wears the trousers magazine

sounding off: june 2009 (i)

In this first batch of mini-reviews: Autorotation, Cogwheel Dogs and Julie Feeney.

* * *


Everything Is Everything •••

What happens when a fixed-wing aircraft goes into stall? Spontaneous and continuous rolling to the right or left, otherwise known as autorotation. By taking this newly adopted name for their third album Everything Is Everything, the London-based electronica collective formerly known as Bleep take on one of the great signifiers of the modern age with all its free enterprise economics and carbon footprints. But within the smooth electronic loops and dives, enchanting string arrangements and Robyn Sellman’s ethereal vocals hunkers and lurks a flatly worded sermon indicting the ‘machine’: capitalism, pollution, supply and demand, and generally life as we know it.

Clearly an inventive bunch, Autorotation take their music to some impressive heights using ambient cycles of strings in ‘Mittelschmertz’ and the quirky undulations of accordion in ‘Ginger Pants’, which are so effectively mirrored by Sellman’s warped, distorted vocals. Just don’t listen too closely or you’ll be liable to crash back to earth with the force of a 747 in a nosedive once you catch on to the moralising ministrations. Ultimately (and perhaps intentionally), Autorotation do not allow us to sit back and enjoy the ride. Once the somewhat sanctimonious lyrics begin to emerge from the often harmonious rotations, Everything Is Everything can be about as pleasurable as listening to the in-flight safety routine. Your exits are here!

Joanne Gibson
UK release date: 08/06/09; www.myspace.com/autorotor



Cogwheel Dogs
Greenhorn EP ••½

This second EP from Cogwheel Dogs continues the Oxford-based duo’s experiments in creep-punk antifolk. Vocalist Rebecca Mosley does a good line in raw-throated bitterness interspersed with sudden stabs of yearning clarity, backed by the strings of her musical partner Tom Parnell, but while they are certainly adept at creating a countermelodic mess, one’s immediate thought is that this particular niche has already been filled by their fellow demons of the dreaming spires, Ivy’s Itch.

The four songs on Greenhorn are effective enough as murkily intriguing sketches of domestic horror and emotional ferocity, evocative of childhood nightmares spilling from dark places. ‘Kitchen’ opens delicately with lightly plucked strings and tightly focused vocals, but the waters are soon muddied with a headlong dive into images of sideshow shocks. ‘Spit’ makes a lunge towards lilting folk before collapsing back into a percussive pit, chased by downward spiralling strings. Closing track ‘Octavia’ is perhaps the most accessible song here, with portentous swoops of cello backing a creepily insistent vocal that just might be about a drug-addicted doll with a thousand arms. Accessibility is a relative thing of course, but if that image piques your interest then Cogwheel Dogs could be worth a second listen.

Rhian Jones
UK release date: TBC; www.myspace.com/cogwheeldogs



Julie Feeney
pages •••

There is something utterly unique about caps-shy Julie Feeney’s new album, pages. Winner of the inaugural Choice Music Prize – the Irish equivalent of the Mercury – in 2005 for her striking debut 13 songs, Feeney goes one step further on pages to ensure she avoids many of the staple singer-songwriter clichés. There are no acoustic guitars, soft piano chords or plodding bass. Instead, she sings backed only by her own orchestral arrangements. Initially this creates a sameness across the album, but after an adjustment period for ears that are largely unused to such sounds, you can’t help being drawn into Feeney’s world. And make no mistake, this is all Feeney’s own world. She has taken complete control over the entire album.

After a self-imposed exile at an artists’ retreat in County Monaghan to write the words, or “poems” as she calls them, she gathered together an orchestra and conducted them in two sessions that lasted just six hours in total. At a later date she overdubbed the vocals in her own studio, where the album was mixed, singing in a clear, strong voice above the glockenspiel, strings, woodwind and brass. Feeney also had a large hand in the artwork, even choosing colours that artist Sharon Costello Desmond used to paint. The dress she wears on the sleeve ties in, too, being hand-stitched from pages of the orchestral score. The lyrics are also carefully considered, touching on our perceived inadequacies in ‘Impossibly Beautiful’, mocking the cold-hearted ‘Mr. Roving Eye Guy’ and finding hope in the uplifting ‘One More Tune’. With such authorial control, pages was always going to be uncompromising. That’s not a bad thing. Feeney’s singular vision has been beautifully realised.  

James M Johnston
UK release date: 29/06/09; www.myspace.com/juliefeeney


FREE MP3: Julie Feeney, ‘Love Is A Tricky Thing’


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