Monday, 31 March 2014

Album Review:Tycho – Awake

(Ghostly International)

Up until recently Tycho main man Scott Hansen split his time between his music and graphic design work, but it is easy to see how these two disciplines could overlap. Hansen's music seems to express a singular aesthetic in his smooth clean and focused productions. Tycho's sound took the old synthesizers and hip hop drum beats of Boards of Canada into a more positive direction which saw Tycho labelled alongside artists like Toro y Moi and Washed Out. There was a lot to like about Tycho's last album Dive, it's laid back sunny sound was one you could get lost in as hazy synth lines would blend together alongside reverb soaked drum machines into a electronic daydreams.

His latest album Awake, is the first where he has been able to focus only on the music part of his dual careers and has brought his live band (made up of Zac Brown on guitar and Rory O’Connor on drums) into the studio with him during the creation of the album. Awake starts the album of with familiar tones, palm muted guitars and airy synthesizers fill the track as they tirelessly switch between melodies, creating an ever-changing forward motion. The track See has a bit more momentum recalling ambient dance of The Field and the Balearic electronica of the short-lived duo Air France with it's bright and upbeat sound and chiming delayed guitar licks that feels warm enough to soundtrack the summer months ahead.

Montana shows how the live drums can work with Tycho's sound it's a much more rousing effort than listeners may be used to but that extra energy that infuses these track really helps drive the album. There is something to be said for the way these three musicians flit between riffs and drum patterns with a tireless ease. Guitar melodies float about on Spectre in the spaces between crashing stop-start drum beats before the ambient soundscapes of album closer Plains enter. The track shows an attention to detail in these creations and creates a nice change of pace as the album winds to a close with waves of synth and reverb roll around a cleanly picked guitar while the rest of the sounds play about low in the mix.

This album manages to break away from a lot of the easy comparisons to trip-hop and BoC into something that stands up on its own that lingers around like half remember nostalgia. Whilst there is a lot to enjoy in the sound Hansen has intricately crafted productions but it falls short with its lack of range and even with the expanded line-up it never really straying to far from Tycho's already established light and breezy template making Awake an album that’s easy to like but a little harder to love.

Originally posted on

Album Review:Liars – MESS


Liars are a difficult band to pin down, having made a career full out of taking their music into unexpected sonic territory and left-field directions. From their dance-punk beginnings on their debut album They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top to to the noise-ridden, abstract structures that made up Drum's Not Dead or the more conventional but sinister Sisterworld, an album which threatened to erupted into untamed violence. 2012's WIXIW took uneasy ambience and possibilities of electronic instruments, sometimes coming near to Kid A's alienated and paranoid feel. The band have made a point of not staying in one place for long but there have been constants to their sound. A primitive and rough thread has remained through their music.

Electronic music has pushed guitars out of the mainstream more artists are picking up synthesizers instead. Though not such a big trend this switch has been noticeable in independent music as well. At it's worst it has lead to music that is sterile and synthetic but Liars are proving that doesn't have to be the case with the untamed sound of their aptly titled album Mess which shares something with Factory Floor or Daphni's (Caribou's Dan Snaith) immediate and unfussy dance music constructs.

Mask Maker begins with a warped voice demanding “Eat my face off” - yep, this is clearly the same Liars - and then a punch of hard electronic drums and analog arpeggios begins. Unusually for Liars the album seem to take of where there last one ended, taking the sound of Brats, the most hard-hitting cut from WIXIW, as jumping off point for this collection of feral dance music. It's a good match for the band with Angus Andrew's cold and detached vocals matched by the harsh electronic textures and 808 beats like the music you'd imagine playing in club from a William Gibson Novel.

A heavy industrial beat an techno chords drive Pro Anti Anti, a violent track that marches forward like an army of machines. Halfway through, the industrial beat slowly dissolves away to reveal an eastern sounding strings in a deceptively pretty moment for the band, but it's short-lived as the drums bring back the tracks pounding rhythm. Mess On A Mission feels like a more structured track, with a discernible, shouted chorus and its bleeping synths and artificial string swells buzzy restlessly around it's quick beat as the line 'Fact is fact and fiction's fiction' is repeated over and over as if in an attempt to blur the distinction between the two.

The low-key Can't Hear Well provides an effective respite from the noise as Andrew's voice is accompanied only by a multi-layered throbbing synthesizer line. The instrumental Darkslide take minimal clips and claps of percussion alongside synth oscillations, to a stark effect. Perpetual Village, a track swallowed under swells of feedback, and Dress Walker take the stripped back techno feel further further, with rumbling synth murmurs coating its 4/4 bass drum and a murky vocoder voice creating the uneasy darkness that Liars excel at.

There's something here that recalls the early days of techno and the futurist visions of producers like Juan Atkins. At the same time the band marked out by their individuality Mess feels like they are treading a familiar path and it may be their least adventurous album even if they do stamp their own personality on this sound. Liars are able to create their own type of dark and strange places with their music and it's always interesting to see them do it in a new musical context and at it's best Mess serves as an antidote to the meticulously produced and over-thought sheen of digital music.

 Originally posted on

Sunday, 2 March 2014

This Week's New Music feat The Horrors, Woods, Dauwd and more...

Welcome to your one stop shop for all this new and musical, come get your dose of the latest musical offerings. Amongst my selection this weeks varies from the psychedelic to the noise-ridden, from aggressive dancefloor tracks to minimal pop. Get stuck in.