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Week in Los Angeles City of Death Music We're hearing from... Swans, Def Leppard, Apache Rose, Jaz Coleman and Anne Dudley, TEKE::TEKE , African Head Charge, Mike Oldfield, Brian Krumm, Alibhe McDonagh with the RTE Concert Orchestra, Belle Scar, Pale Jay, Tinariwen, Tommy Drinkard, RVG, Teardrop Explodes, High Pulp, The Fierce and The Dead, Magnetic Skies, Ebi Soda, Ash Walker

Week in Los Angeles City of Death Music

We're hearing from... Swans, Def Leppard, Apache Rose, Jaz Coleman and Anne Dudley, TEKE::TEKE , African Head Charge, Mike Oldfield, Brian Krumm, Alibhe McDonagh with the RTE Concert Orchestra, Belle Scar, Pale Jay, Tinariwen, Tommy Drinkard, RVG, Teardrop Explodes, High Pulp, The Fierce and The Dead, Magnetic Skies, Ebi Soda, Ash Walker

by OL House Writer,
first published: June, 2023

approximate reading time: minutes

Taking single tracks out of context from a double album isn't the best way to appreciate Swans. They are an album band, by which I mean buy it on vinyl with all the full size artwork experience, sit down and listen to it from start to finish

Oh man. The sun came out. And so too, Swans.

SINGLES

SWANS - Los Angeles City Of Death (Young God/Mute)
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by Alan Rider

Swans can do no wrong in my eyes, with 'The Glowing Man' and 'White Light From The Mouth of Infinity' being two of my all time favourite albums.  Its rare that a band that have been going as long as Swans can still cut it, but despite forming in 1982, and the upcoming album 'The Beggar' (their sixteenth - yes you heard that right!) being their first since 2019's 'Leaving Meaning', they sound as fresh today as they ever did.  That is down in part to Swans main man Michael Gira working with a rotating cast of musicians for this one, with him describing the experience as "akin to the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the film changes from black and white to colour".  Taking single tracks out of context from a double album isn't the best way to appreciate Swans.  They are an album band, by which I mean buy it on vinyl with all the full size artwork experience that offers, sit down and listen to it from start to finish in one sitting.  No skipping.  No streaming individual tracks.  Just listen.  Properly.  A full album review will be in OL, but you have your instructions.


TOMMY DRINKARD - Baton Rouge (Independant)
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by Tim Sparks

I found Tommy Drinkard, a Californian artist and this track Baton Rouge, super happy summer Pop vibe, great feel and pace to this one, almost half a single as its only 1min.40s which just isn't enough! With an addictive sing a long melody it doesn't take long before your foot tapping and humming along...Tommy's vocals work nicely and track mix and arrangement is perfect for this style. Tommy is currently gigging, has a growing fan base and some impressive streaming numbers with more music to follow soon, so keep an eye out, you might just like it!


ALIBHE MCDONAGH WITH THE RTE CONCERT ORCHESTRA - Tory Island (Ailbhe McDonagh)
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by Lee Paul

From the Irish Isles suite, Alibhe McDonagh with the RTE Concert Orchestra presents Tory Island or Toraigh Island depending on how you are disposed I guess. Less whimsical and less epic than Alibhe's piece for Achill Island. It's a piece full of twists and surprises from one of the global stars of the cello.


MAGNETIC SKIES - Suffocate (ReprinT Records)
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by Alan Rider

'Suffocate' is a good old fashioned electropop single, full of pumping analogue bass, layers of strings, a repeated chorus, and a generally uplifting, yet slightly dark feeling a la Depeche Mode. The track is about the breakdown of a relationship, so nothing particularly new there then, but it is well executed and insistent.  Magnetic Skies' have a debut album, “Empire Falling”, set for release in autumn 2023 and they do genuinely have my sympathy as it is crushingly hard to catch a break with this sort of music these days (for example their next gig is supporting a Radiohead tribute band in Winchester!) however good it is.  I would suggest they might want to take a more experimental left field approach to add a twist and stand out a bit more from the crowd if they want to break out from the tribute band support circuit.


PALE JAY - In Your Corner (Karma Chief/Cole Mine)
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by Ancient Champion

This Pale Jay dude would give a Rockin' Your Baby George McCrae run for his money... actually the whole Russell Thompkins Jr. led Stylistics shit show too. And I don't mean that in a bad way. What's been going on with me is, I have been tempering my writing after a potential lawsuit showed up in my in box. But oh fuck it. I am back and this is a great, great record, by twists pop perfection, by turns mild-hybrid-afro-jazz inflections. Pale Jay's By The Lake with Okonski rated five hearts back in January and this has gotta go the same score too. So go shop dudes. For this.


EBI SODA, ASH WALKER - Ecchi (Ash Walker Dub) (Tru Thoughts)
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by Lee Paul

From the newly remixed version of Ebi Soda's Ugh. This is the cleanest. 


BRIAN KRUMM - Just Fade Away (Pravda Records)
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by Toon Traveller

Wow the voice's straight in, strings and acoustic guitar. I thought, who does he remind me of? A few of those American singers, leading stadium rock bands, Bryan Adams, you all know the voice. As the song slowed, a guitar flurry and then eureka, Neil Diamond! That raspy, hesitant delivery, world weary, carefully crafted string backing, the simple guitar melody that duets with the vocal. But it's that mournful voice, drenched in regret, not self pity, not self loathing, just sad at a life passing, thankful for the love given and received from a friend, drifted, floated, or just tenderly remembered. Touches my heart with it's sincerity and tenderness. 


HIGH PULP - Dirtmouth (Anti-)
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by Alan Rider

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! When I reviewed High Pulp's last single, giving it an over generous three hearts, I said " This sort of Jazz can quickly get samey and end up as lift music".  Here's the rub.  It has done just that.  Blurbly sax, meandering guitar and bass, all pointlessly noodling away, it belongs in the background of a cocktail bar scene in an old episode of Columbo.  James Taylor did this better years ago


APACHE ROSE - Cabin Fever (Independant)
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by Tim Sparks

Apache Rose are part of the Georgia underground Rock scene, and bring us this great vibe rock track with many twists and turns, the guitar work is awesome, the mix and production is spot on, and the vocals hit hard all the way through. I love the Ebb and flow of this track, the Serene verses get attacked by the raging chorus and guitar licks, then the middle 8...a really great idea for a change of pace with cool melody and harmony...but not for long of course! ...wWe exit via the relentless chorus, taking us home from a memorable journey, definitely an act to look out for.


LPs

AFRICAN HEAD CHARGE - A Trip To Bolgatanga (On U Sound)
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by Agata Makiela

The number of LPs I have that I play back to back? None. Until now. This is brilliant! It's not out until July but parts are streaming already I think. I have this weird bass player’s habit of making an ugly face with the corners of my mouth going down when I hear an insanely good groove, I couldn’t stop making that face when I started playing the first song from A Trip To Bolgatanga this morning! My resolution to buy only one record per month is officially cancelled. A July release is perfectly timed for hot lazy summer afternoons or mornings, or evenings, or any time I feel like sitting back, watching the clouds slowly changing shapes or bees collecting pollen, or leaves being gently moved by the breeze or getting up and dancing. Producer Adrian Sherwood said “It’s always a case of getting all the right ingredients sorted for Head Charge, and then having some fun with overdubs and mixing and getting it completely perfect. I think on this one, we have the greatest result." I couldn't agree more.


TEKE::TEKE - Hagata (Kill Rock Stars)
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by Alan Rider

Teke::Teke are a very unusual and a very cool band indeed.  Taking their name (I assume) from the 2009 Japanese film about a schoolgirl who fell on a railway line and ended up sliced in half by a train. Missing her lower extremities, she is said to walk on her hands or her elbows, making a scratching "teke teke"-like sound as she moves. If an individual encounters Teke Teke at night, she will chase them and cut their body in half with a scythe!  Creepy eh? Teke::Teke are a crazy 7 piece Canadian Japanese psychedelic rock band, who sing in Japanese and throw all sorts of influences into the mix; 70's Surf Rock, Orchestral, Prog, Punk - you name it basically, using a Shinobue (traditional Japanese Bamboo flute), a Koto and a trombone alongside fuzzy guitars and drums. The result is a wonderfully varied, expressive, and unpredictably bonkers sound that is immediately likeable and unique, and also very Japanese. The 70's film soundtrack-ish 'Doppleganger' is a highlight, but there are so many on this album that its hard to single any one track out.  Imagine a Japanese Frank Zappa, mixed with a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack and you might be halfway there in attempting to categorise this.  Pretty wonderful actually. Hagata is out on 6th June.




RVG - Brain Worms (Fire Records)
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by Alan Rider

Following on from the bizarre but brilliant single 'Squid' and the OK-ish 'Nothing Really Changes' (both included here), 'Brain Worms', the third album from Melbourne's RGV, settles back into more familiar sub Triffids/REM/Pretenders territory. The mostly mid paced and slightly languid songs, fronted by the lazy Country tinged drawly twang of singer Romy Veger, all sound much of a muchness aside from standout track Squid and the title track, both of which are by far the best tracks on the album. The song titles are intriguing, but disappointingly fail to deliver on the early promise of 'Squid'.   That means I can take or leave RGV, but I doubt I will be listening to this again.  It's competent US college Radio fodder though and that's probably its intended target, so job done there I'd say.  It's not for me though.  
 


TEARDROP EXPLODES - Culture Bunker 1978-1982 (Mercury Records)
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by DJ Fuzzyfelt

I loved The Teardrop Explodes and still keep an ear out for whatever Julian Cope does since whatever he does he does so well. However 95 tracks/6 hours 10 minutes of mostly already released singles and session tracks, plus a load of often bootleg quality live tracks interspersed with dodgy demos and outtakes is really not all it could be. Unless you want to spend £70+ for the accompanying book or £115 for the vinyl which actually contains 13 less tracks, I suggest you give it a listen on the usual suspect streaming sites and cherry pick the bits you like.
A huge opportunity wasted.


DEF LEPPARD - Drastic Symphonies (Bludgeon Riffola)
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by Katherine Pargeter

I’m frequently traumatised by the fact that Sheffield -  the city that gave us Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League/Heaven 17, Warp Records, Self Esteem, Vice Versa/ABC, Clock DVA, Pulp and the Arctic Monkeys will always be represented by these dispiriting poodles when they do those ‘bestselling acts from each UK city’ maps.  These reimaginings and remixes with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are as risible as you’d imagine.  ‘Animal’ has some moments of amusing pomp and ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ is now a slow and lustful duet between Joe Eliot and Emm Gryner (I am genuinely shocked by how lovely I find this!). But 'Hysteria' 'Have You Ever Needed Someone' and 'Love Bites' are the unsurprising band + string-driven bombast.  Please, let’s get the rock outta here...!  

 


BELLE SCAR - Atoms (Plastic Sound Records)
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by Alan Rider

London based Canadian songstress Belle Scar has a tendency towards the overblown and dramatic.  Think of Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Shirley Bassey and Octopussy era James Bond theme tunes and Christmas big ballad compilations and you'd be on the right track.  Its odd, but music nowadays has no division by era or age.  This is a style of music that you would have previously consigned to the pile marked 'Mum and Dad's music'.  Now, along with Bigband, this jostles for attention alongside thrash punk, folk, experimental electronica, Industrial, Country, Alt Rock, and the rest.  Although immaculately produced - in fact over produced if anything - it all sounds dated to me and a tad too keen to impress.  It belongs to a past era and although keen to align itself to Bjork, and despite aping the same eclectic fashion style crossed with Lady Gaga, it unfortunately lacks Bjork'a inventive icelandic cool and Gaga's state of mind. Your Mum and Dad might like it though.


TINARIWEN - Amatssou (Anti)
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by Katherine Pargeter

The title of Tinariwen's first album since 2019 (their first post-pandemic), translates as 'beyond the fear', and nothing could be more appropriate. This is music that is about survival and defiance. On 'Amatssou', you can hear the anger in the raw bluesy guitar and ragged vocals, these are songs that evoke the love of their homeland, the sadness at the atrocities that have been inflicted on the native Tuareg people, and the ideals that hold the band together. Initially intended to be recorded in America with Daniel Lanois, 'Amatssou' was instead made in a makeshift tent studio in a National Park in Algeria. Despite the introduction of pedal steel guitars, banjos and fiddles and Lanois' production, nothing of Tinariwen's music is compromised here.


THE FIERCE AND THE DEAD - News From The Invisible World (Spencer Park Music)
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by Alan Rider

'News From The Invisible World' is The Fierce And The Dead's first album in 5 years (their fourth) and is the first to feature lead vocals (provided by bassist Kev Feazey).  Lets unpack that statement a bit.  This is a rock band that formed 13 years ago, have released three albums and various EPs and live albums, have played across the UK, mainland Europe, and the US and supported the likes of Hawkind, and yet this is their first to feature vocals?  That marks them out as an unusual band to say the least. "Yeah, it’s been weird, but we want to keep trying new things" band leader Matt Stevens tell me and the inclusion of vocals has meant that they have had to develop their sound a little to accommodate them rather than plunge into instrumental proggy-ness and I'd say its all the better for that. 'News From The Invisible World' is an assured and confident album, full of the sort of hidden depths contained in songs like the excellent 'Golden Thread' and the single 'Wonderful' that have made the likes of Muse into household names. Influences range (they say) from Shoegaze to Psychedelia via Death Metal, and their sound has been described by others wiser than I as "The Flaming Lips meets Bolt Thrower and King Crimson".  I have no idea what that really means, but I didn't write it so don't blame me.  All I know is that 'News From The Invisible World' is an album that the visible world needs to hear.

News From The Invisible World releases in all formats on 28 July. Pre-order it on Bandcamp here


MIKE OLDFIELD - Tubular Bells (50th anniversary edition) (Mercury Record Ltd.)
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by Katherine Pargeter

Is there a novel that you've started to read or and never been able to finish? And you've tried, over and over again. And again. You know that feeling? It's usually something like 'Ulysses' isn't it?

Similarly, I rarely get past the first ten minutes of Tubular Bells. Sure that bit from 'The Exorcist' at the start is wondrous but...are we anywhere near the Vivien Stanshall bit yet? Are we? Oh no, we're not.

And here we are again, fifty years on and another version to add to the collection. I'm playing my copy and wondering if, again, time is warping and distorting around me, that everything is  slowing down, and, well, just how long have I been here...

Well, maybe I'll give up and go and try and re-read 'Ulysses' instead.


Other Materials

JAZ COLEMAN AND ANNE DUDLEY - Songs From The Victorious City (China)
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by Alan Rider

Who'd have thought Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman and Art of Noise mainstay Anne Dudley could come up with something so tinglingly sublime back in 1990. This is music to wake up to.


Essential information
Main image Swans from Wikimedia

Taking single tracks out of context from a double album isn't the best way to appreciate Swans. They are an album band, by which I mean buy it on vinyl with all the full size artwork experience, sit down and listen to it from start to finish
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