Offerings by Typhoon – the first great album of 2018

Offerings by TyphoonIn these days of instant downloads, individual tracks and a call for shallow, instantly forgettable and meaningless pop songs, the first great album release of 2018 sits very uncomfortably among the previous statements.

Offerings is the fourth studio album from indie / alt rock band Typhoon from Portland, Oregon.

Typhoon fall somewhere between indie rock and alt folk, if I had to try and categorise their music. There are elements of Arcade Fire in their heaviest and more intense moment.  Folk acoustic and traditional rock instrumentation and arrangements, married with the beautiful duel vocals on songs like Empiricist are mesmerising and truly wonderful.

Offerings follows a central figure, allegedly a fictional man who is losing his memory, and in turn, his sense of self.  Singer / songwriter Kyle Morton may well be the latest in a long and distinguished line of tortured souls.

From the very first listen, I was drawn into the album.  This is not background music.  Offerings is deep and richly layered content.  Beautifully crafted, it is without doubt best enjoyed as a complete album.  Following the story from start to end; and in doing so, this is indeed a concept album.

“I’ve always been preoccupied with memory, losing memory, and trying to recapture memory. I wanted to explore the questions: What does a person become if they don’t know where they came from? What is the essential quality of the person if you strip away all memory?”

In losing a certain level of control, Kyle Morton was motivated in part by his situation, as well as drawing inspiration from literature, art, and the films of David Lynch  and Christopher Nolan’s Memento, he was immersed in during the writing of this record.

Offerings is divided into four movements (Floodplains, Flood, Reckoning, and Afterparty) to represent the mental phases the main character goes through where he first realizes that something is wrong, then struggles through the chaos of his situation, and finally moves into acceptance before succumbing to his dreadful fate.

Rorschach looks at the age of information and collapse of meaning. While on Empiricist, Morten explains:  there’s a regression to the womb where the character is back in his bed at home, talking about his range of motion shrinking. This first movement ends with ‘Algernon’ [taken from one of Morton’s favourite short stories, Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes], where he’s constantly awakening and in an interrogation with a woman-who the listener should know is his wife, but he doesn’t.”

Offerings is a truly great album.

Typhoon UK Live Dates:

27/02 – THE LEXINGTON – LONDON, UK (2nd date added)
28/02 – THE DEAF INSTITUTE – MANCHESTER, UK
01/03 – BROADCAST – GLASGOW, UK
02/03 – THE LEXINGTON – LONDON, UK (SOLD OUT)

Offerings by Typhoon is released via Roll Call Records on 12th January on vinyl, CD and MP3 formats. The limited edition Blood-Red vinyl (1,000) have already sold out.

Autobahn Live @ The Lexington, London

Autobahn  @ The Lexington, Pentonville Road, London
Thursday 16th November, 2017

Autobahn are making a name for themselves in the current wave of post-punk revivalists with their increasingly experimental studio work and dynamic live performances. Their chosen moniker suggests a desire to identify themselves with the generation of weirdos and outsiders that thought Kraftwerk were the coolest band in the world; a generation that produced post-punk heavyweights The Fall, Durutti Column and Joy Division. Today they are a generation vindicated. In the music press Kraftwerk are being lauded as more influential than the Beatles and at gigs up and down the country that Unknown Pleasures t-shirt is omnipresent. In this new landscape then, does touting yourself as a post-punk band look somewhat like siding with the winners?

They draw a respectable crowd for a Thursday night. The string of EPs released and debut album thus far have seen the band perhaps play things too safely, refusing to stray too far from the tried and tested formula of their influences. That being said, they have evidently forged enough of an identity for themselves to get people out to this gig. The predominance of new material early on is a bold and welcome choice, and elicits murmurs of appreciation from those in the room.

This would seem to be a crucial juncture for the band, where they decide either to continue in the shadow of their predecessors, or to start forging their own identity. The evidence of the newly released second album, The Moral Crossing is encouraging and would suggest that they have started taking influence from further afield. Particularly noticeable is the influence of post-rock outfits like Trans-Am and Tortoise. Irregular time signatures and erratic drum patterns form the backbone of the new material tonight, and imbue older tracks with a new energy. The post-punk affectations are still there but underneath there is a real desire to experiment and break new ground.

Synths play a greater part in almost every song than before, and are a welcome expansion of the band’s sound. Going beyond the confines of guitar, bass, drums and vocals opens up new avenues of experimentation for the band and gives them greater scope for doing something that is original and fresh. The more they stray from the post-punk formula, the more the crowd warms up and engages with the music on stage.

The original post-punk bands were so great and are still proving influential today because they were brave enough to forge their own musical identity. If Autobahn continue on this experimental bent and are able to keep on growing in confidence, their own influence could be felt for years to come.

Maker – Girl Quit Your Crying EP

MAKERMaker hail from Medway – home to the likes of The James Taylor Quartet, The Prisoners and Billy Childish.  But though their music has an undeniable 1960s and early 1970s taste, it is a much more rich, diverse and complex  than the back-to-basic 1960s garage more akin to the aforementioned local heroes, and commonly referred to as the ‘Medway Sound‘.

This week Maker release their second EP. The title track, ‘Girl Quit Your Crying’ is full of a hazy blues, after hours lock-in complete with feathered haircuts, Double Diamond pint jugs and a Rod & The Faces swagger. Alessandro Marinelli’s gravel-throated bluesy voice underlines only one of many influences present on this solid 5-track EP. But the Maker sound is much more versatile, complex and multi-layered than a shallow retro posture.  Somewhere between then and now,  Maker sound unique in these days of shortlived fashions, reality tv and throwaway pop.  They appear to take influence from an array of solid sounds, styles and grooves and run, run, run with it.  They are not simply retro and not exactly contemporary.

Similar to the previous single, ‘Move Your Feet’, there is a strong element of early 1970s soul, R ‘n’ B and rock ‘n’ roll running throughout the whole  EP.  ‘So Serene’ and ‘Are You Watching Me?’ are full to the brim of a white-faced soulful funky groove.  Think Sly & The Family Stone fused with  a steam-charged rhythm n blues of Mick Taylor era Rolling Stones, a good helping of The Faces and etched in the post house music influenced rhythms of Primal Scream and The Stone Roses. Great stuff!

Maker look good and sound great.  They are Alessandro Marinelli (Vocals), Andrew Donaldson (Guitar), Gavin Donaldson (Drums) & John Austin (Bass).  The ‘Girl Quit Your Crying’ EP succinctly captures their authentic rock n roll, psychedelic, bluesy soul sound.

‘Girl Quit Your Crying’, ‘So Serene’ and ‘are You Watching Me?’ were recorded at the famous Rockfield Studio & Leeders Farm. The EP also includes two demos, ‘Lose It On The Second Turn’ and Stop My Heart Dead’, recorded at Ranscombe Studios in Rochester.

Girl Quit Your Crying EP by Maker is available via Kidda Records.

Innocense by Suspects – pure post-grunge garage punk rock

Suspects - Thomas Prescott and James (Jaff) MaySuspects are Thomas Prescott and James (Jaff) May. They come from Southend, and are a part of the ever-growing, pulsating Cool Thing Records that could very well be at the centre of the universe.

Their debut single, Innocense, sees the the two-piece arrive on the garage punk rock ‘n’ roll platform with a bang!

Innocense is an epic slice of back-to-basics, gritty, driving post-grunge garage punk rock.  Pounding drums, heavy big muff-drive fuzz guitars and an abrasive yet controlled, aggressive vocal delivery.  All of which fixates the listener like a rabbit to headlights or Elvis to prescription drugs.  From the off, Innocence explodes into action. 0-50 faster than Valentino Rossi. Ending way too soon, it leaves an empty burning hum and a spellbinding charm, before I select repeat, again and again.

Innocense perfectly depicts a sound that cuts like a switchblade through the endless pile of shallow, empty candy-sweet, non-confrontational drivel that envelopes the sleepy, zombie-like state we find ourselves in. Suspects are here to wake us up from our slumber and to shout from the roof tops FUCK POLITICS – LET’S DANCE!

Pump up the volume and jump aboard the Suspects train departing from Southend-on-Sea, as it steams head on to Garage Punkville!  This train is bound for freedom with its first class passengers Jack White, Black Sabbath, Queens Of The Stone Age and Black Flag.

Innocence by Suspects is available on Cool Thing Records.

Ratboys – GN is post-country, indie pop-tastic

Ratboys - GNRatboys is the vehicle for singer/guitarist Julia Steiner and guitarist Dave Sagan. The band hail from Chicago and began life in 2009. In 2011 they released the Ratboy EP, and in June 2015, they released their debut studio album, AOID.  Their new album, GN (an abbreviation of ‘goodnight’) is released on 30th June on Topshelf Records.

Ratboys’ music is charming, instantly familiar, indie folk, alt pop, post-country songs that err towards a down-to-earth, uncomplicated simplicity.  Just what is needed in these times of austerity, gloom and chaos.

Julia Steiner - Ratboys

On GN, I’m hearing echoes of Kim Deal, The Breeders, and the country-edged Sheryl Crow. Ratboys manage to effortless capture a little piece of a hazy summer daze in their understated, feel good guitar-led pop songs.

The songs on GN  “largely detail experiences of saying goodbye, finding your way home, and then figuring out what the hell to do once you’re back,” says Steiner.

The album’s lead single, “Control” sounds instantly familiar, like I loved this band for years.  I find myself humming along, foot-tapping, head-bobbing to an infectious tune.

GN offers a box of tales, laments and triumphs, which recount near-tragedies by the train tracks, crippling episodes of loneliness, remembrances of a deceased family pet with freezer burn, and on and on. The songs shift and breathe as worlds all their own, tied together by the group’s self-proclaimed ‘post-country’ sound, which combines moments of distortion and a DIY aesthetic with a devotion to simple songwriting and ties to the Americana sounds of years past.

The songs chosen to close both sides of the record – the slow-burning “Crying About the Planets’” and quizzical “Peter the Wild Boy” – unpack the respective journeys of two real people who were quite literally lost and found. “”Crying” tells the survival story of Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson from a first-person perspective, and “Peter” reflects on the life of a feral child in Germany who was eventually adopted by the King of England,” according to Steiner.

Ratboys guitarist Dave Sagan

Certain personal stories – the tour adventures recapped in “GM,” the struggle to learn to show affection as divulged in “Molly” – find Ratboys just as eagerly exploring subject matter that comes from within, and then illustrating the highs and lows with soaring hooks and plaintive ones. Even in the moments that lie somewhere between bliss and misery, a tension persists between Steiner’s sweet vocal delivery and Sagan’s physical, almost-off-the-hinges guitar playing that lends each song a deeper sense of colour and movement.

Come December, I will confidently predict that GN will appear on every well respected ‘best albums of 2017’ list.

Ratboys –  GN  Track List:

Molly
Elvis is in the Freezer
Westside
Control
Crying About the Planets
Dangerous Visions
Wandered
GM
The Record
Peter the Wild Boy

 Ratboys new album, GN is released on 30th June via Topshelf Records on vinyl, CD, cassette and digital download.