Friday, July 21, 2006


Although I was wondering what the hell was going on the first time I played an Animal Collective album (Campfire Songs), I very quickly realised that this was no ordinary band. Since, they have continued to deliver the goods with each new album, seemingly ploughing the same groove, but each time with different tools and in a totally new way. Somehow though, I’ve managed to miss them every single time they’ve come to London, and they have been rather generous with their visits. After seeing that they were due to come to London again, at the Astoria, some time ago on the Fat-Cat website, and subsequently being reminded by Andrew a few weeks ago, we decided that whatever happened, this time we would go. Scott and his girlfriend (who I cannot remember the name just now and am mortified of it) joined us.

Adem, who was/is in Fridge with Kieran Hebden, was due to play tonight but ended up not to. On the bill though was Battles. Andrew had seen them live before and has been raving about their live performances for a fair while now, and although I was only tepid about the compilation of EPs that was released on Warp a few months ago, seeing them live offered a totally different angle to what they can do.

Crammed in a tiny space at the front of the stage, the keyboard player, guitarist and bass player seemed strategically positioned around the drummer, as to freely feed from the vast amount of energy exulting from this most focal of points. The band’s hypnotic post rock thing felt a lot more organic and raw than what I’d heard of them previously. It was interesting to see the constant exchange happening between the four members during their set, and how together they appeared. There were some wonderful moments when time felt suspended while they were weaving increasingly tight loops and grooves together into trance-like structures.

As far as this evening was concerned though, the piece de resistance was always going to be Animal Collective, and boy did they deliver. The set was largely centred around Feels, with Grass, The Purple Bottle, Did You See The Words and Banshee Beat making particularly lively appearances. Yet, if Feels is most definitely the Collective’s most accessible record by a mile, it is when they dabble in primal trance and febrile drones that they are at their most mind-blowing. Cast against the poppier songs of their repertoire were intense sonic experimentations build around dense electronic structures and hypnotic drums, sometimes simply linking two songs, at others just left to develop to full motion, progressively bringing the crowd on the brink of ecstasy before dropping us back down to earth with a deceptively simple pop melody.

Ani-mask Collective

Animal Collective have provided me with some of the best and most exhilarating music I’ve heard for years, and this gig at the Astoria certainly didn’t disappoint. There could have some more of the iridescence of Here Comes The Indian or the subdued lights of Sung Tong for instance, but in tonight’s incarnation (full Collective on stage), they have achieve near perfect balance between experiments and catchy moments.

Animal Collective please, go on Top Of The Pops and save the world!

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

VARIOUS: The World Is Gone (XL Recordings)

The World Is Gone
XL Recordings 2006
12 Tracks. 46mins52secs

VARIOUS The World Is Gone (XL Recordings)

Buy it: CD | LP
Various | XL Recordings

Difficult to find more vague a name for a band than Various. One can only imagine the headache of finding anything relevant on Amazon or Google. That is however the disconcerting choice that have made this enigmatic act. Having released three impeccable singles in the last few months, Various found themselves amidst a battle of A&Rs and labels, including Leaf, Warp and Planet Mu apparently, all fighting for the privilege of bringing them to a wider audience. Having finally signed with XL Recordings, the band are now unleashing their magnificent debut album.

Covering their tracks actually seems to be one of this band’s favourite pass times if The World Is Gone is anything to go by. While the general context is definitely electronic and highly confiscated, Various are found dabbling in gentle folk or urban beats with equal ease and enthusiasm. The band’s template is not new (two main members, only known as Adam and Ian, with revolving guest vocalists), yet the resulting work is at once unique and universal. The album opens with the heavy duty Thunnk, which casts a rather dark shadow right from the first shards of distorted strings and continues to cloud over all the way through. Hater, Soho, Sir or Sweetness demonstrate equally acute futuristic awareness. Various craft incredibly dense and oppressive, yet surprisingly minimal, structures on which vocals become entangled and eventually completely assimilated. Elsewhere, the pair adopt a far lighter approach. On the wonderfully evocative Circle Of Sorrow, Deadman or Fly, they let melodies circles above spaced percussions and lonely acoustic guitars with incredible grace, evoking the delicate folk of Fairport Convention much more than the suffocating electronica of Aphex Twin

Already one of the most talked-about record of the year, The World Is Gone is likely to rapildy catch about everything in its way and will surely end up riding high on the end-of-year lists. Various are the only new act you will need in 2006!

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Monday, July 10, 2006


In the last few weeks of running themilkfactory in its old form, I had so very little time to actually listen to any music that I had to be overly selective. Since, I’ve rediscovered the simple pleasure of enjoying music. With me leaving my old job at the end of next week, I’ve finally taken the time to go through the piles of CDs that had been accumulating on my desk, and I’ve discovered some lovely records that I had either ignored or at least not given a proper chance.

Two of these being Scrubber Fox’s Ruffled Muffle (Musikexperience Recordings) and SubtractiveLAD’s Suture (n5MD), which found their way to my CD player the other morning.

SCRUBBER FOX Ruffled Muffle (Musikexperience Recordings)

I’d already played Ruffled Muffle once or twice, and it was well on track to be featured on the site when I decided it was time to step back. The first impression had been very good. The scope of this album is rather impressive, and Wigan’s Gary Naylor, who’s first release was on Skam’s Skam Cats compilation, and who has been seen officiating as part of Manchester’s Hippocamp collective, collects here sixteen tracks of clean-cut electronica built around razor-sharp hip-hop infused beats.

With influences including anyone from Curve, Nine Inch Nail and Ministry to DJ Shadow, Plaid, Chris Clark and Squarepusher to name but a fraction, it is hardly a surprise that Naylor’s first long player scans so many different moods and encompasses such a wide range of styles, from urban techno to shards of jazz to soulful electronica to whatever else was catching his mind that day. The result is a rather playful collection of imaginative little vignettes assembled without real master plan to provide a thread throughout. Yet, the lot feels rather consistent. If the programming sometimes appear to take precedent over the music itself, it also contributes in the vast majority of the tracks presented here to feel very individual. Here, Naylor blends just about everything that’s marked him in any way during his formative years and comes up with something that’s at once radical, accessible and overall rather unique. There are the odd nod to Aphex Twin, Squarepusher or µ-ziq to be found along the way, but Naylor uses them as simple reference points to consolidate his own musical reach.

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SubtractiveLAD is the project of Vancouver-based Stephen Hummel and Suture is the follow-up to his 2005 debut Giving Up The Ghost. While his first album was already setting up part of Hummel’s sonic realm, Suture takes things a lot further and expand on his original template of warm analogue ambient waves and delicate melodies. Here, the tone is once again rather subdued, with Hummel clearly holding down his horses on many occasions here, but tracks such as the wonderful Twinge, Lepidoptera, Your Tattoo or Sleepwalker offer glimpses at more contrasted terrains, drawing on psychedelic arpeggios and slightly abrasive percussive elements. The whole album appears built on this dichotomy, and this gives it a very interesting relief all throughout. Beautifully evocative melodies are swallowed by ominous clouds of noise only to reappear smoother and more voluptuous on the other side. At times, the listener is thrown into vertiginous moments of calm (Petals, Rerum Natura, Embryonic Again) which only reinforce this album’s ethereal ambience.

These two records are in many ways radically different, but they feed from a same passion for quality electronic music and demonstrate a similar drive.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006


I got on the Sufjan Stevens bandwagon a bit late, thanks to Nigel mostly, but totally fell in love with Illinois the minute I heard it, and rapidly invested in Michigan too.

SUFJAN STEVENS: The Avalanche (Asthmatic Kitty, out 10 July)

The fact that Illinois was originally conceived as a double album made up of just under fifty songs is rather mind-blowing, and the fact that the finished product, still displaying no less than twenty-two songs in total, and proving a very consistent, if a tad overwhelming, piece, is certainly no little credit to the vast talent of Stevens.

Clocking at a whooping 75 minutes and twenty-one songs, The Avalanche is very much in line with its predecessor. Announced as an album of extras and outtakes from Illinois, The Avalanches, which features no less than three versions of Chicago (acoustic, Adult Contemporary Easy Listening Version – which has certainly very little to do with easy listening as a genre – and Multiple Personality Disorder Version), is a lot sturdier and far more credible than one could think. It features the same mix of poetry, melancholy and humour, the same type of delicate orchestrations, the lyrics are equally as clever and beautifully crafted, and Stevens shows the same capacity at making the listener dream. This album is way much more than just a companion to Illinois. I surely won’t complain...