Welcome to Bliss/Aquamarine - alternative, underground and indie music.


Black Tape For A Blue Girl is the musical project of Sam Rosenthal who runs Projekt, and which also includes Michael Laird of Unto Ashes. This EP features three songs which are all different from each other but held together by the dark overtones they all have. Tarnished is unmistakably goth, but set apart from more stereotypical examples of that genre by the Middle Eastern tinges and distinctive drumming. Remnants of a Deeper Purity is much more on the dark folk side of things. Instruments here are acoustic guitar, woodwind and rhythmically distinctive percussion. Damn Swan! is a dark atmospheric song with doom-laden synths, this time with female vocals. Their music is very beautiful; it won't appeal to everyone I'm sure, but is highly recommended for those who can appreciate the beauty in dark, melancholic things. Info from question@projekt.com

Following their impressive, original-sounding demos (reviewed last issue), LWED have now signed to Something To Listen To, a new label run by producer John Fryer. This EP (which may actually be a CD, not sure, I have a CDR here) contains three songs followed by a remix of each of the songs. LWED have a very original, creative sound; Lullaby mixes pop and indierock with crunching industrial experimentation, doomy synths and electronic beats. Arm is a very beautiful song in which melancholic pop meets unsettling dark ambient sounds. In Horsemilk, the pop tune contrasts sharply with the harsh grinding experimental noise backing and the vindictive lyrics. However, two minutes or so into the song, Andrea's melodic vocals are transformed into the screeching of a tormented soul. HMilk Remix is chaotic, nightmarish experimentalism. The description of Arm also applies to the Broken Arm Remix, though the latter also includes elements of warped techno and unsettling experimental noise. Lullaby Remix brings in dark, dirty jazz and electronica elements that work really well with the song. LWED are pretty much unique and are highly recommended for anyone who appreciates musical originality. Contact the label at info@somethingtolistento.com
UPDATE: This is out now as a proper CD entitled White Like Snow, which comes in an album-style jewel case with mimimalistic but very effective artwork. I can only repeat how great this band is; I highly recommend this EP.

MEETS GUITAR Meantime CD (Homesleep)
Meets Guitar is one of several bands Gavin Baker is involved with (along with Jet Johnson, Billy Mahonie and Glider). On this release Gavin is joined by Howard Monk of Billy Mahonie (drums on track 1), Gavin's wife Caroline Nesbø, of Jet Johnson (vocals on track 3) and Gavin's father Dave Baker (mandolin and vocals on track 3). Meets Guitar are a very diverse band, on here there is laid-back early 70s style rock in Meantime, minimalistic acoustic singer-songwriter stuff in Memories of Golden Days, and the traditional Northumbrian folk ballad Felton Lonnin - all of which are excellent. Really great to hear the latter in particular; traditional folk is my very favourite style of music (despite there being a dearth of it on these pages. This is because a) I'm rarely sent folk music and b) any folk music I buy is old back catalogue stuff that won't really fit in in a zine that's meant to be about promoting recent material). I was previously aware of the version of this song by Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies, although Meets Guitar based their version on one by The High Level Ranters. The melody is, however, exactly the same. So yeah, it's great to see Meets Guitar venturing into the traditional field, although their contemporary songs are also well worth checking out. Contact the band at jetjohnson77@hotmail.com and the label at giacomo@homesleep.it

MEETS GUITAR As Yet Untitled 7" (Becalmed)
More from Meets Guitar, who I'm pleased to hear have continued with their mix of traditional songs and new compositions. This extra-thick vinyl EP features 6 tracks - As Yet Untitled, a melodic, minimal guitar instrumental which sounds like a cross between folk and post-rock; The How Not The Why, an acoustic singer-songwriter thing; Tula's Waltz, a country-ish banjo & guitar instrumental; Sofa Song, lo-fi minimalist indiepop tinged with American style folk; The Spanish Lady, an excellent though very short trad folk instrumental; and Don't You Remember The Time, another trad folk instrumental with guitar, banjo and mandolin. One thing I like about Meets Guitar is they blur the line between indie music (in a wide sense) and traditional folk, the two sorts of music that have made the biggest impression on my life. It's very rare to find a band that see no problems in mixing these styles which many would probably think are incompatible. Contact Meets Guitar - jetjohnson77@hotmail.com and Becalmed - becalmed_records@hotmail.com

JET JOHNSON/GLIDER split 7" (Jonathon Whiskey)
Split 7" featuring 2 of Gavin Baker's other bands. The Jet Johnson track is different from the other stuff I've heard from them in the past - this song is lo-fi funk/disco, I jest not! Great that a lo-fi band have chosen to tackle such an ambitious and normally hi-fi style of music, and what's more, given it an off-kilter twist. Meanwhile Glider do indiefied, postrockified jazz-blues, styles you wouldn't expect to mix but it actually works really well. Kudos to Gavin & co for breaking down genre barriers yet again. Contact Gavin at jetjohnson77@hotmail.com and Jonathon Whiskey Records at phil@normanrecords.com

ESOTERICA Esoterica EP CD (Something To Listen To)
As is the norm with STLT releases, this EP features 3 main tracks followed by 3 remixes of the same tracks, so is effectively a mini-album for the price of a single! Esoterica play dark and heavy, but melodic, alternative rock with a dramatic atmosphere. Salvation is musically and lyrically hardhitting, a critique of mainstream religion ("You stay in your church talking to God/Why does he never listen to you?/I will not hide from my own impending death/Why can't you live your life with no regrets?") Salvation then appears again remixed by the band themselves, having additional sinister-sounding electronics. Life is Lonely is remixed by Esoterica and Audiodummi, and manages to be simultaneously heavy and atmospheric. Finally, Exposed is remixed by Audiodummi, with additional string arrangements from Esoterica's drummer Luke. The added strings are highly effective, sounding powerful and ethereal at once. Very strong, powerful music this - Esoterica are definitely a band to watch out for in future. Info from info@somethingtolistento.com

MAXTON GRAINGER Samosas! 7" (Kabukikore)
This is brilliant! Off kilter quirky music with jerky rhythms and peculiar time changes. Samosas! and Missing Poussin are perhaps what Cardiacs would sound like if they were more influenced by indiepop and post-rock instead of prog and punk; 19 begins as an instrumental that's very Monsoon Bassoon-like, then there's a spoken bit at the end; and Budandi is The Monsoon Bassoon gone post-rock with ranting punkish vocals. I used to hear quite a lot of bands like this in the 90s but they sadly seem to be thin on the ground these days, so it's really great to hear this band. Hopefully there will be more to come from them in future. This single is a must for Cardiacs/Monsoon Bassoon/Sleepy People/Mad Uncle Jane fans and people who like their indiepop or post-rock with added bizarreness. Contact the label - fieldops@kabukikore.net

KEITH JOHN ADAMS This Is A Six Track EP 7" (Kabukikore)
Another excellent Kabukikore release, this time from the continually impressive Keith John Adams. Never Look Down is a prime slice of quirky pop; In Love is much more laid back and not as obviously off-kilter, almost sounds folky at times. The quirk returns for Sex Pest, a short lo-fi song with random drumming and the repeated line "I'm a sex pest!" Inconsequential Thought is a fantastic psych-tinged pop song which features TOY PIANO (oh wow!) Weather is slightly off-centre indiepop with the quirky lyrics "Don't turn your heart to butter and spread it on my toast". Find A Body is bizarre minimal pop about finding dead bodies in the lake - lots of them. Absolutely fantastic EP from a very inventive songwriter. Highly recommended. Contact as above.

SUNDEALERS Tears CDEP (Something To Listen To)
Sundealers are a German band who were allegedly formed in a strip club. The front cover of this EP shows a fierce looking screaming man, which gives clues as to the sort of powerful music on offer here. Gun Crazy is mostly heavy rock with added electronic elements, but there is a brief period where it becomes a kind of laid-back pop with ethereal synth sounds. This is, like I said, brief, as the band's usual aggressive sound returns for the rest of the track. Down Again is pure raw energetic rock, and Sweat mixes techno-ish electronic sounds and metally riffage. As with other STLT EPs, there are three remixes of the main tracks on here, and they all add to the whole release, unlike some remixes you hear which just seem a waste of time and space. The 1982 Remix of Sweat, by Van Hellsink, has an appropriate name, with its additional early 80s synth sounds. Down Again is remixed by Bootslinger, and is dramatically different from the original. This version has laid-back synth contrasting with the busy drumming and metal guitar, and the vocals are in two sections, one being a laid-back but impassioned kind of rock, and the other being a sort of whispered rap! Audiodummi's Blue Gun Remix of Gun Crazy is a stripped down blues song with handclaps and harmonica. If you're after powerful, energetic rock music with a techno twist, Sundealers are exactly that - and the remixes are imaginative as they completely recreate the original songs, transforming them into an entirely different genre. Contact info@somethingtolistento.com

1999 Legends/Midnight People 7" (Promenade)
The cover art suggests goth or metal with its skull, snake, howling wolf, upside down pentagram and dripping blood writing, as does the fact that it's a split release with a label called Release The Bats (it's also split with Lady Godiva Operations). Yet Promenade is associated, in my mind at least, with lo-fi DIY pop. Is this a departure for Promenade or does it have deliberately deceptive cover art? Hmmm, it's not that simple, as the goth idea and the lo-fi idea are both appropriate descriptions for this single. There's a lo-fi drum machine and tinny synth, along with what is basically a darker version of the more melodic side of punk - essentially what goth was in the early days, seeing as it grew out of the punk scene. The dark post-punk of Midnight People is great - you might not expect dark music to be so catchy, but this is. And Legends is no dud either. If you'd have asked me about 10 years ago if I liked gothic music I'd say no way, as I'd only ever been exposed to the mainstream 80s sort. But as I started to explore the underground I soon found that most genres had their underground equivalents that were a lot more pleasing to these ears than the well known versions - goth being no exception. 1999 may not be straightforward goth, as their approach is rather more raw and homemade sounding than is typical of that genre - but perhaps that's one reason why they have more appeal? For more info contact Fredrik at Promenade - promenade@spray.se

PLASTICA Not A Fate CDEP (Clown)
PLASTICA Stay With Me CDEP (Wretched)

Plastica, originally from Russia and now based in London, are a band I've helped promote through Bliss tapes - great to see that they have also been getting interest from labels outside of the tapes scene. The first EP includes 4 tracks of sophisticated, emotional and strongly melodic indierock, which manages to sound accessible whilst also having rather an off-centre quality at times. Vocalist Ilya Naumov has quite a wide voice range and effortlessly hits falsetto notes without sounding forced or fake. Disappear is an excellent song which changes moods and rhythms at various times, yet avoids the 'self consciously quirky' and 'trying too hard to be weird' thing.
The next cd has 3 tracks. I remember Stay With Me from their demo days; a strong, anthemic track which adds scratching and funky wah-wah to the band's usual emotional indierock sound. A strange combination perhaps, but it works well. Leave is great off-centre indierock with unpredictable changey bits. Finally there's Anyway (And Anywhere) which continues in a melancholic yet off-kilter indierock vein. Good stuff. Contact info@clownmediagroup.co.uk and info@wretchedrecordings.co.uk

GREG MURRAY Seen It All CDEP (Wretched)
Greg Murray is another artist who has previously appreared on a Bliss tape - seems Wretched Recordings and myself have very similar taste in music! Since that tape, Greg has released records on most of the main indiepop labels of today, namely Bus Stop, Shelflife, Firestation, Elefant, Plastic Pancake, and the tape label Best Kept Secret. And it figures that there will be much more to follow, as Greg has written over 200 songs!
Seen It All is absolutely brilliant, summery janglepop with more of a 'full band' sound than I normally associate with Greg. An early version of Go Honey was featured on a Bliss compilation; here's a new recording of that song, which has a completely different mood. It has the bossa-tinged elements the original had, but adds to that an almost surfy guitar sound and an occasional fairly dark feel. Orange Peel is a well crafted, jangly (but definitely not twee) pop song with a strong, catchy tune. This CD also includes a video for Seen It All. It's in grainy, arty black and white and has the clever idea of never showing Greg's face until right at the end of the film.
Greg Murray is a very talented songwriter and I'm really glad he is getting the attention he deserves from labels. Fans of well written melodic pop must give Greg's music a listen, and this EP is an ideal place to start as it features some of Greg's strongest material to date. Contact the label at info@wretchedrecordings.co.uk

MOGUL Play Away CDEP (Wretched)
Many readers will recognise the name Mogul as the DIY pop-punk-synth-glam outfit consisting of Jonni and Candii; however this is not them but a new London five piece who have already got themselves a fair bit of media attention. They have been described by MTV as 'future superstars to watch', and they may just have a point, as this is very strong stuff. Play Away is powerful, melodic alternative rock with hints of the 70s but updated for now. The chorus even puts me in mind of Slippin' Out-era Delta, but they mix this with a noisier, rockier sound. On And On has a much more laid-back approach and includes a string section, whilst Sleepless returns to the upbeat sound of the first track. All songs here are very well-crafted and have the potential to appeal to a mass audience whilst retaining credibility and avoiding blandness. Definitely a band to watch out for. (Contact as above).

OBERON Big Brother 7" (Incidental Music)
Oberon is the former project of Bard Titlestad, who now records as Future Whirl. Oberon was mainly dark folk/neoclassical music, with additional elements of psychedelia and various other genres, but here Bard surprises us with a cover of David Bowie's Big Brother, which is best described as a darker and more original variety of glam (more original as it is a song with two distinct sections rather than following a predictable song structure), complete with a brass section. The Ecstasy of Youth and Death returns to a sound more typical of Oberon; a very well-crafted and very beautiful song which is equally atmospheric and melodic. There will be more on Future Whirl soon in Aquamarine. Although Oberon is Bard's previous project, you can still buy the records, and I recommend that you do! Contact whirl@futurewhirl.com

ANTONY & THE JOHNSONS The Lake CD (Secretly Canadian)
This band's earlier recordings were released by David Tibet of Current 93's Durtro label; most of these original releases are hard to find now, but Secretly Canadian have reissued the album and are now starting to release new material from Antony & the Johnsons, beginning with this EP. This band sound like little else that's around right now. Fronted by the androgynous singer Antony, whose voice is suggestive of that of a female soul singer (from the days when soul music actually had soul), they make sophisticated piano-led and orchestrated balladry.
The Lake is an Edgar Allan Poe poem set to music; a dramatic, melancholic song with piano and strings. Fistful of Love is taken from the forthcoming album I Am A Bird Now. It has additional guitar and drums alongside the piano and orchestration, and the first part of the song has a feel of the 1950s or early 60s about it, although the occasionally noisy guitar betrays the fact that this is actually from a later decade. Then there's a section that includes saxophone and trumpet, and owes more to old-school soul. The Horror Has Gone is also reminiscent of 50s/60s ballads and has a very sophisticated atmosphere.
This is captivating music with a real sense of beauty, and is in today's music scene pretty much unique. I eagerly await the forthcoming album! Contact info@secretlycanadian.com

ACTION BIKER Sandy Edwards 7" (Break & Enter)
Break & Enter is an offshoot of Penpal Records, which put out the Goto80 and Set Designers 7"s I reviewed a while back. Action Biker are a DIY electropop band. The title track is 80s-influenced discopop with lyrics about wanting to be like Sandy Edwards. Wrong Side is melodically like melancholic old-school indiepop, but with electronic instrumentation. The Perfect Job is a lot of fun - a lighthearted song packed full of retro synth sounds, that's recommended for fans of Freezepop and Stereo Total. Contact the label: antonh@hem.utfors.se
UPDATE - Does anyone have an alternative email address for Anton? I've tried emailing him several times at the above address but it keeps bouncing.

THE MERCURIIS Humanize CDR (Around the Corner)
HJÖRTUR I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow CDR (Around the Corner)

Hjörtur is a very prolific artist; it doesn't seem like five minutes since he released the Work album (under the band name Alfarspace), and now he has released these two singles, plus a new album to be reviewed soon. Humanize is a classic Hjörtur song, first heard in electronic form on the album of the same name, and then as a more guitar-based song on the album To My Future. Now he has re-recorded it on 80s synths, under the name of The Mercuriis. The track begins with some crunching and crashing sound effects used in a percussive fashion, before launching into the song proper with its retro keyboard sound. This version is more straightforward pop than a lot of what Hjörtur is capable of, and whilst the song itself is great (amongst my favourite Hjörtur songs), it's perhaps not the definitive version of Humanize. As it's very much an 80s thing, it doesn't show the full range of inventiveness and creativity that Hjörtur has produced elsewhere. Definitely get this if you're a fan of Hjörtur's work already, but if you're new to him I must direct you to the genre-barrier-bursting album Keen Sabid. This gives the full picture of what Hjörtur is about.
On that album there was a version of the traditional country song I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow, a song made popular in recent years by the film Oh Brother Where Art Thou. The same version from Keen Sabid has now been released as a one-track single. I'm not generally a fan of country music, apart from a few exceptions. This is one of those exceptions - probably mainly because Hjörtur has reinvented it. It still has an obviously country-ish melody, but the instrumentation is a creative mix of electronica, pop and experimentation. Contact Hjörtur - hallo@hjortur.dk

MAB Unstable Dream CD (Something To Listen To)
Mab are an all female four piece, originally from Sardinia and now based in London, who have an intense, powerful sound. Black is dark rock with piercing noise. Alice Dionis has a distinctive voice that varies from dramatic and almost operatic to a fierce growl. Caviar & Oysters starts off with a more noisepop approach, but once the chorus kicks in, Alice's intense screaming begins, and the guitars get rockier as the song progresses. Divine is another powerful dark rock song, this time showing the more dramatic and melodic side of Alice's voice. Finally there's a short extra track not mentioned on the cover which simply consists of the intro to Black, processed so that it has rather a muffled sound. Something To Listen To is a recommended label for anyone who likes rock music with an inventive, distinctive touch. Contact them at info@somethingtolistento.com

RED RUM Pleasure Area CDR
This is a CDR but looks to be factory pressed, and has impressive colourful artwork. Red Rum are a Russian band who play an original, inventive kind of music that would be easiest categorised as experimental rock, but such a vague description is hardly adequate for such a unique sounding band. The songs have bits of psych, prog, goth, spacey electronics, the more adventurous side of indie/alternative, and other quirky/surreal elements that seem to come from no outside influence. Definitely a band with their own ideas, who are not driven by fashion but by creativity. Excellent stuff! Contact shirly@mail.ru

RISING TIMES Bulletproof Vest CDR
Just the one track on this promo cdr - the actual release is a 2 track 7" or 3 track cd. The song Bulletproof Vest is a very strong, melodic variety of alternative rock, very tuneful but still packing a punch. There are shades of the 70s in some of the guitar work, but in general the track does not come across as a retro thing but something very relevant for today. A really promising track, I'm keen to hear more from this band. Info from berkeley@jdmanagement.co.uk

FOREST GIANTS Postcards 7" (Invisible Hands)
Remember 90s band Beatnik Filmstars? They're back under the new name of Forest Giants, and the label says their music 'evokes memories of a better time, when bands formed because of a love of music, rather than the desperate hope of becoming d-list celebrities'. Sounds very promising based on this description, and the fact that the band contains former members of Beatnik Filmstars.
Listening to this, I can safely say that description is spot on. Forest Giants are an eclectic mix of various sounds from the 80s/early 90s independent music scene. Postcards is very much an 80s indiepop thing; Mr Doorman is bizarre, sounding like it's by a completely different band - off centre pop with scratchy chaotic noise; and Genius is different again - early 90s punk-tinged noisepop along similar lines to Boyracer.
Well worth checking out. Forest Giants also have a CD mini-album out, more about this soon in Aquamarine. This 7" is part of the Invisible Hands singles club series - for more details contact info@invisiblehands.co.uk

THE KATES' All Over Now 12" (Invisible Hands)
First of all, yes, that apostrophe is supposed to be there. And secondly, yes, this is a 12" single - not seen one of these for years, much less from a band that doesn't play dance music. What The Kates' (why the apostrophe anyway?) do play is energetic guitar oriented stuff with a bit of punky riffage, a bit of raw rock, a bit of hard-edged 80s indie music. The two tracks on the B side are very much in the melodic punk category, a very familiar sound but they do it well. It's got lots of energy and strong enough tunes to stay in the head. Info from Invisible Hands as above.

BEARSUIT Chargr 7" (Fortuna Pop!)
Exciting, angular noisepop with a multiple personality. The music jumps around in a completely off the wall manner; one second they're doing psychotic raging punk, the next twee 80s indiepop, and there's at least two different indiepop sections in Chargr, along with the untamed noise. What, You've Never Seen Snow Before? is absolutely fantastic - a bizarre take on highly melodic old-school indiepop, peppered with noise, brass, xylophone and odd sound effects. It's a really individual sound and a lot of fun - well worth listening out for. Contact the label - elpresidente@fortunapop.com

THE MARCIA BLAINE SCHOOL FOR GIRLS Pink Sticks 7" (Static Caravan)
Very striking cover art, kind of Rennie Mackintosh meets tie-dye meets psychological inkblot test. The band name suggests to me quirky noisepop or something but in fact they are an electronic project with just the right balance of tunefulness and experimentation. In Pink Sticks, a restrained piano melody contrasts with electronic pops, whirrs and beats and an atmospheric, almost orchestral secondary melody. We is based around the bell-like tones of a heavily reverbed marimba or xylophone or other mallet instrument, while sharp cutting noise and rattlesnake-like sounds weave in and out of the main melody. Then the melody changes, taking a rather more floaty, dreamlike approach, whilst still being very much a tune-based thing. Again this is interspersed with slicing, sharp noise, as well as subtle beats and other sounds. A very creative sound going on here; more info from Geoff at the label - geoffstatic@blueyonder.co.uk

HARDSLEEPER/MAPS & DIAGRAMS split 7" (Static Caravan)
Hardsleeper are the more strongly experimental band here. Their track starts off with a minimal keyboard drone and beats from an 80s synth, which is added to with a vibrating guitar riff, single piano notes which have a feeling of randomness while also having a feeling of being carefully placed, and an analogue synth that would sound equally at home in 70s spacerock or 80s new romantic music (though needless to say, Hardsleeper are neither of these).
Maps & Diagrams have 2 tracks, I Never Said That and Abseil. Their style is electronic listening music, as opposed to dance music; it's beat oriented and melodic but predominantly atmospheric. Don't know about anyone else listening to this, but I found it conjured up strong images in my mind; I Never Said That made me think of an undersea scene, and Abseil made me think not of abseiling but skydiving, and I felt these tracks would make excellently appropriate background music for TV programmes on these subjects.
Contact Static Caravan as above.

Birmingham based Little Robot Voice provide a great instrumental track that's a really creative mix of indiepop jangle, electronic and non-electronic percussion and atmospheric experimentalism. Excellent stuff, would definitely like to hear more from this band. Naked Casino are also a guitar/electronics/experimentation band and appear here with 2 tracks. Their music is an atmospheric mix of melodic guitar lines, thumping beats, electronic bleepery and experimental sounds, and complements well the Little Robot Voice track. Patter of Feet is especially great with its old-school indiepop style guitar playing. Another band I'd like to hear more from.

MY FAVORITE The Happiest Days of My Life 7" (Hungry Audio)
Now this is a band I've not heard for years. I remember having mixed feelings about their old stuff - the first I heard from them was a truly amazing catchy noisepop song, but other stuff I heard afterwards was more of an 80s electropop thing and I was less impressed. These days they're still influenced by the 80s and they still like their synths, but it's a lot more sophisticated, seems to work better and I can certainly see the point of it a lot more. The title track is brilliant, gutsy, tuneful noisepop - sounds like a new wave band covering an 80s indiepop band, or vice versa. Yeah, there's synths in it, but the guitars are most prominent and it certainly doesn't come across as a dance-pop song. The Suburbs Are Killing Us is the first I've heard from the band to feature male lead vocals. The synths here are far more faux-orchestra than teenybopper disco, and again they are not at the forefront. The gutsy guitars also put in an appearance or several, and the song itself oozes class. If My Favorite have been sounding like this over the last few years I've been seriously missing out. Info from contact@hungryaudio.co.uk

ZIKZAK Anna Li 7" (Bitter)
Quite old now, but hopefully still available. Having a much fuller sound than may be expected of a two-piece band, Zikzak play great pop music. Anna Li is strong powerpop; I Lose The Tiny Man is an effective mix of the more sophisticated side of 80s indiepop and something rather more odd and quirky. There are also two albums available; stay tuned for more on Zikzak later this issue. More info from bitter@zikzak.org

JAY PHLITMAN & KIM KANGAROO The Philip Eats Donuts In The Jungle EP 7" (It's A Lama)
Utterly bizarre homemade music with wacky titles such as I Have Muscles, Gorilla Takes A Bath and Me And My Coyote, and just as wacky lyrics, which made me laugh out loud on several occasions. There's part-sung, part-spoken, part-ranted lyrics over the top of synth/guitar/noise-effect (not 'sound-effect', that's too subtle) -based weirdness. Totally crazy and definitely not for everyone, but well worth tracking down if you want to hear something as far away from the mainstream as possible, by artists who don't appear to take themselves too seriously. Contact kim.duchateau@telenet.be or jeanmarie.mievis1@yucom.be

MIRA Pieces CD (Projekt)
'Aggression' and 'dreampop' aren't normally words that go together in the same sentence, but Mira's Pieces packs quite a punch. It's not just about gutsy noise guitars though; in fact it's rather a multi-dimensional track, incorporating as it does a strong and rather dark melody alongside psychedelic and (as you'd expect from dreampop) atmospheric elements, as well as the more forceful parts. Window Seat is a more upbeat and poppy track and is highly recommended for fans of early 90s noisepop. No Other Way is a superb example of slightly sombre, atmospheric guitar pop. Reminds me at times of fellow Projekt band Love Spirals Downwards.
The first two tracks are due to appear on the band's forthcoming There I Go, Daydreamer album; No Other Way also is, but in a different version. Also on this EP is a cover version, Todd Space Is My Day Job, previously only out on vinyl. I'm not familiar with the original, but Mira's version is best described as 'gothic pop', and has a sinister edge that's largely absent from the band's original material.
An excellent EP, am looking forward to hearing the album! Contact question@projekt.com

Alkin Engineering provide a spacey and slightly eerie experimental soundscape with snippets of speech in what seems to be two different Far Eastern languages. Vector Lovers combine 80s electropop with a more off-centre edge in Tokyo Glitterati, and with Onsen they have a more laid-back approach, making atmospheric, relaxing, analogue-sounding electronica. Contact Static Caravan - geoffstatic@blueyonder.co.uk

D_RRADIO Dust & Guitars 7" (Static Caravan)
Dust & Guitars effectively combines hazy dreamlike post-rock and electronic glitchery. Radiowaves is a mixture of post-rock guitar, atmospheric cymbals, electronic bleeps, electronically processed glitchy harmonica and woodwind, and crackly radio samples. Its overall sound could be loosely described as 'experimental blues'. The Most Real is a brief track which features various creaking and rattling sound effects behind an electronically processed piano. Like other bands on Static Caravan, D_rradio create innovative experimental electronic-based music without sacrificing melody. More info from geoffstatic@blueyonder.co.uk

JET JOHNSON Death Song CD (Soda/Seriously Groovy)
Jet Johnson consists of Caroline Nesbø (formerly of Peachfuzz, a band which also included Erlend Øye of Royksopp & Kings of Convenience), Gavin Baker (also of Billy Mahonie, Glider, The Baker Boys, and Meets Guitar), and Kevin Smith (also of Reynolds and Meets Guitar). Death Song masks morbid lyrics about different ways to die with indiepop jangle; Le Jet (Plume Remix) is a laid-back and underground-friendly take on dance-pop with additional chaotic techno madness in the instrumental section; Rekkedal is beautiful atmospheric indiepop with a smattering of folky instrumental; and then there's a similarly beautiful acoustic version of 9000 Men (the original being from an early 7" on Bearos), which is pure minimalistic perfection. Finally there's a hidden track which is an excellent acoustic version of Death Song, which is suitably melancholic whilst also being very catchy. More Jet Johnson to follow in this issue - stay tuned! Contact the label at info@seriouslygroovy.com

THE MORRISONS The Psycho Surfin Sampler CDR EP
80s indiepoppers The Morrisons were recently rediscovered by Firestation Records, who released a compilation album of their old material (see this issue's albums section). They have since got back together and made some new recordings, some of which are included here. Fans of the old stuff will be pleased to know that their new material is still in the spirit of the original Morrisons. These four tracks of old school jangly and slightly lo-fi indiepop sound convincingly straight out of the mid/late 80s indiepop scene, and are well worth checking out for fans of this genre. More info from themorrisonsband@hotmail.com

Ian Churchward of The Morrisons is also in another band, Phoenix, who are an entirely different kettle of fish. Phoenix are described as an 'English Country Barn Dance Band', specialising in traditional folk dance music played on a mix of electric instruments and more 'folky' instruments like accordion. It's reminiscent of a variety of folk-rock to have surfaced since the late 60s, in particular Ashley Hutchings & co's Morris On albums. Folk is probably my favourite style of music these days, though I'm rarely sent it to review, so it was good to hear this. Contact Ian at the above address.

LICKY Mista Big Spenda CD
Licky are a New York duo consisting of multi-instrumentalists Lips and Sacky. They make absolutely brilliant music that combines glamorous electronic pop, energetic punk & rock elements, and genuinely humorous lyrics (often with sexual content). It has a lot in common with the mid 90s 'disco-punk' phenomenon, but sounds completely relevant in the 21st century. It's a lot of fun; I hope to hear more from this band. More info from info@somethingtolistento.com

AMBITIOUS BEGGARS Parallel Universe CD (Firestation)
The Ambitious Beggars were originally around in the 80s but got back together again in 2001. Firestation (formerly Firestation Tower) have featured one of their old tracks on volume 2 of their Sound of Leamington Spa compilation series, and are also releasing their new output such as this. This 6 track EP consists of the three main tracks, plus different versions of those tracks (two radio edits and a live in studio version). Inspire Me is very strongly 80s-ish indiepop with added brass, but unlike some light & airy material that fits that description to come from other bands, this track has real depth and is very moving. Comet People is 80s-ish intelligent indiepop with psychedelic undertones and spaceage lyrics. Not the Man is basically pop, but with an underlying rock kick and occasional country hints, which come to the foreground in the live version which features additional pedal steel. The first two tracks in particular are very impressive. More info from info@firestation-records.de

WE START FIRES How To Be A Lady CD (Head Girl)
Becky Stefani, formerly of Venus In Furs, is back with another band, We Start Fires. Take Me Home is strongly melodic pop; the song itself could easily be done by any commercial pop outfit, but the way it's put together is squarely within the indiepop category, with its jangly 80s underground sound. Some bands that try to mix mainstream and underground pop never really pull it off, but this attempt to do so is a successful one. Stunt Girl is excellent, the way it changes moods from delicate indiepop to riotous punk. Hey Tiger is catchy, sugary pop with vocal harmonies and an added punk kick. Again it has parts that are reminiscent of 80s mainstream pop music, but it owes more to the underground 'twee'/'cutie' scene of the same decade, and also namechecks riot grrrl in its lyrics. The band's philosophy is basically riot grrrl, showing that even though the press no longer rave about it, the movement still exists in the underground. We Start Fires' excitement is infectious, and I identify with their longing for a real alternative to fake 'alternative' music. Contact them at westartfireshq@aol.com


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