Novelty Island – Welcome To Novelty Island

We’ve been championing Novelty Island at Further. since their second single ‘Saturn Alarms’ dropped into our inbox earlier this year. Welcome To Novelty Island, the band’s highly-anticipated debut EP, collects together last year’s first single ‘Magdapio Falls’, ‘Saturn Alarms’ and last month’s ‘Windows’ single with new track ‘The End Of The Whirl’, each discrete track highlighting the songwriting prowess and deft melding of retro-futurist sounds by the band’s Tom McConnell. McConnell hails from an indeterminate location somewhere in the north of England, and his group may or may not be named after an especially bonkers Vic and Bob skit.

‘Magdapio Falls’ is an understated singalong gem, featuring deft choruses, woozy retro synths and a wonky, space-age sensibility. Possessing an inner uncertainty and indecision in its lyrics, something about ‘Magdapio Falls’ feels like you’re being propelled gently through distant galaxies, the combination of delicate electronics and spiky guitars on the bridge having a brilliantly emotional quality, while Mellotron-esque chords nod back to The Beatles. Some of ‘Magdapio Falls’ sedateness creeps into ‘Windows’, a tender song filled with psychedelic, chill-out reference points that eddy and spin from its gauzy core – a trippy stew of languid beats, icicle-sharp melodies and delicate harmonies.

‘Saturn Alarms’ is the counterpoint to the languid, laidback structure of those songs, being an urgent rush through the turbulent reaches of our solar system and the omnipresent sauce junk floating around out there, replete with catchy vocals and star-scraping electronics. Poised somewhere between vintage electronic pop and wiry indie rock, the track was named after some inexplicable graffiti that McConnell spotted tagged onto his mother’s house in Liverpool, and thenceforth transformed into a tightly-executed pop monster.

New track ‘The End Of The Whirl’ buzzes on grimy, droning synths, vintage 1981 one-note melodies and a thudding glam-rock R&B stomp of a piano and drums rhythm. ‘All of this white noise is so hard to understand,’ sings McConnell as the track breaks down briefly into a slowed-up soundfield of accelerating synths and polyrhythms. Its upbeat, urgent, playful sounds and melodic juxtapositions are precisely what the world needs right now.

Welcome To Novelty Island was released March 20 2020.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

Charlotte Spiral – Ideal Life

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Charlotte Spiral is a duo of vocalist Amy Spencer and multi-instrumentalist accomplice Avi Barath, two former Goldsmiths students now making stirring, yet endlessly fragile, music together.

Their debut EP, Ideal Life, contains three songs poised perilously on the tightrope between mournfulness and hope, each track a discrete soundworld of emotive layers over which Spencer’s tender, engaging vocal is allowed ample room to manoeuvre. ‘End Of Summer’ carries a tragic quality, its altered piano and gently shuffling jazz rhythm a perfect foil for Spencer’s quiet and understated anguish. There is a resigned tonality here, amplified by plaintive harmonies and a brutal, haunting dead stop following the line ‘Maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be.

‘Wide Eyed’, with its unwavering Casio preset rhythm and languid, amorphous backdrop, is perhaps – by a whisker – the EP’s towering moment. We find ourselves being moved through Spencer’s innermost thoughts, comprising everything from a delicate defiance to a fear of being unloved, its diaristic outpourings laced with such pathos and longing that it would surely soften the heart of even the hardest and most curmudgeonly of souls, and whose arrangement stays with you long after it concludes.

Ideal Life by Charlotte Spiral is released February 7 2020. Charlotte Spiral play Servant Jazz Quarters on February 4 2020 – tickets can be purchased here.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

electronic mOnkee – mOnkee kingdom

When I was ten years old, I came to own my first computer – an Amstrad CPC464, complete with integrated cassette loader and accompanied by a green-screen monitor. I divided my leisure time between playing with my Star Wars figures and Transformers while waiting the interminable period for games to load on the Amstrad, programming rudimentary little things in BASIC or playing out on the street. My embarrassing attempts at making music with computers were a whole hardware upgrade and around five years away.

And so it’s hard not to be impressed by mOnkee kingdom, a six-track EP of short electronic music vignettes by ten year old Clement Street as electronic mOnkee. On the evidence of tracks like the skittish, hyperactive ‘demented robot’ or ‘NERDY’, it suggests that Clement was brought up listening to the music of Mike Paradinas’s Planet Mu imprint instead of more predictable children’s fare like The Wiggles.

These are tracks filled with imaginative clashes between hardcore vacuum cleaner non-melodies, flashes of calypso-jazz piano and beats that have a go-anywhere randomness, giving each piece an unpredictable, edgy dimension. For me, the standouts are ‘sci-fi-ify that sound’ and ‘twilight octopus’ thanks to the addition of some neat sounds that evoke the memories of my beloved Amstrad’s cassette-noise squealing.

Any fundraising I did as ten year old was confined to sponsored whatevers at school – rounders, silences, spelling tests, etc – but then again we lacked both imagination and the ability to crowdfund in 1986. As if it wasn’t impressive enough that Clement made the EP, proceeds from its sale go toward an ethical store being set up in St. Neots, Cambridgeshire that will offer things like eco refills, coffee and in-house production of vegan chocolate. The crowdfunding page can be reached here.

Buy mOnkee kingdom at Bandcamp.

Words Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Further. : Quarterly Report Q1 2019 & Playlist

Further. launched in January 2019. Its objective was to create a place where I could review things that caught my attention but which didn’t ‘fit’ Documentary Evidence, or where I didn’t get to cover that particular release for Electronic Sound.

During the first quarter of the year I reviewed 15 albums or singles, published one interview, and included a guest review written by Erasure’s Vince Clarke. It was a modest start to the blog, a testing of the water if you will. I will try harder during the second quarter.

Below is the full list of content published during the first quarter. There’s also an accompanying Spotify playlist including tracks from each record (where available on that platform), along with ‘Gallery’ by Californian electronic pop artist Dresage which completely passed me by at the time.

Reviews

Kaada – ZombieLars (Soundtrack) (Mirakel Recordings)
Kamaal Williams – New Heights / Snitches Brew (Black Focus Records)
The Silver Field – Rooms (O Genesis)
TOTM – Bliss / Blurred (Flickering Lights)
Karolina Rose – Invicta (Violet Sunset Records)
Neu Gestalt – Controlled Substances (Alex Tronic Records)
Lucy Mason – Flashback Romance (self-released)
Hugh Marsh – Violinvocations (Western Vinyl)
Bayonne – Drastic Measures (City Slang)
Modular Project – 1981 (hfn music)
Evelyn Glennie/ Roly Porter – One Day Band 17 (Trestle Records)
Maja S. K. Ratkje – Sult (Rune Grammofon)
d’Voxx- Télégraphe (DiN) – reviewed by Vince Clarke
Kilchhofer / Anklin – Moto Perpetuo (Marionette)
Jonteknik – Electricity (The People’s Electric)

Interview
The Silver Field

Playlist
Spotify

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Modular Project – 1981

The sixth volume of hfn’s Sisters & Brothers series comes from Modular Project, a duo of Italian producers Alberto Iovine and Alessandro Fumagalli. With a title referencing a pivotal year for the development of electronic pop, and wrapped in a sleeve praising the keep fit fads of yesteryear, it probably comes as a surprise to absolutely nobody that Iovine and Fumagalli are fans of 80s synth music.

And so it is that the three tracks here nod firmly in that direction. The title track, a brief, 90-second , beatless progression through stalking bass synths and winter-crisp melodies is like an abandoned demo from a particularly meditative Kling Klang studio session.

‘Past Present Future’ finds the duo offering a steady, immovable web of quiet tones, fuzzy guitar samples and vocoders, hitching all of that to early drum machine rhythms. Taken together, it makes for a hypothetical imagining of how techno minimalism might have sounded had it been created forty years ago. ‘Freshback’ takes a similar approach but from a firmer starting position, with heavier beats, a nagging bass line and a squelchy, elastic pattern that flutters and gyrates around and through the whole track like the blades of Stringfellow Hawke’s Airwolf.

1981 – Sisters & Brothers Vol. 6 by Modular Project will be released by hfn music on February 22 1981, sorry, 2019.

Words: Mat Smith
(c) 2019 Further.

Karolina Rose – Invicta

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Brooklynite Karolina Rose’s route to electronic pop isn’t exactly a common one: having graduated from Philly’s prestigious Wharton School, Rose wound up in New York’s financial heartland before giving it all up to focus on the somewhat more perilous business of being a singer-songwriter.

Invicta was trailed by last year’s ‘Going To Berlin’, a buzzing track filled with crisp beats and a rapidfire bassline, its lyrics showcasing an artist unafraid to deal with erudite lyrical concepts many times removed from the usual concerns of the pop scene. On Invicta, Rose develops those sensibilities further, with tracks like ‘Crystal Gem’ taking the club-infused, sharply-rendered synth gestures of ‘Going To Berlin’ and adding a bold, defiant lyric and a bassline that nods to Talk Talk’s similarly resolute ‘It’s My Life’. The urgent closing track ‘Move With Me’ adopts a distinctly 80s production panache, containing all manner of sinewy electronics and icy, melodic hooks.

Elsewhere, the tender ‘Goodnight, Mr. Moon’ has the kind of happy-sad textural fabric that belongs on the end credits of an indie film, while the heartfelt chorus on ‘Downhill’ and towering, anthemic build suggests that Karolina Rose studied the pop playbook just as hard as she did business studies.

Invicta by Karolina Rose is released by Violet Sunset Records on February 1st.

Words: Mat Smith
(c) 2019 Further.