Enter Shikari - A Flash Flood of Colour

Enter Shikari

A Flash Flood of Colour

Released: Jan 16 2012

Genre: Electronic/Hardcore

Label: Ambush Reality

Rating: 8/10

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By James Murray

Enter Shikari has always been about breaking boundaries. Rewinding back to their earliest days under the ‘Hybrid’ alias, exploiting the predefined boundaries of music genres was the core aim: ‘A Flash Flood of Colour’ shows that this motive remains – their most profound and polished record to date.

In a rather crudely simplified way, ‘A Flash Flood of Colour’ sounds like a refined ‘Common Dreads’. As expected, the dubstep/drum & bass influences are heavily featured, however, this time round productions are tighter and as a result the record is a lot more professional sounding.

Opener ‘System…’ ‘…Meltdown’ eases into action with the identical buoyant synth used to introduce ‘Common Dreads’; euphoric keys take the place of a vocal introduction – a subtle hint at the electronic-driven tracks which, for the first time in the history of Enter Shikari, perhaps overtake their hardcore elements. That’s not to say this is an electronic record: ‘A Flash Flood of Colour’ is still heavy at times, driven by political rage and robust as ever – Enter Shikari are just perfecting the electronic cross-over sound that they’ve been experimenting with for years.

The opening two tracks are heavily influenced by drum and bass, including the now familiar-to-many ‘Sssnakepit’, which epitomises the new Enter Shikari sound. While the intense breakdowns, relentless rock/synth melodies and trademark Enter Shikari choruses dominate the majority of ‘A Flash Flood of Colour’, the less experimental, toned down tracks are equally, if not more effective. The downbeat ‘Search Party’ is vocally emphatic; evoking the vision of far-reaching fields filled with chanting Enter Shikari fans at mind.

The hit-hat driven ‘Arguing With Thermometers’ showcases the most infectious, dance-floor friendly choruses Enter Shikari have ever created, and as a result it won’t take many listens before it’ll be jammed into your head for days: “That’s the sound of another door shutting in, in the face of progress, in the face of progress”.

Stalemate’ and ‘Constellations’ follow suit with this much softer Enter Shikari sound. Both politically forceful and educating, ‘Stalemate’ acts as an instrumental ode to ‘Adieu’ – though not quite as mellow, the same melodically/vocal hard-hitting formula remains. The entire five minutes of ‘Constellations’ is a steadily progressive message of optimism, beautifully delivered with light keys and heart-felt vocals.

A Flash Flood of Colour’ is a forward-thinking record for forward-thinking music fans. If you’re expecting a musical regression back to ‘Take To The Skies’ look away now. For the pro-evolutionist, this record encapsulates almost every successful trait Enter Shikari have ever possessed – delivered in a musically mature, and as a result, engaging third full-length.

Enter Shikari – Sssnakepit

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Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner

Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner

Gold Panda

Lucky Shiner

Released: Oct 11 2010

Genre: Electronic / Experimental

Label: Notown Records

Rating: 4.7/5

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Lucky Shiner, the debut full-length from Essex based Gold Panda is a refreshing take on electronic music. It’s unusual for UK based independent artists to rise into the limelight over the past few years, but Gold Panda is proving that innovative, forward-thinking music is budding on either sides of the Atlantic.

Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Caribou — just a few names that have reveled in critical acclamation over the past few years. Gold Panda is the newest artist to add to the list, as his euphoric LP is without a doubt one of the most creative and experimentally inspiring records of the year. Lucky Shiner is a very precise record, emotive and passionate throughout, with no drawn-out moments or lackluster filler. If every record is a portrayal of its creator, then Gold Panda is a wise perfectionist. Such a statement would generally be passed as pure assumption, however, releasing a steady bundle of EP’s over the past few years in combination with a little touring, it would seem that ‘perfectionist’ wouldn’t be an overly arbitrary description.

The record opens with You, a choppy, very much jagged ensemble with heavy use of vocals. The elements throughout the track are somewhat conflicting, but rather than producing a jarred final result, somewhat ironically the cut vocals over melodic synths collaborate impressively cleanly. The LP’s most inventive moment comes four tracks in under the title of Same Dream China. As the title suggests, the track takes a cultural approach, combining a range of Eastern drums and patterns to emit a wonderfully elegant melody. The track isn’t outstanding solely because of its unique production, Same Dream China is more than that, it’s a truly atmospheric and uplifting four minutes of electronic sublimity.

As an LP Lucky Shiner is outstanding; as an electronic record, and as an experimental record. Many tracks including India Lately and I’m With You But I’m Lonely are deep and invigorating; however, there are occasional points in the album that aren’t quite so momentous. Before We Talked is the biggest manipulator of the ‘cut and paste’ production technique. The track clearly aims to be adventurous, along with the remainder of the record, however, the end product is somewhat harsh in comparison to the inspirative vibes ever-present elsewhere. The final track on the record, entitled You (like the opener) is the ideal ending to the LP. Chillingly beautiful female vocals overlaying up-beat drum patterns and quixotic synths – Lucky Shiner is a record to remember.

– Article by James Murray

Listen To: Same Dream China, You (I), India Lately, I’m With You But I’m Lonely

For Fans Of: Animal Collective, Four Tet, Deerhunter, Caribou, Holy Fuck

Gypsyhawk - Patience and Perseverance

Gypsyhawk - Patience and Perseverance

Gypsyhawk

Patience and Perseverance

Released: 6 July 2010

Genre: Rock / Classic Rock / Punk

Label: Creator-Destructor Records

Rating: 4.1/5

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Patience and Perseverance is the first full length release from California rockers, Gypsyhawk. The band name in consolidation with the mythical artwork leaves much to the imagination, and it’s perhaps no surprise that the sound of Gypsyhawk is very different to the majority of modern rock music. Through emulating a classic rock sound similar to the likes of Thin Lizzy, one of the group’s main influences, the overall aura is one of epic 70’s rock riffs, with a contemporary twist.

The album titled track Gypsyhawk is the most forward track of the record, the blistering opening guitar riff followed by solid vocals would make the track the most obvious single choice. Patience and Perseverance rarely follows a strict song structure, choruses aren’t a common feature, but nevertheless, the four-piece certainly know how to create a hook and captivating melody. In the opening track, Eric Harris shouts “so long, farewell, goodbye“, as heavy rock riffs burst into action before leading into, to say the least, an admirable guitar solo.

At over an hour in length, the generosity of Patience and Perseverance leaves space for a range of styles and musical experiments. Eyes of Ibad takes a progressive approach, evoking an elemental atmosphere before erupting into a sequence of artistic guitars and slow rock vocals. Instrumentals are quite clearly one of the main focuses of the record, which is no surprise considering the talent showcased throughout – particularly on strings. Tracks including Guidance and Rebellion On The Western Shore flaunt the Californians inherent aptitude as a rock group.

A classic rock sound is certainly the main style used by Gypsyhawk; however, the group’s ability to apply elements of punk and experimental atypical rhythms is what gives the four-piece their exclusivity and unique selling point. Patience and Perseverance is an ambitious album that radiates a very solid sound. For a band to release such a strong sounding LP is very promising, and it seems Creator-Destructor Records have a great band in their grasp

~ Article by James Murray

Listen To: Gypsyhawk, Blackhaven, Defenders Of Good Times

For Fans Of: Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult, Rainbow, Phil Lynott

Foals - Total Life Forever

Foals - Total Life Forever

Foals

Total Life Forever

Released: May 10 2010

Genre: Indie Rock

Label: Transgressive Records

Rating: 4.0/5

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The hype during the run up to the release of Total Life Forever can only be described as ‘colossal’. The release of pre-album single, Spanish Sahara, raised the hopes of thousands. The effect of such a change in style between Antidotes and Total Life Forever perhaps came as somewhat of a shock to fans; and for many, a badly received change. Regardless of the views of Antidotes‘ devotee’s, the Oxford based five-piece took the UK’s radio stations by storm, the whole nation and further eager to hear more of the likes of this initial atmospheric, progressive rock track.

It was perhaps rather unfortunate for Foals that Total Life Forever leaked to the internet roughly a whole month before the proposed release date. In terms of hype, such things can only act as an anti-climax; nevertheless, the content of the album should not be overlooked. Total Life Forever is unmistakably a great evolution in musical style, taking the choppy raw sounds of Antidotes and smoothing them out: Foals have created a much more melodic album for 2010.

The opening track of the album, Blue Blood, really focuses on Yannis Philippakis, demonstrating his vocal progressions from Antidotes. As the opener progresses, and runs into forthcoming single, Miami, Foals have already quite clearly laid out the tone of the record — radiant and vibrant. It comes as no surprise that many critics and fans alike tipped Total Life Forever to be the soundtrack of the summer. Instrumentally, Foals have not strayed from their creative roots, Fugue for example, placing the listener into a temporary state of audible utopia. As well as building on great instrumentals, Foals have also retained their ability to create a song with a great hook. This Orient is without a doubt the ‘feel-good’ track of the album; the fast-paced drum patterns working beautifully with Phillippakis’ alleviating vocals.

The initial build-up to Foals second release was always going to be hard to equal; however, the final result is a very different, yet very strong album. Whether Total Life Forever will be the soundtrack of the summer is debatable, especially with recent albums from the likes of Vampire Weekend and indie pop group Two Door Cinema Club, nevertheless, Total Life Forever is an album that can be expected to run alongside great memories.

~ Article by James Murray

Listen To: Spanish Sahara, This Orient, Miami, Fugue, Blue Blood

For Fans of: Bloc Party, Two Door Cinema Club, Vampire Weekend, Bombay Bicycle Club

Sleigh Bells - Treats

Sleigh Bells - Treats

Sleigh Bells

Treats

Released: May 11 2010

Genre: Noise Pop / Lo Fi

Label: N.E.E.T.

Rating: 3.9/5

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Sleigh Bells are the newest hype in the indie scene, and it’s quite clear why. This noise pop duo, through the release of their debut album, Treats, have already illustrated how music is very much still open to creativity — with boundless opportunities. Those that predicted that an emergence of lo-fi could well be the dominating genre of music in 2010 may have been on to something — for such an unfamiliar categorisation for the majority; the style of Sleigh Bells truly approaches music from a completely different angle in comparison to modern day pop music.

It’s no surprise that this girl/boy duo have released material on M.I.A.’s record label N.E.E.T. On first listen similarities are certainly identifiable. Sleigh Bells share a similar style in producing a hip-hop/electro crossover sound; some of the heavier beats in tracks such as Riot Rhythm undoubtedly reminiscent of M.I.A.’s work. What isn’t so familiar is the adoption of the lo-fi sound. This style, however, is powerful in creating a hard, grungy sound that Sleigh Bells will now be recognised by.

As well as hard hitting beats and distorted bass, the vocals of Alexis Krauss act as a harmonic juxtaposition against the violent instrumentals. Tracks such as Run The Heart combine heavy electro drums under melodic vocals and pop-esque synths, which perhaps make their sound a little easier on the ears.

Rachel opens with a very electro opening, with dreamy vocals overlaying synths that would seem more appropriate to the likes of funky house or fidget. Progressing into the next track, Rill Rill, Sleigh Bells opt to create a much softer, predominantly hip-hop, final product. These intervals of softer tracks in combination with much heavier experimental tracks such as Crown On The Ground work superbly at re-enforcing the sheer energy behind the music. The up-beat electronic and vocal elements seem at times comparable to the likes of the rather eclectic Alice Glass and Crystal Castles. Despite the generally electronic aura of Treats, guitars aren’t completely vacant. The opening of Straight A’s delivers a pounding sequence of distorted guitars that you’d expect to hear from a heavy rock group.

Sleigh Bells come to Brighton on May 15th, visiting London, Leeds, Glasgow and Oxford before ending their brief UK tour at Oxford on May 24th. For avid gig-goers that fancy something slightly different, perhaps experimental, with a guarantee of intensity on-stage; Sleigh Bells should be on the ‘must see’ list. Sleigh Bells also have tour dates lined up across Europe during the summer, before ending up at the Pitchfork Music Festival at Chicago, Illinois in July.

~ Article by James Murray

Listen To: Tell ‘Em, Rill Rill, Crown on the Ground, Rachel

For Fans of: Washed Out, M.I.A., Wavves, Best Coast, Small Black

Scuba - Triangulation

Scuba - Triangulation

Scuba

Triangulation

Released: Mar 22 2010

Genre: Dubstep

Label: Hot Flush Recordings

Rating: 4.0/5

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Paul Rose, better known by his EDM pseudonym, Scuba, is one of the most influential figures in the Dubstep scene. Founding the record label, Hot Flush Recordings, Rose is known for links with Distance, Mount Kimbie and most impressively, 22 year old Dubstep maestro, Joy Orbison. Scuba is certainly not a name unaccustomed to electronic dance music, with the Aesaunic EP (2009) and before that A Mutual Antipathy LP (2008), Triangulation is only the latest from the talent stricken producer.

From the opening track, Descent, Rose allures us into the world of Scuba Dubstep. Overwhelming bass and static samples progressing into the second track, Latch give us a taste of what Triangulation is really about. Atmospheric Dubstep, the kind not dissimilar to the sounds of those used by artists such as 2562 arise throughout the record. As the record develops into Three Sided Shape, the rhythm is temporarily purged to make way for the gritty urban samples that open up the track; acting as a subtle breakdown that without warning jumps into an arrangement of trippy synths, drums and impending bass.

At no point does Scuba let one forget how underground and urban this record truly is; whether it’s through the minimalistic city artwork, or the manufactured raindrop sampling throughout the duration of Minerals. The sampling throughout the record is executed in a way so natural that the listener is plunged into the ambient realms of Rose’s immaculate production. Whether it’s the quixotic female vocals in Before, or the tribal melodies at the opening of Tracers.

The overall mood of Triangulation is one of illusory imbalance. This isn’t your generic electronic producer, Scuba knows not only how to make a dance floor friendly track, he can effectively capture a whole mood or image through the art of Dubstep. It truly is producer’s such as Scuba that are taking Dubstep in a direction that is vastly beyond the boundaries that fans, producers and critics initially thought the genre would ever reach, when the genre broke through back in the early 00’s.

~ Article by James Murray

Listen to: Latch, So You Think You’re Special, Before

For Fans of: 2562, Joy Orbison, Mount Kimbie, Pangaea

Pin Me Down - Pin Me Down

Pin Me Down - Pin Me Down

Pin Me Down

Pin Me Down

Released: Apr 19 2010

Genre: Indie Pop

Label: Animalized

Rating: 2.8/5

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Pin Me Down: the first of several Bloc Party side projects to deliver a full length album. Consisting of Bloc Party lead guitarist Russell Lissack and New York based vocalist Milena Mepris, Pin Me Down are the latest attempt at indie pop. If we thought Bloc Party lead vocalist, Kele Okereke was the single influence behind the transcendence from the raw sounds of Silent Alarm into the electronic sounds of Intimacy, we were very wrong.

Pin Me Down is a very straightforward and simple record. It is evident that the couple have attempted to create pop music, and in all fairness, that’s exactly that they’ve delivered. Each track is catchy through its simplicity; however, at times it’s just so simple that it seems to offer nothing at all to the listener. Lissack’s catchy guitar riffs are often drowned out by sloppy production, when Lissack’s guitar abilities should really have been the unique selling point of this record. In tracks such as Cryptic and Boy Who Cried Wolf, Lissack’s raw guitar riffs shine through, but even on the rare occasion that this happens, it just sounds like a dumbed down, more generic version of the guitars from Silent Alarm. Apparently Lissack’s guitar playing hasn’t really evolved whatsoever over the past 5 years.

Although Pin Me Down as a record offers plenty of opportunities for critics to tear the songs apart and laugh at them; in terms of listen-ability, Pin Me Down is actually very catchy, and at times very successful in terms of being a reputable pop record. Tracks such as Meet The Selkirks and Everything is Sacred work well at being captivating and up-beat – which as a generalisation is what this record really aims for, and accomplishes. A few tracks such as Ticking, offer great and memorable choruses, yet unfortunately at times poor production just takes away the edgethe opening of the track sounding like it’s been put together in Ejay Dance 3 – a repetitive kick drum opening a track isn’t the most inspiring.

The final track, Fight Song, works well as an ending to the record. Down-beat and melancholy, the track is an emotional ending to a very up-beat album, which works well in changing the mood for effect, and suggesting that the listener has come to the end of a musical journey. Pin Me Down is a mediocre record; however, it works well at being catchy pop music. It’s just impossible not to feel that the album could have been so much more.

~ Article by James Murray

Listen to: Cryptic, Pretty In Pink

For Fans of: Bloc Party, Two Door Cinema Club, Ellie Goulding