Dour Festival: 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th July

Dour Festival 15, 16, 17th, 18th July

Dour Festival 2010

Dour Festival in southern Belgium has released its full line-up! This excellent festival for fans of alternative music in whatever genre you can think of has 200 bands over 4 days on 6 stages and music from 12am to 5am.

Recently awarded the prize for the best medium-sized European festival, the line-up this year really reflects its stock as one of the leading European festivals.

Band to particularly look out for include Faith No More’s reformation, De La Soul & Rhythm Roots All Stars, Simian Mobile Disco, Gwar, A-Track, Calvin Harris, The Maccabees, The Futureheads, Dave Clarke, Benga feat. Sgt Pokes, Skream, Archie Bronson Outift, Spoon, The Raveonettes, Devendra Banhart, Paul Kalkbrenner, Atari Teenage Riot Gui Boratto, Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, Etienne de Crécy (Beats’n’Cubes), Brother Ali feat. Bk 1, Mayer Hawthorne, Third Wold, Mr. Vegas, DevilDriver, Shining, Fucked Up, The Very Best, Dum Dum Girls… the list goes on and on, so have a look here for more info.

Travel to Dour is easy either with Big Green Coach from London, to nearby airports or by Eurostar to Brussels or Lille, and for the price of the ticket (€93 + €17 camping) for 4 days of live music, even with travel it’s a bargain compared to UK festivals.

For those who don’t know the festival, Dour is in the French speaking part of Belgium. It is a very European, broad and open-minded festival that welcomes not only different nationalities, but a broad palette of different musical styles.  It has a capacity of roughly 40,000 people a day so is very humane in its size when spread over the six stages.

Here is the Dour Festival site.

Here is the Dour Festival Facebook group.

Here is the Dour Festival Twitter feed.

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Gold Panda – ‘You’ 7″ and Tour

Gold Panda – You 7″ and Tour

Gold Panda: You 7"
Gold Panda: You 7"

What makes Gold Panda stand out from other artists creating digital music from found sounds, manipulated samples and blips? Musically I’m not sure – it has a rawer texture, perhaps, it is rhythmically slightly more pressed, maybe. Emotionally though, the Chelmsford producer’s music is something of a revelation, taking the introspection of Burial and Four Tet and mixing it with the collective ecstasy of The Go! Team or M.I.A..

At times his music are the words you only ever wrote for yourself, at others it is the love you irrevocably spilled in nightclubs, in parks, in bedrooms. At times his music is the pulse of late night suburban pavements swathed in an orange glow of street lights, at others it is a rainforest.

Gold Panda featured in the BBC’s list of nominees for the Sound of 2010 award, something he should feel honoured to have missed out on if we are to judge by Ellie Goulding’s strangely vacuous music and success. He followed this success with the brilliant Quitter’s Raga 7” and Before. His music has been influenced by, variously, living in Japan, B movies on VHS and minimal techno.

His single ‘You’ on his own NOTOWN label is to be released on 7” vinyl with the B-side Before We Talked’ on 10th May and the digital version will see his contemporaries create those annoyingly ubiquitous and unexceptionally uninteresting remixes that fill up the EPs on iTunes Store.

Appropriately, Gold Panda will support Caribou across Europe as well as performing at various festivals.

UK Live Dates:


15th Brighton, Great Escape
21st Liverpool – Sound City
22nd Glasgow – Stag & Dagger

30th Dorset – Camp Bestival
31st London – Field Day

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Gold Panda’s MySpace

Built To Spill – There Is No Enemy – album review + tour

Built To Spill –  There Is No Enemy – album review
ATP Recordings

Built To Spill: There Is No Enemy
Built To Spill: There Is No Enemy

Built To Spill belong to a small cleek of groups that have produced a remarkable amount of brilliant albums (eight albums in total) without ever really generating the sort of snowball hysteria that would make them one of the ‘best alternative rock bands in the world’. Whether the record buying/downloading public find each release too plain – their songs are hardly genre-splitting, avant-garde, shocking-lyric epics – is difficult to know.

Certainly, they are not like Modest Mouse or The Shins in that they do not provide direct, almost sensationalist, emotional hits from the off, something that sells records and earns you the limelight since, well, forever. All the same, you get the feeling that once Doug Martsch’s musical project comes to an end, Built To Spill will be missed in the way that, say, Pavement were, or Neutral Milk Hotel are.

There Is No Enemy is, however, yet another wonderful album by this wonderful, restless group. Their first for ATP, it took three and a half years to write, something that if you know the loose structures and often jammy style of Built To Spill, is hard to imagine, perhaps, but something that demonstrates the absolute focus on artistic integrity that surrounds this style. Looping riffs and patchy guitar solos at the end of songs like ‘Done’ or ‘Tomorrow’ never seem superfluous or forced, but part of a larger creation.

Lyrically, Martsch is not always telling a clear story, but rather fashions phrases and cites mundane words that hang together to create potent sentiments for the listener. On the one hand, the lyrics, and indeed, the vocal melodies, are distant (see the trembling reverb of the brilliant ‘Things Fall Apart’, and the almost mimetic lyric “Fade out, fade out, fade out”, drowned out eventually by a dreamy guitar riff).

On the other hand, they are, as is the nature of the pop song, irrefutably there, suspended in the subconscious, hauntingly evocative and frighteningly unclear. At times, There Is No Enemy seems desperately personal, Martsch’s voice now resentfully, now blissfully resigned. But it is all shrouded by the same sort of distance as, say, the Smashing Pumpkins – inexplicable, and yet somehow easy to accept.

As an album, There Is No Enemy is superbly constructed. For example, the slower ‘Life’s A Dream’, seems to provoke the down-tempo and grungy ‘Oh Yeah’, which in turn sets off the more aggressive ‘Pat’. Highly accessible melodies and grabbing turns are relieved by subtler arrangements and the ten songs end up creating one of the albums of the year. Not that we can expect the rest of the world to appreciate that.

Built To Spill’s MySpace

Built To Spill’s official site

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UK/Ireland Tour:
07/05 ATP Festival, Minehead
08/05 O2 Academy, Oxford
09/05 O2 Academy, Liverpool
10/05  The Black Box, Galway, GW
11/05 Vicar Street, Dublin
13/05 O2 Academy, Glasgow
14/05 O2 Academy, Newcastle
15/05 O2 Academy Leeds
16/05  O2 Academy, Birmingham
17/05 The Junction, Cambridge
18/05 O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement – album review

Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement – album review

(Stones Throw)

Mayer Hawthorne - A Strange Arrangement

Mayer Hawthorne grew up in Michigan, near Detroit, a city he describes as rich in music tradition and high on the list of influences in his choice of a musical career.

A Strange Arrangement is his debut album released last year without ever really making the commercial splash it should have.  Certainly it is only recently that I was turned on to him after a quick look on YouTube at the video for the fantastic single from A Strange Arrangement, ‘Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out’, a piece of jazzy soul, to which Mayer Hawthorne adds a spoken introduction something in the vein of The Chi-Lites, and to the rest, a falsetto to rival Cry Me A River in its ability to tangle the heart strings with ambiguous gender imitation.

In fact, a lot of Mayer Hawthorne sounds like The Chi-Lites, and with such a consciously retro sound, it almost sounds like a pastiche, but, as is often the case with these things, it is clearly an indisputable love of the music that is being mimicked and that is driving these songs, and it is therefore really quite hard to tell the line between irony and reality.

At other times, you find Mayer Hawthorne using other genres – r&b, Motown, pop – in the way you always imagined them ideally, but had never quite heard. He does it with such simplicity, honesty and an ear for a well-produced song that it is near impossible not to love what he is doing in a manner much deeply than irony alone would allow.

These, then, are absolutely brilliant contemporary tunes that would be compared with the Winehouses of the world if his subjects didn’t require singing plainly and truthfully about the sort of candidly simple subjects soul singers used to sing about – beautiful girls, pathetically fallacious rain, or plain simple positive thinking.

Out on the label, Stones Throw, A Strange Arrangement joins an output of some great contemporary soul. Apparently, label chief Peanut Butter Wolf needed just a cursory listen to two songs to realise he had to sign Mayer Hawthorne up.

Here’s the video for ‘Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out’. See what I mean about the ambiguity between irony and passion for the music?


Here is the MySpace link for Mayer Hawthorne.

Josiah Wolf – Jet Lag – album review

Josiah Wolf – Jet Lag – album review

Josiah Wolf - Jet Lag
Josiah Wolf - Jet Lag

Having been unacquainted with the Ohio group Why? up until the a few weeks ago, it is a fairly neutral starting point with which I perceived Josiah Wolf’s, the drummer for this band, debut album Jet Lag. All the same, ‘drummer’s solo effort’ tends to set alarm bells ringing.

It conjures up the image of the bitter rhythm-keeper stuck at the back of the stage, ignored in the rehearsal rooms, silently harbouring deluded visions of solo fame that grow wilder as the backstage jokes fly at him and the girls still won’t recognise him.

Generally the manifestations of such a traumatic experience are not acoustic ruminations on the subject of the break-up of an eleven year relationship and a move back to a childhood place. As such we learn, albeit in a roundabout manner, that Josiah Wolf must be considered as an artist in his own right.

With this lack of prejudice then, his solo album begins. Most striking are the vocals. Wolf’s voice is multi-faceted and as such, mainly intriguing. At times, such as on the ruminative ‘The One Sign’, he uses a detached delivery akin to Bill Callahan’s deep drawl, at times a more candid voice pierces the fourth wall (“And truly, truly / you move right through me” on ‘In The Seam’), and at other times he moves tentatively into the upper octaves, finding a faltering, susceptible aspect to his delivery.

Lyrics are, as should be the case more than normally on such personal albums, highly important. Reflective, reminiscent, and descriptive of personal and abstract as well as mundane moments, they focus less on explaining or trying to understand a course of events as describing them and expressing the lack of understanding that can be drawn from them. “California, what have you done to me?”, Wolf asks on ‘Master Cleanse (California)’ with candid perplexity.
The arrangements are less striking than you would hope for lyrics of his class, and as such their weight gets lost a little. Working a sort of chamber-pop cum Americana cum singer-songwriter style, in which Wolf plays all instruments himself, it is sad to see the described uniqueness of his experiences lost in what sounds like a band effort. Often with the music, you get the feeling that Wolf’s monism is lost by his attempt to split himself into so many different instrumentalists.

Jet Lag is what gets called an ‘accomplished’ or ‘assured’ solo debut, where accomplished and assured are the signs of a man marking his ground as a solo artist without entirely coming out from behind his drums and the back of the stage.

Jet Lag by Josiah Wolf is released on 29th March by Anticon. It was mixed by younger brother and Why? frontman Yoni Wolf.

Here’s a link to the MySpace page.