Category Archives: I Found

Pride before a Tumbl

I’ve been getting more and more obsessed with Tumblr. I find myself dipping into friends’ pages like a nervous Web 2.0 stalker, favouring hanging on the edges of a messy party while I pluck up the guts to get stuck in. Infact it’s more a fear of what I know is bound to happen once I do eventually Tumbl over myself that scares me.

A culture slut’s wet dream – quick, edible chunks of sound and film posted and spread about the site by an incestuous network of followers and followees – Tumblr’s demanding enough just pouring through the pages and lapping up the inspirations and obscure references to new and old, without having to create and stir your own into the mix.

And there’s the crux of it. My mind is a hoarder’s fantasy – the cultural equivalent of those quiet souls who find it impossible to discard anything until you hear of their tragic death, crushed under piles of used cereal boxes, election pamphlets and BT directories. This is a mind that struggles to remember presents given and received but can recite gig dates and support bands on command –  ask me who supported Dinosaur Jr at Cardiff University in 1993 and I’ll tell you it was Superchunk and Come (both amazing), that it was a Friday night, 26th February and grunge upstarts Sloan played the Hanging Gardens (now ‘Solus’) upstairs afterwards. Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.

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I Found #6 Felix – Cardiff Arts Institute, 24 Jan

Felix

Felix are delicate like ribbons blowing in the afternoon breeze delicate. Vulnerable, pastel chamber pop swept with minimal piano and cello while Lucinda Chua’s verbose vocals undulate overhead. The sparse, distant piano stirs with the grace of Nyman and Satie, while echoing Rachel Grimes’ haunting arrangements in Rachel’s.

Seemingly effortless like a summer’s day – at times they evoke the feeling of walking through long grass, touching the tips with your fingers – there’s more than a trickle of melancholy; of reminiscence; of elegant but cutting honesty – Chua’s pining love on the Debussy-like ‘Death to Everyone but Us’ for instance. These are quiet melodies to silence a room. Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes slowed down to a crawl; Cat Power stretching awake; Max Richter curling up with Antony and the Johnsons. As soft as your slow breath as you read this.
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I Found #5 That’s the Magic of Christmas

hunks and friends

It’s 30 minutes to Christmas! Come and join in a mass Christmas singalong of The Magic of Christmas by HUNKS and Friends. Released through Self Raising Records, all proceeds go to the RSPCA and it features all these amazing people: Bright Light Bright Light, Jen Long, Los Campesinos!, Airborne Toxic Event, Dananananaykroyd, Sky Larkin, Slow Club, James Yuill, Copy Haho, Sound of Arrows, Sparky Deathcap, My First Tooth, The Venus Stare and Pulled Apart By Horses.

The Magic of Christmas is a delicious, sweet groovy singalong, an unapologetic ode to the wonder of Christmas. Buy it this year and stick it on all your future Crimbo compilations next to Sufjan Stevens and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special soundtrack.

“It’s Christmas / everything’s awesome of Christmas / everyone’s smiling at Christmas / That’s the magic of Christmas / woo-ah!”

Tomorrow, on Christmas Day right after Top of the Pops plays Rage Against the Machine I’m putting The Magic of Christmas straight on – it’s my Christmas No1.

Watch it below but then get it here at Itunes for 79p or at Amazon for only 69p!!

Find at more about the Magic of Christmas here and here

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I Found #4 Dream Bitches – Coke-and-Spiriters (Recommended If You Like)

https://i2.wp.com/www.abstractextract.com/dreambitches/photos/fullgroupforpresscrop_72.jpg

Dream Bitches

If you can excuse the corny title (possibly chosen after one too many rum and cokes) there’s much to love in the second album from New York’s Dream Bitches. The jangling, gnarly guitars and infectious, intertwining, harmonies will no doubt receive many Sleater-Kinney references, but Dream Bitches’ lush, retro-pop has more in common with the wordy, sussed lyricism of New York neighbours Jeffrey Lewis and Kimya Dawson.
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I Found #3: Cineplexx – Picnic

Cineplexx

Cineplexx

That Argentinean born and current Barcelona resident Sebastian Litmanovich is joined on Picnic by Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, Jad Fair of Half Japanese and Duglas Stewart of BMX Bandits, is really all you need to know about Cineplexx. But if you’re still inquisitive, Picnic sees Litmanovich guiding the C86-inspired lo-fi through rippling landscapes that take in the Vaselines, Magnetic Fields, Gruf Rhys and Camera Obscura along the way.
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I Found #2: The Terrordactyls – Mike Bowers (Don’t Stop Believin’)

Terrordactyls

Juno didn’t just make us all wake up and see the talents of an awesome Ellen Page. It made us remember how crushingly good the pairing of Kimya Dawson and Adam Green was. True, Juno’s success might have resulted in a surreal and uncomfortable Moldy Peaches performance on the View, but if a few more people stumble across similar idiosyncratic pop hopefully Adam and Kimya’s grins will get even cuter.
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I Found #1 Windmill – Puddle City Racing Lights (Friendly Fire)

Windmill

Windmill

8/10

Summary: Windmill’s attraction is knowing when to let the melody loose, allowing the track to sweep off on its grandeur mission, and when to rein it in, affording the listener an eerie experience of never quite knowing whether the next taste will be happiness or tears.

Much is made of the UK and America’s political ‘special-relationship’ but ever since the Beatles set foot on the tarmac of the newly-renamed JFK Airport in early 1964, it’s the incestuous special-relationship of Britain and America’s pop economies that has really interested us all. And it has very strict rules.

These rules ensure only Northern English towns scarred by unemployment and Thatcher, and not Los Angeles, can produce Jarvis Cocker; rules that equally dictate Marilyn Manson could never be aloud to surface in Blackpool, playing early gigs in penny arcades and working men’s clubs. It’s a balance of power that lets the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys equally sell trillions of records without upsetting the ying verses yang of these two pop nations.

Of course sometimes the heavens are turned upside down and Bush are formed. But generally things run smoothly – even the Killers dropped the Britpop hooks in favour of epic American stadium rock.

Rules, of course, are meant to be broken. And it’s a special kind of joy when they’re broken with such a splendid disregard as the heart-breaking Americana which comes from Windmill’s English suburbia.

Known to many in the UK as just another over-priced service station stop on the M1 as you head North from London, Newport Pagnell was at least recognised by James Bond devotees as being the home of the Aston Martin. Until 2 years ago anyway, when production was moved away by owners Ford. Now, bar lower-league footballers and soap actresses, even Wikipedia struggles to find noteworthy commentary on this small middle-England town.

Yet it’s in these streets that Matthew Thomas Dillon has been toiling away perfecting a craft that bears little influence of a British music industry obsessed with asymmetrical haircuts and skinny jeans. Dillon’s ears have instead been long tuned in to the same channels that feed the contemporary, seminal voices of America: Newsom, Stevens, Coyne, Barnhart, Donahue, Marshall, Tweedy and Smith.

Choosing a name like Windmill to represent his work is quite a metaphor from Dillon. Windmill’s sails move with the same guidance that have informed many of his contemporaries on the opposite side of the pond.  Echoes of Talking Heads, Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell are beautifully littered throughout Puddle City Racing Lights while Dillon’s own voice stirs with the resonance and strained observation of an early Neil Young.

Windmill - Puddle City Racing Lights

Windmill - Puddle City Racing Lights

The result is a record soaked equally with comforting lo-fi as it is with grand, sweeping statements. Piano and strings constantly linger over Dillon’s words, the minimal composition lending an ever-present melancholy to match his heartfelt voice . But Dillon’s genius is knowing when to let the melody loose, allowing the track to sweep off on its grandeur mission, and when to rein it in, affording the listener an eerie experience of never quite knowing whether the next taste will be happiness or tears.

“Asthmatic” is a perfect example of this. If the tingling piano and cello at its start suggests a bold statement akin to Springsteen’s bombastic faith of the Rising, the song’s epic potential is only strengthened by the Flaming Lips-style wall of crashing drums that follow. But just when you expect the melody to soar away Dillon pulls the song back to the ground, only allowing the fragile piano to remain and giving us the words “Always breathing in / Never breathing out”. Arcade Fire would have followed the formula to its logical, spectral, conclusion, but Dillon seems inspired by the possibility of the crescendo, the light and dark of the song, the space that is sometimes covered over and forgotten. For a song he names “Asthmatic”, he actually lets it breathe.

Dillon is also a strong observer or, at least, a strong thinker. Locking himself in his bedroom for hours on end so he can perfect the vision in his head, many of the fourteen songs here have emerged over twelve years through Dillon’s careful consideration and a £300 four track. For the recording of Puddle City Racing Lights, he received assistance from members of the Earlies’ live band, former Alfie guitarist Ian Smith and co-producer Tom Knott, but before it came countless homemade albums, originally only intended for himself and a few friends’ enjoyment, which must have provided the training ground for these tracks.

The observer/thinker is redolent throughout Dillon’s lyrics. He writes evocatively about everyday things – “the detritus of modern life” as the press release puts it” – airport lounges, trains, fluorescent lights, escalators, the feel of an airport’s plastic chair before taking a flight. Just as dEUS sang about the inevitable loneliness of hotel receptions, so “Boarding Lounges” describes beautifully the awkward, perpetual, melancholy of being forced to linger in these human holding pens. Although, as Dillon repeats the line “Gates close / Escalators climb” over the raw piano and slightest of strings, it’s unclear if he is actually advocating the experience.

Dillon finds himself continually compared to Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips by lazy critics and “Tokyo Moon”, “Plastic Pre-Flight Seats” and “Plasticine Plugs” are obvious starting points for these references. Yet while there is certainly a lot of common ground between Wayne Coyne, Jonathan Donahue and Windmill’s pained, graceful, beauty, they fail to appreciate Dillon’s favoured instrument of expression; his piano. Even more than his stark, emotive voice, Dillon relies on the piano to convey the misery, the happiness, the wonder and the dismay. In this way, he has more in common with Tom Waits and Tori Amos, both of whom grew as artists through their deep relationship and exploration of the piano’s emotional and expressional possibilities. The naked piano of “Boarding Lounges” and Tilting Trains” is as stirring as on Amos’ Little Earthquakes, while “Replace Me” and “Fashion House” could easily sneak into Blue Valentine without much suspicion.

Oscar Wilde once commented “We are all in the gutter, but some of are looking at the stars”. Listening to Windmill sounds like Wilde is whispering those words in your ear.

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