Monday, 19 July 2010

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

With the defiant, chugging opening chords of lead single ‘Devil’s Spoke’, Laura Marling announces her sophomore LP with the sort of brash, lush statement that only an unabashed confidence in ones’ own art can conjure.

I Speak Because I Can is a striking album. Throughout, Marling steers her ship between eerie campfire mysticism and the swaying, wave crashing stomp of ‘Rum, Sodomy & The Lash’ era Pogues. Even when seemingly resigned to fates beyond her control as on ‘Hope In The Air’, or lamenting past intimacies on album centrepiece ‘Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)’ she none the less embraces her lot whilst exploring the possibilities inherent in new beginnings.

Compared to her debut ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’ Laura Marling’s delivery is more assured here. She is not afraid to simplify her expression and let the words themselves create their own mysticism. Indeed, the real beauty of the record; for me Marling’s greatest achievement here; is her ability to flirt with the lyrical Merry Old England-ism that can now render some of her 1960’s folk predecessors difficult listening. She exploits the incomparable beauty of such linguistic flourishes to great effect on ‘Rambling Man’, pondering contemporary issues whilst ensuring her work is rich in imagery and atmosphere, never once sliding into pastiche.

Like Nick Drake, Will Oldham and more recently Fleet Foxes, Laura Marling seems to be channelling the sublime. ‘I Speak Because I Can’ finds her tapping into the beauty of the everyday and using the folk medium to communicate what she sees with astonishing results.

Published in Issue 99 of Artrocker Magazine in |April 2010

Love Is All - Two Thousand and Ten Injuries

Gothenburg’s Love Is All are all the proof you need that there’s more to Scandinavians than caricaturing US and UK youth culture. After a stint on the What’s Yr Rupture label, third album Two Thousand And Ten Injuries finds them touching all at once on the exuberant punk of The Raincoats, glorious 60’s sunshine pop and the emotive soundscapes of the Liars and YYY’s.

Opener Bigger Bolder marries the chugging urgency of early Strokes with the irresistible Hammond organ bursts of The Clean’s Tally Ho, whilst A Side In A Bed with its heartbreaking lyrics, chanted yearningly by singer Josephine Olausson bathes in reverb heavy guitars, cutting through her emotive cry of ‘I want to be somebody’s baby’ as the song fades to its desperate end.

The new wave sounds of their earlier efforts are now fleshed out and punctuated by bigger and yes bolder, hook heavy material such as Dust, the final shouts of which exclaim ‘And I Want, and I need, to be rid of these things’ reminiscent of the chorus to Def Leppard’s cock rock heavy-weight ‘Animal’ and all the more appealing for it.

But the stand-out of this set is Kungen. Written in the aftermath of a chance encounter with the King of Sweden, it’s a shoe-in winner for best intro ever, the ‘ba ba ba’ refrain and galloping drums recalling those Gods of the 60’s pop chorus The Zombies and The Turtles. Love Is All are expanding their pop palette and having a lot of fun in the process.

Published in issue 100 of Artrocker Magazine in May 2010

Ape School: Remixes LP

An Ape School remix album probably seems a natural stop gap for fans of their eponymous debut. The warped electronic psychedelia of main man Michael Johnson has way more in common with early beat makers like 60’s mavericks Silver Apples than the Nuggets bands so revered by the garage rockers labelled his contemporaries.

Gathering an assortment of like-minded technicolour dreamers, this release goes someway to subvert the conventions of a traditional remix collection. Fog’s Andrew Broder re-imagines the dream pop stomp of ‘That’s OK’ as a Rickenbacker driven slow-burner so effectively that anyone hearing the two versions would assume Broder’s sparse jam was the original.

Elsewhere, Pollination’s take on ‘Wail to God’ creates a wall of sound around the original with dirge guitars and echo-laden beats, climaxing in a synth heavy wash that far outshines the original’s comparatively weak Zombie’s inspired sunshine pop.

Despite a far larger palette of sounds available from the likes of Daedalus and Pop Levi, ‘Remixes’ stays faithful to its inspiration whilst still bringing enough to the party to keep things interesting. Sadly, in doing so this collection can’t help but highlight what the originals could have gained with the help of more imaginative sonic explorers.

Published in Issue 97 of Artrocker Magazine Feb 2010