Allo Love Volume Five

Various Artists
Wah Wah 45s

A resident DJ, radio producer and presenter, Neil Bopperson treats us to an eclectic mix on Allo Love Volume Five. Not usually being a fan of artist-led compilations due to a tendency towards the abstract and banal, Bopperson delights when given the helm and access to the extensive WahWah 45s collection.

It’s not hard to see why he’s as busy as he is. His choices meander, opening with the folk-ish Yields before slipping into J Dilla-esque beats with Jesse Futerman’s contribution and trip hop with the Manchester-based Moth HiFi. Following this is are electronica, dub and afrobeat additions from as far and wide as Italy (Turbojazz) and Leeds (Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra), showcasing what a varied, worldly palate this talented DJ has. Our fair city is further represented by Gideon Conn, but the standout track is The Gene Dudley Group’s ‘Tiger Jaw’, a delicious, soulful funk odyssey that brings to mind De La Soul.

At times the leaps between tracks are a little difficult to fathom, but ultimately this isn’t supposed to be an album of exquisitely mixed tracks all working in tandem to create a certain feeling or vibe. Instead, it’s an opportunity for one man to introduce us to music that he loves.

There’s something for everyone with this instalment and, in the event of something not tickling your fancy, the next track almost certainly will. It’s a marvellous addition to the Allo Love catalogue and one that is well worth checking out.

David Ewing

Espher

Flux EP
Self Released

I can’t help myself when it comes to moody dance music. What could be better? You can simultaneously mope about all of life’s issues and mildly bob along to the beat. It’s an adolescent godsend.

That’s exactly what I get from the first listening of this EP, a cool toned yet upbeat little tune. ‘Flux’, the first track, is pretty simple. It begins with a click beat and fading techno-pop chords, with intermittent piano keys littered across the soundscape. The song continues like this, an ostinato on a constant continuum, with the occasional breakaway of instruments offering a little breather, a space to think and reflect before continuing with your dance mission. It’s airy and deep, thoughtful even. The lack of vocals works as a good agent for those feelings.

Each track is very similar, all synths, simple beats and pianos, just different tempos, time signatures and keys. The electro sounds waver in and out of focus, much like the tide, and the piano puts an easier edge on the harsh drum beat. But this is what makes it such an interesting listen. Somehow, the repetitiveness is calming and puts you in such a position that you feel physically and mentally engaged in the music, immersed in it, as though you’re in a movie and this is the soundtrack. If the tracks weren’t similar, the EP just wouldn’t work, or certainly wouldn’t have the same impact.

There isn’t anything I don’t like about this, simple as that. I’d be happy to listen to it all day long.

Sara Louise Tonge

Mongrels

Low Budget/High Budget
Invisible Spies Records

In the mid 90s, before he became the street art force of nature he is today, Kid Acne was a graffiti and hip hop obsessed teenager living in the Midlands. Around this time, he joined forces with DJ Benjamin to form rap duo Mongrels. After releasing their first single, ‘Slingshots’, in 1996, the pair continued recording until deciding to take a break from music in 2008. After realising all of his favourite MCs were dead, dying or past it, Acne decided it was time to return to Mongrels. Low Budget/ High Concept arrives ahead of their forthcoming album, Attack The Monolith. Abrasive boom-bap beats meet Acne’s conversational, almost comedic raps delivered in a heavy East Midlands accent. Opener ‘Chokehold’ is the perfect introduction to this style - rhymes about champagne dropped in favour of tall tales about drinking Bovril and robbing bungalows.

Tracks like ‘Sky L.A.R.Ping’ and ‘Mic Tyrant’ wouldn’t sound out of place on an MF DOOM album if it wasn’t for Acne’s distinctive style. At a time when PR companies and brands mix so closely with UK hip hop and grime, it’s this style that sets Mongrels apart from many of their contemporaries. Unpolished and raw, Low Budget/High Concept feels like it’s come straight from a dusty South Yorkshire bedroom, more a product of the monotony of everyday life than the extraordinary.

As Mongrels’ style grows more familiar, at points it feels like John Cooper Clarke has started spitting. In reality, the pair probably have more in common with the likes of Sleaford Mods and Scorzayzee. The glamour and excess so often associated with the genre don’t really translate to market town England as well as piss-taking and stripped-down production do. Most importantly, with an EP this strong and fun, Mongrels’ forthcoming album holds a lot of promise.

George Springthorpe

Battles

La Di Da Di
Warp

I think it’s only fair that I start this review by saying I really struggled with this one. There’s something esoteric about every track, drums connecting with synthetic noises to create the audio equivalent of jazz played on instruments somehow acquired from the Tron universe. Alongside this there seem to be trip hop influences and even world music slipping into the mix that made my immediate opinions of this album difficult to pin down.

I don’t think it’s a cop out to say that Battles are a live band. La Di Da Di exudes an energy I would find supremely interesting in person, but sadly doesn’t translate particularly well through recording. Thankfully, I was also sent a video of the band playing the first track from the album live, which showcased what I was looking for. The gurns and excitement of the band were shown in full view. They were having fun, and I think given the chance to have been there during the live session I would have been having fun too.

In the end, I run into the same problem with this band that I run into with Trio VD and to a lesser extent Gnod. As live performers, they’re riveting, but recorded they’re mundane. Perhaps this kind of experimental sound just isn’t for me unless it’s blasting at me from a stage.

Jacob Ormrod