Lone Wolf – Lodge
If you fail to fall in love with this album, I’d have to question whether you love music. It is a simply beautiful collection of songs. Understated, largely centring on the piano and vocals of Paul Marshall, “Lodge” is the first album Marshall has created since his split with Bella Union. He certainly seems to benefit hugely from his new-found independence. Full of moments, this is an album to resonate with the deepest parts of the soul.
‘Alligator’ is a truly stupefying track. It’s percussive piano opening gives the mistaken impression that it will turn in to a Coldplay pastiche. Blissfully, the eventual outcome couldn’t be further from the truth. The entrance of muted trumpet at 1.12 is a hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment, as the album truly takes off. So much emotion is conveyed in those short stabs of brass, as they’re joined by bass and distant drums, as Marshall’s falsetto simply soars. It is one of those rare moments in music which words cannot do justice to. Honestly, I shouldn’t even be bothering to try. The second time it happens, and the trumpet of David Warmegard begins to improvise, carefree in the midst of such tension and barely concealed agony, the effect is merely doubled.
‘Crimes’ (video above) is a more straight ahead song, the syncopated piano bass riff drives the song, as Marshall unleashes his inner soul man, calling to mind and surpassing the work of the brilliant recent album from Benjamin Clementine.
Undoubted highlight of the album though is ‘Mess’. Its’ chord progression is perfect, shifting between major and minor at the drop of a hat, but always at just the right moment. Marshall breathes and aches every single drop of emotion out of every lyric and vocal note. Time signatures subtly shift, but never obtrusively. Synths and guitars drift in and out, never denying front and centre position to the pleas of the writer to be taken away from the mess he finds himself in. By the song’s end, it feels as if a real emotional breakthrough has been made. Or at least you have to hope so.
This is an album to get lost in. We are fortunate that Lone Wolf had the emotional capacity to make it, and that it has been communicated so wonderfully to tape for posterity.
Jaga Jazzist – Starfire
Watch the video for the album’s title track below
How do you go about reviewing a Jaga Jazzist record? It’s virtually impossible. Their fusion of jazz, psychedelic rock, synth rock and assorted other genres as the mood takes them is unparalleled. Let’s face it is, is virtually impossible to imitate. The band’s seemingly never-ending well of direction shifts and stylistic feints makes them impossible to pigeonhole. Just watch the video above if you don’t believe me. Recurring melodic figures are present and correct, but it is a song which has to be taken as a whole. This is no bitesize nugget of pop goodness. This is akin to an orchestral symphony purloined, bastardized and spat out through the medium of contemporary instrumentation. It should be a tough listen, or at least tough to focus on, but this is no background music. This is music to be lived in and through. It can change you. It can open your eyes and ears to the musical possibilities that exist at the very fringes of what might be considered popular. It is, finally, a simply fantastic piece of music. There are very few, if any, active bands in Europe at this point who could imagine, and then carry off successfully, the kind of thing which Jaga Jazzist does as a matter of course.
There are four other tracks on this album. They are all similarly epic in scale. They all show that the genius of Jaga Jazzist only continues to grow and find new outlets of musical possibility. To describe them is redundant. To seek to understand them feels almost rude. Instead I can only ask you to note the sheer unbounded enthusiasm I have unburdened myself of in these short paragraphs and suggest that the very next thing you do upon finishing reading this is pre-order this album. You simply must.
Maribou State – Portraits
Watch the video for Rituals below
Chris Davids and Liam Ivory make up Maribou State. This, their debut album on Counter Records/Naim has been a long time coming. If you are an electronica aficionado you probably knew about them before I did (about a week ago), but now I’ve heard them I once again, as I often seem to in the course of compiling these posts, am kicking myself for not cottoning on earlier. I really should stop kicking myself. It hurts.
What we have here is a fine, warm sounding dose of relatively low key electronica. The ten tracks here combine subtle guitar licks (see ‘Home’ and ‘Say No More’ for key examples) with sweeping synths (‘Wallflower’ and its insistently eastern vibes) and some fine guest vocals from Pedestrian, Holly Warren and Jono McCleery (whose work you may have enjoyed on the recent Portico album I reviewed on Drowned in Sound)) to great effect. Of course, underpinning it all, and the thing on which the album either stands or falls, are the beats and production of Maribou State’s core pair. These are inventive throughout. Always impressive, yet never really seeking to be the centre of attention. ‘Raincoats’ is a key example of the duo’s primary expertise, as all the elements which make this such a fine album are amalgamated together in one deeply satisfying track
One listen to this album will, I predict, be all you need to accept unequivocally that Maribou State are a coming force in electronica. A fine summer album, this is the perfect time for Maribou State to mount the next offensive in their campaign to take over the world one pair of ears at a time. The news that the band hope to bring their vibes to the live arena in the coming months can only be intriguing. Something to watch out for.
O-Face – Mint EP
O-Face are a New York band who came together during their time at Bard College, which is just about to come to an end as they graduate. Congratulations guys. Oh to be young again with so much possibility ahead.
As graduation gifts and memorials go, a new EP is a creative and lasting one. Fortunately from the sound of this record, the members of O-Face have definitely not wasted their time in their chosen seat of learning. ‘740 Turbo’ starts big and gets bigger. An ode to a “luxury station wagon”, it seems, this has all the propulsive jingle jangle (that’s a technical term, naturally) which should see the band become a hit on College Radio on their side of the pond. The disarming urgency of the vocals, possibly from a guy named Seth (it is not clear) elevate this track to unforseen heights of fist-pumping rockness. By its end, I want a luxury station wagon. I do not drive. Good job guys.
‘When You Assume’ is a more restrained effort. It has a mid-section which appears to be the band’s George Michael moment (the synths and funk guitar, in case you’re wondering). ‘Yolanda’ develops a lovely 6/8 groove, reminding me at times of Menomena or Ramona Falls, before exploding in to a glorious coda. Yolanda is the one for him, apparently. Let’s hope she agrees. Next, they tell us that ‘O-Face is Breakin’ Up’. Let’s hope not. This song could soundtrack one of the epically emotional bits on American teen drama. The good kind. If there is one.
Final track ‘ Torres’ (is it about the footballer, or the singer-songwriter or some other Torres? We will never know) has a fantastic groove. Instrumental, it grows and grows and keeps on growing, ending with a the kind of grin-inducing squall of feedback and general cacophony which shows that O-Face have it in them to transcend genre. They are simply a rockin’ band. I sincerely hope they are not breaking up, and that we will hear more from them soon.