New Soundbites: December 1-7

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Britain’s best kept secret unleash their third colossal longplayer – Getintothis is once again blown away.

Oceansize: FramesAlbum of the Week
Superball
First the bad news: Frames isn’t Oceansize’s finest worksong.
They’ve not released that yet.
Worse news, this the third long-player from the Mike Vennart-led Mancunians, does not rank alongside their 2003 monolithic debut Effloresce; but then few records in the four years since have – certainly not from these isles anyway.
Perhaps if we’re honest, Frames doesn’t even match up to 2004’s criminally overlooked Music For Nurses EP; a composition which encapsulated in under half an hour their punishing beauty.
Now the good news. What Frames does do is build and improve upon the underrated, if ultimately flawed and frustrating listen which was 2005’s Everyone Into Position. Where Everyone… ultimately suffered was lack of focus – a mish mash of ideas in search of something not quite found. Everyone… aligned their trademark visceral guitar assault with glitsch-ridden electronics and hefty noise often rendering tracks indistinguishable and forgettable, save for two gems.
Music For A Nurse (confusingly not included on the EP of the same name, but also featured on the Orange ‘Fish‘ ads) a Floyd-like haunting number bathed in mysterious refinery and Ornament/The Last Wrongs – an epic employing organs, four-part harmonies and apocalyptic guitars. It’s really something.
And for the most part, now free – through choice – of label constraints, Oceansize appear intent on working with the blueprints of these two excellent numbers while infusing elements of their earliest, and best, work. Thus Frames carries just eight tracks (nine if you include the superfluous bonus track Voorhees) but the shortest weighs in at just under seven minutes as they once again appear intent on living up to their name.
Indeed, the longest track featured, The Frame, exemplifies their talent for the epic: weaving licks provided by Steve Durose and Gambler are submerged by Vennart’s most potent vocal display to date and a string-assisted climax to rival anything in their back catalogue.
The use of strings, an aspect they’ve rarely employed thus far, is prevalent elsewhere on Frames and indeed lends to the record’s most effective tracks. Savant, a gorgeous slow burner propelled by Mark Heron‘s tumbling, clobbering rolls.
Elsewhere, the ‘Size’s dynamic nastiness is in full glory on the brutal Sleeping Dogs And Dead Lions. Kicking off with the choice lines ‘The slime looks so good on your face, One for charm, one for disgrace – C*nt!’ there’s no let up for six jarring minutes of metallic post-rock mayhem.
The opening salvo of Commemorative 9/11 T-Shirt which segues into Unfamiliar is as close to anything on Effloresce; tick-tock pianos, Sabbath-meets-Crimson prog and Mogwai walls of noise counter-balanced with glistening guitars as fresh as arctic springs.
At 77 minutes, it is easy to argue the case they could use some editorial control – surely the meandering Only Twin could have been consigned to the cutting room floor, a track which threatens to detonate, but merely falters after seven minutes of slow drudgery.
But, then there’s the ten minute brilliance of An Old Friend of the Christy’s – a track which is the very epitome of menacing doom.
Ultimately, what Frames represents is a band intent on striving for more, pushing on with ideas and craft, restless for more and giving more – sometimes they press the wrong buttons, but forgive them that – as here is a band to firmly train your sights on, for next time they could just produce that record which cements their greatness.
For fans of: Evil Music For Good People. Chris Morris.
8/10

Devendra Banhart: Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
XL Records
Who exactly is Devendra Banhart? He desperately wants us to think of him as this faery-love-child-hippy-mystic worshipping at the altar of cosmic retro, maaaan.
But time is running out for Dev and he’s increasingly resembling a charlatan chancing his tattooed arm.
Much time has been spent investing in a wealth of records offered up – and for the most part, it has been time wasted.
Sure there’s been gems along the way, and perhaps his last collection on Cripple Crow, from 2005 was his most rewarding, but Smokey… is a huge backward leap.
Mixing Tropicalia (Carmencita), cod-Reggae (The Other Woman), samba (Samba Vexillographica) amid his usual flurry of wistful folk, we’re served up a huge bubbling gloop of luke-warm, half-baked mush.
Only on the eight-minute slow-burning rocker Seahorse does he really hit the spot.
Q: If he wasn’t SO delightfully handsome would anyone care?
For fans of: The Doors, dopeheads, dopes.
3/10

Omar Rodriguez Lopez & Lydia Lunch: s/t
Willie Anderson Recordings
Lydia Lunch hates men so much, that she once failed to say thank you – or even acknowledge – my mate when he held a door open for her. Rebel or what?
On this five-track EP, the NYC confrontationalist hooks up with guitarist/producer Omar Mars Volta for a kind of Bitches Brew wah-funkfest which while being initially ear-grabbing after repeated playings reveals to be little more than improvisational wankery.
With Lopez and his band noodling endlessly Lunch sounds off against America, the Iraq war, gun control, organised religion and for the most part men, there’s plenty to savour – and indeed laugh at – but with little variety the effect soon becomes wearing.
For fans of: Dildos, suicide bombers, cotton buds.
4.5/10

White Rainbow: Prism Of Eternal Now
Kranky
Adam Forkner wants to eat your mind.
According to the fine Kranky packaging – he’s going to lull you into a state of complete psychosis using only the finest synthesizers, tablas, delay devices, fuzzes and water jugs.
Oh yes, the dreaded water jugs. You truly are fucked.
Over 70 minutes of vibrational whirring, drone and primitive prog later you’re guaranteed to feel enlightened – and as it also suggests, your ‘auric egg blockages’ should be sorted.
Wonga.
For fans of: Original Twenty-First Century Positive Healing Vibrational Rainbow Zome Music.
6.5/10

PJ Harvey: White Chalk
Island Records
For three lost years PJ Harvey has been locked up in Mr Rochester’s attic.
Having escaped from her master’s stranglehold she’s taken up tinkling on the ivory while quietly raging, albeit in a higher pitch than ever before.
So what we’re treated to is a hauntingly brilliant – if incredibly harsh and unsettling – listen, which is as pared down as her debut Dry, as it is substantial and equal to her finest records.
Certainly not for the faint-hearted, but then again, what great music is?
For fans of: Gothic horror, taxidermists.
6.5/10

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