Various Artists.

The Cinematic Orchestra presents Motion #1.
Ninja Tune.

Reviewer - Tom Belshaw.


It's very rare that an artist can live up to their name. Prince being an obvious exception. A performance alias is generally just intended to make you sound cooler, like DJ Shitmat or Big Pooh. It's not often an artist's moniker gives an apt description of what they do. At least I very much hope so in the case of Big Pooh. A nom de Ableton Live is bloody difficult to choose. I myself have been through many a different branding, my personal favourite being 'TJ Bass', not least because it made me sound about as cool as the interior of a McDonald's apple pie following a 30 minute tanning session inside a Breville.

For The Cinematic Orchestra, their name became somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy. After receiving masses of critical acclaim for their first album Motion, they ended up bagging the opportunity to compose a modern score for the classic silent film Man with a Movie Camera. In addition, they also composed the soundtrack to many people's relaxed drinking endeavours. I've never worked in or imbibed in a bar that didn't have their second album Everyday nestled neatly somewhere in a playlist.

It comes as no surprise that after 2007's self-professed "soundtrack to an imaginary film" Ma Fleur, head cinematic orchestrator Jason Swinscoe would want to curate a collection of modern day scorings of classical cinema. Considering I knocked my AS Level in film studies on the head just after learning how to spell 'mise en scene', some of the avant-garde pictures in question are a tad beyond me. Thankfully, a lack of cinematographic smarts is of no real importance. The music on offer is stunning, with unnerving and evocative submissions by Austrian beatsmith Dorian Concept, piano movements from Austin Perelta and beautiful ensembles by The Cinematic Orchestra themselves.

Being unaware of the original visuals these pieces were intended for opens up new opportunities for listening. It's especially rewarding if you combine this collection of ornate orchestral pieces with 1992 action epic Under Siege. For example, the truly chilling 'Entr'acte' begins with lush chords and slowly develops into a motif of rising strings and moments of discordant tension which coalesce beautifully with the kitchen scene where Steven Seagal makes that bomb out of a mug of oil and a microwave.

Investing a little time and being prepared to let your noggin take you on an epic journey makes this release something truly special. Not giving it the attention it deserves means you risk missing out on the incredibly moving qualities it possesses and that reward is not worth squandering.

Another chapter which cements the idea that The Cinematic Orchestra are just that, maestros of imagery. Let's hope Big Pooh doesn't cement anything for a while.

Bandshell.

HES021.
Hessle Audio.

Reviewer - Jack Hudson.


Hessle Audio have long since released EPs from as-yet unknown artists. Their debuts have included producers like Blawan, Pearson Sound, Pangaea, TRG, Joe, Untold and Elgato, as well as hosting James Blake's second ever release, so it's always worth taking note when Hessle decide to introduce another newcomer.

The imprint's strong point is its skill at showcasing music which can't be pigeonholed. I'm sure in 6 months' time there will be another ridiculous sub-genre thrown about, but Hessle always manages to surface releases long before someone has tried to associate them with the newest micro-genre, as evidenced by Untold's reinterpretation of UK club music in 2010 and TRG's 'Broken Heart' in 2007. Most recently Blawan's fresh take on techno has proven inspirational for many artists in this field and helped sustain Hessle's relevancy.

The most recent offering is Bandshell. The fact that this sounds like a Hessle release is quite an achievement for a label that manages to avoid classification of the sound it promotes.

Bandshell follows this undefined rule by including elements of techno in the arrangement and minimalist approach of these 4 tracks. The structure of 'Dust March' features dub influenced delayed drum hits and bass weight. 'Rise Em' features a very minimal arrangement with the driving force of the rhythm being the low bassline and UK Garage percussion pattern, although it includes almost no melody whatsoever. It is a definite DJ tool in a similar way to recent tracks by Objekt.

Although not my favourite Hessle release, I really appreciate that the arrangements, which are absent of anything but the bare essentials, still have drive and a club-ready feel to them. Not an easy achievement in an age where a wealth of computing power and cracked software is available to any bedroom producer. This fact often leads to producers succumbing to the temptation of going overboard, so it takes a keen ear and strong creative direction to avoid adding unnecessary layers.

'Dog Sweater' is my personal favourite and a track seemingly made for pirate radio. It reminds me of Dusk & Blackdown's best work with its spoken sample, and Sheffield talent Beneath due to the space left in the mix for hefty low end.

Thanks Hessle, once again, for debuting yet another truly individual artist.

Cuckoo Clocks.

The Madness Of Order.
Dirty Washing Records.

Reviewer - Paul Robson.


Step right up and venture forth in to the weird and wonderful world of The Cuckoo Clocks. With the release of their debut album The Madness of Order the listener is invited to join the band in a realm that is surreal and playful, a place where The Velvet Underground stand side by side with Simon & Garfunkel. The Cuckoo Clocks are a six-piece band founded by Paul Infanti and DJ/Producer Sophie Toes. Anchored by a talented rhythm section comprised of Andrew Flude (drums) and Nick Burke (bass), they combine a waggish charm with soft melodic touches.

The Madness of Order opens with 'Odd Per Clock', a song that resembles a strange and mysterious vaudeville cabaret. Pushed by an eerie slide-guitar the band convey the lines, 'We are the travelling band / The lost will find us / And beside us they stand.' Traces of Tom Waits can heard within the percussive sounds and the off-beat tone. What sets them apart is that the band has a strong sense of melody that can seem easier on the ear, as shown by the following track 'Falling Down', a gentle ballad that mixes piano and flute with some beautiful vocal harmonies.

The record may have many whimsical flourishes, but there is also a gritty undercurrent, which is highlighted by the song 'Mum's On Coke'. Strings and flute passages gradually rise and fall to emphasize the lyrics 'Mum's on coke / Just wanna party / Dad just rather stay at home / And watch TV with the kids.' The words are delivered with pathos and brutal honesty. Fragments of artists such as Julian Cope and Robyn Hitchcock soon spring to mind; figures who have managed throughout their careers to marry the real with the absurd.

The Cuckoo Clocks have succeeded in creating a bizarre and enticing sound, but like many debut albums The Madness of Order has an overall lack of stand out material. 'Odd Per Clock' and 'Mum's On Coke' are both brilliant tracks, but this level of quality isn't present throughout. The majority of the record is mainly mid-tempo which also means the music grows on the listener rather than grabbing hold of them. This band definitely show glimpses of brilliance and I look forward to hearing their progression across any future releases.

Michael J Tinker.

Shores of Amerikay.
Regather Music.

Reviewer - Tasha Franek.


The release of Shores of Amerikay marks the beginning of the newest record label in town, Regather Music. Formed by the Sheffield-based Regather Co-Operative, the label aims to develop into an established imprint with loads of new artists and bands on board. Their co-operative ethos promises to help their musicians publish and promote new material successfully in an ever-evolving industry. Regather have shown interest in the folk side of music in the past, organising the Folk Forest at Tramlines 2011 which is set to return again at this year's festival. It therefore seems only fitting that their first album comes from the folk musician Michael J Tinker.

Tinker has been part of the scene for about ten years, building an impressive repertoire as a support artist but never fully establishing himself in the limelight. His first album showcases his fantastic connections in the folk world, with contributions from a handful of incredible artists adding layers of depth through the musical talent that they each offer.

The title track starts the album in a soft and contemporary manner. A hybrid of old and new, the lyrics were taken from 'Folk Songs and Ballads popular in Ireland' by John Loesberg and set to a new melody written by Tinker. It's a pretty little number, which gives you a chance to appreciate his clear cut vocals in their own right.

Track two 'Get Along Home Cindy' picks up the pace with a brilliant effort from the Incredible Washboard Pete II on his incredible washboard. This is exactly the kind of track I was hoping for, and I would've loved to have heard a little more of on the album. 'The Snowstorm' hints at more of the same with some fantastic fiddle work from BBC Folk Award nominee Katriona Gilmore. A few more controlled, melodious tracks later and I'm almost begging for the band to go wild. 'House Carpenter' tempts me with a build up but unfortunately no big finale. I can imagine that the track played live would be a different story.

That being said, the merit of the softer tracks is not to be taken away from the talented singer-songwriter. I've had the album playing on repeat for a couple of days and am not tired of a single track. Perfectly soothing and exciting in appropriate measure, I think that Tinker has done a fantastic job of creating an album with all the peaks and troughs of a story, just as any good folk album should. Final track 'Annabel Lee' is a personal favourite. The lyrics are in fact taken from an Edgar Allan-Poe poem with a perfectly crafted melody and the sweetest of harmonies, leaving a delicious after-taste and the promise of more to come from this artist. A fantastic job by all involved.

múm.

Early Birds.
Morr Music.

Reviewer - Pete Martin.


múm were formed in the late 90s by Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason and they now have a reverential reputation in the electronic music world. They have stated that the studio is a somewhat sterile environment, so to keep the recording process exciting and vibrant they have travelled widely throughout Europe, capturing anything and everything that has taken their fancy - field recordings and snatches of rhythms and melodies. These recordings have then been mashed into a variety of emotive, atmospheric pieces, broken apart again and re-assembled in a totally different way. The initial rhythms are produced on old analog drum machines and synths for a rich, warm sound. These sit next to the newer, 'modern' rhythms that are more complex and have a much colder feel, though they are equally suited to the different moods of the various pieces.

Early Birds is made up of 15 demo or limited edition tracks from between 1998 and 2000, but rather than merely being a collection of odds 'n' sods found down the back of their settee, this is a delightful insight into a couple of friends discovering the limits and possibilities of their sonic soundscapes. A series of forks in the road are followed, developed, then dropped, before mutating into themes and rhythms.

The album opens with a piano and female spoken voice at what sounds like a break in a rehearsal. An urgent electronic rhythm then bursts in before fading out of the mix. Delicate harmonica is introduced before the original rhythm reappears and the track develops in this dub fashion with electronic squeaks and bleeps and scratchy beats surfacing, then being snatched away or submerged beneath new sounds. It is a fascinating cut-up of instrumentation, styles and found sounds that are seamlessly woven together.

Although this will be filed under electronic, there are frequent passages of an undeniably folky origin, especially when a cello, accordion or glockenspiel comes to the fore. This mix of traditional and modern instrumentation blends perfectly and results in these warm, melancholic songs. Melodies are subtle and restrained, rhythms start and stop, then are lost in the ether. Vocals are infrequent, but float in and out, though they are rarely more than breathless whispers.

Over the years, line-up changes have been regular occurrences, and this necessary creative upheaval will continue, but the core duo has remained, steadfastly fusing their disparate musical and non-musical influences into creating contemporary chamber music. The breadth of their ambition and scope is astonishing; they have even recorded songs specifically to be heard underwater.

For anyone with even a passing interest in electronic music, this album is essential. So much music is po-faced and precious, rigidly conforming to certain expected standards, but these songs soar with invention and unexpected, inexplicable joy.

Slugabed.

Time Team.
Ninja Tune.

Reviewer - Fred Oxby.


Slugabed, a.k.a. Bath's 23 year old Greg Feldwick, has already had a fairly illustrious career. Not only has he had the rare distinction of releasing music with the mighty Planet Mu, but he now offers his most recent creation on the equally mighty Ninja Tune.

Like so much experimental "bass music", a lot of the sounds to be found on Time Team are drawn from a huge array of different influences. After a soundscape intro, the album kicks off with 'All This Time', a melodic hip hop number with soaring vocal samples and grizzly bass which drift in and out of electronica. It's saccharine but also reminiscent of the great Amon Tobin for all the right reasons. Other tracks like 'Moonbeem Rider' fit more into the modern vibe and flow of 'future hip-hop'.

Further highlights come in the form of the gloriously dubby 'Mountains Come Out of the Sky', which fuses a cheeky synth melodica with sci-fi bleeps and a distant, positive yet slightly infantile melody. It is sound collage of the highest order and I applaud it. I also like 'Grandma Paints Nice', albeit reluctantly, because like the majority of music on the record, it is very cheesy. This is not a new facet of the genre, but the true masters manage to neatly avoid it, only hinting at it in the most crafty and subtle of ways. Not so with Slugabed, who remains in my opinion very much a disciple.

I like this release a lot but I don't find it particularly original. Slugabed's choice of sounds may be bizarre to the untrained ear, but what is happening is no different to the recent works of a whole host of luminaries. A few years ago this music would undoubtedly have been groundbreaking, but as it stands it simply remains a strong example of a well-established approach. Producers in this world make synthy music with strange harmonies combined with techy drums and polyrhythm. It is the music of our times and you can rest assured, your Dad won't like it. I do, but in many ways against my better judgement.

Various Artists.

Synesthesia #3 Tactioception (Touch)
Senseless Records

Reviewer - Sasha Levy-Andersson.


This is the latest release in the "Synethesia" series from Senseless records. This record label has always impressed me with its open minded take on modern bass music. Senseless records tends to supply very danceable music that is often not by the numbers and almost always has an interesting quirk to it, and this release continues in this vein.

Lenkemz comes in with an extremely grimey assault. "Hotline Riddim" is characterised by tough techy beats and a two step flavour, certainly a track for urban grime and harder breakbeat fans. "Murder Micz" features the same instrumental (riddim) overlaid by the breathless non-stop vocals of Dialect, delivering rough and grimey lyrics at top speed. It's not for the faint hearted, but I love the relentless dark style, delivering a fearless two step barrage. I generally dislike the term "urban music", but I think this track encapsulates what people are driving at when they use the term: it stands up for itself and takes no prisoners.

The three tracks by Poirier are very varied and show a really impressive artistic flexibility on his part. "Festival" is certainly one for all those soca music lovers out there and those who like bumping to bouncy four-four breaks. Poirier's other tracks are quite different. "Ladrillo Por Ladrillo" has an upbeat feel that really works with the Latino sounding lyrics of Boogat. These are quite varied and there are some silky vocal melodies laid over a pared down punching beat. It's essentially a reggaeton track at the slower end of the genre, with a surprisingly melodious feel to it-a welcome slice of Latin rhythm. "What" brings us lyrics in a ragga style from Face T. This track is much more for those dubstep and grime fans out there and has a distinctly dancehall rhythm provided by the interplay between lyrics and instrumental.

We are provided with a track from our very own Steel City by Walter Ego, who I hadn't heard of before. I wasn't disappointed as I was treated to the most inventive track on this release, laying down a crunked up style with percussion and creepy vocal samples flying from all sorts of unexpected directions, all backed by a ravey synth line. If vocals are your thing stay clear, because the only thing close to a vocal in this is a really weird pitch shifting and down right creepy sample. I hope to hear more from Walter Ego, as this track is really interesting and displays a lot of inventive potential.

I'm used to a high level of variation and artistic integrity from Senseless Records and they've certainly stuck to their guns, giving us some great dance floor tracks whilst keeping the release varied and fresh. Everything from the interesting cover art to the breadth of Bass music and fresh artists demonstrates an admirable will to keep breaking boundaries. This is an interesting release all around and a welcome look in for a Sheffield artist who shows great promise.

Screaming Maldini.

Life in Glorious Stereo.
HipHipHip Records.

Reviewer - Nick Del'Nero.


After roughly 30 listens, I remain mildly perturbed by my reaction to 'Life in Glorious Stereo', the new single by Screaming Maldini. As someone who is largely repulsed by any music that lies within the indie-electro-pop spectrum, I totally expected to be blinded by my own pre-moulded hateful opinions and deep bias while dissecting this EP. However, electrified by tightly arranged vocal harmonies, 'Life in Glorious Stereo' is a slickly produced wedge of electro-pop.

There's pretty much every instrument going thrown into this track. Trumpets, synths, snappy guitars, insane amounts of percussion and perfectly placed handclaps pave the way, resulting in a mix that punches through like a reinforced orchestral breeze block. Impressively though, the producers and songwriters have managed to roll all these instruments together intelligently enough to stop me feeling fatefully nauseous. Very tastefully done.

Rather than leaning on generic harmonic structures, the songwriters take considerable risks, sliding melodies through clinically engineered modulations from the outset. Combining this with adventurous orchestration, the band elevate their material well above the doldrums of standardised indie garbage and create something much more interesting.

I'm a music snob and a big hater in general. But I just couldn't help but like it. A lot.