Thursday, 20 June 2013

Esben And The Witch – Wash The Sins Not Only The Face

Esben And The Witch – Wash The Sins Not Only The Face – Matador Records

Hailing from Brighton, Esben And The Witch are a band who are not afraid to experiment with atmosphere, fear and magic. They do not compromise, but ‘Wash The Sins Not Only The Face’ is proof that they do learn and grow.  The debut album, Violet Cries from January 2011, was a truly terrifying and haunting experience, it’s fantastic but intense. While the second album keeps the same themes and style its song have structure and beautiful, at times almost Warpaint like, melodies. I described the first album as being lost in a strange wood alone at night; this album is to go back to those woods with purpose and a flickering candle.

The album opens with the grand crescendo of crashing noise that is ‘Iceland Spar’. This occasionally gives way to Rachel Davies ghostly cries as guitar chimes gently away, the crash of instruments reappearing now and again, swift as the wind and as fierce as a storm. ‘Slow Wave’ is more peaceful and haunting with all the atmosphere of the first album but with more of a structure and dreamy luxurious melodies thanks to Thomas Fisher and Daniel Copeman.

‘When The Head Splits’ shimmers and swoons with a strong drum beat to carry, intricate melodies and Rachel’s passionate haunted croon cries out; its dark, dangerous and seductive. ‘Shimmering’ and ‘Yellow Wood’ are more reminiscent of their debut, brooding and enchanting, as they twirls in the air like glittery smoke from a forest fire. Single ‘Deathwaltz’ combines jangling melodic and desperate wailing guitars with running drums. It’s their most conventional song, the definite single, but without losing their style of murder and mystery, a bridge between the albums.

 ‘Despair’ shimmers and soars with frantic drums and heavenly cries, it builds into a screaming climax of feedback only to momentarily simmer back down. It’s a song on edge, fight or flight. ‘The Fall Of Glorieta Mountain’ is slow and thoughtful with innocent melancholic guitar, haunting keyboard and wistful vocals. It’s a beautifully heartbreakingly empty and emotional song. It drifts sedately into the ending track 
‘Smashed To Pieces In The Still Of The Night’ which broods and builds. Haunted running guitars lead over a misty electronic background and subtle drums. Rachel’s poetic cry croons seductively, repeating the title in a whisper while guitars become increasingly agitated as fast military drums come to the foreground building into a frightening crescendo only to suddenly end. Silence follows and a feeling of fear of the dark…

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Wedding Present - (a short story I wrote a while ago)

The Wedding Present     
Grand but old, large yet delicate: the old chest of draws sat quietly in the corner of the baby blue room contemplating the day’s events. Yet another day in the Birmingham Art Museum watching hundreds of passers-by as they ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’, wondering around gazing opened mouthed and wide eyed at the wonders surrounding them. Bernard was used to getting only the odd glance as groups of people left the room, it was rare anyone paid attention to him. This used to offend him, but at the end of the day he was just an odd looking wooden cupboard. No-one these days cared for the fact that he had intricate carvings of branches, leaves and flowers nor the fact that the top of him looked like a castle, with a triangle roof, towers and a balcony: But today had been different.

 Earlier today a young girl with long flowing red hair and freckled cheeks had come over to him and paid attention. She walked right up to Bernard, tracing the castle topping with wide green eyes, studying him intensely and marvelling at the little paintings that sat in most of the panels before stepping back to take a photograph. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had taken a photograph of him. She sat down quietly still looking at the cabinet; it soon became clear that she was not waiting for anyone, so he spoke to her.

“Thank you my dear. It is rare these days that anyone pays any attention to a foolish old chest of draws.” The girl looked around wildly to see who had spoken to her only to find that the room was empty of people. She looked suspiciously back at the cabinet in the corner.

“Hello?” she said very softly still staring at the cabinet with a puzzled look.

“No no no! You think the words. You don’t want to look foolish now do you? Talking away to yourself.” The girl giggled as the voice in her head continued, it was a very posh old fashioned Londoners voice. She could imagine the voice with a monocle and a shaped curled greying moustache. “I used to house a monocle, always losing it he was, never could remember which draw he’d put it in.”

“Why didn’t you tell him?” The girl asked, but in her head this time.

“He never listened. His mind was too closed, most peoples are, even if they do hear me they ignore me, very rude I do say!” The girl giggled again.

“Figures. Are you a ghost?” She was surprised how calm she felt, having this strange conversation in her head. The room was such a calm place, big and airy and welcoming, it seemed impossible to be scared in here. People didn’t even notice her sat on the wooden bench as they posed for photographs with portraits of dead English Aristocrats before walking into the next room. She suddenly felt sorry for the old chest of draws, no-one paid him any attention either.

“No ghosts, just an old cabinet. I was a wedding present you know, back in 1880 would you believe it? I was brand new then.” The girl blinked with surprise, he didn’t look 131 years old! With his varnished surfaces and lack of marks he barely looked 50 years old. The only sign of wear at all was on the brass handles.

“Wedding present to who?” She asked, shifting to get comfortable, still facing the cabinet as she sensed this was going to be a long story. She imagined the voice doing the same but that he was sat in a large grand red armchair by a blazing fire. In her head he lit a pipe, took a single puff before carrying on.

“The Everitts, a young couple in their 20’s. I was the gift from a close friend and work college of Mr Everitt. Mr Everitt worked at the Royal British Society of Artists; very proud of his job was Mr Everitt. Thought they were the bee’s knees, so to speak. He worked there his whole life, therefore meaning he was promoted several times but don’t ask me to remember his job titles or role, it never meant anything to me and it was a very long time ago.” The girl was secretly glad as it wouldn’t have meant much to her either.

“What did Mrs Everitt do?” When the voice spoke again, it sounded taken aback, shocked.

“Why, she was a proud Housewife of course! And a darn good one at that. Put on the finest Dinner Parties around, her Roast Dinner was renowned for miles. The Everitts home was always spotless and gleaming, but of course she had maids for that. Apart for me, she polished and dusted me herself with love and care. She was a painter: she painted all these and many more.” Admiration and pride filled the voice in her head, making her smile.

“Are any of them in the Museum?” The voice grew sad for a moment.

“Unfortunately not, My Lady’s work was lost in a fire that consumed the loft. What I bare is all that is left. A great shame” She looked again at the small beautiful paintings. There were 12 and nearly all of them were of places, Churches, rivers, woods, a village and the sea.

“She trusted me with these as they were all places of value to her, she wanted them displayed and I was the wedding present.  Can you guess why they meant so much to My Lady?” The admiration was back in the voice.  She got up and started to circle the cabinet, inspecting closely each of the paintings. The girl gasped.

“Is that the Church were they married? And the village must be where they met.” She could feel the voice smile.

“Correct. And the rest are where they courted. My Lady always did love romance. I always had a fresh vase of red roses placed on me each week.” The girl spotted a soft trace of a circle on the wood work before she sat back down.

“Aww! Are the flowers in the middle the first flowers he gave her?”

“You are a very bright little girl, but not quite. The first after they were married. Ah I remember those days as if they were only last week. It was their first house, a manor house by the name of Fair Gate, they didn’t name it, with three floors, the bottom being for the maids. Cream wall, mahogany furniture and red flowers, it was simply beautiful.  And they were such kind and hardworking people and so deeply in love with each other.”  Pride again filled the voice. “I used to be admired by all visitors to Fair Gate. I sat in the Dining Hall, excellent place for overhearing conversations.” She imagined the voice winking. “Most of it didn’t mean a thing to me, I was only listening out for mention of myself, see I was vain. A terrible fault vanity is.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. There are loads of vain girls in my class, they’re horrible.”

“It ruins the personality, makes you selfish too. I was letting it go to my enormous head! Ah well I soon learnt my lesson.”

“What happened?”

“My Lady had children; it was expected of her see. Michael and Lukas, two strapping lads, they both went into the Army and fought for Britain in the first Great War, neither survived. Broke their kind hearts that did, neither were the same afterwards. ‘At least they brought Pride to the family’ was what Mr Everitt said.”

“Oh.” The girl didn’t know what to say. A moment of silence fell between them.

“How did children change your life though?” Asked the girl, deciding it was best to move on.

“The Dining Hall became an “out-of-bounds” room, reserved for Parties only. Well you can imagine that those became very rare with two little lads to bring up. Me being vain, I just assumed she did it out of love, that she didn’t want my woodwork to get ruined, but the doors stayed closed, even when they grew up.”

“So why did she lock you away then?”

“I figured it out years and years later, when I was stored by a friend of the family in the loft. I kept all the post, didn’t I? Either Mr Everitt or My Lady were keeping secrets.”

“I guess. Nothing too huge I hope, like an affair!”

“Certainly not! No, it was probably bills that were none of children’s business, although My Lady was in contact with her Mother via letters, particularly after the lads were born. Mr Everitt never did like Mrs Semme. Lord knows why! I don’t think Mr Everitt ever found out….”

“Why do you call Mrs Everitt ‘My Lady’?”

“Because she was.  I barely saw any of Mr Everitt; to him I was only a nice bit of furniture. No, she had an open mind, she knew I was alive. Why else would she go out her way to polish and varnish me herself when she had maids? No. She knew deep down but not enough to talk to me.”

“That’s sad, I’m sorry. Hold on, why were you kept in a friend’s loft?”

“The Everitt’s moved on and in their old age decided to down size, I guess Fair Gate held too many memories of their sons. There wasn’t room enough for me but My Lady wanted my safety so I was moved into the loft of her dearest friends, the Campbell’s. I stayed there until the late 1900’s until I was found and donated to the Museum. I can tell you, it was such a relief to be out in the open again!” The girl giggled.

“Ah I remember that last day in Fair Gate. The house was so empty yet people were running around here there and everywhere. I could hear thudding of boots and the scraping of moving furniture coming from every room. The bulkier furniture, some of the tables for example, were left behind, a white cloth thrown over them and that was that. The walls were bare and there were no flowers. My Lady stayed behind after everyone else had left, she walked over to me smiling a sad smile that I had never seen before but it was the first smile I had seen in years. She ran her hand over my now dusty surfaces, gazing at her paintings before patting me once fondly then walked out of the room shutting the door behind her. The Campbell’s came for me the next day, not a second glance.”

The voice in her head was crying. A single tear ran down her cheek, she quickly wiped it away and composed herself again.  There was a pause as the voice did the same, lighting the pipe up again but this time taking three puffs before carrying on.

“I never understood why she didn’t take the paintings with her.”

“She knew that was the only way she would get her art in a museum, that’s why she stored you away, she knew this is where you belonged too but if you had moved with her you would have stayed in the family, getting old and tatty with use.” The voice in her head nodded, taking a few more puffs of his pipe.

“So she did care after all? It wasn’t just my vanity?” The voice was so desperate the girl felt she would have lied just to make it happy again but thankfully she didn’t have to.

“Of course she did and she never stopped caring.”

“It’s very kind of you to try to comfort me but please don’t, lying is as bad as 
vanity in my books.” The girl smiled

“I’m not lying. The painting of you has been passed down through my family for decades, not all her paintings were lost.”

“She….she painted me? I…I do not remember that….”

“She painted what was to value to her” Both the girl and the voice in her head thought this at the same time.

“How rude of me, I never asked you name? Old age that is, please forgive my sheer rudeness.”

“Your forgiven, you are 131 years old after all.” The girl stood up, stretching out her stiff muscles and rolled her neck before walking over to the cabinet, ignoring the ‘Please don’t touch’ sign she ran her hand gently over the smooth wooden surface. “My name is Marie, Marie Everitt.”

“Hello Marie Everitt, my name is Bernard, after Mr Everitt you see.”

“Hello Bernard Everitt, it was very nice talking you.”

“The pleasure was all mine Marie.” 

There’s This Place I Know- A very short story.

There’s this place I know.

In this place, in Summer the regal blue waters sparkle freely, shimmering with careless innocence under the Suns watchful gaze as the wind plays with its surface creating ripples like on an unruly rug. I could watch these forever, to let its relaxing steady movement wash over me. To watch the ducks bounce and bob, eternally unruffled by the winds spontaneity, continuing their loud conversations perfectly at peace.

In this place, in the Winter the water freezes over, taken over by ice and snow, banishing the ducks to the grassy banks, seeking warmth and shelter under their guardian trees. It seemed life was put on pause, waiting for Spring to revive them. But beauty lives on as the water would glisten, the landscape almost pure white, almost blinding. It’s monochrome charm never failing to capture my heart.

But in this place at Summer the Magpies dance all day, hopping from one tree to another, blissfully unaware that their numbers decide our fate.  And the Swans command as they float elegantly, boldly, up and down their waters, deceivingly fierce and large. The other creatures are their subjects while we mere Humans are casual visitors, allowed inside to marvel, to boost their inflated ego’s but with such uncompromised beauty who could blame them?

In this place the trees hang green and lazy, encircling the water on sleepy guard. In the Autumn the trees glow vivid reds, pinks, oranges and gold’s while in the Winter they stand tall and bare, alert to the cold, exposed like skeletons, their only cover being the blanket of snow coating their arms. In the centre of the circle stands the lone droopy Willow Tree. She watches over the waters like a loving Mother, her reach and all seeing gaze reaching far. Even the pompous Swans mind her.

In this place nature unwittingly creates a subtle symphony of tweets, 
whistles, buzzes, splashes, cracks, creaking, fluttering, rustling and quacks as each creature goes about its business independently yet working together. Only the Wind begs to be heard, howling through the tree, trying to provoke a reaction that never comes.

In this place surrounding the trees, while in Spring, the grass is white with tiny daises but sprinkled with yellow buttercups. But go no further as Nature loses her control as Humans have taken over, caging this paradise in with bricks, metal and fake noise. But there is a place where the water sparkles and the creatures sing while the Swans float regally.

This place sits inside a housing estate, next to Sainsburys, in Withymoor. But this place is beautiful, enchanting my heart time and time again; it is my little escape.  

Friday, 7 June 2013

Handy links to all my Youtube vids so far...

Not everyone likes pages of words but  are still passionate about music and it can't help to branch out, plus all these are still in written format on here. 

I'm very new to this and feedback would be much loved! What I'm doing right, what I'm doing wrong.... anyway enjoy! - My Bloody Valentine- Loveless

 - Savages- Silence Yourself

 - Peace- In Love

 - Palma Violets- 180

(most recent Fixers- We'll Be The Moon

I've also got videos for the Gorillaz 'Demon Days' review, My Chemical Romance 'Conventional Weapons' and will be making some for new written reviews yet to be published including Esben and The Witch, The Cure and Late of The Pier 

Fixers ‘We’ll Be The Moon’ (debut)

Fixers ‘We’ll Be The Moon’ – Dolphin Love Records

Fixers have created this strange blend of psych, “math rock”, indie with this electronic twist. It’s difficult to describe, to put your finger on, it’s optimistic and unusual, with elements of dream-pop. If Fixers were a cake, the recipe would include Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd mixed with Kate Bush and MGMT and dusted with Foster The People. It’s a fantastic and highly enjoyable album to listen to but a right pain to review.

Opener ‘Majesties Ranch’ is a prime example with its twinkling keyboards and distorted guitar. Single ‘Iron Deer Dream’ is another; it’s got heavenly echoed vocals, dancing piano and handclaps along with the guitar. Vocals loop and layer over each other creating this busy swirling atmosphere. ‘Alexandra’ takes a more psychedelic turn as its glistens and shimmers, very much keyboard and synth lead. ‘World of Beauty’ is a chilled experimentation that takes us into space. 

But you can never tell how seriously these guys take themselves despite their clear talent as ‘Pink Light’ includes the repeated lyrics “wiggle wiggle motion”… Single ‘Crystals’ has a clearer pop structure with fuzz keyboard that twinkle like stars and dancing guitar; its psychedelic, spaced out but with elements of indie rock, with a beat that would be great to go running to. 

The album ends with the mellow acoustic track ‘Good Night’. - Iron Deer Dream - Crystals