Pure Reason Revolution at Dingwalls 17.3.09

Pure Reason Revolution Live

Pure Reason Revolution Live

Last Tuesday I headed down to Dingwalls in Camden to check out Pure Reason Revolution on the last UK date of their current tour. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I saw them a couple of years ago in a tiny venue in Cambridge and they were great, but their new album was so different, would they still be as good live, and how would the larger venue and new songs work out live?

After fighting my way through to the bar and grabbing a swift guinness (well it was st.paddys day) I found myself a good spot by the stage and started checking out the first support band. Of The I are a progressive metal band from london, they were really fantastic musicians with a great live sound and some good songs, but they seem a bit too stuck in nu-metal and their lead singer really got on my nerves. His random shouts which didn’t seem to have any bearing to the music were bad enough but he fell foul of my pet hate, singing with an american accent when (as far as I can tell) he’s not american. The next support was The Domino State. They washed past me in waves of blandness and instantly forgettable songs.

When Pure Reason Revolution came on they utterly blew the support bands away. They’ve managed to recreate their impressive rich recorded sound pretty well.It does rely pretty heavily on backing tracks but short of bringing on a full orchestra and choir theres not much else they can do, plus the live guitars and keyboards do more than enough to add that organic spontaneous touch that you want from a gig and give you that rock ‘n’ roll blast that leaves you grinning from ear to ear.

PRR were also incredibly tight musically, I didn’t notice a single missed note, they’ve obviously been playing so much over the last few years that they’ve become an incredibly accomplished live band. They pulled off some incrdibly complex stuff, watching them perform 3 part vocal harmonies live was utterly jawdropping.

All this was also set to a pretty hypnotic light show, featuring tripped out black and white cartoons and sections from Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s surrealist piece of genius Un Chien Andalou. PRR were wearing their arty influences firmly.

There was one moment when some of the keyboards cut-out, and the light show died about 3/4 of the way through but there was so much technology there something was bound to go wrong, and it was dealt with pretty promptly by the roadies who were running around frantically throughout the night.

The main revelation that came from the night was how the new songs, which sounded so completly different to their old stuff, seemed to fit perfectly into their live sound. There was far less of a gap between the old and new and instead it was much clearer how their sound had evolved organically and that the new sound is one that has been borne from extensive gigging.

PRR really proved that they may have a new sound but they still now how to throw a bloody good gig.

You can check out my review of their new album here


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Amor Vincit Omnia by Pure Reason Revolution

Amor Vincit Omnia by Pure Reason Revolution
Pure Reason Revolution‘s first album The Dark Third was one of my favourite albums of the last decade. It’s like a checklist of things I love. Massive riffs. Vocal harmonies. Elaborate compositions. Intricate obscure lyrics. Electronic noises and a progressive idealogy. Like the bastard child of Pink Floyd and Smashing Pumpkins. It was fantastic.

As such their latest album Amor Vincit Omnia was one of my most eagerly anticipated albums of the year, and it had a lot of expectations to meet up to.

From the first note of the first track you can tell that this is a massive change from their previous work. I saw them live a couple of years ago, while they were touring their last album and had just released the download only single Victorious Cupid (which also appears on AVO), and it was apparent that they were moving towards a new, more electronic sound with tracks like Golden Disco (a live electronic reworking of their old b-side Golden Clothes) and the aforementioned Victorious Cupid. The opening bars of the new album feature a fuzzed out synth riff which you might expect to find in something more like Soulwax than PRR.

The Album continues with the new electronic sound, featuring a heavy synth presence in pretty much all of the new tracks. PRR also seem to have moved closer to a more accessable sound, cutting out the extended spaced out sections which characterised The Dark Third and even keeping most of their songs under 6 minutes long.

For the most part PRR use their new electro sound brilliantly, great synth lines, cool vocal tweaks and not so overdone as to obscure the fantastic riffs. Speaking of riffs, AVO has them in abundance, and I would have sulked if there wasn’t. The only time PRR really drop the ball would be on Disconnect, it sticks out like a sore thumb with a frankly embarrasing robotic vocoder voice, which doesn’t fit with the rest of the album and is utterly utterly naff.

The First half of the album is definately the strongest part, all the best tracks from the album are there, Victorious Cupid, Deus Ex Machina and the epic Apogee/Requiem For The Lovers but it does seem to tail off little afterwards. Theres Disconnect for starters and then The Gloaming which goes on a little bit too long and seems slightly directionless. It just seems a bit like an anticlimax to what is a fantastic start to the album.

The problem with the album is that it is a very big departure from their last album and they really risk alienating their fan base, especially those of them who loved their prog rock tendencies. I really like the album, there are some fantastic songs on there and it maintains a lot of the things I liked about their debut with the electronic parts brought to the fore. It really is a very good album, although it took me a while to realise this. I just hope that fans expecting more of the same from PRR will be able to appreciate  it.

I also headed over to Pure Reason Revolution at their london dingwalls gig a few days ago, you can find my review here


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Stone Roses Reunion

So the big musical news today is that of the Stone Roses reforming for a run of 21 UK shows with the possibility of some festivals elsewhere.

Big grins. Some (Bernard Butler of Suede mainly) might criticise them as being yet another 90’s band reforming to cash in on nostalgia (a la Smashing Pumpkins, Faith No More, Blur, The Verve and a truckload of others) but I don’t care. I was less than a month old when The Stone Roses debut was released, I’ve grown up with their music around me and its part of the soundtrack of my youth. Call me nostalgic, but I want to get the chance to see these bands live and, I’ll never say no to another album. I’m currently trying to decide which if any festivals I’m going to head to this year (funds permitting) and if I see Stone Roses on the bill of any they may just sway my vote.

The Stone Roses’s self titled debut is really their classic album, filled with tripped out songs, iconic basslines and jangly guitar it kick started the madchester scene. Their follow up was the notoriously disappointing Second Coming, which probably doesn’t deserve all the stick it gets, there are some good tracks even though it moves away from the madchester sound of its predecessor. During the follow up to and the recording of Second Coming the band started to fall apart and eventually split in a fairly spectacular fashion with Ian Brown smoking vast amounts of cannabis and demanding to be called King Monkey. After each of the band members gradually left the band split in 1996. Ian Brown and John Squire have apparently not spoken since.

Mani, the bands bassist was the first to start a new project by quickly joining Primal Scream. John Squire formed the Seahorses (an anagram of “he hates roses”) a fairly standard blues based brit-pop band that released one album.

Ian Brown has had the most successful post-roses solo career, experimenting with electronica and blues riffs his first two solo albums, Unfinished Monkey Business and Golden Greats are particularly good, although his latest albums have been more than a tad disappointing. He’s also lent vocals to vast amounts of collaborations over the years.

Stone Roses were a fantastic band, and they’ve done great things since. I can’t wait to get the chance to see them live.

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Penguin Cafe Orchestra

I like to think I have a knack for discovering strange, obscure and brilliant music that most people have never heard of. This time though I think I may have outdone myself.

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra is definately a bit out there. Frustrating hard to describe it combines classical, jazz, and folk sounds with some of the concepts of prog rock and sonic experimentation. The result being a group of incredibly listenable pastoral, sunny, experimental, string compositions.

Heres how Simon Jeffes, the founding member of the orchestra described how it came about.

“In 1972 I was in the south of France. I had eaten some bad fish and was in consequence rather ill. As I lay in bed I had a strange recurring vision, there, before me, was a concrete building like a hotel or council block. I could see into the rooms, each of which was continually scanned by an electronic eye. In the rooms were people, everyone of them preoccupied. In one room a person was looking into a mirror and in another a couple were making love but lovelessly, in a third a composer was listening to music through earphones. Around him there were banks of electronic equipment. But all was silence. Like everyone in his place he had been neutralized, made gray and anonymous. The scene was for me one of ordered desolation. It was as if I were looking into a place which had no heart. Next day when I felt better, I went to the beach. As I sat there a poem came to me. It began ‘I am the proprietor of the Penguin Cafe. I will tell you things at random.’

As you can see. Completely Mental. Slightly Pretentious. But filled with an artistic sensibility and brilliantly fun desire to explore musical possibilities that should be in all music.

The penguin cafe released their first album in 1976, “Music from the Penguin Cafe,” and continued writing and recording up until 1997 when Jeffes died of a brain tumour. Their first album is in my opinion the weakest of their albums, it seems a little stifled and far less fun. It was definatly one of musicians trying to find thier feet. The next three albums though, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Broadcasting From Home and Signs of Life are all fantastic though. Each revisiting themes and ideas from past albums and building on them with different instrumentation and unexpected flourishes.

If however you’re doubting their rock credentials at all, and am wondering about why I’m blathering on about a classicly training string orchestra my response would be…

Well Brian Eno acted as executive producer on some of their albums and their album artwork is by Emily Young, of Pink Floyds “See Emily Play,” fame. You might also recognize alot of their songs from their use in adverts and TV shows, “Telephone and Rubber Band,” used to be the One2One ad music, and I guarantee you will have heard Perpetuum Mobile as its been used on everything.

In short, Penguin Cafe Orchestra is one of the most unique things I’ve heard in a long time, and I can’t stop listening to them. I can only suggest that if you like Phillip Glass, Pentangle or Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, you might like them but even those are a long way from being like the Penguin Cafe

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My Latest finds

Something about the recent sunny weather has been reigniting my love of Trip-hop and chilled out electronica. Golden days call for lazy beats and dreamy sampling. I think over the last few days I’ve played my Lemon Jelly albums to death. Add to this my recent discovery of Spotify and I’ve been finding so many new electronica bands (and loads of others as well but thats for another time) which are really great and that I’ve previously missed out on. So, I thought I’d give a quick run through of my recent finds.

Mr.Scruff

Mr.Scruff was one of those artists I’d heard a couple of tracks of before but never really got around to investigating until now. He specialises in electronica with loads of funk and jazz samples, made with a genuine sense of humour and a slight fixation with fish. Most of his albums are pretty consistently good but Trouser Jazz is probably my favourite and the best one to start with.

Daedelus

Daedulus, (named after the greek mythological figure who designed the minotaurs labyrinth and whose name literally means cunning worker) has really mastered the art of fusing analogue and digital sounds together to create quite an original although slightly melancholic sound. Sampled sounds next to beep-beep 8-bit style noises combine to make him quite distinctive. Of Snowdonia and Daedelus Denies the Days Demise are the albums of his I’d go for.

Four Tet

I found out about Four Tet through a Super Furry Animals remix album (Phantom Phorce, he does a really great remix of The Piccolo Snare) I had. Four Tet uses a lot of organic sounds, like acoustic guitars and strings, and also a more sparing use of drum beats to make a really chilled out sound which I think is pretty accessable to anyone even non-hip-hop fans.

Wagon Christ

Wagon Christ was the only one on this list which I had never heard of before last week but found through the similar artist links in Spotify, I’m glad I have though as his music is really interesting. Even in the space of one album he goes from chillout into experimental hip-hop. He also finds the weirdest samples of speech to overlay on his tracks and can create some really spooky atmospheres.

The Orb

Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb has been one of my favourite tracks ever since I heard it on Radio 6 a while back and it was one of the first things I went to check out once I got Spotify. The Orbs Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld is an absolute classic of Trip-hop and electronic music. Its utterly spaced out and completely mental. Its trip-hop which has obviously been inspired by the likes of Pink Floyd in its use of soundscapes and long drawn out compositions, and the track Back Side of the Moon is an obvious nod as well.  It masterfully creates a real sense of atmosphere and over the 2 hour length of the double album it never once gets dull.

Theres a few other artists that deserve a mention as being quite interesting but that I haven’t really listened to enough to comment on yet. Boom Bip, Coldcut, Kid Koala and pretty much anything off of the Ninja Tune record label which is pretty fantastic.

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This Blog needs you!

I’m really a bit of a newbie when it comes to blogging. I’ve had a couple of ones in the past where I didn’t really know what I was doing (not that I know much more now) but this blog has only really been going with any degree of seriousness for a couple of weeks.

It’s all growing very nicely and all my complicated graph thingies are moving in very encouraging directions but I’m still looking around for all sorts of good ways to bring more people in and make the blog all that more enjoyable.

I also seem to have hit a slight wall when it comes to coming up with good ideas for blog posts. It can be pretty tough trying to come up with something everyday.

So, through my ingenious brain power I hopefully have come up with a way of killing two birds with one stone.

I want to create more of a sense of community and encourage you lot out there to comment a bit more so we can have some debate and a bit of interactivity.

So heres the plan, I want you to comment on this post with suggestions for what you would like me to write about. It can be about anything, I have a pretty varied set of interests and can always do a bit of research in order to bring you an informed response to any of your suggestions. Just let your imagination go wild.Bring your ideas no matter how ridiculous, in fact the more ridiculous the better. Even if you have just stumbled on this blog from a random link on the other side of the internet, comment, bring ideas, get involved.

Blogging is supposed to be social.

I’ll be taking suggestions all week and should post one of your suggested articles next week.

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Video Blogging

In this mornings online class we were focusing on video blogging, its benefits and the general gist of how it works. So we set out around the uni and grabbed people to interview on the subject of Michael Jacksons return to the stage and his 45 night residency at the O2 arena. Here was the finished product, made fairly quickly and simply with a digital camera and iMovie.

Although its not fantastic quality its a good example of how you can get video content out rapidly.

The lesson didn’t go entirely smoothly though as we spent the majority of it battling problems with the uni macs, which is really the last thing you want in an online lecture.

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