Category Archives: EP reviews

Vienna Ditto – Ticks EP

Released 13th May 2016

Vienna Ditto, the best Tarantino-esque duo to have never soundtracked a Tarantino film, have followed up their 2015 album Circle with the EP Ticks, with whose generous seven-track length they are really spoiling us.

This collection is as eclectic as Circle was a neat, coherent summing up of the voodoo sci-fi blues they peddle. The EP’s title track is a menacing rockabilly tale of identity theft; Tiny Tambourines wouldn’t sound out of place amongst Depeche Mode’s early 2000s glitchy blues electronica; and Frank Account is a slinky dollop of sinister Andrews Sisters harmonies.

They cover two Negro spirituals – Motherless Child and Go Down Moses; while their rendering of the former is beautifully restrained, its melancholic marriage of voice and twangy guitar more reflecting the isolating misery whence this song came than the comforting togetherness its performance was intended to achieve, the latter becomes a Chelsea Dagger-style romp – yet they make both sound as if they’re original compositions.

The gems here are the gloriously unsettling My Way of Missing You, a Sergio Leone-homaging and apparently Adam Curtis-inspired triphoppy triumph, and Come Back, a frenetic rock n’ roll drum machine anti-love song, whose cosmic synth wig-out outtro signs off this genre-melding audio embodiment of unease and impudence perfectly.

 

From Nightshift, May 2016

Wild Swim – Untitled EP

January 2016

BBC Introducing in Oxford’s Band of the Year 2013, Wild Swim, are calling it a day – which is a huge shame. The biggest tragedy is that they weren’t more prolific, considering the multi-influenced, genre-melding and flamboyant promise of their early singles Echo and Another Night. Their farewell EP, Untitled, may be more measured and less histrionic or arty than their earlier stuff, but it’s the perfect showcase for – and testament to – their intricate, exotically textured and unnerving folky indie hip-hoppy electronica.

On Hollow, floaty orchestral atmospherics and singer Richard Samson’s almost whispered, seemingly distracted refrain of “Tonight we fall in love again” are underpinned by a contrasting, relentlessly arpeggiating math-rocky guitar, creating a creepy, unsettling track that gets under your skin – like a manipulative Air.

My Love and Too Late take trip-hop to the more menacing Massive Attack and Tricky end of the scale, with laid-back beats and plaintive vocals layering over beautiful reverbed guitar and piano chords.

The stand-out track, however, is the almost anthemic Cut Me Out, on which the light Burundi Beat drums of the early 80s flit back and forth with the crunchy electro guitars and careworn sonority of Dave Gahan’s voice of recent-period Depeche Mode.

We can only hope that the quintet responsible for all of this greatness stay making music; a legacy like this is far too good to not build upon.

 

From Nightshift, March 2016

Esther Joy Lane – Esther Joy Lane EP

October 2015

It’s easy to be cynical about new musical acts. Some artists precede the genre they’d most comfortably slot into and don’t get the attention they deserve; some merrily ride on the coattails of others, benefitting from the happenstance of all their musical stars aligning; some abandon their soul and change their sound in order to gain traction; and some would really benefit from their audiences not overthinking whether they’re going to be commercial and successful or not and just concentrating on how good the music is. Slotting neatly into this final category is twenty-three-year-old Leeds-born and Edinburgh-raised Esther Joy Lane, whose timely nascence is largely a product of her youth coinciding with the advent of Garageband, and whose sound can – incidentally and not detrimentally – be herded into the “chilled but edgy” paddock of The XX and London Grammar.

This, Esther’s debut EP, is so confident and accomplished that it’s astounding that it isn’t yet major label, TV sync stuff; someone needs to send stand-out track You Know to Grey’s Anatomy immediately. The acoustic-inspired sparse electro soul of the synths and gentle beats perfectly frames Esther’s low, velvety voice, giving it space without overcrowding it; emotion is conveyed how little she gives away – the more she controls, the more she implies.

The songs do admittedly lie somewhere on a continuum that has Jessie Ware at one end and Grimes, Banks and FKA Twigs at the other, but they’re all favourable comparisons; Esther shares with them a certain hypnotic and beguiling quality, with each play of this EP more rewarding. It has a sort of late night inner-city shimmering-streetlights-reflected-a-river vibe; sultry, personal and highly polished, yet claustrophobic, detached and aloof: in short, captivating.

 

From Nightshift, November 2015

Tiger Mendoza and David Griffiths – Along Dangerous Roads EP

November 2014

Electro-rockers Tiger Mendoza have been descending into darker industrial hip hop of late, but their (or rather his, this release’s incarnation effectively being a solo project) new EP Along Dangerous Roads, a collaboration with ex-Eeebleee and Witches chap and latterly solo artist David Griffiths, draws on both parties’ influences of computer game music and soundtracks – with a quite hypnotic result.

Now That Days Are Colder is a synthesis of rhythm and orchestra on a claustrophobic scale, like a mini-Hybrid. This theme continues in the swooping violin-led title track, which is punctuated by frenetic, impatient beats and descends into snipped-up nu-skool breaks like it’s the turn of the millennium again and Adam Freeland will be along any minute to remix the hell out of it.

In Desperate Times is a Bedouin-flavoured heavy soundclash that would serve an espionage thriller well, and Eating Crayons is archetypal first-person shooter video game music: an Orb-like pulsating drone with bleeps that takes you through a dimly-lit shipwrecked spacecraft on an unfamiliar planet, stalking pursuing aliens.

On the one non-instrumental, Literature and Life, David’s hushed and measured vocals are underpinned by a plaintive cello while percussion batters around them. The slow and steady resultant tension is palpable.

Home Is The Sailor is reminiscent of ambient electronica proponent Ulrich Schnauss with its relentless drifting of beats above layers of strings. The beats remain delicate as the strings are joined by grinding guitar in a compelling juxtaposition of the whimsical and the sinister.

While video game and film soundtracks work with the visuals and action to consolidate the experience for the player or viewer, these tracks tell stories themselves; melody and mood combine into something evocative and compelling.

 

From Nightshift, November 2014

Amy Simpson – Fairy Tales, Stories & Myths EP

July 2014

At primary school, one of my classmates won a Christmas card competition. When her artwork was printed, we were horrified to realise they’d “childified” it. As we then discovered, it’s often easier for the young to be accepted if they play up to the older generation’s expectations of them, to the expense of their actual capabilities.

Amy Simpson, a seventeen-year-old A-level student from North Newington, seemingly hasn’t been tempted by this route; being more Radio 2 than 1Xtra, with a folky, delicate and unostentatious voice, she wouldn’t have gone far on The X-Factor anyway. She was discovered during a recording session her parents bought for her fifteenth birthday, and her lushly produced debut EP is entitled Fairy Tales, Stories & Myths, which sets the scene before we hear a note.

So, wistful, flourish-bedecked piano-led stuff it is – and opener Homemade Rocket is, despite the presence of “set sail in a homemade rocket” and other cheesy celestial metaphors, really rather nice. BBC Radio Scotland and Tom Robinson also think so, and ITV would no doubt love it for a drama trailer montage. But it doesn’t scream, “Look at me! I’m seventeen – aren’t I clever!” – which is refreshing.

All I Wanna Do sounds like an Echobelly b-side (praise indeed), and Only You, a country-esque ballad with some great chord progressions, is reminiscent of the Kylie Minogue 1989 album track Heaven and Earth, allowing me to indulge in personal nostalgia for a moment. Glow, a jaunty number, reminds me of the sort of thing we used to enter into Eurovision despite no contemporary chart music sounding like it. And actually, Malta might do well if they entered Everything.

In short, nothing groundbreaking, but lots of pleasantness, especially the rich orchestration. It risks teetering into the abyss of cliché to say so, but Amy is promising and would do well to nurture her talent.

 

From Nightshift, July 2014

2014

La Roux – O2 Academy, Oxford – 15th November 2014

Tiger Mendoza and David Griffiths – Along Dangerous Roads EP – November 2014

Amy Simpson – Fairy Tales, Stories & Myths EP – July 2014

Banks – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 28th March 2014

Katy B – O2 Academy, Oxford – 27th March 2014

Foxes – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 28th February 2014

Vienna Ditto – Ugly EP

November 2013

The atmospheric slinky drama of the lead song of Vienna Ditto’s latest EP, Ugly, evokes a glorious red velvet-draped, dusky cavern of deception and intrigue, with space-age synths redolent of Jean Michel Jarre in his 70s prime and crunchy drums framing seductive slide guitar twangs.

The slower and measured By Way Of Apology is reminiscent of the claustrophobic electro-blues of some of Depeche Mode’s ballads and their main songwriter Martin Gore’s albums of covers, not least by way of Hatty Taylor’s voice, whose vibrato-soaked insouciance here creates an unconvincing testimony. In Stop, a seemingly defiant tale of a parting, sinister spaghetti western jangly chords, spooky half tones and unusual percussive experiments convey a Twin Peaks level of festering distrust.

With this collection, the “voodoo sci-fi blues” duo conjure up a more effective image of Westworld-esque double-crossing robot duels than that term could in itself; there’s some malicious intent going on, and all the better for it.

 

From Nightshift, November 2013

2013

Vienna Ditto – Ugly EP – November 2013

Blue – O2 Academy, Oxford – 25th October 2013

Major Lazer – O2 Academy, Oxford – 2nd May 2013

Secret Rivals – Just Fall album – May 2013

Jessie Ware – O2 Academy, Oxford – 11th March 2013

Space – O2 Academy, Oxford – 9th March 2013

Kodaline – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 13th February 2013

Reviews

 

Nathassia – The Bullingdon, Oxford – 14th July 2017

Soulwax – Electric Brixton, London – 8th April 2017

Goldfrapp – O2 Academy, Oxford – 20th March 2017

Sal Para – Her single – February 2017

Vienna Ditto – Ticks EP – May 2016

Wild Swim – Untitled EP – January 2016

Esther Joy Lane – Esther Joy Lane – October 2015

Charli XCX – O2 Academy, Oxford – 30th March 2015

Rae Morris – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 8th February 2015

Hozier – O2 Academy, Oxford – 21st January 2015

La Roux – O2 Academy, Oxford – 15th November 2014

Tiger Mendoza and David Griffiths – Along Dangerous Roads EP – November 2014

Amy Simpson – Fairy Tales, Stories & Myths EP – July 2014

Banks – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 28th March 2014

Katy B – O2 Academy, Oxford – 27th March 2014

Foxes – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 28th February 2014

Vienna Ditto – Ugly EP – November 2013

Blue – O2 Academy, Oxford – 25th October 2013

Major Lazer – O2 Academy, Oxford – 2nd May 2013

Secret Rivals – Just Fall album – May 2013

Jessie Ware – O2 Academy, Oxford – 11th March 2013

Space – O2 Academy, Oxford – 9th March 2013

Kodaline – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 13th February 2013

Bright Light Bright Light – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 27th October 2012

Marina and the Diamonds – O2 Academy, Oxford – 15th October 2012

Errors – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 8th May 2012

Lianne La Havas – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 9th March 2012

Rizzle Kicks – O2 Academy, Oxford – 8th March 2012

Babybird – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 29th January 2012

Professor Green – O2 Academy, Oxford – 1st November 2011

East 17 – O2 Academy, Oxford – 2nd September 2011

N-Dubz – O2 Academy, Oxford – 20th July 2011

Sparkadia, A.Human and La Shark – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 24th February 2011

Emiliana Torrini – O2 Academy, Oxford – 9th September 2009

2manydjs – O2 Academy, Oxford – 5th June 2009

Rosalita and Off The Radar – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 4th March 2009

The Subways – Carling Academy, Oxford – 2nd October 2008

Wakestock – Blenheim Palace – 29th June 2008

Alphabeat and Palladium – Carling Academy, Oxford – 28th January 2008

Erasure – New Theatre, Oxford – 3rd September 2007

The Sounds – The Zodiac, Oxford – 24th March 2007

The Noisettes and The Victorian English Gentlemens Club – The Zodiac, Oxford – 22nd January 2007

White Rose Movement – The Zodiac, Oxford – 27th November 2006

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – The Zodiac, Oxford – 15th October 2006

Nizlopi – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th September 2006

The Lightning Seeds – The Zodiac, Oxford – 5th June 2006

Kula Shaker – The Zodiac, Oxford – 18th May 2006

The Go! Team and Smoosh – Oxford Brookes University – 5th March 2006

Idiot Pilot and The Seal Cub Clubbing Club – The Zodiac, Oxford – 6th February 2006

Eskimo Disco, Trademark and Script – The Exeter Hall, Oxford – 2nd December 2005

Knifehandchop, Nervous Testpilot and The Nailbomb Cults – The Wheatsheaf, Oxford – 13th November 2005

King Biscuit Time – The Zodiac, Oxford – 25th September 2005

The Mission – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th September 2005

Josh Rouse – The Zodiac, Oxford – 17th July 2005

Big Speakers, Flooded Hallways and Capsky – The Cellar, Oxford – 3rd June 2005

Melanie C – The Zodiac, Oxford – 2nd May 2005

I Am Kloot – The Zodiac, Oxford – 16th April 2005

Thirteen Senses – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th March 2005

The Others – The Zodiac, Oxford – 25th October 2004

The Ordinary Boys and Dive Dive – The Zodiac – 15th October 2004

Polysics – The Zodiac, Oxford – 16th September 2004

The Last Trailerpark – The September Gurls, The Schla La Las, Goldrush and The Black Madonnas – The Cellar, Oxford – 20th July 2004

The (International) Noise Conspiracy – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th June 2004

Simple Kid – The Zodiac, Oxford – 18th April 2004

Ulrich Schnauss – The Bullingdon Arms, Oxford – 28th February 2004

Dogs Die In Hot Cars – The Zodiac, Oxford – 11th February 2004

Cayto – The Cellar, Oxford – 16th December 2003

The Futureheads – The Zodiac, Oxford – 13th October 2003

Longview – The Zodiac, Oxford – 2nd July 2003

Fiel Garvie, Roquphane and The Epstein-Barr Virus Band – The Cellar, Oxford – 17th June 2003

Panel Of Judges, Byrne, The Broken Family Band, The Maplettes and Spartacus – The Cellar, Oxford – 27th February 2003

Scratch Perverts – Po Na Na, Oxford – 6th February 2003

Zoe Bicat, Spygirl and Joe Hughes – The Cellar, Oxford – 4th November 2002

British Sea Power – The Zodiac, Oxford – 15th October 2002

Trademark – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 29th August 2002

Cumulonimbus, Nervous Testpilot and Blunt Instruments – The Cellar, Oxford – 12th August 2002

a-ha – Royal Albert Hall, London – 25th June 2002

Fischerspooner – The Bridge, London – 30th May 2002

Mansun – The Zodiac, Oxford – 19th May 2002

The Soundtrack of our Lives and Sahara Hotnights – The Zodiac, Oxford – 11th May 2002

AM60 – The Cellar, Oxford – 31st January 2002