Third helping from ‘One-man art-pop prankster’ Alvin Spetz. Alvin Spetz is also the maverick singer-songwiter responsible for two of the most eccentric and original albums of the last 6 or 7 years.
Released under the moniker of Full English Breakfast, his self-titled debut and follow up ‘Candy In Weightlessness’ earned rave reviews from broadsheets to blogs. Now album No.3 ‘The Mixtape of Things’ is ready and Spetz likewise is moving on up through the daily nutritional cycle and this time will be known as ‘That Will Be Lunch’.
Alvin’s new mixtape is full of songs, some only just scraping past 30 seconds, that one moment remind you of children’s TV theme tunes and the next sound like they might be playing in an industrial discotheque from the future. In this unsettling but always playful landscape you’re almost half-expecting the whimsical paen to the snacks marketing division at Waitrose when it arrives in the shape of ‘The Campaign for Plain Nuts’.
Nestled amongst all the strangeness is an inspired cover of Talking Heads classic ‘One in a Lifetime’. Spetz has delved deep into the DNA of this ground-breaking track and extracted what can only be described as ‘previously unseen footage’. Like an inquisitive kid he’s taken the engine apart without a hope in hell of ever putting it back together again in the correct order. But this hasn’t stopped him re-assembling it.
Spetz discovered music while studying at Aberdeen university in the 80s. Inspired by the fledgling indie sounds of Edwyn Collins, The Fall, Josef K and The Pop Group, he embarked on a journey that’s included nascent recordings with members of The Shamen, dabbling with Sufism and the tabloids hounding him as a result, burning everything he’s ever recorded (several times) and playing one gig. Ever. In Belgium.
“I wasn’t planning on making a record,” says Juliana Hatfield, of her new “Pussycat” album. In fact, she thought her songwriting career was on hiatus, and that she had nothing left to say in song form; that she had finally said it all after two decades as a recording artist.
But then the presidential election happened. “All of these songs just started pouring out of me. And I felt an urgency to record them, to get them down, and get them out there.” She booked some time at Q Division studios in Somerville, Massachusetts near her home in Cambridge and went in with a drummer (Pete Caldes), an engineer (Pat DiCenso) and fourteen brand-new songs.
Hatfield produced and played every instrument other than drums—bass, keyboards, guitars, vocals. From start to finish—recording through mixing—the whole thing took a total of just twelve and a half days to complete.“It was a blur. It was cathartic,” says Hatfield. “I almost don’t even understand what happened in there, or how it came together so smoothly, so quickly. I was there, directing it all, managing it, getting it all done, but I was being swept along by some force that was driving me.
The songs had a will, they forced themselves on me, or out of me, and I did what they told me to do. Even my hands—it felt like they were not my hands. I played bass differently-- looser, more confident, better.” “Pussycat” comes on the heels of last year’s Hatfield collaboration with Paul Westerberg, the I Don’t Cares’ “Wild Stab” album, and before that, 2015’s Juliana Hatfield Three (“My Sister”, “Spin The Bottle”) reunion/reformation album, “Whatever, My Love”.
“I’ve always been prolific and productive and I have a good solid work ethic but this one happened so fast, I didn’t have time to think or plan,” says Hatfield. “I just went with it, rode the wave. And now it is out of my hands. It feels a little scary.”
”Pussycat” is being released into a very tense, divided and inflamed America. The songs are reflective of that atmosphere—angry (“When You’re A Star”), defiant (“Touch You Again”), disgusted (“Rhinoceros”), but also funny (“Short-Fingered Man”), reflective (“Wonder Why”), righteous (“Heartless”) and even hopeful (“Impossible Song”, with its chorus of ‘What if we tried to get along/and sing an impossible song’).
Tracklisting: 1. I Wanna Be Your Disease 2. Impossible Song 3. You're Breaking My Heart 4. When You're A Star 5. Good Enough For Me 6. Short-Fingered Man 7. Touch You Again 8. Sex Machine 9. Wonder Why 10. Sunny Somewhere 11. Kellyanne 12. Heartless 13. Rhinoceros 14. Everything Is Forgiven
'Bird" will be released on May 17th on limited edition Red and Black Vinyl and CD.
Ex People are Laura Kirsop: Vocals, Calum Gunn: Guitar, Edward White: Bass and Vicki Dawson: Drums.
Emerging from the London DIY scene in 2015 are stoner sludge four-piece Ex People, the latest in a line of bands seeking to push the heavy template yet further.
'Bird' was recorded with Wayne Adams (Vodun, USA Nails, Death Pedals, Casual Nun) at Bear Bites Horse Studios, and he's managed to perfectly capture the visceral weight of their sound, a startling amalgam of super filthy fuzz thick riffs, grunge, noise rock and stoner, combined with a punk attitude.
Taking their cue from bands as diverse as Electric Wizard, Bardo Pond, Harvey Milk and Kylesa, along with 90s sludge such as the Melvins (yet still managing to sound cohesive) the ten tracks that make up 'Bird', combine stoner hooks and soaring vocals with a crushing heaviness.
Add to that some thumping motorik beats (almost like a heavy 'Neu' at times), shot through with an ever-present melodic sensibility, and you have a band that once again shows that when it comes to heavy music, all gates are open.
Drawing on apocalyptic and dystopian themes, “Over” tells the story of a planet colliding with the earth, over a driving, crunching circular riff.
Other tracks tackle real-world horror, with “The Host” about a woman and child escaping domestic violence, and opening track “Not a Drill” calling for resistance against oppressive regimes.
And album closer 'Crested' is as dark as it gets, 8 minutes of full on doom meets discord, combining the atmospherics of Windhand with the slowed down hardcore of My War-era Black Flag.
'Bird' is gloriously heavy, fuzzed up yet melodic, at times bleak and thrilling as it is infectious.
It's a bold statement of intent, and we are stoked to add Ex People to the NHS roster.
Tracklisting: 1. Not a Drill 2. Without 3. Over 4. Dread 5. The Host 6. Complainer 7. You Creep 8. Erlenmeyer 9. Surekill 10. Crested
Ulrika Spacek return on June 2nd with the release of their second album, Modern English Decoration. Much like their debut album released in early 2016, the band chose to record, produce and mix the entirety of the record in their shared house – a former art gallery called ‘KEN’, so named because of a cryptic inscription found above the front door.
The relatively short amount of time between their first and second albums is testament to the band’s self-contained creative environment and the productivity it encourages. There’s a tendency to label this degree of self-reliant creativity ‘DIY’ - and the band do certainly feel emboldened by that ethos - yet to consider Modern English Decoration solely in these terms is a disservice.
Their craft is considered and purposeful, the means of its production reflecting the band’s overall vision rather than the value system of an often haphazard and accidental DIY culture. “We enjoy listening to music through the album format and want our records to reflect that”, says Rhys Edwards (guitars, vocals, synthesiser).
Ulrika Spacek formed in Berlin in one night, when 14-year-long friends Rhys Edwards and Rhys Williams conceptualised ‘Ulrika Spacek’ and came up with The Album Paranoia as their debut album title. Moving back to London with the intention to record it, they were joined by Joseph Stone (guitars, organ, synths, violin), Ben White (bass) and Callum Brown (drums, percussion), ossifying into the five-piece they are now. The album was released soon after with little forewarning and was accompanied by a year long, near-monthly club night called Oysterland.
Given the lyrics often favour abstraction and the vocals can be more impressionistic than declarative, the album title itself offers perhaps the most telling entry point to the record. In part, it’s a self-effacing play on an interior design cliché that references the meticulous creative processes the band adheres to. There’s also a nod towards the environment in which it was created – a Victorian house turned art gallery turned home studio
Unsurprisingly given the context of its creation, Modern English Decoration might be considered a companion piece of sorts to The Album Paranoia.But there are crucial differences. Most notably, this isn’t the work of the Ulrika Spacek conceptualised by Edwards and Williams in Berlin – Modern English Decoration is the band as five rather than two people, and it shows.
Those who have witnessed the intensity of their live show will instantly recognise the merits in this. The bass and drums provide a versatile anchor, at once soft, then aggressive, while the vocals drift woozily in and out, like druggy hindsight or skewed premonition. With three guitarists in the band guitars were always going to be central to the music, but what is less expected is the dynamic interplay between the trio that suggests a three-headed version of the Verlaine-Lloyd axis at the heart of Television.
What’s more, the absence of reverb is integral, in part attributable to the ambience of the studio, but also a conscious decision in order to add focus. And focus is the abiding term: this is an album designed to be just so - a 45 minute commitment, a surrender.
Tracklisting: 1. Mimi Pretend 2. Silvertonic 3. Dead Museum 4. Ziggy 5. Everything, all the time 6. Modern English Decoration 7. Full of Men 8. Saw A Habit Forming 9. Victorian Acid 10. Protestant Work Slump