Kishi Bashi – Lighght

To many, the sound of a violin is unparalleled – apart from by its various siblings. Anything that requires a fiddle is simplistic majestic really. It’s no surprise then that there was a mild furore surrounding violin virtuoso Kishi Bashi after releasing his debut album 151a. And you’d be pleased to know that your ears will be receiving much of the same brightly coloured chamber-pop that made tracks like ‘Bright Whites’ and ‘Manchester’ so popular.

Lighght opens with Kishi’s improvised, looped violins before treating us to the infectious ‘Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!’ It doesn’t take long for the words to roll off your tongue but ‘The Ballad of Mr. Steak’ doesn’t sit so well. The bassline feels like it’s been manufactured for chart music and it completely goes against Kishi Bashi usual knack for writing pop songs without them becoming cheesy and superficial.

But it doesn’t take long for Kaoru Ishibashi to find the tender sweet-spot that makes his sound so endearing though. ‘Bittersweet Genesis for Him AND Her’ does exactly that as his warm vocals soar over affectionately picked guitars and swooning violins. The stripped-back ‘Q&A’ is a particularly heart-warming highlight no doubt helped by the radiant hint of Cat Stevens making it the perfect soundtrack for any fanciful Wes Anderson scene.

Overall – except for ‘Mr. Streak’ – Lighght is altogether a more coherent project than 151a. You’d expect it to be though because while the latter was crafted during any time he could find whilst touring with of Montreal, and Regina Spektor, Lighght is a more concerted effort and as albums alongside each other, this shows. It’s got more presence, a kind of grandiose stature that envelopes you and you’re left with no choice but to flirtingly smile at its playful attitude.

There’s so little to dislike about Kishi’s kaleidoscopic approach to music. And once you’re done with all the spirited tones in the first half, you’ll find more substance in the heavier, more psychedelic second half. I’m just sorry for bringing you this review now and not in the infancy of summer when it was released. So my only redemption is that it’ll keep you warm for the inevitable winter months. What his albums never reflect though is the mesmerising wizardry he exudes on a live stage.

Dog In The Snow – Africa

Ah, Dog In The Snow! The sadistic Brighton art-pop outfit love seeing us scrabble over their sparse releases. Last time, we had to wait seven months for the release of ‘Fire In The Sky’. It’s been over a year since that debut single but finally, a second single is imminent.

‘Fire In The Snow’ was dense and heavy but ‘Africa’ highlights a much more tender side to DITS. There’s still a haunting chill to their aesthetic though as Helen whispers:

Casting out the ghost we all know
It’s a sickness in the mind
It’s a sordid piece of gold

It’s a track you can really lose yourself in because the deeper the delve, the eerier it becomes. Sharps accents scratch between the layers while ominous drones dissipate in the background – it doesn’t fall too far short of spooky dissonance.

An EP is imminent, but like the sadists that they are, we’re going to be left hanging in unbearable anticipation hoping it won’t be too long now.

‘Africa’ will be released digitally on 22nd September 2014 via London-based Tidal Wave Sounds.

Deers – Barn

After adding two more members to their lo-fi set-up, Spanish surf-pop group Deers are looking to gather some traction.

‘Barn’ is their latest track to date and the first they’ve recorded as a quartet. It’s not quite as rough and playful as ‘Bamboo’ which encapsulates their saccharine approach to surf-pop but there’s more a punk edge. It certainly isn’t saline though, at least not in a way that might alienate you and you’ll certainly be endeared by the way Carlotta Cosials and Ana Garcia Perrote’s vocal entwine themselves together. In essence, it’s a much tighter track but I know many of you will prefer the slacker ‘Bamboo’.

Surf always had such a cool image and I think it’s about time it came back. Only this time, without leaving a salty taste in your mouth but instead, a surprisingly sweet one.

Michael A Grammar

One of the annoying things about EPs is that you rarely get to see their tracks feature on albums. Actually, the problem is two-fold. You’re missing out on great tracks that you wish were on the album but when you try to find an EP to buy, you can’t because there were probably limited copies.

Michael A Grammar have been thoughtful in that regard. All the tracks from their two previous EPs (Random Visions and Vitamin Easy) are included in their debut album plus four extras that have been collectively termed ‘Lunar Sea’. Some might feel hard done-by but come on, as if you’ve grown tired of their two EPs already.

The alluring serenity in the opening of ‘Upside Down’ swirls with care like a kaleidoscopic dream that doesn’t give you a headache. The layered production gives it a real sense of depth and you’ll find yourself flicking between them. And when this is followed by ‘All Night, Afloat’ you begin to wonder why they haven’t been talked about more. But sometimes, it takes a good album before people start noticing.

They’ve done that difficult thing of not sounding like a new band at all. Instead, you might think they’ve been around for a while and you may even feel displeased you didn’t discover them earlier. Once you get to ‘Light of a Darkness’ though, you won’t care. You’re just happy you found it. Metallic guitars glisten through the hazy atmospherics guiding along with the droning vocals before kicking into a lick that could lift roofs.

But what’s surprising about their sound how they anchor their soaring textures with a krautrock base while little psychedelic flourishes add colour. In ‘You Make Me’, you first have settle yourself some a wobbly melody before unleashing heavier riffs that knock you off balance again.

They have a comprehensive with little but no necessarily subtle hints. Anything from Joy Division to Slow Dive is knitted into their foggy aesthetic. It closes with ‘Don’t Wake Me’ which is probably their most accessible track but the hazy stoner-shoegaze sound still radiates from it. Don’t think just because it’s easy, it’s boring either or you’ll miss out on another sludgy finale.

In truth though, as someone who loves EPs, this isn’t the way an album should be crafted. Albums are like books and when you’ve put two short stories at the start of one, it just doesn’t quite sit right. Michael A Grammar have a deft appreciation for textures and the way those textures morph over the course of a song. I would have liked to see them craft a more coherent album that paints a picture form start to finish. But for now, we’re happy losing ourselves in lots of little individual dreams.

Michael A Grammar’s self-titled debut album is due for release on 29th September via Melodic

Glass Animals – Zaba

Under the guidance of new label Wolf Tone and legendary producer Paul Epworth (who’s worked with Adele and Friendly Fires amongs other high-profile artists), the Oxford quartet have produced a debut album with such a broad sonic palette it’s difficult not to completely lose yourself in it. Just a small disclaimer before you do so though: run this through big speakers or decent headphones – it’s necessary if you want to experience the full effect of their considered arrangements.

But, first things first, it’s important to note that the album’s title is derived from William Steig’s fantastical novel The Zabajaba Jungle where a boy embarks on a dreamy adventure through a vividly imagined jungle full of fantastical creatures and visceral vegetation. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re looking for ethereal escapism. If you can’t read, Zaba does a spectacular job of crafting a similar environment to get lost in. It opens with ‘Flip’ where mellow textures set the mood and provide a foundation for the track to build from as it swells uncontrollably.

‘Black Mambo’ however takes you somewhere more serene where treble-filled tinkles rattle around in a more barren soundscape. But lead single ‘Pools’ encapsulates the philosophy surrounding the album best. Tribal drums provide an earthy spine while woozy synths and gauzy guitars add gloss. And beneath Dave Bayley’s breathy vocals, you’ll find brittle critters scuttling along the forest floor with vitality.

As you traverse farther into the dense jungle, you realise that Glass Animals aren’t just another new band with promise. Their appreciation for texture and timbre is not only lustfully executed but arranged with a sleek balance that ensures every click and hum plays an important part of building a vibrant but believable soundscape. Sometimes, tracks can be accused to creating a world that’s too distant and intangible. Close your eyes with Zaba coursing through your ears though and you’ll feel as if you can touch every layer and sense the life that it breathes.

So when the ‘Intruxx’ breaks in with its limited vocals, you have all the space needed to admire the reverb-swathed layers as it leads into the second half of the album. ‘Hazey’ has a delicately judged blend of rumbling bass and glassy twinkles that seem to bounce off each other in symbiotic harmony.

After finding yourself in the percussive density of ‘Wyrd’, their oldest track ‘Cocoa Hooves’ provides a welcome breather where instead of fighting impenetrable vegetation and busy insects, you can just float above the canopy in comfort. But the comfort is truly resolved in the tranquility of ‘JDNT’ where mellow vocals waft across warbling synths and that trademark twinkle that glistens in most of their tracks.

Despite the colourful journey Glass Animals take you on, each song occupies a specific terrain of the album’s soundscape in the same way the layers do for the each track. You can appreciate each territory as its own or all of them together examining their relationship with each other. And that highlights not only the mature confidence that Glass Animals exude but also their comprehension for the vitreous bonds sounds share. It’s almost as if they’ve found a way make noises appear sentient…

 

You can stream Zaba on their interactive website right here.

Adult Jazz – Spook

Even with the plethora of sounds we have on tap, my ungrateful ears still struggle to remain attentive. Not even Glass Animals’ debut album was doing the trick – don’t worry, it’ll still be reviewed. But another earmarked band knew what I wanted.

With a dreamy aesthetic that drifts aimlessly from one intangible moment to the next, Adult Jazz’s ‘Spook’ is a wonderfully crafted 9-minute gem. It’s ridiculous to think these guys only played their first live gig back in November considering the maturity and confidence that exudes throughout this track. The swirling transitions are seamless while the sense of yearning is borders on being transcendent.

So if you are ungratefully greedy, there’s more than enough textural beauty here for you to drift off too.

Phoria – Emanate

Despite the abundance of bands and delightful sounds experienced over the Great Escape weekend, Phoria were, unsurprisingly, a particularly memorable highlight (amongst others). This week, we’re bringing you their latest track ‘Emanate’ which conjures a transcendent quality as if born from the core of a distant world or in the case of their gig at TGE, the foundations of St. Mary’s Church.

Brewed from their typically understated intros, ‘Emanate’ finds itself nestling in soothing textures punctuated by hand-clappy beats. Be patient however, and you’ll find yourself launched into a euphoric climax. Like most instances of euphoria, it’s short but that brief moment of bliss is enough to detach you from the present and on to a parallel timeframe.

Within the cavernous space of a church where the natural reverb heightened their sound even further, Phoria make truly spine-tingling music. Somewhere in the not-too-distant haze, a debut album is looming. Loom faster.