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Week in Music gets Tropical We're hearing from... Reyna Tropical, Ancient Champion, Cellista, Joni Mitchell, Waxahatchee, Jesus And Mary Chain, Jack Francis, The Vintage Yell, The Anti-Groupies, Liars at the Witch Trial, Sonic Youth, Lovelorn Dolls, Jim White, Pet Needs, LEHI, Youth Lagoon, Jazmin Bean, Squid, Sandwell District & Silent Servant & Regis, The Jack Rubies, Arne Eigenfeldt, Sonar, The Effigy, OV Sulfur and Wizard Death

Week in Music gets Tropical

We're hearing from... Reyna Tropical, Ancient Champion, Cellista, Joni Mitchell, Waxahatchee, Jesus And Mary Chain, Jack Francis, The Vintage Yell, The Anti-Groupies, Liars at the Witch Trial, Sonic Youth, Lovelorn Dolls, Jim White, Pet Needs, LEHI, Youth Lagoon, Jazmin Bean, Squid, Sandwell District & Silent Servant & Regis, The Jack Rubies, Arne Eigenfeldt, Sonar, The Effigy, OV Sulfur and Wizard Death

by OL House Writer,
first published: January, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

'Cartagena' is a happy antidote to the UK's winter's grip... - Toon Traveler

INTRO.

This Week in Music, well, there are a lot of guitars and one of the loveliest and liveliest is in the hands of Fabi Reyna, whose new record, Cartagena, is one among many cool sounds to be enjoyed this here.

SINGLES.

REYNA TROPICAL - Cartagena (Psychic Hotline)
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by Toon Traveller

Lovely popped up, smoothed out, tropical rhythms. Percussion, timbale rolls, and marimba dips around the mix? It bounces. Cartagena is a happy antidote to the UK's winter's grip. It skips, claps, finger pops, easy time, hum-a-long chants. Good to start a summer party vibe. And I'll post an image here because well, the single pick up splendour of Fabi Reyna's fab guitar...Fabi Reyna

JACK FRANCIS - Lifeline (Streaming)
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by Toon Traveller

After a cacophonous music mix that's a reviewer's inbox, it's relief, and delight, to relax in the simplicity of a creative singer/songwriter.  Voice, lyrics, proper, real instruments, well arranged, played, and produced. That's minimum basics, standouts takes more, singing, melody, chorus,all have to be top draw,  two out of three, would do. Sadly Jack fails that standard. Lyrics, pain, loss and love, slipped away, universal themes, we've all been there. BUT Jack's voice sounds like he's telling someone else's love story, and worse, he doesn't believe it.  Competent playing, sympathetic keys, steady drums, well sung harmonies, But I don't really care, and that defeats the song, and singer's point.

SANDWELL DISTRICT & SILENT SERVANT & REGIS - Sampler 1 B1 (The Point Of Departure Recording Company)
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by Alan Rider

With the tragic passing last week of one of the founders of the Sandwell District musical collective, Juan Mendez (Silent Servant), this takes on a wholly different quality and the name of the record label feels prophetic. Sandwell District is/was a collective of four individual techno artists- the late Juan Mendez, Peter Sutton (Female), David Sumner (Function) and Karl O’Connor (Regis), and first surfaced in 2010, though they were running a label together a good few years before that.  Like most techno it is basic and stripped down, built around a repetitive beat.  It has a certain something though and grows on you quite quickly, but with the loss of Mendez, along with his wife Simone, and Luis Vasquez, AKA darkwave musician The Soft Moon, this now feels more like a final statement and a good one at that. Whether Sandwell District will continue after this tragedy is unclear, but there is an album already recorded still to come.

LIARS AT THE WITCH TRIAL - Help Yourself! (Bandcamp)
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by Jay Lewis

There’s an element of surprise to every release that Liars at the Witch Trial unveil.  Kate Walton (vocals, guitar) and Adam Wakefield’s (drums) have added a soupcon of blues and jazz to the mix,  blending it all in with their fuzzy alt-rock leanings.  ‘Help Yourself!’ comes on like ‘Icky Thump’ era White Stripes relocated to Birmingham, England.  ‘You think that the world’s against you/but it’s only yourself…’ Kate’s lyrics are firm but fair,  as good as any self-help guide could muster.   Producer Stale Winton (an artist sometimes known as Thom Edward), ensures that the band sounds as gloriously unvarnished and lively as possible. 

WAXAHATCHEE - Lilacs (Merge)
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by Lee Paul

Always a pleasure to welcome Waxahatchee to the Week in Music I think.  This is a three-year-old reminder of how great the new LP Tiger's Blood will be. In March.

JAZMIN BEAN - You Know What You've Done (Island Records/Interscope)
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by Alan Rider

Jazmin Bean is sort of a doll eyed cross between Lady Gaga and Marilyn Manson, pumping out a quick fire barrage of pop songs with lavishly oddball videos (check out Puppy Pound!) to promote them.  The visual side is definitely the focus here.  Band members are dressed up as flowers, Jazmin herself sports a succession of increasingly bizarre costumes (the Lady Gaga influence) and sings of abusive relationships, cheating lovers, grooming, rejection, and all the other negative stuff which form regular topics for the majority of pop fodder these days.  You can't deny her talent for video direction though, and her odd bod, bug eyed persona is strangely appealing, as it is as cracked as the world now is.  Millions stream her apparently.  Life certainly is strange and is getting stranger.

OV SULFUR - Hivemind feat. Mental Cruelty (Century Media)
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by Toon Traveller

Utterly, utterly bonkers, not in a good way, the cover hint at proggy dodgy, 70 twiddles diddles and riddles. What you get is pastiche Sub Yes, and Greenslade and Caravan music, underpinning throat strangled vocals of Death Prog Trash Rock. One heart  for inventing a new genre. Can't say I liked it much

SQUID - Fugue (Bin Song) (Warp Records)
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by Alan Rider

'Fugue' is subtitled 'Bin Song' because it was originally recorded for their 'O Monolith' album but didn't quite make the cut.  Still, here it is now and a good job too. Like a latter day Fall on this, Squid are in fine declamatory form.  Remember 'Undergrowth', their dub-ish single from April '23, with the Squid video game you can play online to accompany it?  No? Well I remember it anyhow.  You can always search on OL for the review. This is as good.

LEHI - Shut the Door (Independant)
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by Tim Sparks

I discovered this new Pop release from rising Indie Singer Songwriter LEHI, this track has a great mix of retro electro synth and guitars giving some great energy combined with cool guitar riffs, the vocal style and delivery suit this genre really nicely, and the melody hook lines keep us hanging in there. The synth sounds and bass lines are reminiscent of classical 80’s giving it a real retro feel with a current mix and production vibe. The mix and production is on trend right now, and overall a radio ready track that would sit well next to any hit pumping out of your audio system.  Definitely someone to keep on your playlist this year !

THE ANTI-GROUPIES - Read the Room (No Records)
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by Toon Traveller

The "Doctor Who" theme opening, fuzzed out, punked up, speed driven, childhood memory.  Trashed, bashed, and melody slashed. Repeated riffs, hard bashed, earnest drums, screamed vocals, derivative, predictable, forgettable. "Your opinion doesn't matter" wails a wimpy vocal, over a skip to the beat, and ragged backing vocals. An 80's rock guitar by numbers solo, a reprise, thankfully it's over. The tired, haggard  piss-off message succeeds, black coffee's a-calling me, I'm  kitchen bound for a shot of revival.

THE EFFIGY - Infiltrate (No Label)
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by Alan Rider

Effigy is singer Effy Gold, who normally pushes out histrionic, warbly, over orchestrated darkwave fare strongly influenced by everyone's favourite act to emulate/copy wholesale, Evanescence.   On 'Infiltrate' she has drafted in a collaborator to dirty it up a bit in an attempt to add more grit.  And dirty it he has.  Its a mess.  No video or bandcamp link to be found anywhere either, so you will just have to take my word for it.

CELLISTA - Elegie (Youtube)
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by Toon Traveller

Imagine the scene: A gritty backdrop of Oakland's underground whispers, set against a haunting requiem and ethereal vocals. This stage births a powerful performance, a social commentary on America's urban scars. Witness the crushing displacement and demolition, rapped and chanted in a tapestry of past, present, and ominous future. A tender lament for lost communities, punctuated by that poetic gem: "At the edge of eternity..." This is more than music; it's a soul-stirring experience, demanding your time and promising to leave you breathless.

ANCIENT CHAMPION - Magic Says How Much? / One Minute You Won't Get Back (Bandcamp)
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by Katherine Pargeter

I once heard someone describe those parts of tunes that imbed themselves into your every waking thought as ‘maggot melodies’. If you excuse the rather uncomfortable mental image that it provokes, it’s a fairly smart analogy - and one that I want to apply to this double-A-sided single. Firstly,‘Magic Says How Much?’ has taken up residency and shows no sign of abating. It’s as if early German electronic music (I refuse to use the K****rock term!), was reimagined for greyish contemporary life in the West Midlands of the UK. The piece is a comment on Greedflation –another invented evil. On the flipside, ‘One Minute You Won’t Get Back’ is a much grungier affair. Or as grungy as AC will allow himself to get. The drums are in the foreground, the bass (thanks to Brandon from New Jersey for that), throbs, but in an entirely pleasant way. It's a minute (well, closer to two), joyously spent.

In the old, not quite ancient, tradition of singles clubs – these cuts will be part of a collection MLL AC, which may be a homage to LL Cool J or a Roman numeral. What a tease the Champion has become!

YOUTH LAGOON - Football (Fat Possum)
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by Toon Traveller

Mellow meandering about like a hangover cure in need of a livener. Not for me. But for plenty of others I suspect.

LOVELORN DOLLS - Beautiful Chaos (Alfa Matrix / SPLEEN+)
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by Alan Rider

I have to say, this is rather fun.  Lovelorn Doll's have previous reminded me of 90's pioneers Curve, but this one fits more into the well worn furrow ploughed by the likes of Lacuna Coil and Evanesence.  It may be that means absolutely nothing to you, but suffice to say its a solid comparison they shouldn't be unhappy with.  Accompanied by a silly video of them arsing about in front of a green screen image of a padded cell, its not the best I've heard from them, but maintains the quality the Belgium duo are known for.  There are also five remixes included with this, but none are an improvement on the original. I do kind of wonder why so many acts bother with those.

PET NEEDS - Sleep when I'm Dead (Xtra Mile Records)
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by Toon Traveller

Fast paced anxiety. Pop punk guitar sounds. Video fizzles, crackles with energy and sparks fly. But it's as exciting as grinding wheel, sharp jolts of vocal, blinding bolts of guitar, and relentless drive of drum and bass, but not in a dance sense. Nothing bad, that's great. Completely competent. 

JIM WHITE - Names Make the Name (Drag City)
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by Toon Traveller

How many tracks open with a drum solo, not enough, that's how many. If this is anything to go by, drum solo's boring? Maybe if it's John Bonham's bombast, or Ian Paice's hit as much as you can as fast as you can thang. Drums as composition set the tone for piano stabs, and cuts. 'Skins' and 'rims'  it skips, it prances, it shuffles, it brushes, shakes, rattles and almost rolls. Exploration, Extrapolation, Exemplification. This has the magic you need on a dark night to explore new music, but you you'll need to bring an open mind, soul and heart. Listen, give yourself, and you'll believe. Drums exist for reasons other than to give the band a rest at their concerts.

JESUS AND MARY CHAIN - Chemical Animal (Fuzz Club)
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by Lee Paul

Biggest of big indie stars are back on the road. Like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. And having consulted a copy of Road To Morocco, just as funny. Rotund and rounder and jowly now. The sound that is. I guess someone will ask at what point they felt excited about this. Like the aging hipster I saw outside Black Gull (RIP) books in East Finchley the other day. So much of what they were about 30 years ago is intact. And therein lies the problem, the gut chemistry, is trickier to manage now, the liver has changed possibly for the worse, and maybe the music, too. Definitely maybe. It's no Upside Down because everything is the right way up. And it's appears to be taking them way longer to say whatever they're saying than it used to. What they used to say in two crucial minutes now meanders to four and half. Indicative of the zimmer frame approach to new music.

THE VINTAGE YELL - Wrong Direction (Mesquite Records)
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by Toon Traveller

'Mesquite' a plant native to Texas used to flavour BBQ smoke. Texas flavour? Never been, sounds real to me. Lost lover, wasting in Texas dust bowl town, pleading for an exit. Twanging guitar, power chords, a rasping voice, tired, life weary. Small town, empty spaces, big sound. 'Hungry dawg' in the lyric. Blues harp cements a final night gathering, last dice hoping, bar room lounging, ready for that border break (70's Tex Mex rock theme). It's only 4 minutes long, but it spells out a whole wasted disillusioned life in those 240 seconds.

EPs.

WIZARD DEATH - I am The Night (Wiseblood Records)
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by Alan Rider

Heavy metal is often described as a family, but Wizard Death seem to have taken that rather literally, comprising Indiana based guitarist Tim Kenefic and his 10 year old son, Alex.  Formed on the school run, Alex provides Harry Potter inspired sword and sorcery lyrics, a bit of squeaky shouting, and the odd approving nod, over the shredding guitar provided by his father and his hairy mates.  Musically, 'I Am The Night' is exactly the type of Iron Maiden/Judas Priest derivative fare you would expect, so no prizes given out for originality, but you can imagine the fun they had making this.  It's a lot better a way of parental bonding than Tim shouting at Alex from the sidelines on a football field.  Now normally, this sort of thing is called 'Dad Rock', but I'm not sure what to call this. Family Rock?  Metal Bonding? (though that sounds more like a form of superglue).  I tell you what.  You give it a name.

LPs.

THE JACK RUBIES - Hark (Big Stir Records)
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by Toon Traveller

Jangling guitars, skipping bass line, retro sounds. 22nd summer of love psyche. It's not bad, I still enjoy these memories of the first summer of love now and again but it's nothing new, not worth getting excited about. Sounds a great small, 500 fans, venue, or 2nd headline local festival thing. Good Good Not Bad.

SONIC YOUTH - Walls Have Ears (Goofin’)
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by Alan Rider

We love Sonic Youth here at OL and love what Kim Gordon is up to these days even more.  This double album came out as a sort of official live bootleg-y release back in 1986, but was quickly deleted, so has been reissued in the now customary confusing and wallet emptying range of formats and deluxe coloured vinyl editions, festooned with unnecessary extras like a flexidisc and postcards.  Put all that nonsense to one side though and what you have here is a raw, rough and ready album drawn from three 1985 UK gigs captured during a critical time in the band’s early development. It's visceral, it's scrappy in places, but there is no hiding the fact that Sonic Youth represented the future of underground, edgy, and (yes) hip music and exerted an influence that is still reverberating to this very day. Pushing boundaries was always what Sonic Youth were all about and this is a document of when they started to push, really push. Poor copyists like Jesus and Mary Chain hadn't a hope of emulating Sonic Youth, who burned bright before they finally burnt out in 2011, yet whose ex-members are still forging with brilliance today.

OTHER MATERIALS.

JONI MITCHELL - Court and Spark (Asylum)
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by Jay Lewis

‘Court and Spark’ is fifty.  It was the first Joni Mitchell album that I ever heard, and it is the one that I return to the most.  Like all of the best art, I am still surprised by what I find every time I listen to it, it changes with the years.    It is the Joni record that I’d advise the curious to explore first (‘Hejira’, ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’ and even ‘Blue’ are more acquired tastes).  I am still caught unawares by the lyrics:  the lure of falling in love with someone loves their freedom far too much (‘Help Me’ – her biggest hit),  the concealed insecurities of the guests at ‘People’s Parties’, that swine Jackson Browne (apparently) in ‘Car On A Hill’ and that need to feel ‘unfettered and alive’ that Aslylum records boss David Geffen has in ‘Free Man in Paris’.  Musically, it’s a significant move on from her folksier and more acoustic strains of ‘For The Roses’ into jazzier territory.   Her band (guests included David Crosby, Graham NashRobbie Robertson and José Feliciano) is enhanced by Tony Scott’s fabulous orchestral arrangements (that mini – symphony in the middle of ‘Down to You’ still leaves me breathless).  And if that all seems too serious, then the permanently stoned comedy duo Cheech and Chong are also on board for album closer ‘Twisted’.   If you’re unacquainted with her work, your journey with Joni starts here.

SONAR - A Flaw Of Nature (Ronin Rhythm Records)
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by Alan Rider

Switzerland's Sonar are a rock band like no other.  Building instrumental songs piece by piece like Lego, they produce hypnotic tracks that evolve over 9, 10, 11 minutes.  This album is one of their best.


Essentials
Main image Fabi Reyna and what is that guitar?
Previous Week in Music, right here⇒

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