Cheltenham Review

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Album Review: Purity Ring’s Shrines.

Smothering, intelligent, and strikingly real, Shrines is like reading someone’s diary. There are moments of synth infused elation and fearless honesty, lyrics of neurotic poetry, and the same sense of surreal despair that you’ll find in a Bosch painting.

With tracks that blend so well together, it’s tempting to take Shrines in one giant mesmerizing hit. The sound glides through the forty minutes with a few rhythm variations and heavier synth sessions. The same ghostly vocals and cascading hooks. But why change something that works so well?

What makes the album so intoxicating is how perfectly co-ordinated the Purity Ring duo are. Corin’s unsettling beats on ‘Cartographist‘ pours in Megan’s lyrics of ‘color your cartography and your dreams of me/Maps will not lie, will not lie, will not lie in me’. The ethereal vocals are as strong a rhythm maker as the synths that lap underneath.

Despite this being a debut album, Shrines is assuredly precise and well established. For those who came across Lofticries on YouTube, this album builds on that same structure and tone. Expect as equally charming song titles, Belispeak or Obedear, for example. They make more sense when sung.

The lyrics are one of the most talked about highlights of this album. At times it’s anguished and freaky, but running on an upbeat hook, like Shuck’s ‘I’ll take up your guts/To the little shed outside. Or quiveringly sexual– Crawlersout’s ‘Grandma I’ve been unruly/In my dreams’. Like the beats, they’re surreal but convincing.

This is music to be savored in the dark, or to write senseless letters to your ex by its candlelight, or to contemplate brooding modern art with. But it’ll also blast out of your car pretty well too.

Purity Ring are Megan James and Corin Roddick

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Micro Review– Fugata Quintet

Cheltenham Town Hall 11/07/12

To watch the Fugata Quintet is to drift and delve from Europe to Latin America, into Parisian cafes and Tango dancers’ brawls, through chases down cobbled streets and balcony lovers’ recitals.

Despite their unassuming appearance (quietly walking on stage they could have been a handsome band of accountants), the Quintet captured the town hall from their first fiery notes and led us through a worldly plot of tragedy, comedy, and deceitful exploits. Well, I have no idea of the plot from Horacio Ferrer’s Operita Maria de Buenos Aires, where some of tonight’s set list come from, but the sound was enough to turn your imagination into scenes of sword-drawn tension, endearing sunset longing and sharp twists of surprise.

The pianist’s solo starting off Adios Nonino has you somersaulting on her emotive turns; an angry avalanche of notes, tailing off with an eerie and sparse climax, before the accordion cheerfully sparks off the rhythm and the quintet smoothly builds into the searingly sweet and exceptional track.

Full of sinister atmosphere and bite,Vayamos al Diablo, another highlight, really tumbles you down the rabbit hole. Like a kind of serious fun, many of the tracks toy with the audience. They may entrance you in with an uprising rhythm, and then without warning spiral you through a menacing riff and the pining of a lovesick violin. There are spaces of quiet between the fiery hooks, calm that accentuates the power. For 45 minutes they shifted through emotions with an authentic fluidity, before taking a modest bow and cooly walking off stage.

The Quintet are:

Živorad Nikolić– accordian

Anastasios Mavroudis– violin

Antonis Hatzinikolaou– guitar

Anahit Chaushyan– piano

James Opstad– double bass

Album Review: Futureheads’ a capella Rant

The Futureheads aren’t afraid of touching covers (think Hounds Of Love), and from untraceable bards to Black Eyed Peas’ Meet me Halfway, Rant is full of them. Add that to the fact that the album is also entirely a capella, and it has less of a shiny new feel than This is not the World and The Chaos. This album seems like more of a side-project than a distinctive jump forward. But what a fantastic project it is– the same smooth surround-able hooks, just without the instruments.

So, the rhythms, the beats, the track speeds are entirely vocal powered (OK, a slight drum beat and some finger clicks on Beeswing). The roles of the guitar, bass and drums are successfully filled by the Heads’ four voices. In the a capella Robot, two sets of vocals lay down a base– one fast constant beat and another providing a rhythmic bellow every few seconds– with robot being sung at intervals and the lyrics laid on top. Mix in some lively vocal rises and the hooks created somewhere in there. The song even ends in the same manic stunted climax. Like many of the tracks, the varied vocals gives this version layers that wrap around you: there’s no need for instruments.

Previous Futureheads’ fans will be wondering about the band’s covers of their own songs: Meantime, Robot, Man Ray and Heartbeat Song, while covers of Richard Thompson’s 1994 hit, Beeswing, and Sparks’ The No.1 Song in Heaven, ensures a variety of curious newcomers.

There’s still a lot of Futureheads’ charm here and they’ve really let loose with Rant, but it’s unlikely to be on your running playlist, or live in your car’s C.D player. The lyrics are too precise and the rhythms too intricate to compete with the gym or motorway. The album needs a bit of time and devotion to really get it. But give a cappella a chance and you’ll be surprised and what it can achieve. It’s not a stark, outdated, and limited sound, but rich and varied, a sound that simply draws you in.

Check out: Meet Me Halfway and The Old Dun Cow

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