Friday, May 20, 2016

I Know I'm An Alien : Still Alien Still Dreaming (I Am Hobo Shaman)

In the last post I mentioned a few things had got me posting again, I Know I’m An Alien is that other thing.  It was easy to like them straight away; as I worked my way through their recordings on Bandcamp the material just became more and more fascinating.  From what I can gather since 2015 Walter Weirdheadd, Freddy Finefinggers, Buster Bashkitt and Susie Spacebrainn have two self-released records.  ‘Still Alien Still Dreaming (I Am Hobo Shaman)’ is a continuation of the Londoner’s outsider lo-fi recordings, not so long ago ‘lo-fi’ felt like the most overused/misused description of bands,  and it’s albums like this that makes one want to reconsider the genre in modern terms entirely.  I Know I’m An Alien impresses on the listener a take on the world through the view of someone on the fringes, their songs invite one into their space looking at popular culture, boring culture, historical culture, drinking culture, work culture, digital culture through collaged sound bites set alongside the band’s synth/bass/drum/guitar experimentalism.  

Human’s imagining being aliens imagining to be humans has a proven track record of being a powerful thing …. Bowie and Sun Ra both established that when one is in charge of one’s own universe there’s room to concisely define parameters in order to communicate ideas.  I can’t tell if these 13 songs feel dysfunctional as a result of rebelling against or actually reflecting our everyday life in this city.  Could well be a bit of both.   I was drawn to this record because it so clearly gets this concept across; it conveys the sensation of having oneself mirrored back –part hilarity and part surprise.  With songs like ‘Hey Hi Tech Lover’, ‘Becoming Human’ and ‘Hare Hare Against Genetic Engineering’ I Know I’m An Alien captures both those things, the absurd side to being human and the shocking.

The distorted sound of these recordings reminds me of V/VM videos and even The Coneheads in places; it’s the manipulation of famous pieces of music and heavily effected vocals that suggest these parallels to me.  I don’t know if the songwriters even listen to that stuff but it came to mind.  Some tracks lock into a groove the way Excepter might do, especially on ‘I Am A Shaman Hobo’.  I know I’m An Alien strive to make a room in this world to take you into theirs with songs that resonate with all sorts of alchemy.  It’s exciting to catch a band like this at the start of their work, download their releases and keep them on your radar.

* Just announced, I Know I'm An Alien will be supporting Colin Self soon, tickets for the show are here

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Other Music

Had a little break from writing...recharging batteries, recharging everything I think.  I was unsure how I’d know when to start back up again and then a few things came about this week that lit a fire under me.  Firstly, the sad news of Other Music closing, I’m proud to say I got to work there during my time in New York.  It’s never nice to hear about an independent record shop closing down but this one particularly stung.  On a personal level working at Other pushed me to learn and appreciate more music just by trying to meet the high standard of the shop.  It’s the first place I’d contributed to a blog doing music reviews, I was in awe of all the other writers and those people were definitely an inspiration.   When I started living in NY I was bouncing around different temp jobs and Chris Vanderloo gave me a break – he’s one of the people who gave me steady work and more vitally somewhere I felt like I belonged in a city that I didn’t really know anyone yet (nods to Helen Rush, Dave Martin and Gavin Taylor too).  

On a wider scale the thing that’s amazing about the shop is a sense of community it created - from in stores, to regular friendly faces passing through and ace colleagues.   The remarkable thing I found from working there is how every Thursday once the weekly mailout had been sent, customers would come in with a list of stuff they wanted to buy based on reviews, stuff they hadn’t heard but either liked the way someone had described it – or a member of staff they knew and could count on their taste had raved about the record.   That’s what always made Other Music inimitable and will make it irreplaceable; all the people that brought the shop to life and all the connections made there, the customers, the staff and the bands.  To think it won’t be there is something that’s kind of strange to get my head around – I’m sure it is for everyone.   Other is at the heart of something really special, and whilst it’s knocked the wind out of a few sails by announcing its closure, what a fantastic legacy to leave behind.