I've been drudging and now it's time to stop. Not so far away, people are Carnivalling in the rain and so I'm going to listen to some music, review some CDs I've been given until I get tired of it and then do some sewing. I've done a bit of listening this morning: Robyn (ugh), Little Boots (ugh) Lykke Li (ugh) Janelle Monae (brilliant but very Kanye) and Laura Mvula (oh how guilty I feel for dismissing her as hyped without even listening: she's amazing).
Nothing's going to be in the right order, I'm afraid.
First up on the record player is Dub Colossus, about as close as I can get to Carnival sound-wise and I've already listened to it just for fun.
Dub Colossus: Addis to Omega
There are 15 tracks on this album, an hour and 15 minutes, big time for big sounds. This was recorded all over Europe... well the Mediterranean parts of it anyway, which is where the driving force behind it all (the producer Dubulah) has emigrated to from the cold and grimy wilds of North London.
This is the sound of musicians having fun, featuring as it does regular collaborators Natacha Atlas, Winston Blissett, Nick van Gelder and Mykaell Riley amongst many others. All of Dubulah's collective of musicians have distinctive personalities that he harnesses to the songs with great success.
For instance Winston Blissett is the only person in the universe who plays bass as he does; because I've seen them live I can't get the image of Blissett and Dubulah, long term friends, standing together at the back of the collective with that London-boy cheekiness which hasn't left them since their early days together in Riley's band Bumble and the Beez.
I particularly like the slow, hot groove of the Casino Burning Down, a track that flings echoes and processed sounds out into the sky, twisting and mangling guitars into all sorts of chilled-out shapes. There's some neat horn playing from The Horns of Negus on lots of the tracks; I like the cheeky trombone on We Are The Playthings Of The Rich And Famous (there's a Brechtian title if ever there was one) and the carolling trumpet on Addis to Omega (Amnesis Mix), a track which rub-a-dubs it's way to Ethiopia. I believe that the African side of this collaboration has been temporarily severed due to lack of funds.
Dubulah has never abandoned the left wing politics of his youth; he simply doesn't care about not being political. Honesty in both music and lyrics is to the forefront here, embedded in deep grooves with strong vocal performances from all of the guest singers and some lovely moments of harmony, rhythm and mood that you can't sit still to. This is a great album for raising the spirits, and it's being imported as we speak to my iTunes player. Destination? The "uplifting' playlist!
The Old Town Quartet
This is an 8-track independent CD by a band that I've seen several times supporting Martin Stephenson and the Daintees; Martin produced this. They hail from Warrington and they are a really good live band. This album was recorded live at Colin Mee's Skip Studios in Darlington, and demonstrates all the energy of the band. They are good songwriters, and I'd describe the sound as contemporary skiffle (nu-skiffle?) with a handful of Elvis's Sun Sessions thrown in thanks to the slap-back mixing. The best track is Crows, whose dark Cash-dom slashes through the group's wholesome image.
Unusually, they use a cello rather than a double bass which adds to the distinctive gravelly tone of lead singer Lyle's voice, and which you can hear bowed in some songs (I think Utah, but there are no titles popping up on iTunes); a rhythmic strummed banjo appears with the cello on Hey Mama, a minor-hued melody that adds a Kletzmer flavour to a drinking song.
Myrtle Park's Fishing Club: Nothing To Be Afraid Of
This 12-track album is the work of Kate Stephenson, a songwriter and drummer who has worked with artists as diverse as Sam Brown and Midge Ure and more recently she has been drumming for The Daintees. This is a tremendous achievement as a solo project and has a distinctive sound: light, fresh and... can one say aeolian? There is a breeziness to many of the songs (Wonderful You demonstrates it really well). Kate is a talented multi-instrumentalist; she drums, programs, plays guitar and keyboards on these tracks. Vocally, she travels through different pitches with ease and sounds particularly lovely on the track Afternoon Moon. My fave track is Wildest Smile with it's shuffling rhythm and perky backing stacked-harmony vocals.
There is something very 10CC about this album: that's meant as a compliment!