Saturday, 30 April 2011

reviews: one inch badge, for abel, the douglas firs

Various - One Inch Badge Presents Sea Monsters: The Best of Brighton

Various Artists - One Inch Badge Presents Sea Monsters: the Best of Brighton (***)

Though they’ve since delivered records from the likes of Why? and Casiotone For the Painfully Alone, Brighton-based label One Inch Badge remain besotted with the hometown talent that first persuaded owner Alex Murray to set up shop. This eighteen-track compilation was released locally in January to mark their twentieth release – as good a milestone as any – and now the rest of the country gets to explore the fruits of OIB’s sound-scouting.

It’s not flawless, but such ‘state-of-the-scene’ overviews never are: dunce caps are reserved for Salter Cane, whose Sorrow is far too close to Nick Cave parody to deliver much enjoyment; and The Hornblower Brothers, whose existential ponderings are insufferably twee.

But they’re outnumbered by moments of excellence: Illness’s The Guardian gives steady time signatures the finger to produce awesome instrumental scuzz-rock with echoes of Cowtown; Cold Pumas are deliciously heavy and abrasive on Proof of Man; Nullifier and Soccer 96’s respective takes on 8-bit electro are confident introductions to two acts yet to acquire much of a profile beyond the BN postcode, but fully deserving of one; while Drum Eyes’ John Carpenter-esque Future Police, lifted from last year’s rather good Gira Gira, is no less darkly imaginative for its recycling.

The Squadron Leaders mark a final fine discovery, closing the compilation with nostalgia-inducing surf whammy bends and tropical saxophone, affirming the breadth of One Inch Badge’s cherry-picking. And with nary a whiff of Kook or a big-beat banger to be found, it seems London-by-the-sea’s in rude health.

Out 9th May

For Abel - Greater Inventions

For Abel - Greater Inventions (****)

Back when For Abel were still Nacional (blame The National’s management for the name change – though the cap-tip to Alligator in the new moniker indicates no hard feelings), we reviewed a show of theirs and suggested that anticipation for their debut album was “sky high and rising.” That was over a year ago: unless its ascent slowed pace, said anticipation would have left the atmosphere long ago.

But while Greater Inventions’ arrival carries neither the climactic buzz nor the payoff to support the astronomical assessment, it nonetheless packs a lot of excellence into its tightly-played package. Their rechristening doesn’t equal a fresh start: opener Telephone was a Skinny ‘Single of the Month’ way back in August 2008, after all. But it does consolidate all that’s marked them out from the get go: big guitars, big ambition, and a mean way with a hook. Nacional esta muerto; long live For Abel.

Out 16th May

The Douglas Firs - Happy as a Windless Flag

The Douglas Firs - Happy as a Windless Flag (****)

Considering it was recorded in bits and pieces over a seven year period, Happy As A Windless Flag is remarkably coherent, flowing together with a finely-calibrated sense of pace, tone and atmosphere. During that time, Jesus H. Foxx’s Neil Insh corralled various musicians to breathe life into his solo compositions, and the results are enigmatic and enveloping, with similarities to Deerhunter’s hypnotic alt-pop.

The quality never drops: A Military Farewell appropriates World War 2 paratrooper song Blood on the Risers (in turn an adaptation of civil war marching-song John Brown’s Body) to ghostly effect; The Quickening’s ambient folk triggers unnamed emotions left right and centre; while closer Soporific is anything but – gently soothing but in no danger of inducing sleep. Apparently, recording of his second album is well underway; with Insh’s debut only partially explored after a dozen listens, it’s greedy to crave another so soon, but difficult not to.

Out 9th May

No comments:

Post a Comment