Gideon Conn

Hip Hop Original
Wah Wah 45s

Conn is back with his third studio album, his colloquial, evasive voice as charming as ever. Lo-fi beats join Rhodes synth and warm, fluid trumpets to build spacious and transparent soundscapes. Heartfelt backing vocals come from Bunty, who adds punch to the hooks.

The lyrical content is personal, retrospectively dealing with topics such as relationships, self confidence, fate and judgment.

“I wouldn’t want to hurt a sensitive man / Yet if I don’t say what I think is true / How can I help him improve his work?” Conn broods in ‘One In A Million’. I’m not here to help Conn improve his work. Conn has certainly matured with his subject matter, which is more complex in approach and delivered with playful inventiveness.

But those trademark rhyming couplets can start to grate after a while with their one-dimensional styling. ‘In the Abstract’ sees Conn “incorporate a lot of meaningless text”. Ironically or not, he is still guilty of doling out a lot of meaningless text.

This is Conn’s style. This is what he is known for. Sometimes I wonder if he is laughing at us with this tongue-in-cheek styling and I can’t help but want a little more bite, a little more attitude. It is, after all, hip hop. But perhaps this is the original hip hop he refers to in the album title - a leafy, suburban hip hop belonging to the geek chic-loving Chorltonites.

It's definitely worth a listen for his musings. If you’re feeling in need of an urban kick with a dose of apathy then this is a rapper’s delight.

Samuel Buckley

TVAM

Porsche Majeure / We Like Fires
Static Caravan

If the Vorticists made music instead of paintings and radical prints, this would be the result. It’s the bastard lovechild of JG Ballard and Ezra Pound, a Blast magazine for the ears, a breath of fresh air in a Mancunian musical world where things were stagnating.

The A-side opens with a post-apocalyptic electrical howl, swiftly accompanied by squelching synth, before ascending into a quagmire of jangling guitars, ghost-like vocals and crashing cymbals. What becomes swiftly apparent is that TVAM is completely the wrong name for a sound that is so suited for driving at 110mph at night.

The slogans bursting out amongst the noise are almost overrun by the sheer volume of sound surrounding them. It’s tailor-made for the information generation, perfectly encapsulating the essence of being lost amongst the din of 21st century living.

B-side ‘We Like Fires’ doesn’t drop the ball and is much of the same. Its thudding opening beat is the dark, twisted cousin of Todd Terje’s ‘Delorean Dynamite’, with more haunting vocals, this time akin to Ian Curtis, refraining over the top in the declaration of a pyromaniac’s fantasy.

The limited edition, 100-copy run of the 7” has already sold out and, with airplay on BBC Radio 6 and a handful of support slots around Manchester lined up over the next couple of months, the buzz is getting louder. Take the opportunity to see him whilst you can.

David Ewing

Devils

Devils EP
Self-released

From the very first bar, it is instantly clear where this band have drawn inspiration from. With thick, textural chords and catchy, repetitive riffs akin to the likes of Sunny Day Real Estate, the record is instantly in-your-face, making it hard not to be engaged. The placement of tracks in the EP is cleverly done, in that with the first track you can feel yourself being swept away into the deep underbelly of teenage angst. Carrying this into the chorus of the next track, ‘Oh My God’, you feel so physically and emotionally involved that you want to stomp about in your Dr Martens and tell the world everything that is wrong. The next track, ‘You Said’, is slightly more subdued but nonetheless brilliant in terms of composition and moodiness. The breakdown halfway through really feels like the peak of the record, putting them at the top of their game. It has potential to be an astounding track played live.

The final track, ‘Sorrow to Sleep’, provides a little solace from the grungy intensity of the record, while still managing to retain some kind of underlying sense of disapproval.

Saying this – and taking into account that the whole thing has been produced, recorded and mixed by a couple of 17-year-olds – it’s difficult to pinpoint what could improve the record. This band has the potential to go on and make huge waves in the coming musical years.

Sara Louise Tonge

Model 86

Self Help Dance
Self-released

Electronic music is usually not taken very seriously, generally due to the way that it’s hard to create in an organic manner, with the precursory synthesisers and computerised sound. But Model 86, aka Manchester-born Matthew James Wilcock, creates music with a creepy yet alluring taste, retaining a more natural aesthetic.

His work is among the most organically composed writing around, especially in electronic music, and doesn’t have the same sickly bitterness that the genre sometimes carries. Instead, there is a freshness, coupled with a definite confidence. Unlike a lot of similar electronic albums, Self Help Dance worms its way into your psyche, interesting but also catchy.

Highlights on the EP (which, at 51 minutes and 14 tracks is basically an LP) include ‘CTRL’ and ‘Friend’, the latter of which is best appreciated for its playful nature, whilst the former is more ambient, which can cross over into elevator music, but retains a listenability through the minutiae of timing and sustain – by holding it that bit longer, it allows the track to build slowly. Tracks built in this manner, with such a gradual climax, wouldn’t usually be deployed as the second track on an album, but this easily has enough pull without any vocals to work anyway, especially with the culmination of a myriad of different instruments. The EP is an impressive mix of classically-built electronica with a façade of modernity, and has a slowness that drags you in and holds you.

Wes Foster