Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Big Joan - The Long Slow Death of Big Joan

"There's no... there is no need... there is no need for alarm, alarm..." insists Annette Berlin on Noah's Farm, the second track on Big Joan's latest album, The Long Slow Death Of....

Those of us who've been following the Bristol fourpiece for any length of time are hoping the stress is on the "long, slow" part of that title rather than the "death". No-one who cares wants to see Big Joan set down any time soon.

The whole album shrieks, wails and punches against that phrase, "there's no need for alarm" (a shrill noise in the middle of 888 even sounds like a siren). It's a thrill ride. The overriding image I have listening to it is of a musical tank, rolling destructively down tight urban streets, in some apocalyptic future war film. A tank ridden by the band, with Annette atop it as a kind of visionary tank girl, of course. Her voice sometimes echoing off metal sheets; sometimes raving like a late night evangelist on a transistor radio the caterpillar tracks will drive into the ground. Noah's Farm is explicitly inspired by the book of Genesis, but the album is all Revelation.

Sorry, I can get carried away with imaginary visuals (though I challenge anyone not to think of a battering ram when listening to Morel's Sleep). The point is it's exciting. And threatening, and portentous, and above all confident. I've been trying to work out what this confidence is, because you feel when you first hear the songs as if they belong to a band used to playing them to huge crowds, and in (unjust) reality, Big Joan are relatively unknown outside of the Bristol rock scene. Of course the key to that sense of assurance and assertiveness is that they're not doing it for the sake of untold masses at all; they know exactly what they want the music to be regardless of whether very many other people are going to be shelling out for tickets to see them play it or not. The result is a sound which embodies an aggressive rejection of compromise, and it's a joy to listen in on if you're sick of bands making music the way they think you want to hear it. Paradoxically there surely is a crowd out there hungry for this, listening in on the last working radio sets in the world from behind metal sheets in zombie shelters, if only they can get the right point on the dial and hear Big Joan's call out to those still living.

Closing track Bin 1, a highly dramatic version of an instrumental long-term live favourite involving an actual bin, says everything I'm trying to say here about the album and the band, for itself, in no words at all.

Buy the album and a limited edition copy of the CD can be yours, while stocks last:

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Madvent Chokalendar 2011

Every year, the denizens of Bristol music forum Choke produce an mp3 advent calendar, with a new track up for free download every day. It goes by the name of Madvent Chokalendar.

Visit the calendar page once a day to claim your free mp3. To find out who each track is by, you'll want to right click on the day in question on the page, choose 'save link as', and open it in your music player (they might remain a mystery if you're using a phone!)

You can also join in and chat about the tracks on the forum or the Facebook event .

Here's what's come up so far on December 3rd 4th 8th. They're all well worth downloading, but day one in particular, apparently inspired by the 1914 Christmas Truce, is quite unmissable -

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8

Long may the Madvent Chokalendar last - a seasonal gift from the musicians of Bristol.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Megan Wright reviews Hysterical Injury

Telling you how awesome I think Hysterical Injury's debut album is would be fairly meaningless, being as I am their manager.

So instead I sat my octogenarian grandmother down with a pen and paper and put it on, and this is what we got. The album was released on 6th February 2012 and was one of the first people to hear it. A typed transcription follows the notepad scans.

Hysterical Injury - Dead Wolf Situation

"Hysterical Injury!!

1.) Halo Alkanes
Rhythm - very good start!!
Voice clear & musical
Foot tapping, encouraging one to find someone to partner, dance & hum along with.
Heavy, - then too heavy for most folks' pleasure but excellent for carnival parades.

Ice Break
If they are hoping to break ice with this one, they will find themselves knee deep in water!!
Patrolling, singing along!
Good voice good tempo
Guitar sound good
It keeps the drum movement swinging along!

Cycle One!!
Diction on music, non understandable, trilling good: improves as music swings along.

Very good rhythm.
Voice with music super!!
It makes one swing along with it.
In a small part it feels as if the needle has got stuck - only for a short while.

Track 5 Rosetta's Waves
A slightly rough sea!
Trying to swim through the sea AND SING! Very difficult but well activated.
It sounds a bit like someone wanting to go back to save folk from THE TITANIC.

The Works Track 6
They seem to be working against the clock so as to have no overtime to work!
Very swingy!! Electrifying

Track 7 Visions of Trees
The wind is blowing the trees in an interesting fashion
One wants to dance along with friends who will hold one.

These musicians will go far, because they are super."

We don't yet have my gran's views on the remaining 5 tracks of the album, but if I get a chance to sit her down to listen to them, I'll share those with you too.

You now can hear the whole thing for yourself below. (and buy. Buy! BUY!!!)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Three amazing female choral works

Back in the distant past (and doesn't it really feel that way?) of 2005, I reviewed a copy of the "Bitpop EP" by Bishi for the now-defunct Decode magazine. I described it as "Bouncy theatrical madpop" ... "like getting trapped in Trafalgar Square on a fairground carousel that’s going at several wrong speeds at once". A couple of years back I finally saw her live at Glastonbury doing something like ::this:: on stage, complete with Union-flag head-t0-toe smothered dancers, which rather proved my point!

When you get past the theatrics, though, what is really pinning down the hold on your attention is Bishi's obvious intelligence and her voice, and both are at the fore in the work she commissioned work she made for Brooklyn's Youth Chorus earlier this year, Dia Ti Maria. Bishi recorded all 50 voices on this recording herself, and you can read more about its themes and origins on her Soundcloud.

Bishi - Dia Ti Maria

Hazlitt is another artist who has moved from making often-bouncy pop/rock in bands like the brilliant Tiger Force (I saw them once at Bridgwater Arts Centre! Which is badly affected by the cuts, grrr) to embrace a classical style. You can pledge for the forthcoming Hazlitt album ::here:: and raise money for good causes including riot relief funds at the same time. Here is the beautiful video for Introit.

Hazlitt - Introit

Making up a trio of women-you-might-otherwise-have-heard-on-6music, doing-stuff-you-could-hear-on-Radio-3, are the majestic Gaggle, who earlier in the year produced a reworked version of a piece commissioned by the Women's Institute in 1969 called The Brilliant and the Dark. They say "The libretto approaches history from the Middle Ages to WWII through the eyes of women, via characters including witch-hunters, embroiderers, crusaders’ wives, plague stricken women, mourners and war workers". Their version mixes the kind of chorus you'd hear soundtracking enchanted forests in early Disney films with skittery drum-and-bass percussion, and the almost-spoken-word incantations that are typical Gaggle fare. You can get a flavour of it on this Vimeo clip, and download the whole work if you subscribe to their website.

The Brilliant and The Dark from Open Music Archive on Vimeo.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Free downloads - Glastonbury Festival Competition Alumni: Liz Green, Yusuf Azak, Emily Barker

I'm so excited to see Liz Green (a) still making music, and (b) being picked up by bloggers everywhere! I remember listening to the demo she sent in for the Glastonbury emerging talent competition non-stop in the weeks leading up to the finalists' selection back in 2007, and was almost as delighted as I think she was shocked when she won a slot on the Pyramid stage that year through it. Things were quiet for a while, then last year a collection of those early recordings was put out - and now the long-awaited debut album is finally to be released next week.

'O, Devotion' is going to feature several of the same tracks I had on repeat on that demo all the way back then, but to judge from the version of opening track 'Hey Joe' she's giving away, these are going to be new and thoroughly enriched recordings.

So many early reviews have focused, understandably, on her remarkable voice; but she's also a powerful songwriter, and has never been afraid to sing about political as well as personal situations. If you haven't seen it yet, don't miss the video for Displacement Song, which plays on the shadow-puppet aesthetic Liz uses on her self-designed album covers (and even sometimes to my knowledge in her shows)!

Free download: Liz Green - Hey Joe

Yusuf Azak's was another demo we had the same year. We weren't able to secure a slot for him at the festival, but I've been following him ever since, and have had the honour of working on a track with him as well as featuring his music in an issue of Attack!!!!.

Yusuf Azak - The Key Underground by Song, by Toad

Here's Yusuf performing another standout track from Turn on the Long Wire, live:

Yusuf currently has his whole new EP up for free download - I'd grab it before he changes his mind, if I were you, and then buy the album.

Free downloads:
Yusuf Azak - Prizefighter EP
Yusuf Azak and Wes White - The Key Underground

Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo - another 2007 finalist (god it was a good year)... will also be known to anyone who followed the crazy Storm the Charts project I did. A little while after, Emily invited me up to one of her Folk in a Box performances, which is where a performer is sat in a little shed and you go in and they perform to you as an audience of one!! Being so close to that beautiful voice was pretty intense. If Folk in a Box is ever on tour again and you get the chance, put yourself down to be an audience! The song Emily played me is one of those she is offering as a free download from her wonderful album Almanac.

It has to be said Emily does seem to particularly like performing in sheds:

Free download: Emily Barker - Ropes

Friday, 21 October 2011

Top 10 versions of Darth Vader's Star Wars theme

I'm a sucker for a good silly chart campaign. Yes, I know, you're sick of them. And to be fair, fatigue and the law of diminishing returns was making any kind of Rage-style Christmas effort look unlikely this year, until X-Factor apparently told a charity whose name they ripped off to 'get a lawyer', which could be enough to make anyone arbitrarily download Smells Like Teen Spirit again, frankly.

Meanwhile I find myself drawn to the dark side... or specifically a group with (at the time of writing) fewer than 50 members, trying to get Lord Vader to the festive top spot by means of downloading the Imperial March. Well, you can't deny it's catchy. And "I find your lack of faith disturbing" is proving a very handy phrase for silencing the inevitable tedious doubters.

In honour of the valiance of the attempt (and the fact I've been constantly distracted by YouTube for the last 36 hours since the page went up and I want to get it out of my system), here are 10 variously curious interpretations of the splendid John Williams theme.

Disclaimer: Yes, I know there's a dubstep version. And I know No Doubt and Daft Punk and someone-who-isn't-Metallica have done them. These are more fun:

1. Kuricorder Quartet

For anyone who thought the Imperial March could never possibly sound cute...

2. Ukulele Duet

Use the force, Uke.

3. Floppy Disk Drive Duet

4. 8bit

5. On a Grand Piano

Lord Vader specifically ordered the piano be shiny and black.

6. Presbytarian Handbell Choir

From 1:41...

7. A Better Dubstep Version

So don't say I don't wub you.

8. Funked Up

The Death Star is a discoball.

9. A Cockatiel.

10. And finally, played on what I can only assume must be actual Sith technology.

If you want to help the campaign to get the original to number one this Christmas (because, come on, it would sound wonderful on Radio 1, would it not?) - join the Facebook group, spread the word, and most importantly download from 18th December!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Glastonbury ETC longlist 2011 - Spotify playlist

Glastonbury Festival's annual Emerging Talent Competition longlist was announced last night.

They've gone for a completely different format than in recent years, asking 41 music bloggers to pick 3 bands each from a given batch.

I'm very pleased to see Hysterical Injury have made the list, kudos to Jon Sidwell of Music Liberation for picking them out. The whole list of 123 has to be whittled down to 8 before the finalists are known. It's great that they've published the whole longlist.

More on all this later, but for anyone who'd like to hear them, I've made a Spotify playlist of all the bands on the longlist I could find - the link is http://bit.ly/GlastoETC2011

If you know of any mistakes here - bands I've missed or mixed up, or if you're in one of them and would like a different track featured, email me at dotdashdash.dashdash@gmail.com or leave a comment and let me know.

*with apologies to the many bands on the longlist who aren't on Spotify.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Science collabo-ganza

Attack!!!! readers will know the work of Gethan Dick, who's contributed to every issue to date.

On Wednesday I'm going to be in London at Brixton Jamm for the launch of Trying and Trying and Trying, which is Gethan in collaboration with 6 musicians, creatively interpreting the work of 6 scientists.

These musicians include the genius of creepy folk that is Birdengine; dancepop dyna-duo The 9000; and Reeps One, UK beatbox champion for the last 2 years running.

All of the artists are performing at the event on Wednesday, and I'm introducing them.

For more information about the project, come along on the night or get exploring the Reverbnation page. Below's the player.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

This evening I took some tracks from the CD stock at Glastonbury Library down to Glastonbury FM, to play on Steve Bilsborough's 'Thursday live' show. The idea is to play an interesting variety of music together - which the library's stock provides a perfect opportunity to do - and to promote the stock itself a bit through it! Hopefully this is something that we're going to do on an ongoing basis.

This is a YouTube playlist of the tracks I played on Steve's show tonight.

All these tracks are available on albums in the library, it's £1 per album for a two week loan.

The next selection should feature in two weeks' time, on 4th March 2011

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

First update

It's taken me this long to post the first 'proper' Heartbeat of a Rabbit update (ie, something that isn't just a post saying it's going to happen) - largely because the #savelibraries situation has been occupying a great deal of my thought and spare-time these last few weeks, but also because I've been being a bit of a coward, dreaming of some kind of impossibly perfect first post which would make it abundantly clear just how much of a finger-on-the-pulse type of music fan I really am, by, I don't know, maybe declaring here that some guy recording demos in his bedroom that only I know about is the must-hear man of the moment and then seeing him take his self-made album to number one next week, or something. Ahuh, yeah, right.

Then I had a look around a few other music blogs and realised half of them are all going on about household names anyway, so forget that, I'm just going to talk about what I've been listening to and trust that the global awakening to my listening genius will inevitably come to pass in time... of course...

Today I came across two Pogo tracks that were new to me. The first Pogo track I ever heard was 'Wishery', via Jon Hillcock's New Noise podcast in November. I'm very proud to say this podcast also featured 'The Key Underground', a song I wrote with Yusuf Azak:

If you haven't seen Yusuf play live, you can be one of the first 20 people in the world to watch this YouTube clip, if you're quick:

Anyway, yes, Pogo. This is 'Wishery', god it's gorgeous -

Pogo has at least a dozen of these trippy film remixes up on his channel now, the newest one of which to me is 'Whisperlude'; from 'A Little Princess', which he says has by a long way the most vocal clips he's used in a single track -

- and the newest of all is 'Joburg Jam', in which Pogo has remixed a whole lot of recorded 'real-life' video from a trip to Johannesburg -

Pogo is intending this to be the start of a series of tracks built around travel to different destinations, funded by fans - if you want to help him out, check his kickstarter site. The good news is he's already got the money for the next trip.

These remixes remind me of Kutiman's 'Thru-You' Youtube remix project a couple of years back. If you don't know what that was, I insist you click here.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Running out with snow-white tail (Introduction)

Hello, I'm Wes White... this is the first post for what will eventually, hopefully, if I get it right, look something like a music blog.

This is as much as anyone out there is likely to know about me:

I'm the editor/curator of Attack!!!! magazine, a writer when I can be, and in years past I was heavily involved in getting Glastonbury Festival's 'Emerging Talent Competition' up and running.

Last year (2010) I managed to grab a few headlines (1 2 3 4) with a project for independent musicians called Storm the Charts - and, okay, we didn't take the top 40 down in the end but we did have fun trying.

Oh, and - this is a new thing - I'm also now the manager of Bath-based noise-pop duo The Hysterical Injury - although 'managing' is so far quite a grand term for what I do for them, which could to date more aptly be called 'cheerleading'. In any case, they are FANTASTIC, and you MUST CHECK THEM OUT. Okay? Much more on them in the weeks and months to come, obviously.

Glastonbury's ETC has moved on since my day, via Q magazine (meh) and on to what now looks like a much more interesting format with the shortlist from those who enter being drawn up by 40 active music bloggers. I am really pleased to see that people who are passionate about discovering new music and who are going to be in a position to champion some of the artists who apply, regardless of whether their favourites are named as winners or not, are now in charge of the shortlists there, and seeing some of their blogs is a large part of the inspiration for this one.

The main thing though is I just want to keep hearing lots more music. I've no real expectation that anyone else will care a great deal what I think about it, but if you do choose to follow me, well, thank you very much indeed, I hope we find something good together.

The title of the blog comes from a review of an Archie Bronson Outfit gig I wrote for Artrocker magazine. The title of this post comes from 'Rabbit Kids' by Shrag - they were one of the 40 winners from Storm the Charts.

More soon. Thanks for reading.