such as Bassholes, Unholy Two, Puffy Areolas and This Moment In Black History, Thomas has only gathered momentum for his most raucous material yet.  Obnox’s gritty experimentation of introspective punk rock and soul began to emerge in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio around 2011.  Thomas has had some pretty great labels behind him already 12XU, Negative Guestlist and Permanent have all supported his releases with this new record finding a new home at Ever/Never.   There’s a real sense that Thomas’ surroundings informs his writing;  musicians, the streets, the community, people around him  - in searching of synergy in amongst all of it.  The havoc brought forward in Obnox’s material feels like ideas being brought into focus by chaos.   Sound is collaged and layered slammed against blown out guitars, pummelling rhythms and melody driven vocals forever driven to breaking point.  ‘Freaky’ hits with the full whack of how intense this record can get as it seems as though the song only just comes short of frying the equipment it was recorded on. 

The tempestuous nature of the song writing on ‘KnowAmerica’ is undeniable and it still stands from the last time I said it, Obnox’s approach is unbelievably refreshing.  For the first time there’s a chance to see him perform all this too at the end of the month at CafĂ© Oto you can buy tickets here, not to be missed!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Coneheads : L​.​P​.​1. aka "14 Year Old High School PC​-​Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo for the Sake of Extorting $​$​$ from Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks L​.​P​”





I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a band who I learned about after they’d been plugged by Brian Turner and Henry Rollins on their respective radio shows.  The Indiana based youths who make up The Coneheads left a huge impression with a wild cover of Nirvana (‘In Bloom’ I think… taken from a test promo) and then ‘Alien & Warm’ from this, their debut LP.  

‘L​.​P​.​1. aka "14 Year Old High School PC​-​Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo for the Sake of Extorting $​$​$ from Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks L​.​P​”’ (Erste Theke Tontraeger) came out in February and an initial run of 500 copies has since sold out.  The record compiles recordings initially available on small runs of tapes released over the last year or so. I couldn’t believe it, the last year or so, on first listen they sounded like they’d fit right in the late 70’s to early 80’s weirdo musical underworld.  Although watching some youtube footage of live shows I’m pretty sure they weren’t even born in the 80’s.

Performing under a name associated with a film about people who have misshapen skulls, it’s safe to say they don’t take themselves too seriously.  It’s really bold, covering songs that people will most likely not want to hear; Nirvana, Talking Heads – how many ‘Psycho Killer’ covers are out there now exactly?!  But like the Nirvana cover they just totally transform it, the way the singer addresses “run-away” in the chorus just slays me, is it supposed to?  It at least sounds like they’re having fun.  That’s the refreshing thing about this album; there’s nothing out of bounds to chew up and spit out, taking on those iconic songs and dismantling the myth or reverence around them is brilliant.

The low fidelity recording style The Coneheads used certainly suits the cassette format, no fads here, it just makes sense for what the band are about. The LP is a strong compilation of what they’ve done so far which retains their DIY approach.   When I say low fidelity/DIY , I don’t mean they’ve just covered everything in fuzz and delay, the sound is actually pretty clean - each element comes through distinctly, you can just feel from the recordings it was made with whatever means they had … someone’s bedroom…. garage…. basement. It’s the skew whiffed vocals and hyper pace they play at that really grabs one at first.  The melody heavy bass creeps in and it’s clear this is tying everything down.  Frazzled and choppy guitars play alongside palpitating beats and then, there’s the totally demented vocals.  ‘1982’ is another stand out track.  It is 40 seconds long.  ‘Waste of Space’ is pretty fantastic too with its spooked versus monotone vocal delivery and jittery/convulsive synths.

Oof, just love this record.  ‘L​.​P​.​1. aka "14 Year Old High School PC​-​Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo for the Sake of Extorting $​$​$ from Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks L​.​P”’ is far and away one of the best albums to let loose from the last few months.  Has anyone ever wondered what it would sound like if The Urinals played Devo songs on a rollercoaster?  No, actually, to be honest, me neither BUT The Coneheads prove that it sounds pretty friggin’ great!

Check it all out right HERE