Sunday, March 30, 2008

Beards And Bears

No, I'm not dead. Just lazy. That's about to change...

I first became aware of Quiet Village, aka Matt 'Radioslave' Edwards and Joel 'Zeus' Martin, back in 2005 when they released a series of 12"s on New York's super-collectible Whatever We Want label (home also to spiritual brethren Map Of Africa and Bobbie Marie). I fell in love and have been playing them ever since. The boys went quiet on the release front after 2006's 'Circus Of Horror/Free Rider' 12, but kept up the profile with a regular sprinkling of moody, dusty remixes for the disparate likes of Grandadbob, James Yorkston and Mudd amongst others.

Now, like an extremely welcoming bolt from the blue, comes their debut album, Silent Movie due for release on !K7 next month and it picks up where the WWW releases left off. It's twelve tracks of downbeat, sample-based splendour that touches on soul, dub, psychedelia, disco and all points inbetween. Five of the tracks have seen the light of day before so there may be some familiarity for the initiated. For newbies though, this may well be seen as a godsend - I can see this one making a lot of year-end lists come December - as if you're not already well-versed in the QV aesthetic, Silent Movie will be a breath of fresh air.

Of the new tracks, the playfully emotive, gospel-skank of 'Pacific Rhythm' and the Vollenweider-esque Balearic bliss of 'Utopia' are the most immediate, but on further plays each of the songs assembled unfurl and bloom in hitherto unnoticed ways. Silent Movie is one for the file marked 'grower' and it becomes more and more cherishable with each run-through. For fans of their output thus far, I'm glad to note that the songs you'll know and love already - the gnarled acid-rock of 'Circus Of Horror', 'Pillow Talk''s Alan Parsons-sampling twilit psych and the slo-mo organic Italo of 'Can't Be Beat' in particular - still endure and benefit from the context of a full-length album.

For anyone coming into Silent Movie cold, however, I envy you. A lush, sonorous delight, front-to-back, Silent Movie might well change the way you think about sampling and will almost definitely forge an immovable place in your heart and on your stereos for months to come. A modern classic in the making.

Quiet Village - Pacific Rhythm (mp3)

Bonus: The Osmonds - I I I (Quiet Village No-Edit) (mp3)

Another thing I've been loving lately is the new Late Of The Pier single, 'The Bears Are Coming'. I know you're probably thinking "That's not normally James' kind of thing", and you'd be right. I normally steer clear of these newfangled British indie bands, especially if they try arduously and often misguidedly to fashion something they intend to 'work in a club'.

That said, Late Of The Pier set themselves aside from their peers in a number of ways. First of all, they've recruited Erol Alkan to twiddle their knobs for them (something that's becoming more of a smart move with every passing day when you regard his good recent work with The Long Blondes and Mystery Jets), a man who clearly knows how to make something danceable. Also, LOTP's songs are mostly loveably odd, schizophrenic cut-and-shuts of electro, new wave, prog and 70s soft-rock (check last year's barmy 'Bathroom Gurgle'); hard to get a grip on, but never totally self-consciously quirky. Late Of The Pier's digressions always seem to come from a completely natural place and never feel forced.

'The Bears Are Coming' is a squelchy amalgam of D.C. go-go, pistoning tech-funk, garage-y fuzz guitar and a middle-eight that melds Stereolab-like moog effects to pastoral Brit-psych harmonies, with a brilliantly incongrous glam-soul vocal. Then there's the daft race-to-the-finish climax. It's all-over-the-shop but maddeningly addictive and one of the best darn pop songs of the year so far.

The remixes on the flip all take differing views of the source material. The Emperor Machine appropriates the a-side's shape-shifting spirit and fashions a thrilling nine-minute space-disco mini-opera from it, while Joakim's mix is halfway between classic acid house and modern Parisian retro-fetishistic electro. The best of the bunch comes, unsurprisingly, from Alkan himself, with Richard Norris in tow. The Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve Re-Animation, accentuates the go-go elements of the original, even throwing in some of Trouble Funk's 'Pump Me Up' for good measure, tucks in some mournful solo trumpet before twisting the song into that holy grail of 21st Century British indie-rock; a dancefloor bomb. Anyways, see for yourselves...

Late Of The Pier - The Bears Are Coming (Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve Re-Animation) (mp3)

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