Gallops.

Yours Sincerely, Dr. Hardcore.
Blood and Biscuits.

Reviewer - Fred Oxby.

For many, it has been long wait for Gallops' first full-length studio album. In fact, it's quite surprising for a group who have been in the public eye for so long, having already played major festivals throughout the UK for a good couple of years and also been throughly ballyhooed by the likes of the BBC. Although not much of the material on the album is new, it's fair to say that a full release from Gallops has been highly anticipated. So what have the Welsh quartet served up for us?

Yours Sincerely, Dr Hardcore comes in the form of ten tracks, some of which will already be known to Gallops fans. Opener 'Astaroth' starts well, enticing you in with a great synth line straight out of Blade Runner and some chirps and bleeps for good measure. Highlights for me include the jerky but groovy 'Window FX' and the frenetic 'Hongliday', which gathers pace and drive amidst the relentless percussion and riffage before dropping into a frankly epic piece of hard rock. Harmonically, Gallops walk a fine line between bleak 80s synth work and classic rock noodling. Dare I say it, but some of the licks, were they not in unconventional time signatures (almost a given on this record), are reminiscent of Iron Maiden and the like. I don't have a problem with this as such, but after a while I must confess to finding it all a bit grating.

Afrobeat has clearly not been lost on these guys either, with some of the rhythms plucked straight out of the Fela Kuti repertoire, like on 'Skyworth', which also features the trademark harmonised arpeggios framing the music. Gallops are clinical in their precision, driving the music forward with impressively crisp grooves and overdriven instruments.

Musically, this album is immersive and satisfying. Drummer Dave Morait deserves credit for the way he plays, maintaining driving, dynamic rhythms throughout this record. It's very technical but also reserved and precise, never feeling flashy. The overall cocktail, however, lacks real depth beyond the adept musicianship. I do like the melodic aspect of the band, but despite its "experimental" headline, I find Gallops surprisingly bland. On the one hand, we have the obvious technical ability of the group, reigned in so as to not overcomplicate the music, but on the other we have music that lacks the spark that Gallops obviously have the potential to harness.

It won't distract me from other records for very long, but Yours Sincerely, Dr Hardcore is definitely worth a listen, and I don't believe this is the last of we'll hear of Gallops.

G is for Jaile by GALLOPS

Loops Haunt.

Zenith.
Black Acre.

Reviewer - Nick Del'Nero.

Before playing anything by the sonic deviant and electronica master Loops Haunt, it's crucial to follow two strict imperatives: listen loud, listen carefully.

His new 7-track EP Zenith is quite a strange number and presents a significant stylistic shift from his previous releases. Impact Omnihammer and Rubber Sun Grenade, both cut in 2010, are inventive but clearly rooted in the dubstep scene, while the 2011 release Ark had a much more experimental edge that was deeply aggressive. Zenith is different.

A blend of avant-garde weirdness and ferociously gorgeous textural electronica, it almost plays like the product of a 21st century Igor Stravinsky. 'Fathom', 'dltfaypily' and 'Hike' are constructed from twisted synthetic chord patterns that seem to pay a weird homage to impressionistic harmonic movements from the early 1920s. These are entwined with strange timbres and scattered percussive patterns to create vivid experimental landscapes. Although technically impressive and deeply atmospheric, these tracks lack any cohesive drive and development in the conventional sense and might alienate listeners looking for an easier ride.

But the title track delivers where the avant-garde material fails. Clearly the centerpiece of the release, 'Zenith' works a set of skillfully arranged synths and instruments over the top of some slick percussive groundwork. Characterised by waves of extreme vibrato, the track has the feel of a retro science fiction score; in no way a detrimental statement, because it sounds like a beautiful score. It's an expertly produced and perfectly stylized electronic track that showcases some extreme compositional skill and innovation within the genre.

Finally, the EP contains one more absolute gem - sixth track 'Heal' is excellent. Built around a broken rhythmic pattern with a lethal killer swing, it is a roaring sea of gorgeous sounds and warped audio synthesis. Imagine Boards of Canada and Vaetxh have exchanged sonic genomes and you'll get an idea of the sound. 'Heal' is the best track out of an excellent bunch.

Overall, Loops Haunt has produced a truly inventive release with a beautiful aesthetic. His production skills are seriously some of the best in the genre and if you persevere with the more abstract moments and embrace the weirdness you'll be rewarded.

Loops Haunt - ZENITH (Mini Mix) by Black Acre Records

Spare.

Slacking EP.
Well Rounded Records.

Reviewer - Sasha Levy-Andersson.

You could be forgiven for not having heard of Spare as the artist is relatively elusive beyond a hunt on Soundcloud, and this is his first release on Well Rounded Records. His new EP, Slacking, delivers a varied take on the current garage, breakbeat and dubstep tinged sounds pervading dance music. Spare is from Nottinghamshire, but the record label is based in Brighton and has delivered a pretty mixed bag itself, often putting out adventurous and experimental releases that are clearly influenced by house, techno and garage, but that are refreshingly original in a music scene that can at times be formulaic and unimaginative.

This release certainly sticks to this ethos, featuring five tracks with highly distinctive flavours, to the extent that they could all happily be categorised in different sub-genres. The first track, 'Slacking', builds a mood reminiscent of a dubstep track, but a little less defined. It has a muffled, thunderous beat and a creepy synth accompaniment. It doesn't go anywhere too quickly, as the name suggests, but it is an innovative take on the dubstep template which creates something much less definable. 'This Weekend' again holds true to its name. It has a really strong two-step garage beat that breaks down into a heavy four-four section, carrying a garage feel with modern production values. This one is definitely a track to work the dance floors.

'Makin' Em Seen' brings a bit of a surprise - a much more techy track with a hard, complex electro beat. The rhythm is relentless and overlaid with a driving vocal sample, setting it apart from the other tracks on this release. 'Kankle' is another great garage track. With a shuffled feel and a massive bass line, it's well put together and provides yet more dance floor ammunition. 'Spare Room Offense' has a really strong beat, displaying cut up breaks and synth stabs reminiscent of an old school hardcore track, but overall the production lacks the cohesion found elsewhere on this EP, and it definitely isn't my favourite. That said, it continues to experiment with genres and this is always welcome.

Dance music and, to a lesser extent, music in general does well either to create definition or to entirely escape definition through its innovation. This release does the latter and provides a welcome challenge to those wishing to pigeonhole it. Spare should be applauded for not sticking to one genre, giving an innovative mixture of styles while also providing some really fresh, danceable beats. I hope to hear more from this artist in the near future.

WRINDIV005 SPARE 'Slacking' EP (192k clips) 5 trk 12" / digi EP (release date TBC) by Well Rounded Records

Umberto.

Night Has A Thousand Screams.
Rock Action.

Reviewer - Paul Robson.

"This year at the Glasgow Film Festival Umberto did a performance along to the film pieces...we met after the show and asked if he had any plans to release that music," says Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai, and it is fortunate for us that he asked. Electronic music is too often labelled as being cold, mechanical and robotic, but not the work of Umberto. Multi-instrumentalist Matt Hills manages to create minimal compositions that crackle with emotion. Since 2009 he has released the albums From The Grave and Prophecy Of The Black Widow, highlighting an affection for the film soundtracks of John Carpenter, John Williams and Vangelis. Umberto's latest release continues in a similar vein, but he still manages to infuse his music with a sense of vitality and intensity.

Night Has A Thousand Screams is based around the 1983 thriller Pieces, which is about a killer who steals the body parts of female students after he has murdered them. This may well be a grotesque concept for an album, but Umberto has been able to combine moments of dread with sections of haunting beauty.

Opening track 'Boston, 1942' at first shimmers with soft tones before being ripped apart by a sequence of harsh drones and buzzes. This simple technique immediately lends the music a sense of anxiety. 'Opening Titles' and 'The Investigation' are also heightened by the introduction of a strong percussive beat and gentle vocal noises. The method of combining soft and hard sounds is what gives the record a sinister and menacing quality. While it loses some consistency towards the end, particularly on 'Paralysed', this doesn't detract from the rest of album.

Earlier this year the band Chromatics released the record Kill For Love, which can also be seen as somewhat of a homage to 1980s film soundtracks. But where Kill For Love is vast and sprawling, Night Has A Thousand Screams is tight and compact. Because Umberto has stayed close to the film's narrative he has given the music an emotional arch which is more palatable for the listener. With the overriding use of 70s and 80s synths, some may accuse Umberto of being a throwback, but he is far from it. Music composed with such fondness and attention to detail should be congratulated.

Umberto - The Investigation by Rock Action Records