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A Magazine for Sheffield

Record Reviews (Nov '18): Prodigy / Roman Nose / R@ + More

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Neural EP

Neural is a brief and entertaining journey into the sound of R@, a multifaceted producer from Leicester.

It opens with 'Lil', an upbeat track filled with melodies and patterns that take it into hip-hop and trap soundscapes. Its pop-like blend of these sounds makes it a beat with universal appeal, while R@'s talent ensures it isn't too simplistic. With 'Peach', R@ continues the tone set by 'Lil'. As its name indicates, the song is playful but brings the EP into slightly dimmer territory, with its more minimal bridges making room for what is undoubtedly the stronger half of the EP.

'Superscope' immediately sounds like territory that R@ is well versed in. The track still makes uses of the same distant, melodic echo, but is powered by an urgency that makes grime instrumentals addictive and fierce. Sonically, it takes the release into a different realm that the following track 'Neural' takes advantage of. With the titular track, R@ rolls his sleeves up and puts together what is potentially the most interesting track on the EP. 'Neural' is a heavyweight finish and the best demonstration of the producer's talent over a grand 140bpm production.

Neural, despite being a short listen, is a fitting showcase of R@'s musical abilities. It's also a solid reminder that although the fresh talent often plays around with his sound, he is an artist with a refined edge in the futuristic and creatively dark realm of grime production and beyond.

Akeem Balogun

The Prodigy

No Tourists

The Fat of the Land is an outlier. This is not bad. It was a unique album that broke the dam, allowing The Prodigy to flood our musical tastes two decades ago. Their output since then has been sparse, a mere three albums between that monster hit and No Tourists, their brand new album.

And it's great that they are not trying to re-create Fat of the Land. It's actually bold that they've strayed so far away from that watermark. Why take the same road twice? No Tourists weaves and swerves with mighty energy, a relenting attack on the senses. The Prodigy still have a knack for hooks, like 'Light Up The Sky' and 'Champions Of London', both stylish by-products of their cyber-post-punk ore.

Liam Howlett always had a good grasp on the DNA of current music and 'Timebomb Zone' grabs a couple of tricks from modern EDM, concocting a brew that proudly boasts a Prodigy aftertaste. 'Resonate' is a punk song assimilated into a world of rain-soaked pavements and neon lights, a cosy atmosphere that would please William Gibson.

A couple of guest stars neatly round up No Tourists, working well with The Prodigy even if they are polar opposites. Ho99o9 bring their gloomy hip-hop to 'Fight Fire With Fire', while Barns Courtney regales 'Give Me A Signal' with his pop anthem skills. It shouldn't work, but it does. That seems to be the conclusion you'll get from No Tourists - and that's fine.

Sam J. Valdés López

Roman Nose

Roman Nose

As with much free improvisation, the ethos of Roman Nose, a Sheffield-based collective of avant-garde skronk virtuosi and Access Space regulars, is one of creative destruction. The fascinating, pan-cultural collection of instruments displayed on their debut - with drums and double bass accompanying harmonium, tulum, sheng and others - are divorced from cultural context and proper technique, played with brutality and rendered interchangeable. The result is music that transcends culture, capturing sounds that are universal.

'Brekekekex Koax Koax' is one of the more comprehensible tracks. Opening with a chorus of reed and electronic drones recalling ceremonial Japanese gagaku, its bass ostinato is the closest thing the record has to a steady rhythm. But the track transforms and degrades. Bass and percussion combine in a whirring, roaring cacophony, and the mass of drones births distorted screams, as though it were a ceremony for the summoning of a demon. Meanwhile, 'A Skin Container', with its humanistic gurgling and gnashing, more resembles a hideous resurrection. The abrupt, dissonant harmonies struck by the bass and reeds capture the spine-chilling quality of a Ligeti string quartet.

Cathartic closer 'Zydeco Derriere' is the record at its most brutal and frenetic. Drums and bass combine in an arrhythmic thrum around Yoko Ono-esque screeching. A reed instrument projects an insistent two-note cry into the chaos, like a cuckoo taunting the record in its final throes of madness. While other tracks fade out smoothly, this one deflates comically, as though the whole record was just a protracted Dadaist joke.

Andrew Trayford

Various Artists

Space Is The Plaice

There was always a wry smile behind the output of Pussyfoot Records, so it's a pleasure to see them return with an excellent compendium of eclectic music. The first sign of their return was an appearance by co-label boss and all-round nice guy Howie B at the astounding Houghton Festival last year. Along with Nick Young, Howie created a home for trippy beats, sublime techno and soulful ambience. The label's output was continually good.

Fast-forward 16 years from their last physical release and we're blessed with a 35-track compilation. With dance feeling ever more tribal, it's refreshing to hear music that cuts across the board and feels like it belongs together. Slow-motion italo from Timothy Fife and veteran producer Deadly Avenger works symbiotically with the gorgeous soul of Milo Clare's '20000'.

Rather than a full retrospective, we're treated to exclusive tracks from familiar faces, including Howie, Major Force Productions, Jacknife Lee, Nick Faber, Palm Skin Productions and Pye Corner Audio. New artists are also represented, like warped jazz trio Blood Wine or Honey and the art-pop talent of Ninna Lundberg.

Pussyfoot was always a connoisseur's label and its second iteration has started well with some excellent disco, soul and beats for right now. As Howie puts it: "A few years ago, the rebirth of Pussyfoot seemed light years away, but all it took was a phone call to a few friends, asking if they'd like to write some music with a space edge." We're so glad you made that call, Howie.

Andy Tattersall

All Day Dog's Breakfast

All Day Dog's Breakfast

Stripping away the idiosyncrasies that mark his earlier work, Michael Harding, perhaps best known as one half of local duo Animat, relies on barebones guitar tunes and his voice for a new solo album under the moniker All Day Dog's Breakfast. The 12 tracks here make for a relaxed but rich listen that highlights his aptitude for the craft, sprinkled with some poetry that's more of a dessert to the main course of the record.

Despite the modest production, the album is a tour de force of genres for a musician who proves he can do so much with so little. Harding's voice and his steely guitars make up for an entire band, exploring styles including indie, folk blues, rock 'n' roll, and whatever Neil Young has been doing for the last 30 years.

The words take a backseat, with Harding presenting a generic range of mainly blues-related emotions, like yearning for one's home and expressions of loss and longing. Lyrically the album is a bit too meandering and discursive, relying on the performer's musical talent and voice to drive the message home and turn the project into a concise whole.

The final result is 43 minutes of music that is both airy and earthy, but which would probably work better in a live setting. The album seems to start and end on the exact same note, but there's a journey being taken between them, and if you slow down and listen carefully, it is time well spent.

Máté Mohos

Next article in issue 128

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