Throwing Knives – Christine Owman.


Guest Blog By Shay Rowan.

“Throwing Knives” by Christine Owman.

“The thought counts, but the action makes the difference”.

‘Circles’ By Christine Owman.

‘Apart’ By Christine Owman.

Sometimes the most enjoyable musical discoveries are unplanned and unexpected and so it was that finding myself with time to kill between scheduled gigs at last years Sound City Festival in Liverpool I stopped off at the friendly and atmospheric bar/venue Mello Mello seriously in need of a cool beer on a scorching day.

Along with just a handful of fellow punters I settled down to quench my thirst and watched as a girl, looking immaculate in a blue dress – her blond hair adorned with a black scarf  – approached the side of the makeshift stage and proceeded to transform it’s appearance with a projector, a screen and an array of props. From a large suitcase she extracted a collection of instruments and finally a pair of full length black gloves which she slid over her arms whilst focusing intensely all the while on the performance ahead of her. This young lady – still unknown to me as yet – took her place amongst her lovingly crafted setting and as the screen flickered into life with images of circus performers, knife throwers and human cannonballs amongst others, she began to spin a web of fascinating sounds and captivating vocals that grew and developed during the performance as she built towards it’s powerful climax.

Although the time was ticking away for the next gig that I had earmarked there was no way that I was leaving until this enthralling set was complete!

The intensity and effort she displayed was worthy of a larger stage and far greater audience numbers and as she re-packed her belongings to clear the way for the next performer I took the opportunity to tell her how much I had enjoyed her set and only then was I able to add the name of Christine Owman to the exciting artist that I had just watched.

As I left for my next gig clutching the  “The Conflict” ep that she kindly gave me I promised myself that not only would I be certain to watch any future live shows but that I would also make further purchases at the next available opportunity. That opportunity has come now with the wider release of her album “Throwing Knives” (previously only available in her home country of Sweden).

As with her stage show, the album draws its influences from elements of cabaret, burlesque, sideshow and circus and the tracks conjure an atmosphere

Christine Owman By Shay Rowan,

akin to that of  a night spent at a rather sinister fairground where we find ourselves strapped to an emotional roller coaster! She plays with our feelings – one moment allowing us to bask in the sunshine of the merry-go-round the next thrusting us headlong into the darkness of an eerie ghost train ride. Opener “Spelling Words” (on which she is joined on vocals by Andi Almquist) sets the tone for the album by employing Christine’s virtuosity as a cellist to create a playful but sinister rhythm that wraps itself around you and draws you in with the dark seedy feel of a 1920’s Berlin night club.

Following tracks “The Conflict” and the deceptively titled “Fast Fwd” are slower, hypnotic numbers.  Seductive and sleazy in equal measure.

A total change of style and pace sees “Circles” adopt an almost country feel with the vocal accompanied by a ukulele spiked with a feeling of menace. “Dance” is a return to a darker place – rumbling, distorted and growling with a relentless pace, whereas an altogether more gentle flow is created by the sound of delicately plucked strings as “The Agreement” recounts an enchanting promise made by two lovers that even should one of them die they will always continue to sing to each other in their dreams.

“I Live I Die” has creepy jazz tinged overtones reminiscent of Fever Ray and “Sinners” is a track stripped back to minimal accompaniment in support of Christine’s vocal. More than any other track “Apart” is the one that allows the beauty of Christine’s voice to be displayed as she reveals her sensitivity in it’s gentle sway but, just as we begin to settle into a false sense of comfort, we are once again gripped by the lost and lonely vocal on closing track “Goodnight” a ghostly lullaby that indicates to us that maybe we shouldn’t go to bed without leaving the light on after all!

A collection of songs that take us out of the shadows, into the light and back again revealing more on each listen. ‘Throwing Knives’ is an album that would certainly compliment anyone’s record collection, created by a performer who – when she graces our shores again – should certainly not be missed.

Shay Rowan

Throwing Knives ByChristine Owman cover


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The Horrors – Skying.

The Horrors Skying - in a word- shite

I was genuinely rather looking forward to hearing The Horrors latest album ‘Skying’ based on the lead single ‘Still Life’,a rather wonderful anthemic slice of dark 80’s synth pop. I thought, finally, at last, The Horrors may deliver and justify in some way, the obsequious and quite baffling hype their output has thus far generated.  As I listened to ‘Skying’  it soon became apparent that, as ever, The Horrors have not produced a glittering, dark work of pop noir genius but the usual  dull insipid, stylised grave robbing piffle we have come to expect. It really is a complete cacophony of cock.

Rather like Grawp, ( Hagrid’s simple minded brother in Harry Potter) each song lumbers about haplessly searching for  direction, almost finds it and then collapses on its arse in an undignified heap. After being harrowed to the very core of my being  I decided to peruse a number of online reviews,  I mean surely they too would share my view. It was with abject incredulity that I sat open mouthed as five star review followed five star review!!  Could this really be the same album ? Had I been sent a different recording  in error? Produced by some sort of comedy Bauhaus tribute band in a tin bath?  The very same album  that critics have been positively w*nking themselves into a frenzy over, hailing  ‘Skying’  as some sort of defining moment in the history of rock n roll ? Indeed I almost spat out my tea when the NME boldly stated, sans punchline,  that the Horrors are now ‘the most important band of their generation’ I needed a second opinion; and there was only one man up to the job…

The album was dispatched to the desolate, windswept Yorkshire Moors, or more precisely to ‘Darklands Manor’ home to Richard The Goth, our specialist on all things undead…I mean  maybe I was wrong, maybe ‘Skying’ is in fact an unmitigated masterpiece and I have taken leave of my senses? …. What would Richard make of it …..

(AVP)

***********************

CLAAAANG…. the massive ornate brass door-knocker resounds against the 13th century oak cathedral door that guards the entrance to Darklands Manor. CLAAAAAANG… who on earth can it be at this hour of the night?   CLAAAAAANG…. Jesus, they’re making enough noise to wake the dead!  CLAAAAAAANG…. all right, all right I’m coming!.. Hmm, strange, nobody there, just a brown paper parcel left on the gravel drive outside the main portcullis. It’s from the Pipster, whatever can it be?  I retreat to the main drawing room and open it… it contains a gramophone record and a small white carte de visite, hastily inscribed in a trembling hand. Obviously written under some conditions of great distress and trauma, in shaky letters it says “I simply can’t face it. You’ll have to do it, old bean. Love, VP“…. Aw, crap! It’s the new Horrors LP! I’d read somewhere that it was that time of the year again, when assorted members of the press and online community tell us that this sorriest of bands has once again reinvented itself and delivered a stunning artistic meisterwerk. Well, we didn’t fall for it the last two times, so will it be third time lucky for Faris and his friends? Read on, good people, and find out.

In a word, no! I could go all around the houses and build up to it, but sod it, let’s just cut to the chase. For some reason, this clueless mob have an almost invincible “Emperor’s New Clothes” aura about them and in print and on the net otherwise sane people seem to be falling over one another to extol the greatness of “Skying”, their latest offering. Once again, it has been proclaimed as a bold daring sweeping statement, the sound of a great band once again finding a new and enthralling voice with which to captivate us. And, once again, it’s nothing of the sort. I am intrigued by the fact that, when it comes to the Horrors, the word “reinvention” seems to be bandied about all over the place, and yet again “reinvention” just seems to mean that they’ve found yet another sound to plagiarise. They’ve been wannabe Cramps/Gun Club/Birthday Party/My Bloody Valentine/god alone knows who else, and now they seem to have been captivated by a combination of late-period Psychedelic Furs circa “Book Of Days” and boring bland 80s empty bombast.

The Goth Factor

So many of the songs on this LP seem to follow the same format: approximately 45 seconds of really quite promising-sounding music where they almost make you think they have the beginnings of a decent idea, and then it just either falls apart the instant that Faris opens his mouth and starts to sing, or the music just kind of loses its way and meanders off into a mushy directionless drone. For me, Faris is still the eternal weak link in this whole set-up. He just doesn’t seem to possess his own voice. Every LP they put out, it’s “tonight Matthew, I’m going to be… ” (insert name of whichever leftfield rock vocalist he’s karaokeing this time). On “Skying” he veers between Butler Rep (as he did on “Primary Colours“) and Marc Almond, and once again fails to hit the heights of either.  And his lyrics are just as wincingly poor on this as they ever were in the past.

There are, as with the previous LP, one or two fleeting moments where things sound promising: the intros to both “Changing The Rain” and “I Can See Right Through You” are so Furs-esque that you can’t help but like the way they sound, but within less than a minute the illusion is over, and you’re brought back down to earth with a thud. Whereas the bands they so clearly love (and you can’t fault their taste in as much as they draw on the sounds of  some truly excellent bands) had an innate sense of structure, melody, a pop sensibility, or a direct mainline into the scuzzy soul of dirt-black rock ‘n’ roll, The Horrors simply don’t have it. They never have, they never will, no matter how hard they want it. Basically every track on this record is a lowlight, whether it’s the laughable attempt at arty rock-out weirdness on “Monica Gems” or the atrocious lighters-waved-in-the-air plodding finale of “Oceans Burning” which is so teeth-clenchingly po-faced it reminded me of nothing more than a goth Coldplay. Or there’s “You Said” which not only features the weediest Casio-type naff 80s keyboard sound I’ve heard in many a long year, but also the unbridled horror of Faris sounding dangerously close to Bono territory. Even more distressing is the fact that there’s a great deal of almost-baggy Madchester shuffle-shuffle plodding on a large proportion of the album too, most noticeably on tracks like “Dive In”. Dive in?.. no thanks, chaps, I’d rather dive into a vat of boiling jam than ever have to sit through this wretched waste of time ever again.

There will no doubt be cries of “foul” and “bias” in response to this, but I will state simply here and now, that I care not a jot! I listened from start to finish, and I honestly, genuinely, sincerely, from the bottom of my cold black little heart, hate this album. No wonder Von Pip was so aghast he couldn’t bring himself to listen to it again!  If memory serves me correctly, I gave “Primary Colours,” on a scale of one to ten, “less than one”. Well, I’m taking a point off for “Skying”.

I draw the heavy velvet drapes, I throw the brown paper parcel and its contents onto the roaring open fire, I collapse wearily onto an antique fainting couch and, by the flickering light of a taper candle, try to forget I ever heard this unspeakable thing in the first place.

-2/10

Richard The Goth

Richard The Goth - Yesterday

Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes Review.

Lykke Li  Wounded Rhymes

I Follow Rivers‘ By Lykke Li

February 28th  sees the release of ‘Wounded Rhymes,’ the second album, (or snigger, the sophomore album if you’re a pretentious arse) from  Lykke Li. It’s an album that certainly looks set to turn her into a BIG star. But not a pop star,  heavens no, please don’t call her that , lest you prepare yourself for a tongue lashing, and be warned she doesn’t mince her words -‘ pop music has this negative, fake and disgusting image. And that is something I don’t want to be a part of. When people label me pop, I want to puke.’ Yet in essence ‘Wounded Rhymesis a pop album, but one that’s bursting with such originality, subtle sophistication and restless creativity that to label it ‘pop’ in the ‘Pop Justicesense of the word, would actually be an injustice!

‘Wounded Rhymes’ is an eclectic a mix of cascading tribal beats, wonky, skittering keyboards and haunting vocals that range from the strident to the sultry. It’s always innovative, entertaining, sexy and at times downright eccentric.  It’s an album that delves into the feelings experienced in the aftermath of loss and it is undoubtedly a dark, melancholic slice of pop noir,  yet it never feels bleak,  in fact the overall impression one is left with, is that of a singer who has become emboldened by experience and one who has found her true voice.  It’s an album that works on many different levels and on  occasion sounds like a twisted version of the Ronettes drowning in black honey..or maybe Marmite, because I get the feeling Ms Li could be an artist that may well divide music fans.  As  for  me, well I  definitely Lykke and that’s no Li (e)!  (oh dear and I’d done so well to avoid clunking puns)

Album rating 8.5/10

The whole album is streaming over at the Hype Machine