True to form, Cheatahs set the early pace in this month’s round-up, but it’s an (Open Mike) Eagle that prevails by the end of this edition of EP Address….
Cheatahs – Sunne
I met a girl at a festival Cheatahs played a while back. At some point she mentioned she’d been given a free ticket by one of the band. “Oh, are they any good?” I asked, having heard of them without actually experiencing their music.
“No,” she replied.
“No,” she insisted, “Seriously – they’re awful.”
I laughed even harder, while also thinking it seemed a bit harsh. Still, I didn’t bother going to see them after hearing that. And yet, listening to the spirited shoegaze of Sunne, I now kind of wish I had.
Sure it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, and I’m pretty sure British indie bands have squeezed the last possible drops of moisture from Kevin Shields’ old jockstrap by now, but unlike most of their peers in this overcrowded scene they’ve at least bothered to write some tunes. The title track is full of warped sunshine which then gets all nice ‘n’ queasy during the instrumental sections of ‘Campus’, while ‘Controller’ and ‘No Drones’ rattle along enjoyably too. If you’re chucking any more free festival tickets about boys, I’ll take ’em.
Ex-Cult – Cigarette Machine
Being the keen bugger that he is, Luke O’Dwyer actually already reviewed this last month, comparing the band to a bunch of aggro urban foxes, “scavenging about in the shadows and living it up amongst the bins and shrubbery.” Which is good enough for me. Seriously, a taste of this EP and you’ll have a twenty (plays) a day habit.
Steve Gunn & The Black Twig Pickers – Seasonal Hire
Former Kurt Vile cohort Steve Gunn only very recently caught my ears thanks to last year’s excellent Way Out Weather album, which took traditional American music and cunningly relocated it in exotic new climes. This much more traditional collaborative EP with Virginian four-piece The Black Twig Pickers could almost feel like a step backwards, but instead it comes across like a quick pit-stop back at home before setting off on another adventure.
If you’re a fan of old-time American folk then Seasonal Hire will be right up your dusty, down-home alleyway. Sally Anne Morgan’s vocals intertwine with some fine fiddling on ‘Cardinal 51’, while the sixteen minute ramble of the title track takes a few interesting dissonant turns. The one real take-home track however is ‘Trailways Ramble’, a hazy, droning take on a Gunn classic featuring the man himself on vocals. It’s a satisfying slug of home-brewed magic that’ll tide us over until his next solo jaunt.
Hawk – Clock Hands
I’ve got to be honest, I initially thought Irish warbler Julie Hawk’s vocals were going to put me off this latest effort by the band who’ve taken her surname. A little too clean, a little too earnest, a little too cute, while obviously an accomplished vocalist her style nevertheless pushes a few of my musical buttons the wrong way. So the fact I never once moved to turn Clock Hands off must indicate something interesting taking place under the surface.
In the stand-out title track it’s the gurgling guitars that suck you in, while on ‘Hush’ it’s the unexpected blast of distortion that hits you in the face like sea spray after the placid folk of ‘Footsteps’. I’m still not fully convinced, but there are enough fleeting Woodpecker Wooliamsisms elsewhere on the EP to confirm that these Clock Hands tell the right time more than twice a day.
Klassik – Spring
There’s a touch of Kendrick Lamar’s syncopated style to Milwaukee’s Klassik on occasion, which is just well seeing as Kendrick seems to be being a little coy with new material (unless you happen to be the offspring of Michael Jackson, which frankly is a price probably not worth paying). That’s about as modern as it gets on Spring, Klassik’s second in a seasonal series of EPs, which otherwise looks to older acts like Blackalicious, Outkast and People Under the Stairs for a reassuring thumbs up.
Oddly, by travelling back in time a decade or so, he’s managed to find a sound that feels refreshingly at odds with much of the identikit hip-hop of today, with only the snappy snares on sundowner ‘Go Far’ sounding particularly contemporary. The quirky ‘Know It All’ ratchets up the tempo with some breakneck verses that only slightly jar with the sing-a-long pop chorus, before the sweet horns of ‘Otha Fish’ smoothly take things back into the lounge. It’s not going to get your adrenaline pumping, but as something to stick on as the sun starts to peep out, Spring satisfies its theme in a strictly old school style.
Open Mike Eagle – A Special Episode of…
Respect to self-declared ‘art rapper’ Open Mike Eagle for the first lyrical reference I’ve heard to last year’s U2-sneaking-into-your-iTunes debacle. However, it’s only one of many astute nods on ‘Dark Comedy Late Show’, the opening track on a new EP which proves to be a very special episode indeed. Spotify royalty rates, Vladimir Putin’s macho posturing, even date rape controversies surrounding other rappers (“Hey yo’, no poking, I’m still woke, Cee-Lo”) all get a look-in, while more retro moments come with equally razor-sharp wit: “I still check Yahoo cause we both got attachment issues.”
Yet he’s just at home with less topical material, such as on ‘Split Pants In Detroit (or Hyrule)’, which is about, well, ripping your trousers open during soundcheck. While an appearance by MC Paul Barman mostly serves simply to remind you that he’s still around, a better collaboration comes on ‘Ziggy Starfish (Anti-Anxiety Raps)’, produced by none other than Gold Panda, whose cut-up samples provide just enough spring for Open Mike Eagle’s verses to bounce off.
“I’m so right brained I can’t grow an even beard,” he complains on the slumberous ‘Raps For When It’s Just You & The Abyss’. His barber’s loss is music’s gain. Run The Jewels may be hoarding all the indie hip-hop hype these days, but Open Mike Eagle is just as killer.
SoundQ – EP2
Kraków trio SoundQ win the award for most original use of vocals this month. Their latest EP opens with ‘In a Swoon’, and will likely have you in one by the songs’ close, with the vocals manipulated to sound as if they’re somehow being sung while inhaling. It’s a neat trick, and sits perfectly with the track’s tense, robotic electro.
As thrilling as ‘In A Swoon’ is, over the course of the EP the technique wears a little thin. The rushes of ‘Restless’ are a little Cyberdog for my tastes, while the RnB-styled ‘Bones’ just feels creepy, like someone clutching your hand for just a little too long while wearing leather gloves. Yeuch. It’s up to the ambient peaks of ‘Ecce Puer’ to settle us safely back into swoonsville, and not a minute too soon.
Sun Glitters – Galaxy
Luxembourg’s Victor Ferreira, aka Sun Glitters, is one of the most gently adroit producers around, with a sonic touch so graceful he could stack snowflakes. Galaxy’s title track, however, seems to get lost in its own gentleness, with the guest vocal from Keep Shelly in Athens’ Sarah P. only able to blow an indistinct path through the soft blizzard. Fortunately there’s a bit more puff to ‘Undeniable’, while ‘Clouds in Your Eyes’, ironically, shows the clearest vision of them all despite its fractured beat.
A couple of remixes of ‘Galaxy’ round things off. La Fine Equipe’s actually surpasses the original, recalling last year’s sumptuous Moon Observations album by David Douglas, while Alphaat’s more ambient take is enlivened a little when the beat kicks in. When it comes to the original tracks however, you’re struck by a similar subtle invention to Son Lux; an invention better when brought to the fore, with starker contrasts between the differing textures. Hopefully the next Sun Glitters release will see him with more clouds in his eyes, rather than cotton wool in his ears.
Woo York – The Valley Of Songs
You wouldn’t expect much blissful music to be coming out of Ukraine at the moment, but the latest EP from Kiev’s Woo York turns out to be an exceedingly sumptuous way to wrap up this month’s EP Address. The rounded sounds of the title track, complete with the occasional burst of birdsong, make for some of the most delicious minimal techno I’ve heard in a while.
Admittedly, the rest of the record struggles to maintain that impressive standard. The sleek ‘Odyssey’ and uneasy ‘Black Soul’ motor along nicely enough, but only the excellent ‘Distance’ really makes you want to get up and dance, albeit with a stern electro-grimace plastered onto your mush. The digital edition also comes with the lively bonus track ‘He and She’, but to be honest you’ll already have been wooed by that point…
Kier Wiater Carnihan