the mike davies column august 2015


Comprising songwriter Ali Forbes and London-based producer Andy Savours, both from Kings Heath, MALPAS are an intriguing new arrival on the folktronica scene, debut album Rain River Sea (Killing Moon) marrying throbbing, and at times scratchy at others ambient, synth basslines with sweeter acoustic notes of guitars and mandolin that has variously seen them likened to Aphex Twin, Radiohead, Bright Eyes, and early Tuung, to which I might also add British Sea Power. Forbes has a sweet softness to his voice (hitting the falsetto on Us Afloat which sounds like it features a ukulele) that complements or (as on the crunchy beats of the otherwise fluffy The Green Light) contrasts with the at times otherworldly and watery sound of the music (Savours has engineered for Sigur Ros, so there’s another influence), nicely evidenced by the two opening cuts, the tinkling, summery pop Under Her Sails with its xylophone loops and handclaps and Where The River Runs with its pulsating synth intro and Forbes’ almost r&b stylings.

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Addressing themes of love, loss, loneliness and the escape that imagination beings, and, as the title suggests, awash with water imagery, it’s a frequently melancholic affair, whether on something like the skittering Charlemagne or the vaguely reggae, strings-swathed lurch of Here Comes The Rain. Six of the tracks are from previous releases, and those who’ve been following their progress will be familiar with the likes of Promise and Us Afloat, but the nervy, urgent scuttling of Spiders, the widescreen Sea Decide (the falsetto again in evidence) and the almost choral rain and sun hazed six and a half minutes album closer, June Exit Strategy are all new and should do much to bolster existing loyalty and forge an army of new disciples.

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Kidderminster’s THE HUMDRUM EXPRESS return with a new self-released single, Double Edged Swords (Cynical Thrills), a breezy, busking strum that, where the last release featured a krautrocky beat, should this time more tickle the ear buds of fans of Beans On Toast and his ilk. It again manages to squeeze an eclectic collection of subjects its four minutes put down of self-styled ‘rock n roll saviours’, talk of wordsearches, styletips, local kids swimming clubs, and not being cool, not to mention sarky references to audio books by Alan Smith and having to let Jools Holland play the piano with you to get a slot of Later. Not to mention the sage advice to never trust a man who owns the Chubby Brown collection. Fun, with a bite.

While fans wait eagerly for the next new album from Wolverhampton ex-pat CARINA ROUND, they can sate their desire for a while with Tigermixes (Do Yourself In Records), a full-length remix of, as the name suggests, Tigermending. Reconstructed by an eclectic variety of names, that include Curt Smith from Tears For Fears, Mat Mitchell from Pucifer (with whom she’s recently finished recording their new album), LCD Soundsytem’s Phil Mossman and Gary Go, it’s an often exhilarating departure from expectations, though, not entirely at odds with some of her early spooked work, as for example on the Swan Sisters remix of Pick Up The Phone which fully mines its latent edge of brooding, nervous tension.

Alessandro Cortini (Sonoio) brings puttering beats to The Last Time, dispensing with the vocals entirely to create a nine minute sonic alien sandstorm, The Beta Machine exiling the poppiness of You and Me and its do doo doos in favour of industrial clanking synths and turning up the echo on the vocals. Zac Rae (Mang-Kon) goes heavy on echo too for Set Fire, creating both a 22nd century tribal groove and a plunge into a cosmic whirlpool midway, Curt Smith slowing down You Will Be Loved into an otherworldly torch song.

Ian Pai (Alan Lava) provides possibly the most immediate dancefloor contribution with his mutation of Weird Dream while Mossman reimagines the original heady soundtrack atmosphere of The Secret Of Drowning as a seven minute sequence in some imaginary art house Blade Runner awash with the crackle of electronic rain.

Returning to her blues and rock foundations, the album also includes a bonus track with the first physical release of Got To Go, her collaboration with Billy Corgan, here remixed by her producer other half, Dan Burn (2000 Years BC). Stunning stuff.

roots-and-branches.com 2017