Thursday, 28 July 2011

reviews: blood orange, warm brains, the war on drugs

Blood Orange - Coastal Grooves

Blood Orange - Coastal Grooves (***)

After Test Icicles disintegrated, Dev Hynes claimed he never liked the music anyway. With the inauguration of new project Blood Orange, it waits to be seen whether any of his work as Lightspeed Champion will receive a similar dismissal. The style shift is less pronounced this time, but is sufficiently distinct from his other endeavours to warrant cordoning it off.

Coastal Grooves is true to its title, locking into danceable grooves rather than flying off on forced-wacky tangents. As a result, it has less character than, say, Lightspeed debut Falling Off the Lavender Bridge, but the quality is less erratic. Oddly, his time spent writing for Solange and X-Factor’s ‘indie, honestly’ flameout Diana Vickers (amongst others) seems to have reduced the number of hooks and pop twists in his music; as a result, the parts don’t distinguish themselves from one another with any great conviction, though the whole stays classy.

Out 1st August

Warm Brains - Old Volcanoes

Warm Brains - Old Volcanoes (***)

For a man who once went by the name Raaary Decihells (whilst one third of Test Icicles), Rory Attwell’s debut as Warm Brains is surprisingly grown-up. A trio of guest vocals aside (from Roxanne Cliffords of Veronica Falls, amongst others), Attwell is responsible for every other note heard on Old Volcanoes, from writing to recording to production: every distorted riff, tom roll and cymbal splash.

Warm Brains is, by Attwell’s own admission, deeply indebted to a certain vintage of mid-nineties US college-rock, but with definite home roots; lead single Let Down, for instance, sounds of a piece with Blur’s eponymous 1997 album, which tried to capture a similar transatlantic aesthetic. Graham Coxon’s solo work is also broadly kindred throughout, from the punk fuzz guitars to the endearingly-struggling vocals. Moreover, there is a pleasing diversity, with the dreamy drift of closer Stone to Sand to Glass an indicator of yet-to-be fully explored breadth.

Out 1st August

The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient

The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient (***)

When Kurt Vile left The War on Drugs to do his own (absolutely spiffing) thing, he appointed fellow War founder Adam Granduciel a Violator, took him on tour, and inadvertently added years to Slave Ambient’s gestation. Granduciel’s return to his first band (sans Kurt) has much to recommend it, despite occasional stumbles like stupefying non-starter City Reprise #12.

It combines rock 'n' roll classicism in the seventies AOR mould (think Tom Petty and Dire Straits) with a psychedelic vapour, and tracks like the lushly-layered opener Best Night are pleasingly laidback. Urban Hymns-period Ashcroft is a less welcome echo, with the similarity most apparent on drifting bores such as I Was There, where all momentum is lost. On the plus side, the missteps ensure late-stage pop trip Baby Missiles is all the more appreciated, though ultimately Slave Ambient remains a league below alumnus Vile’s most recent work; inconsistent, but nonetheless impressive.

Out 15th August

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