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Outsideleft Week in Music... Squid... Shires... ManOnMan... More... We're hearing from... Amanda Shires and Bobbie Nelson, Squid, MAN ON MAN, Erland Cooper, Cavemouth, Dream Wife, Julie Byrne, Tiny Ruins, Ashtray Navigations, The Last Dinner Party, Tri Subversion, Alison Brown, Whatitdo Archive Group, Draag, Protomartyr, Bedroom, Leftover Salmon, Squid, Alfa Mist, Craven Faults, Generationals, Deer Tick, American Trappist, Bully, Memorials, Finlay Shakespeare, John, Charlotte De Witte, Brandon Seabrook, The Used and Bella White

Outsideleft Week in Music... Squid... Shires... ManOnMan... More...

We're hearing from... Amanda Shires and Bobbie Nelson, Squid, MAN ON MAN, Erland Cooper, Cavemouth, Dream Wife, Julie Byrne, Tiny Ruins, Ashtray Navigations, The Last Dinner Party, Tri Subversion, Alison Brown, Whatitdo Archive Group, Draag, Protomartyr, Bedroom, Leftover Salmon, Squid, Alfa Mist, Craven Faults, Generationals, Deer Tick, American Trappist, Bully, Memorials, Finlay Shakespeare, John, Charlotte De Witte, Brandon Seabrook, The Used and Bella White

by OL House Writer,
first published: April, 2023

approximate reading time: minutes

What is it about squids? If you play their game you'll find out.

Bumper. That's this week. So pull up to it, and settle in. To get through this lot you could be here for a while.

SINGLES

SQUID - Undergrowth (Warp Records)
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by Alan Rider

What is it about squids?  There is just something undeniably brilliant about a squid, and this is no exception.  Dubby bass drives this 6 minute exploration along, riven through with a shimmering something-or-other (maybe a Zither?) and bells.   Its left of field (Outside Left one might even say.  Ba-dum!) and really quite infectious. The video made me feel a bit seasick btw, as it lurches about a lot, but there is a game you can play too, which is like a retro and pixellated version of Sonic the Hedgehog and is mid paced and very easy to get good at.  I like to win at video games so that bumps this up to five hearts for me.

Play the game here⇒ 


AMANDA SHIRES AND BOBBIE NELSON - Summertime ft Bobbie Nelson and Willie Nelson (Silver Knife/ATO Records)
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by Toon Traveller

Opens delicately, with Bobbie Nelson's piano, a sad reflection teased from the belly of the beast in the way that only Nelson could. Of the countless iterations of Gershwin's Summertime, this one grabs your heart, whispers sadness, remorse, and poignant anger in your ear. Willie Nelson's doing some of that whispering too. This is a magical slice of country, jazz, blues, a soul stew. Amanda's voice soars, and floats, thankful at the relief the original composition mournfully provides. A tragic fiddle, adds a truly sad sense of loss, reflections on lives past, and hard times survived. From a much anticipated full length LP, Loving You, available in June. Amanda's voice is magnificent - enough said. 


MAN ON MAN - Showgirls (Polyvinyl)
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by Tim London

And the march of progression warping expectations can’t be stopped. Two bears hammering away at electric guitars as a drum machine destroys a 1950s tower block in Manhattan in order to build… another tower block! Which, without the video, could be a particularly narked The Jesus and Mary Chain after tidying up the feedback cupboard.


JULIE BYRNE - Summer Glass (Ghastly International)
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by Alan Rider

I'm feeling like being cruel so I'm going to re-imagine the video to this as successive buckets of offal being poured over her head.  Drippy isn't the word for this, its like punk never happened.  Her label is actually called Ghostly International, but I feel that on the strength of this they need a name change so I've updated that in the title.


THE LAST DINNER PARTY - Nothing Matters (UMG)
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by Tim London

Perception is, if not everything, then a lot. Say hello to The Dinner Party, currently causing a little SocMed furore about how ‘manufactured’ they are. Working from the drums up, we have what looks like a feller on drums who doesn’t feature in the press photos and then an all female band, playing a fussy, slightly baroque, Brit School rock pop, fronted by a woman who looks somewhere between Nina Hagen and Helena Bonham Carter and dresses, for live, in white stockings and matching bodice. They seem calculated, in other words, to ‘do a Rees Mogg’ and wind up the wokerati musos and journos, just as Rod Stewart once tried to with his chiffon scarves and straw boater, in order to gain attention, dressed as poshos. Anything can be forgiven, of course, if the music allows, but this is a bit of a dirge with a guitar solo stolen from the incidental music of a 1980s British private eye drama on ITV and which should not have been allowed out of its case. This experiment will succeed or fail depending on how much money is thrown at it. With a major label deal I hope that the band have a firm eye on their next career steps, just in case, cos a fifth of 15% of 0.003, minus 20% for management, after paying back the promotional costs, is...


CRAVEN FAULTS - Sun Vein Strings (The Leaf Label)
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by Jay Lewis

There is something quite refreshing about the music of Craven Faults. Forget all the surface thrills of introductions, enticing hooks and gimmickry designed to keep you hitting repeat, their (he? she? them? we still don't know!), music is much more rewarding. Sun Vein Strings is a fine example, it fades in and, eighteen and a half minutes later, it fades out again. Modular synths create patterns that evolve, that bleed into one another, that rise and fall, a scenery that slowly changes. And, if you choose to take part, you are the landscape they are creating. An immersive experience.


LEFTOVER SALMON - Blue Railroad Train (Compass Records)
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by Toon Traveller

Chirpy banjo bounce, railroad clickity-clack, Blue Railroad Train, cliches abound, lonesome whistles blowing, depot men resting, Hobos Box Car hopping, with hopes and fears trundling down track, clickity-clack. Times past, town train depot, ma n' pa diners, juke box in the corner. A longing of lost love, a love coming home, back to loving arms and an aching heart  (y'all). It's a great summer song, full of hope and fresh cut hay, and hickory smoking beef on an open fire. Yeah this is the sound of small town America, in all it's rose tinted, checkered shirt, and Studebaker riding, late 50s glory. My romantic dreams love it, my 2020s brain says "Not the fcuking Waltons please". 


ERLAND COOPER - Movement 6 ft. Scottish Ensemble, Simon Armitage (UMG)
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by Ancient Champion

Erland Cooper's Monument 6 is as splendid and beautiful to hear as you might expect, given the great combo Erland has assembled here. Simon Armitage walks us close to the edge of darkness in the midst of a brilliant and ambitious musical delight. When it ends, like a kitten out of kibble, I sit wondering why it has gone. 


DREAM WIFE - Hot (Don't Date A Musician) (Lucky Number)
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by Alan Rider

Oh dear.  This is dire.  Dream Wife have not only scraped the bottom of the empty barrel for this one, they've discovered a whole new barrel underneath and got to the bottom of that one too.  Its like Alvin and the Chipmunks put on skirts and formed a pop punk band.


GENERATIONALS - Waking Moment (Polyvinyl)
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by Alan Rider

'Waking Moment' is one of those irrepressibly chirpy summer tunes, engineered specifically for radio play and a shameless rip off of the Boo Radley's 'Wake Up!', even down to the title.  Doesn't it just make you want to punch them in the face and hope it rains all over their picnic and they get stung by a wasp?  If only they'd have added another 'n' to the first word of the title, it would have given it a whole different vibe.


DEER TICK - Forgiving Lies (ATO Records)
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by Alan Rider

Ugh!  There is a certain sort of cheesy band that just makes my skin crawl.  Their ugly 'slap me' faces grin happily and dumbly at the camera, they make 'funny' (which means not funny) videos, they sing in that gummy twang that is a little bit Cuntry (my spelling!), a little bit Rock N'Roll.  Deer Tick are one of those.  And like a deer tick they are irritating and you just want to pull them out and squash them. Yes, I'm having a bad day.


BRANDON SEABROOK - Perils of Self-Betterment (Pyroclastic records)
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by Toon Traveller

This opens with some oriental cymbals, repetitive, incessant plucked strings, joined by others stringing along. Not a happy, harmonious family of sound. Building slowly, a hesitation, a change? Tragically. Nope. The trite tones continue, imperceptibly slowly, up scales and frets. Breaks for a synthesizer swirl, hint of oriental forests and distant birdsong. Oboes float around, serenading fat flabby basses, they respond, they flatulate. A real mishmash, mismatch of sounds, that ends with what sounds like R2D2 been drafted in to add vocals. 


WHATITDO ARCHIVE GROUP - Astral Desia (Record Kicks)
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by Ancient Champion

Ahead of the full length Palace of a Thousand Sounds, WhatItDo Archive Group get to another quite driven to the edge instrumental vibe, all fantastical library funk and mid-century modern Rex Baxter furnishings. A wholly splendid thing. What is there not to love about this band?


TINY RUINS - Out of Phase (Ba Da Bing Records)
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by Toon Traveller

Out of Phase is a wonderful slice of singer songwriter craft. Lovely, clear, soft and tender voice, backing builds slowly, with wisps of impressionist pastel shades summer sun, and delicate light.  Sad and uplifting, tender and loving. Light as air, soft as a feather voice, pours over your soul, peaches and cream, succulent, sweet, and mouthwatering. This is a real taste of love and reflection, something's gone wrong. A sad reflection on confusion left in its wake, and hope, hope that it's not too late to move together again and dance together again.


PROTOMARTYR - Elimination Dances (Domino)
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by Toon Traveller

Strummed strings and chanted vocals almost spat in what rage. Any anger sounds like a put on, the out of tune voice a compensation for nothing to say. The band play well, and they've ideas and talent to deliver, but the voice, a dead lead weight on the band, drags, nags and annoys. What's it all about - no idea, some sort of post eco-apocalypse, frustration with post industrial life?


CHARLOTTE DE WITTE - High Street (KNTXT)
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by Tim London

Highly functional music that adds paranoia whilst, strangely, keeping it at bay.


JOHN - Trauma Mosaic (Brace Yourself Records)
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by Tim London

I like John, based on this, prefer them, in fact to the more numerous The Three Johns after which they are obviously named (who else, then? What other post punk band from the 1980s has as many Johns? I mean, even PiL only managed two). I like them because they are embarrassed about the need to have to promote their music. And I like them because of the drum machine drowning in reverb that subtly speeds up at the start. They lose me a bit when the real drums come in and the post punk derderderder hits, though. Now, I’d like to hear them take the forward motion of the genre they are heavily indebted to and make something really new sounding. I’d like them to get a new motor, so to speak.


THE USED - Numb (Big Noise)
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by Tim London

There comes a point when ‘emotional’ is a tap that cynical songwriters turn on in attempt to connect with young people who’s emotions swing so high and low (sometimes in seconds from one to the other) that any vindication from someone else, any apparent empathy, means they will identify. It comes down to believing it and I probably am a lot less likely to believe this hammy load of cliche than young people are. Does that make it any less useful? Who can say - people fill up on telly when someone with teeth tells them they’ve cooked a nice cake. Never underestimate the ability for humans to feel and for bands to exploit.


ALFA MIST - Foreward (Anti Records)
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by Toon Traveller

Alfa Mist's Foreward from the LP Variables is a racing, bracing, 60's kooool feel, horns led track with some delicious keyboard sounds. This skips and bounces, flounces, keys providing a backcloth to some dancing sax. Aches of city streets' hustle, bustle, scurry and flurry, duck and dive. The whole thing rolls and flows, self-confident and bright.  Spring morning in the park. a crisp drum break, and whole a different plain, 60's style jazz guitar, think McLaughlin, or Coryell, in a '60s pre Bitches Brew combo. A cooling in intensity, chilled just right. Rhodes piano solo, that just oozes joy, glides in and calms the frantic guitar. Horns and drums solo, duets rise, lead and subside. A slow fade ends in a wonderful interplaying pattern of percussion, and concludes the journey into Jazz memories. Alfa Mist are having fun, and loving the groove they're in, as do I. delightful. 


BULLY - Hard to Love (Sub Pop)
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by Alan Rider

I've always had a lot of time for Sub Pop as a label.  Down the years it been the home of some great artists, but is Bully (aka Alicia Bognanno) another of those greats? She certainly has that distinctive Sub Pop edge and a good back story of emotional pain, alcoholism and general suffering, so who knows? Opening with the sort of grungy bass line and sing song lyrics typical of the label, before bursting into the "Hard to Love" chorus, its the loud/quiet (or quiet/loud if you prefer) style practically invented by The Pixies, and its no coincidence she is opening for them on their upcoming tour.  I'm going to tag it as 'Shoegaze' again though, as there seems to be a bit of a resurgence of that sound/genre lately.  Whether it will gain traction the second time around though remains to be seen.  At just over 2 minutes this is also a bit short for a single and it does feel like its missing a verse and chorus off the end.  There is an album coming too along with the inevitable lengthy (40+) series of US tour dates to support that, with a clutch of UK dates added too in May.  Can Sub Pop recapture their glory days though through Bully? Hmmmm....


ALISON BROWN - Porches ft. Kronos Quartet (Compass Records)
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by Toon Traveller

The Kronos Quartet, what a band, they record with everyone, everywhere, in all styles. they bring that classical discipline to music,  that makes hearts sing, hearts sag, and brains hurt, sometimes within seconds of each other. They can soar to celestial heights, or sink in a quagmire of sounds and discord, crosscut musical experiments, work, or not. In this case it's a fail, there's nothing bad, nothing annoying, or out of place, it's just tame, and lame. I'm not sure what was meant to be achieved in taking a classical ensemble, and adding a well played, prettily picked, banjo overlay. When listening, I was constantly reminded of the music used to accompany old silent and early 'talkie' movies, you know, tons of pathos, hand wringing, head-clutching  despair, before a final gunshot, as suicide consumes the heroine of story. Curtain closes. Pretty inoffensive, easy to listen to playing, but out of place, and a century too late. 


AMERICAN TRAPPIST - Lamentations (Self released)
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by Alan Rider

Some band photos are just so, well, so embarrassing!  The promo shot of American Trappist has the majority of the band standing gormlessly and awkwardly with 'I'd rather be anywhere else than here doing this' expressions on their faces, whilst bandleader Joe Michellini holds a guitar like it was a fish he'd just been thrown, with the look of someone who has shat in their pants.  The video isn't much better, with some truly terrible pretentious dancing, all flailing arms and bumbling, loping, almost falling over, but with no shirt on, interspersed with a close up of Joe Michellini (yes, him again) looking like Noel Fielding in The Mighty Boosh!  Oh yes, almost forgot, there is some sort of song blurbling on meaningfully through all of this nonsense too.


MEMORIALS - Boudicaaa (States51Conspiracy)
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by Toon Traveller

Taken from Memorials Music For Film: Tramps! & Women Against The Bomb (May 12th) I love Boudicaaa's delirious opening, crashing straight into the tune. It's anxious and frenetic. Frenetic and anxious. A sound somewhere between mid '70s post punk, and the wreckage of '70s space rock. Think Joy Division / Magazine, after listening to a snotty brother's Hawkwind LP.  Yeah it's crazy and mixed up. But mixed up good.  Memorials have taken great care over what to take, and what to chuck. It's produced a sound, straight back to that interregnum between UK raw punk, UK's New Romantics and our decades deceased club culture. This is great slab of pure post punk pop and needs to be BIG, BIG.


LPs

CAVEMOUTH - The Earth Will Shake (Bandcamp)
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by Jay Lewis

This is an absolute joy! Cavemouth - a swamp funk blues rock band from Devon have been together for a decade and have finally made their debut album... and it's a delight. Right from the get-go, right from the opener, the sumptuous funk of 'Right About Now' with a soupçon of 'Jungle Boogie' this is a delight. 'Minimum Wage', swells with saxophone and the realisation that money is still too tight to mention ( 'a minimum wage in a digital age'). Elsewhere, 'Give Me a Pill' is tense, anxious, and sweaty, and the jazzier 'Love Handles' is, understandably, steamy. Please, can album number two arrive a little sooner please?


DRAAG - Dark Fire Heresy (Consequence)
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by Alan Rider

Shoegaze is back.  Lets face it, everything is back. And all at the same time too, so its getting damned confusing out there.  Draag do a really great Shoegaze impression.  First class I'd say.  The single 'Good Era Doom' taken off this album is pure Shoegaze-By-Numbers if I ever heard it.  In fact every track from the dreamy guitar drenched opener 'Learning To Live With It' to the dreamy guitar drenched closing track ' and all the dreamy guitar drenched tracks inbetween are.  It basically all dreamy and guitar drenched and a dead ringer for Lush.  It will fit into one of the many retro holes like a retro hole shaped peg, but its not lighting any fires for me.  Its yet another OK release (too many of those around) and inoffensive for sure.  Three hearts as its perfectly listenable, its just I wouldn't want to pay for it.


BELLA WHITE - Among Other things (Rounder Records)
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by Toon Traveller

A self-confident voice notes past transgressions, hers and his, with an intimate sincerity, real and true. It's one of those loves, when perfection walks in the room, sneaks up on your heart, and you can't believe it. It's that sense of you're unsure if it's your fears that create the break up and loss. But there's hope, hope that the next time will be better. A realisation, sometimes you just gotta trust love, and leap into the abyss.This is contemplative country where it ain't all whiskey, fighting  and women doing you wrongly. I like it.


FINLAY SHAKESPEARE - Illusion+Memory (Alter)
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by Alan Rider

After the stunning single 'Teresa', I had very high hopes of 'Illusion+Memory', perhaps too high.  Isn't it always the way?  Don't get me wrong, this is very definitely a superior, Human League in their 'Travelogue' period, style collection of electronic pop songs, but Finlay's voice strains to hit the notes he is looking for in a number of places. If only he had collaborated with a partner with a stronger voice, this would be a classic.  I guess that is why the best electronic pop acts are often duo's, with a strong and impassioned singer coupled with an electronic genius a la Yazoo or The Eurythmics.  What we do have presented here though is an impeccable and cleverly constructed album that hits all the right notes in every other way.  From the catchy ' Always' to the more experimental and blippy 'climb' with its reverse reverb'd vocals, its clear that Findlay really knows his onions when it comes to creating and recording great electronic pop with a distinctive 80's flavour and an experimental twist  the execution is as close to flawless as you can get. 'Teresa is still the standout track, but with several strong contenders for that crown jostling for position close behind, meaning you are spoilt for choice.  If Findlay had been around back in the early 80's he'd have been huge.  For now though he will have to settle for five hearts from Outsideleft and my slightly tech-y open mouthed admiration of the craft on show in 'Illusion+Memory'.  I hope that's enough.


TRI SUBVERSION - You Are The Carbon (Ubertroll Recordings)
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by Alan Rider

It must be Anarcho Punk week somewhere as this is the second of these albums I've had in to review.  Leicester three piece Tri Subversion have been around since 2019 and describe themselves hopefully as 'Post Anarcho Industrial Punk', which is a bit of a mouthful to be honest.  Its not that accurate a description either, as I would describe them as melodic punk metal but hey, lets not quibble about labels. Suffice to say 'You Are The Carbon' is a lot more polished than most of the 80's Anarcho Punk I grew up with (amongst other things), with tracks like 'Twist and Shine' owing more than a passing nod to Glam Rock stomp and others channeling elements of the Ruts, UK Subs, Conflict, Early Stranglers, Dead Kennedys and US Speed punk, and others, especially Killing Joke.  I could go on, but won't (you will be relieved to hear). I'm not hearing Ministry in here though, so Industrial?  Sorry chaps, but 'fraid not. There are some great points of detail though with cut ups of Kenneth Williams popping up in 'Darkest Hour' and old school screechy dial up data noises at the start of 'eat data'.  There are some very accomplished tracks featured too, like the riffy and mid paced 'Celebrity Monster', and the anthemic Ruts-y closer 'Blind Squid', but what really lifts this above the usual over produced pap we get thrown at us like dirt at OL every day to see what sticks, is that this one has genuine heart. So Four hearts back from me in return. 'You Are The Carbon' is out now on Ubertroll Recordings and can be bought through Bandcamp


ASHTRAY NAVIGATIONS - One From Then Another (Fourth Dimension)
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by Alan Rider

Phil Todd’s existence as Ashtray Navigations began in the mid-1990s and has quietly spent the last 30+ years becoming legends of the trans-Atlantic underground,  embracing drone-orientated noise, sprawling psychedelia, vintage electronics, and avant-garde, amongst other things.  This latest event ‘One From Then Another’ is a two track album comprising one lengthy track per side, the first of which is in two sections and runs for almost 30 minutes unbroken, the second being 19 minutes long.  That means it takes some dedication to sit and listen to without a break between. Herbie Hancock style jazz-fusion does battle with Psychedelia on the bizarrely named 'Drink the Moment Thin Fox Legs', before segueing into atmospheric drone, horns, and back again.  It probably sounds best when you are stoned, but there are levels of detail hidden in here that you only really notice fully if you listen with closed eyes (and perhaps a bit stoned!). 'Return of the Sun of Dr. Artur' continues the Prog Rock-y journey, morphing and transforming into different sonic shapes as it goes. It's not for casual listening, but it definitely grows on you and repays the effort if you dive in. Fourth Dimension Records already boast a roster peppered with misfits, outsiders and the kind of folk who defy lazy pigeonholing, a sort of Archaos Circus of the record industry, and Ashtray Navigations are definitely a welcome left field addition to their ranks.  You just have to love an act that previously released a psychedelic track called ' Hey, Sunflower Motherfucker'!


BEDROOM - Thread (Amuse)
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by Alan Rider

'Indie-rock/folk-pop artist' is a description that invariably turns me off. Wistful vocals, strummed guitar, and lyrics that include the line "my friend" are also a switch off for me, but you have to occasionally give yourself a challenge and chart unfamiliar waters.  So in I go.  I was in turn both surprised and also had my prejudices confirmed by this album.  The opening snippet of found sound experimentation boded well, and that was a theme that reappeared at regular intervals, with improvised tracks incorporating found sound phrases and backwards guitar on tracks like 'Can I Say?' and 'CT5 Improv'  proving intriguing and by far preferable to tracks like the single 'Better Friends' , which is skillfully done, but just a bit too laid back and strummy for me.  So its 50/50 really.  I would chop some of the more conventional tracks out and go full on for the ones that show more challenge and thought, but I am able to admit that this album was full of surprises and not what I was expecting, so pushed it up to 4 hearts. Bedroom is actually a solo act btw, namely Noah Kittinger, who stated off recording in his bedroom (hence the name) but has branched out since.  I'm actually glad he did.


Other Materials

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Spectrum (Cruel Nature Records)
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by Alan Rider

Its not often we review cassette releases here, but as a medium it is making a return of sorts (usually very small runs) so expect to see more popping up from time to time.  This one is a charity release by Cruel Nature Records in aid of The Toby Henderson Trust, which supports autistic youth and adults, their families, and caregivers.  Its a good cause.  This is a double cassette release so there is a lot to get through.  As with all compilations it has its highs and lows.  I won't list the lows as that feels it would be cruel, but highs include Clara Engel's delicate song, Natalie Stern's sonorous soundtrack, and Lush Workers crushing guitar/noise epic.  Much of the tracks on here fall into either 'ethereal/ambient' or 'noise/experimental.  It's challenging stuff all right and I'm not honestly sure I would be playing this a lot, but I do hope they hit their target.


Essential Info
Main Image Amanda Shires and Bobbie Nelson by Joshua Black Wilkins

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