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Outsideleft Week in Music: Un-Scene here... We're hearing from Fontaines D.C., Tomberlin, Mykki Blanco, Otoboke Beaver, 3LH, Sudan Archives, Alissic, Cowboy Junkies, Pete Doherty and Frederic Lo, Coi Leray & Nicki Minaj, Medicine Singers, Clo Sur, Curse of Lono, Meskereem Mees, Noemi Buchi, Franz Ferdinand, Joe Rainey and all of the artists on the 'Un-Scene' compilation.

Outsideleft Week in Music: Un-Scene here...

We're hearing from Fontaines D.C., Tomberlin, Mykki Blanco, Otoboke Beaver, 3LH, Sudan Archives, Alissic, Cowboy Junkies, Pete Doherty and Frederic Lo, Coi Leray & Nicki Minaj, Medicine Singers, Clo Sur, Curse of Lono, Meskereem Mees, Noemi Buchi, Franz Ferdinand, Joe Rainey and all of the artists on the 'Un-Scene' compilation.

by Toon Traveller, Travel Correspondent
first published: March, 2022

approximate reading time: minutes

Un-Scene: A definitive document of Birmingham's post punk music groups


VARIOUS - Un-Scene : Post Punk Birmingham 1978-1982 (Easy Action) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite
by Jay Lewis

‘… and if you’re hearing The Bristol Road to Dachau by the Prefects for the first time, how I envy you’ - Stewart Lee, ‘Un-Scene’ sleeve notes. 

Even if you have, there is a live version on this compilation that is so manic, so captivatingly angry – for eleven minutes! that it will leave you utterly breathless.  And you too will be convinced that a young drummer from Manchester is in the audience taking notes!

As well as TV Eye, The Nightingales, Au Pairs, Swell Maps, and The Hawks, this compilation invites you to discover  Lowdown International, Vision Collision and  Denizens.  And surely ‘Five to Monday’ by The Nervous Kind was number one for most of late 1980. Surely!


MEDICINE SINGERS - Sanctuary (FEAT. JAIMIE BRANCH AND YONATAN GAT) (Stone Tapes) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Toon Traveller

Drones. Mystical, mysterious chants, raw sonorous waves under the words, chaos and darkness, fear and despair. Hesitation, clouds clear, a shaft of light, and we're in a sax driven Avant Garde jazz world. Notes flutter, hummingbirds on the wing. A passage of flight, in the light, dives into a darker place, raw edgy, sharp and abrasive, aggressive and discordant. This ends in a sound clash of wild playing, almost a Free Jazz ending. Wonderful contrasts and we're off on a journey, varied, and uncertain, sharp turns in pace, and place, choas and calm, matched chord by chord changes. Sax wailing, straight out the 60s,  Coltrane, Rollins, Sanders. An electric piano, a memory of Chick Corea emerges, RtF phase, if you're gonna pay tribute, pay it to the best, and this echoes those heroes. I'm giving it 4 hearts for the beats, for the variety of  sounds, and playing, and ideas, and yes I'd see this lot live if  there were near me.

MYKKI BLANCO - Family Ties (!K7) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Tim London

As a figure, a personality or an icon, Mykki has been well ahead, appearing before the concept of gender fluidity had solidified as a concept, let alone as a reason to be famous. Not afraid to get dirty in the small rocknroll clubs and challenging where and what a rapper should be, here, they just sing - no rap - on one of those forward-motion American highway arrangements, a song that seems to sum up their generous spirit, of weary care and concern. The video features Michael Stipe, for some bizarre reason…

PETE DOHERTY AND FREDERIC LO - The Fantasy Life of Poetry & crime (UMG) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Lee Paul

Peter Doherty and Frédéric Lo: The Fantasy Life of Poetry & Crime. There's a guitarist in the doorway worrying the dog. Not the current release from this LP but a really good one.

JOE RAINEY - Bezhigo (37d03d) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite
by Toon Traveller

One of the occasional problems of my approach to reviews: I NEVER EVER READ the accompanying publicity, is that I miss out on Artist info, background and influences I also miss out the details of the record label much to the annoyance of the OL publisher. Ho hum. Against this, I take the view that if I heard this on radio, on a stream, in a record store, on a playlist, I would only have my ears to help me, and that's how I listen and review. So listening to Joe Rainey's Bezhigo, I'm hearing electro ambient music melded, and blended with indigenous, traditional north american music. In essence, should local music be preserved as if in aspic, or mixed and developed? Does stretching and straining of an idiomatic style, destroy the original? Can it provide a signpost to other musics that may remain undiscovered? Beauty has so many facets, right? This in mind, I hear music with a heavy play on a spiritual past. A sense of secret, sacred, treasured mystical rituals, initial calm and wellbeing, and a move to a more anxious cacophonous, perhaps even disturbing conclusion. Is there a diatribe of past catastrophe a song of pain and sadness, perhaps, this does have, to my European ears, a sense of solemnity, and almost a requiem of the past dying in the cries of children. Bezhigo is the most complex and involving record I've heard this week and such simply in the final analysis sounds just great in these troubled time. 

FONTAINES D.C. - Skinty Fia (Partisan) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Tim London

‘I let her prize apart my ribcage like a crackhead at the blinds - It hurt ‘ of course it did!

Looking forward to seeing tha kidz yelling along with this self lacerating litany of the national Irish character at the festivals this summer. Taking a ride on the pummelling ‘Set It Off’ rhythm, could also be a comment on a relationship gone toxic, love poisoned by expectation, pretence and booze and drugs. Smart.

TOMBERLIN - Tap (Saddle Creek) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Ancient Champion

There aren't many artists out there who seem to have just found their own thing and that thing is worth listening to all of the time. Tomberlin's Tap is totally, really grrrt. The video though, grrrr. Actually either I am hungry or it made me feel ill. I probably don't want to see Tomberlin's creative process in slow time. I never want to see that again.

CLO SUR - Blood and Sunshine (Enci Records) favoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Tim London

You better be careful throwing around descriptions like ‘pop maestro’ PR people… ‘Clo Sur’… perhaps pronounced like a teenaged dry cleaning assistant who just can’t be bothered with all the sounds of any particular word: ‘here’s yor clos, sur’ he would say as he hands you your Hugo Boss regular fit suit, freshly spruced. With this song playing in the background to make the moment significant.

SUDAN ARCHIVES - Homemaker (Stones Throw) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite
by Ancient Champion

A-typical day at your local charity barn

ALISSIC - Superstitious (Classii records) favoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Tim London

Turn off the video and we have some standard pop construction, a small office block of a track. But everyone works from home, nowadays, don’t they? Unless they’re forced in to work by the threat of the sack. But won’t someone think of the poor baristas? Who will buy their coffee if everyone stays at home? I blame Alissic for the death of the high street.

3LH - Shadow (My Grito Industries) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite
by Toon Traveller

Surf punk powerpop meets early 8Os new wave ethos punk bands. Buzzocks/House martins, you'll hear it too, Shadow has joy, it's got verve, it's got a happy, dance, leap, wave your arms in the air you're alive sense about it. This'd be great at a festival. around 5:00pm, the coming alive time. This would, prick up ears, get feet stamping, and brains thinking  - "who the fuck ARE  this lot, they're brill." Five stars for the pure power, summer pop. Gigging near Toon Traveler? I'm there, for some summer fun.

CURSE OF LONO - Stepping Out (Submarine Cat Records) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Toon Traveller

C&W with a whisper. A crazy mix of?, of?, of? Leonard Cohen meets late Dylan, in his "whispering" phase, at least you can hear the words, not only a graveled whisper but a sonorous sub-bass rumble of a voice. Some great steel / Hawaiian guitar snakes, weaves, ducks and dives through the song, with a dash of uniqueness that captivates, oh and the easy slack relaxed drums... yum. Felix Bechtolsheimer’s voice, 'wraps a scarf around you on a cold day' tone. Strange, comforting, and unsettling at the same time - a delight. Bob Harris loves the magic here and it is more-ish 'magic'.

COI LERAY & NICKI MINAJ - Blick Blick! (Republic Records) favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Tim London

Nicki Minaj will be 40 this year. When Prince was 40 he released Emancipation (name me one song), Bowie released Never Let Me Down (name me one song). Now, name a Nicki Minaj song… it doesn’t matter. She is a cypher. Iconic for being. Actually a brilliant rapper and probably good company. Having her co-sign with a few bars on your song is a tick, quite possibly means you paid her thousands of dollars and a fundamental flag of your own lack of confidence. Sorry Coi, Nicki wins, again.

MESKEREEM MEES - Where I'm From (MayWay) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Lee Paul

Well, we love Meskereem Mees. What's not to love? Where's she's from, nobody walks everybody twirls and they do other things too. Sagacious-whimsy. Sounds good to me. Some have self doubt I'd suggest. Just so great... 


NOEMI BUCHI - Nothing is Artificial (-OUS) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Toon Traveller

Nothing is Artificial from the Hyle EP starts strangely with what sounds like a CD in that annoying "stuck" function when less than a second of actual sound is on repeat play. BUT stay with this, there's structure and a plan here. Sure there's the repetition of the key synthesizer patterns. But weaving around this, there's a another regular pattern, think 'The Who's Barba O'Riley' (no, really) with it's regular patterns. There are patterns of change, and a sense of movement, a train racing through a tunnel, rails clatter, sound buffets, this has real movement, and ideas aplenty. It's goes to places dark and light, with a story in sound, the beat of Helicopter blades, an incessant urgency. Noemi Buchi requires concentration, concerted effort, a participatory listener. You'll be rewarded with a careful minimalism, the beauty is in the subtle shifts that make for an hypnotic listen.

OTOBOKE BEAVER - Super Champon (Damnably) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Katherine Pargeter

Four ridiculously energetic blasts of punk from Kyoto, delivered in less time than it takes to solve today’s Wordle.  You will be screaming ‘I don’t know what you mean’ from the delirious ‘PARDON’ for the rest of the day.  And then there's 'Dirty old fart is waiting for my reaction' - which is the best song title of the week by a long stretch.  Astonishingly good.


FRANZ FERDINAND - Hits to the Head (Domino Records) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite
by Spanish Pantalones

If any band deserves a renaissance, it’s Franz Ferdinand. One listen to this 20-track greatest hits package confirms that. Every song is a short, punchy punk-disco treasure, not a sleeper in the bunch, including two new tunes thrown in to sweeten the pot – “Curious“ and “Billy Goodbye” (which has a fantastic Young Americans vibe to it, peep the video below). A guaranteed toe-tapper of an LP.

COWBOY JUNKIES - Songs of the Recollection (Latent Recordings) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite
by Alarcon

The Cowboy Junkies got the lockdown blues and recorded their Pin-Ups, but they’re good at that, covers. Look at what they did to “Sweet Jane.” (Even Sweet Lou said their version was “the best and most authentic version I have ever heard,” and he was including the Velvets.) And now after 30 years and 20-plus albums, give or take, Margo Timmins maintains her cooly detached, American gothic vocals while the rest of the Junkies can still strip a song down to its bones and breath new life into it. Songs of the Recollection leads with Bowie’s “Five Years” followed by deep cuts by the Stones (“No Expectations”), Neil Young (“Love in Mind”), The Zombies (“The Way I Feel”) and about seven other moldy oldies that’ll dust off the cobwebs. Another solid slab from Toronto’s best band ever. Fuck Rush.

Essential Info
Main Image: Un-Scene collage by Jay Lewis

Toon Traveller
Travel Correspondent

Born - happy family, school great mates still see 7 / 8 in year, degreed, beer n fun, work was lazy but usually happy, retired. Learning from mum and dads travel exploits.
about Toon Traveller »»



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