Pixel Fix – Running Thin EP

I’ve been following Pixel Fix since they dropped ‘Rosa' on us about 18 months ago. They've since ventured out of the Oxford scene, but after 3 EPs, there's still no sign of an album on the horizon, which is what most fans are waiting for.

This latest four-track EP, Running Thin, is much more of a development on the sound they produced in Fall, their previous release, suggesting something of a distancing from their earlier work. But, as the opening track shows, they’re still experimenting and evolving their music.

'Lungs' has been around for a couple of months now, and is what I'd imagine would happen if Jungle and The 1975 had a musical love-baby. This is the closest the EP gets to the first release, and is much more energetic than the other tracks. As the song melts away, the entire ethos of the tracks change; the aptly-named 'Change This' opens with some sci-fi vocal samples layered over the sound of rain. The ambience of the song remains consistent throughout, with downtempo drums layered underneath wet click tracks that sound like they've been pulled straight from the stems of 'Rosa'. The long guitar strums that seem to be written into the DNA of the band add to the add to the dreampop feel, giving it an extra element and making it much more rounded.

The third track, ‘Still’, is the obligatory instrumental interlude that seems to be becoming a theme throughout each of the band’s releases. Starting out as a 30-second click track from the eponymous first release, they’ve developed into much more intricate compositions, and are placed at varying points throughout each EP. The interesting drum tracks on ‘Still’ could probably do with a bit more depth, but I’ll blame my laptop speakers for not giving me the complete picture here.

'Still' dissolves into 'Overflow', which opens like a Purity Ring song. With large vocal and synth swells, before moving into a heavier but still downtempo song, it further distances the band from the Two Door Cinema Club sound they captured a year and a half ago. However, despite Pixel Fix's progressive style, each track is still distinctly theirs, as certain themes remain consistent with each release. The wet click tracks, ringing guitars and sampled vocals, the band still seem to be trying to find something they can settle on. But this disparity between tracks isn't necessarily a bad thing, and, if the band decides to do a full-length release, we could be rewarded with something nicely varied, but still distinctly unique.

Pixel Fix have recently announced a full UK tour, check their Facebook page for more details.

Blush Response - Dead Air

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Blush Response is the shoegaze / dream pop project of Alister Douglas from Adelaide in Australia. Last week he released a new EP entitled Dead Air. The EP consists of four really great tracks, their sweet centres drowning in a sea of reverb. A must for fans of My Bloody Valentine or The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

You can download Dead Air on a pay-what-you-want basis via the Blush Response Bandcamp page.

P.S Blush Response released another EP earlier this year. Check out Telltale over at Bandcamp.

Old Amica - Drone and Hum

Drone and Hum

Sweden’s Old Amica have already released one great record this year -we wrote about Fabula back in March - an album remarkable as much for its quality as for the circumstances in which it was recorded, as the band’s two members lived 650km apart.

Well it’s not yet September and the duo are back, this time with an album that was written and recorded in a far more intimate setting. Drone and Hum represents a landmark for Old Amica as it is in fact the very first record they have made while spatially and temporally together. After completing Fabula in the springtime, the pair decided to meet and play some music together. So they gathered all of the instruments they could find, set up a microphone in the middle of the room and began creating. A few days later, this lovely EP was finished.

The band then sent the new songs to Swedish filmmaker Jonas Börjesson, who wasted no time in creating the beautiful video for ‘Joni’ which you can see in the player below:

Old Amica - Joni from Jonas Börjesson on Vimeo.

We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the rest of the EP, and I’m pleased to say that the other songs are just as good. I was unsure when the band said that the record would be largely instrumental, but this is a worthy companion to their previous releases. In fact, it is the second amazingly beautiful instrumental album I have featured this week (see also Lejsovka & Freund’s Mold On Canvas)

Drone and Hum is due for release on a pay-what-you-want basis on the 5th of September. Check back at their Bandcamp page on release day.

P.S. If you’re not familiar with Old Amica’s previous releases, then do yourself a favour and remedy that fact. Start with The Burning Dot Part I, then The Burning Dot Part II and finally Fabula.

WAITERS - What For Art Thou

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WAITERS are from Manchester, and What For Art Thou is their first studio-recorded EP. Their sound is a trip back to the early 90s, with the influence of US bands such as Pavement clear. In fact the band describe themselves as “a kind of restrained abstract form of late 20th century un-Popular music.

In a genre that often relies on feedback and general noise, WAITERS have a relatively minimalist style. Each instrument is distinct and identifiable, rather than being lost under the fuzzy hum. The result is a fresh and accesible EP that is suited perfectly to the artwork (by Matthew Walkerdine and Laetitia Glenton).

There is not a lot more information on the band, so I’ll leave you with a song.

You can buy the EP on vinyl from CF Records, or download it via their Bandcamp page.

Lejsovka & Freund - Mold On Canvas

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I really, really like Trouble Books, the husband and wife duo from Akron, OH. If you’ve been reading for long enough, then you probably already know that, as I featured their previous album Love At Dusk last year, and the excellent Concatenating Fields before that. So I was rather disappointed to discover that, as of this year, Trouble Books were no more.

The good news is that Keith Freund and Linda Lejsovka are still recording music. They have recently released a new album entitled Mold On Canvas. The bad news is that I’m late to this party and the LPs have already sold out. But don’t let stop you from checking out what proves to be a nuanced, interesting release.

The band describe their new sound as “DIY Shitty Classical”, which I can’t help feeling is a small slice of false modesty. Let’s get it straight that I know next to nothing about classical music, and I’m not particularly interested in its finer points, but I’m struggling to see how anyone could describe this album as “shitty”. Freund explains, “Mold on Canvas” is an exploration of ability… trespassing into the academic or classical music world with an amateur’s guess on pushing the right keys.”

The album opens with ‘Borrowed Mic Test’, which gently buzzes and pulses into life, the cautious wing-beats of the Lejsovka & Freund moniker as it emerges from its chrysalis. After just two and a half minutes this sonic lepidopteran takes flight, as pianos take over and we get our first glimpse of the new “classical” angle. Next up is ‘Hexations’, with its initial jarring slide giving way to some mournful piano. The title track is sad and pretty in all the right ways and ‘From Royal Ave’ shimmers with a warm, droning fuzz, cut through with some really nice strings. 

Freund seems to have had a pretty clear picture in mind when composing these pieces, “These pieces are made by and for the view from huge sunroom windows overlooking a wooded ravine." My advice would be to find yourself a sunroom, or just a wooded ravine (or really anywhere pretty), and let yourself drift off with it.

Mold On Canvas is a sad album, but not ‘sad’ in its usual usage, meaning upsetting or morose, but instead a different sad: a reflective, comforting sad, one almost synonymous with beautiful. I like it a lot, and I think you might too.

You can download it in its entirety via Bark & Hiss  

Chips Calipso - I Walked Outside and Felt the Sun

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Warning: Bandcamp is a new/obscure music rabbit hole. The new music feed introduces new bands every day, then each artist has a ‘supported by’ section where you can see people who have already bought the album, and in turn explore their collections to find more artists with further fans with collections to nose around, ad infinitum. As a result, I often have acts on my ‘to listen to/write about’ list with no clear idea to how I came across them.

So when David Roderick Cameron, AKA Chips Calipso, emailed us to tell us about his new album, it was pretty strange to tell him (a man from Melbourne, Australia, who currently has 78 ‘likes’ on Facebook) that we were already listening to the album.

I Walked Outside and Felt the Sun is a lovely slice of psychadelic dream pop, complete with a superbly lo-fi veneer. Imagine what MGMT would sound like if they wanted to be garage rock band rather than The Beatles. ‘Tibetan Clouds’ brings to mind the hallucinogenic strangeness of Evangelicals, ‘I Get Back’ is a punkier affair that channels the attitude of Wavves, whereas ‘Pines 2009’ is more laid back, that laconic sort of rock music that sounds good on holidays. Overall, it’s a perfect antidote to these last few summer evenings where the night draws in a little too early.

You can get the album on a pay-what-you-can basis from Bandcamp.

ARMS - Backwards Record

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Last week we featured a great a capella Guided By Voices cover, by New York’s ARMS, on our Covers Mix. Well that was the first track from a new covers album from ARMS - Backwards Record.

It’s always interesting to see how an artist takes an old song and makes it their own, but this is especially pronounced with Todd Goldstein’s distinctive vocals. There are no attempts at duplication, no songs that have that I’m-having-more-fun-singing-than-you-are-listening karaoke effect, and, most importantly, no outright butchering. Instead we get eight original re-imaginings, interpretations that have obviously been worked on and perfected.   

Goldstein says: “Backwards Record is a collection of songs that have made me get all feel-something-y over the years and I hope that my appreciation comes across in this humble mess of internet doodaddery. Enjoy it with my compliments.

The full tracklist is as follows:

1. “Corporeal” (Broadcast cover)
2. “Ballad of Big Nothing” (Elliott Smith cover)
3. “Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory (Guided By Voices cover)
4. “Ana Ng” (They Might Be Giants cover)
5. “Slowdance” (Matthew Dear cover)
6. “Disgust” (Thunder & Lightning cover)
7. “Ooh La La” (The Faces cover)
8. “Foolish Love” (Rufus Wainwright cover)

The LP will be available from the 2nd Sept from Paper Garden Records.

Benjamin Booker - S/T

Benjamin Booker Album Pre-Order Digital Download

Benjamin Booker is a songwriter that is not afraid to mix with genres. The usual folky songwriter vibe is brought alive with bluesy rock and dashes of punk to create an album that feels original yet (paradoxically) classic.

The album’s greatest success is it’s potential to appeal to a wide range of music fans. Not only is its fresh-but-familiar sound going to catch ears, but there is also something for everyone in terms of the listener’s needs. I’ve enjoyed listening to it through my headphones, but I can equally imagine this proving a hit on popular radio when driving with the windows down, or in a muddy field with the last of the summer light illuminating thousands of half-cut revellers.

This duality seems present throughout the album. ‘Violent Shiver’ is at the punky end of the spectrum, with Booker pushes his vocals to the edge of comprehension before the festival-friendly singalong refrain “we found a way!”; ‘Have You Seen My Son’ starts off as a galloping rock ‘n roll song, complete with evangelical growls and yelps, before morphing into a moody bluesy rock effort that will please fans of The Black Keys; 

It’s clever stuff, straddling the raw intensity of something personal and the fast-paced, why-don’t-you-join-in chorus that means that Booker could well be the next rock artist to get some love from the wider world.

Violent Shiver is out today in the UK (18/8) on Rough Trade, and tomorrow in the US on ATO Records. You can stream the album in full over at NPR if you need more convincing. Finally, if you’ve ever wondered what a singalong with the binmen of Paris might be like, La Blogothèque have you covered: