live from the bbc.
full time hobby.

Reviewer - Ben Dorey.

One of the more inventive bands working in 'folktronica', Tunng have enjoyed sustained success since the release of their first record in 2005. This rather unimaginatively titled record brings the best of their live recordings for the BBC together in one package. Featuring tracks from across their back catalogue, it includes some that owners of their three studio albums may not have heard. It provides an interesting catalogue of the bands development both in terms of songwriting and as live performers, with some tracks sparse and intimate and others full and oozing with warmth.

The record opens, like 2007's Good Arrows, with 'Take'. At first it seemed strange to me to pick the same opener as a previous album, but it is a natural starting point with its slow build into a whirl of interwoven vocals and acousmatic rhythmic trickery. In this form it carries an energy that takes it beyond the Good Arrows version, with the organicity of Tunng's sound, especially the aforementioned rhythmic elements, emphasised in live performance. This seems to be a common trend across Live From The BBC. Second track 'Bullets' is especially affecting, a lively lilting instrumental that is juxtaposed nicely with machine gun percussion and dark lyrics.

Next track 'Jenny Again' has a warm intimacy, with Mike Lindsay's vocals spread like honey over lively picked guitar. This could be a regular folk track until the re-sampled vocal enters, distorted and mechanised in stark contrast to the tape reel cosiness of the rest of the song. Following this is an unreleased collaboration with Malian blues band Tinariwen, which sounds a little strained as the energy of the guests is necessarily reduced to match the soft delivery of Tunng. It also shows up one of the few faults I can find with Tunng, which is that when playing with folk ideas from traditions other than the British one, their songs don't hold the same subtle gravitas, often tending towards the twee. This is most noticeable in the contrast between the Appalachian-tinged 'Hustle' and the preceding 'With Whiskey', probably the strongest of these session recordings.

All in all this is a worthwhile album, despite my initial reservations that it might be a way to keep the record label and fans happy while the lead vocalist takes time out in Iceland to work on his solo project. For loyal fans, it is a body of high-quality live recordings which vary enough from the originals to hold interest, while for those new to Tunng it showcases them in arguably their strongest light, with a rawness born from these live versions shedding away the sometimes overly soft production of their studio work.


Next 2 Last.

Reviewer - Fred Oxby.

eLan is one of my favourite exponents of contemporary hip hop. I find a certain melodic beauty and sophistication in his music that is lacking in much of the music given the aforementioned label. His track 'I Can't Breathe', released with two equally good tunes by FaltyDL, remains one of my favourite beats of the last two years. Another of my personal favourites is 'Dry Lemons', also released by Monkeytown on the Bleep Bloop Brrrrmmp EP, one of those tracks that actually manages to musically invoke its title.

Unfortunately, there are no new tunes on eLan's latest release, Next 2 Last. What is prosaically advertised as a 2 CD package is in fact just a compilation of the music from eLan's first three EPs with a handful of remixes thrown in for good measure. Where the press release should be discussing the new flavours and inspirations we are about to hear, we are left with a bibliography of past compositions and endorsements. I must confess to a bit of resentment at this. What motivated Monkeytown Records to hype up such a pedestrian escapade?

Ok, so I'm not that angry at receiving this record to review. In fact, I would still recommend you take a listen. For one, it will give fans of eLan a chance to listen to his music again in a different order on iTunes, without having to make a playlist or press shuffle. It is, after all, very good music. It encompasses the simplicity of classic hip hop production and the intrigue of modern synthesis and melody. Not only is it melodically and harmonically interesting, but it is also very accomplished on a technical level. Without being excessively superlative or praiseworthy about this producer, I really do think eLan is onto something very special.

The second reason that I recommend this release is that the remixes are fantastic. The highlight for me has to be Cosmic TRG's funky 2-step remix of 'Alligator Snaps', but it is only one pearl in a well jewelled crown. Modselector seldom fail to please and their remix of 'Bleep Broom Brrrrmmp' is excellent, as is Lazer Sword's reworking of the same track. Other efforts by Amstam, Byetone and HeRobust complete the set with no less flair, making the second phase of this release excellent in its own right. What I still don't understand is why this was not released as a remix record, because this is where the proverbial "newness and freshness" are to be found on these CDs.


Collections 01.

Reviewer - Jack Scourfield.

Little did Now Then realise when they asked me to review Collections 01 that I was going to hijack the piece to deliver a pitch for a new TV show called Best Music-Related Quotes Of The Past Year Or So. The weekly programme will be hosted by the unlikely pairing of Tina from S Club 7 and Alan Yentob, and will fill an early morning E4 slot aimed at the young, bohochic professional crowd who love to absorb some cultural banter while sipping on a frothy mocha before hopping on the bike to work, or - more likely - the bed-ridden unemployed who've forgotten to adjust their clocks to winter time and tune in for the One Tree Hill omnibus, but who stay watching in the hope that Tina's boobs bounce up and down a bit. Definite inclusions would be Liam Gallagher's tweeting of 'SHITBAG' shortly after his estranged brother's press conference announcing his new High Flying Birds project, and the franticly spluttered "awoOoOoo" of a stricken front-row Beyoncé fan as her heroine presented her with the mic at a gig.

Another gem prime for inclusion would be Flying Lotus' compliment of his fellow West Coast beatmaker: "Teebs' music sounds the way Avatar looks". A cursory listen to Teebs' 2010 debut Ardour leaves one in little doubt that this could well be the most accurate description of anything, ever. Whether you felt James Cameron's fantastical epic was a groundbreaking piece of cinema or not, Avatar was undeniably a sumptuous feast of sensual titillation, a skill which Teebs honed perfectly himself with Ardour, and now carries over in to this new resplendent menagerie.

While there's no shortage of quality over the sub-half an hour duration of Collections 01, it's hard not to draw the focus immediately to third track 'Pretty Polly'. Amidst the crackles, chimes and steadily bobbing beat, a hauntingly ornate vocal sample has been plucked and tweaked from traditional folk roots, but here sounds like a Disney damsel's lost voice. Elsewhere, 'Cook, Clean, Pay The Rent (New House Version)' is the muffled sound of a 1920s carnival drifting across a lagoon. Harpist Rebekah Raff weaves a flurry of twinkling arpeggios while Teebs attempts to rebuff them with rays of celestial drone on 'Verbena Tea', and 'Red Curbs Loop (Stuff I Dream About)' will leave you struggling for words as you realise you've just been gazing at your potted plant for the past 2:04 minutes and wondering what it'd be like to live behind a waterfall.

By the time closing track 'Yellow More New' ends, all that's left to do is for Alan Yentob to turn to Tina and deliver his contractually obliged closing line - "get your quote, love, you've pulled" - and sit back and await Collections 02. And maybe watch that Beyoncé fan wailing again in the meantime.


Ghostly International.

Reviewer - Gordon Barker.

After a few mildly experimental records, Jacaszek finally "found his sound" in 2008 with the release of Treny. This sound comprises acoustic and field recordings from various locations shifted into the digital world, rearranged, dulled and enhanced. He is massively focused on depth of tone, so with every note played you can hear the instruments' surroundings, the distance from player to microphone and every nook and cranny of the environment. Through these practices Jacaszek has pulled together a tense, palpable and ultimately beautiful experience in the form of Glimmer.

'Goldengrove' rings out with purity. From the first chime you are drawn into its slowed melancholy and introduced to the main focuses of the album, the bass clarinet and harpsichord, backed by shuffling mists of dirt and fuzz. The sweet introduction only lasts for this first track though, because with the second comes a noticeable downturn in mood, with barely audible notes played through a curtain of crackles. This switching of moods becomes a running theme of the album, with Jacaszek grabbing the listener and gently swaying them between melancholy and exhausting reverence. Never going too far either way, he keeps layering the tension, building crescendos of warm bass-driven fuzz in the vein of Fennesz for 'Dare-gale', and manipulating distortion that builds to overwhelm the composition in 'Evening Strains to be Time's Vast'. Whilst it does follow a similar style to Treny, Glimmer also bears some of the characteristics of his more recent work, Pentral. It is somewhere comfortable in-between, slower and more sparse than Treny but remaining rhythmical and structured.

This album is modern classical in its truest sense, showcasing a range of inspirations and techniques which span a huge timescale. Everything - from the way the instruments themselves are played, the way their sounds are captured and what is done with the recordings afterwards - pulls the ends in and melds together the old and the new. At first glance these tracks seem like perfect night-time music, but the beauty of this record masks its truly fascinating nature. Every note and every tone on this album is lovingly crafted and gorgeously produced.