Thursday, 1 March 2012

reviews: the machine room, lee ranaldo, swound!

The Machine Room - Love from a Distance EP

The Machine Room - Love From a Distance EP (***)

Edinburgh’s The Machine Room resemble a morning-after Delphic; they won’t necessarily make you dance, but their romantic melancholy could comfortably soundtrack time spent rueing drunken mistakes and missed chances.

On opener Cost of Progress, John Bryden’s falsetto flirts with Mew over cold-packed guitar, while Your Head on the Floor Next Door is, lyrics aside, Love from a Distance’s highlight – a pace-dropping, New Order-indebted slice of electro balladry.

Their compatriot tracks also earn their place – Camino De Soda’s sparkly melody confirms it the natural choice for single status, while Picking Holes closes on a suitably grandiose note. But there’s aimlessness to certain stretches – a slackness that time will no doubt iron out, exposing their dreamy ore more fully, and fulfilling their undoubted potential.

Out 5th March

Lee Ranaldo - Between the Times and the Tides

Lee Ranaldo - Between the Times and the Tides (****)

With any new Lee Ranaldo album, the first question to ask is: which Ranaldo? In Sonic Youth, his work veers from straight-up rock to obtuse noise; in his downtime, there’s improvised collaborations with jazz acts and wilfully avant-garde installation pieces to stretch his muse.

Between the Times and the Tides occupies the straightforward end of the scale, but its relative conservatism is rewarding; the general clarity of the guitar tones only accentuates Ranaldo’s immense skill (check out the dual-part introduction to Fire Island (Phases)), while the laid-back MOR gaits of tracks like Lost (Plane T Nice) or Stranded bear well the touch of Wilco’s Nils Cline, lending additional guitar throughout the album.

Other collaborators include Sonic Youth affiliates past (percussion from Bob Bert; bass from Jim O’Rourke) and present (Steve Shelley handles drums; John Agnello behind the desk), but above all, this is Ranaldo’s show: a confirmation of his solo talents just as his day job’s future seems rocky.

Out 26th March

Swound! - Into the Sea

Swound! - Into the Sea (***)

Choosing to package their debut full-length with a 76 minute in-the-studio documentary suggests the four brothers that make up Swound! aren’t lacking self-assurance. Admittedly, said doc is decidedly tongue-in-cheek, but it’s nonetheless a pretty confident statement from a band whose Wikipedia entry was deleted in 2010 for lack of interest/verified notability.

Into the Sea should ensure a reinstatement of their page, though it’s going to need a lot of hyperlinks: their family-friendly power-pop comes laden with geeky references, from Back to the Future in opener Your Kids Are Going to Love It, to a guest-appearance from Troll 2 star George Hardy on Big Trouble. Musically, their DNA is pretty transparent: Tokyo carries traces of days spent covering Blink-182; Rivers Cuomo is owed a song-writing credit or five; while they share more than witty promos with OK Go. Swound!’s exuberance has a high propensity to irritate, but they squeak through on goofy charm.

Out 5th March

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