Ghost-Note | Tropical Fuck Storm | Slim Paul | Coda Conduct | Laura Veirs
There are a great number of factors that go into qualifying and deciding which tracks make each week’s Playlist. Obviously, tracks selected have to be noteworthy or different (noisy) in some way or another; they can’t simply be nice or pleasant. It’s a bonus if I actually like them as well as respecting them. But I’m also keen to share music that you won’t already know, and that means either finding obscure artists or very new tracks.
This week, I’ve made a concerted effort to go with only very new music and, as such, all my selections have been released in the last week. Hopefully, you’ll agree that they tick the other boxes too!
I should mention, from the outset, that there appear to be a disproportionate number of Australians in this week’s list. Not really sure of the reason for that but perhaps all the bands over there have got fed up of seeing their sporting heroes cry-arseing and picked up their instruments. Who knows, eh?
Enjoy, won’t you…
1. The ‘Charm Offensive’ – Ghost-Note feat. Nigel Hall: ‘Swagism’
What I Know:
Let’s get one thing straight; in the core of my essence, I’m a drummer. I like DROMS. If you’re going to read this blog, you’re going to have to deal with the fact that sometimes I’m just going to nerd-out over DROMS. This is one of those times.
Ghost-Note is fundamentally the combination of Snarky Puppy sticksman, Robert “Sput” Searight and percussionist Nate Werth. Their debut full-length, 2015’s Fortified, was, in many ways, the very definition of the drummers’ drum album, constructed, as it was, from first principles of polyrhythms and drum battles between the two. Today, they release album number two, Swagism. It’s a double album, mind, so if you don’t like noisy things that go ‘bang’, you might want to give it a swerve.
What I Like:
On the group’s Bandcamp page, they say their sound has “evolved to a state that can best be described as ‘conscious funk’… with the bandleaders leaning back and letting the band go.” And they’re not wrong.
Ghost-Note’s whole sound has thickened out, becoming more structured and, in the process, developing its own groove. Frankly, I’m white, a Dad and in my 30’s so my chances on knowing what ‘swagism’ is are limited to say the least but I’m sure, whatever it is, this track oozes it.
The ‘ism’ bit makes it sound like a thing to be studied – a science, if you will. Like you should be able to take a degree in ‘swagism’ or read a leather-bound book on it (authored, of course, by Messrs Searight and Werth).
But, for all its inventiveness and creativity, Fortified could never have been considered an example of ‘swagism’, let alone the definition of it. This track suggests that album number two will be very different.
It’s cool. It’s confident. It’s streetwise. It’s everything I’m obviously not (I’ve just read that sentence about leather-bound books back to myself).
And that’s not to say that Ghost-Note has lost any of their invention or allure of the first record; it’s just more, well, listenable to human beings who aren’t drummers!
2. The ‘Military Coup’ – Tropical Fuck Storm: ‘Rubber Bullies’
What I Know:
Tropical Fuck Storm are an Australian “Epic Art-Punk Psych” supergroup. Which probably doesn’t mean an awful lot to most music fans but if you’re one of those hipsters that do know the scene (of course, I’m one) that means they consist of members of The Drones (singer and guitarist, Gareth Liddiard and bassist Fiona Kitschin), High Tension (drummer Lauren Hammel) and Harmony / Palm Springs (Erica Dunn, who’s credited as being responsible for ‘playing guitars, keys and other gadgets’).
They first landed on my radar when they released the excellent single ‘You Let My Tyres Down’ earlier this year. And this week they returned with the even more excellent ‘Rubber Bullies’.
What I Like:
To be fair, if you can’t find something enjoyable in a song by a band called Tropical Fuck Storm, I don’t think we can be friends. I know what your Ma’ said about it not being big or clever to swear but the second half of that sentence (which you probably missed cos you were too busy picking your nose or sending pics of your willy to your mates, or whatever it is that teenagers do) is that it is bloody funny sometimes.
Especially when you’re able to back it up with mescaline-soaked sinister blues-rock chops like this. Rubber Bullies starts with a bass line that Joey Essex (the prick) would probably describe as ‘nawwwty’ before the guitars weigh in with some seriously Desert Sessions-style chords and snake-charming licks.
Liddiard, himself, layers on a maniacal monologue that veers dangerously between Sesame Street and wet dreams (not often you see those two in the same sentence… and for good reason!)
But by the time he’s moved his commentary on to “sycophants / of plutocrats and idiots / big on firm handshakes and eye contact” you can sense the tension building; a tension that reaches a teeth-grinding climax moments later against the backdrop of crashing drums and chanted, shamanic background vocals.
For a band who will shortly release an album called A Laughing Death in Meatspace it all gets ever so serious for a minute or two, until the track slopes back off into the shadows only to be followed by the single’s B-Side… a cover of The Bee Gee’s ‘Staying Alive’. Go figure.
3. The ‘Peaceful Protest’ – Slim Paul: ‘Buried Land’
What I Know:
Slim Paul is the singer and guitar player behind the French blues / hip-hop collective, Scarecrow. Branching out on his own (with support from Scarecrow bass player Jamo – who actually plays drums on this record – and Manu Panier on bass), he released the crowd-funded album Dead Already (recorded in five days and on a budget of just over £5,000) this week, from which Buried Land is taken.
What I Like:
While it is not true to say that Dead Already is a particularly more low-key album than Paul’s previous work (it has its raucous moments) it is certainly much more bluesy and earthy than that which comes before. That, in turn, makes it feel more authentic and more worthy in some senses.
And that is nowhere better exemplified than on Buried Land – a track that seems to talk of displacement, disillusionment and inequality in equal measure.
“There are no more tears in this body” Paul exclaims in one of the later verses. “Fear has given way to hatred. Comforted by love for a while, [I was] trying not to lose my head.”
Underpinning it all is a plaintive, picked guitar line that is joined by a conga drum (or is it a djembe – I’m clearly not enough of a drum nut!) and a bass line that surges and dives. Each ensure that Buried Land is as meditative as it is moving.
4. ‘Guerilla Warfare’ – Coda Conduct: ‘Love For Me’
What I Know:
Duo Erica and Sally make up Coda Conduct – a hip-hop / rap collective from Australia. Yet to release an LP, Love For Me is their first single since 2016 and marks a change in tempo from their previous work.
What I Like:
Did I mention that there’s a lot of Aussies in this week’s entry? Did I also mention that Coda Conduct are a case in point? Well, if I didn’t, they’ll certainly be happy to make up for it, being – as they are – not shy of a ‘Down Under’ reference or two.
That’s right, everything from Kylie to the Socceroos gets a mention in Love For Me. It’s almost like a bitter Pom had written it as a piss take; they’ll be ‘putting another shrimp on the barbie’ next.
What isn’t a piss take – for all its light-heartedness – is Love For Me, a track that sizzles with charm and charisma.
Our MCs’ word-play and flow keep the listener on their toes while the undeniably dance-y back beat stays just the right side of Vengaboys. Think Kero Kero Bonito, if the colours were dulled down just a little bit, the English accent swapped for the Aussie twang and the Japanese lyrics traded in for Ramsey street references.
5. The ‘Quiet Riot’ – Laura Veirs: ‘The Canyon’
What I Know:
Laura Veirs has a career spanning nearly 20 years now but appears to have really arrived on a lot of people’s radars (outside of the folk scene) in the relatively recent past. First, she appeared on Sufjan Stevens’ seminal 2015 album Carrie and Lowell, providing backing vocals. Then a 2016 collaboration with K.D. Lang and Neko Case garnered critical praise aplenty and now, with the release of her tenth solo record The Lookout, the buzz is deservedly growing very much louder.
What I Like:
On the country musician, Kathleen Edwards’ 2012 album Voyageur she talks about going to Portland, Oregon to record her song A Soft Place to Land and she says of it, “I’ll always associate [that song] with the beautiful, Northwest climate, all the coniferous trees, the heavy cedars and pines. It’s like the Ireland of America. It’s always green and it’s a little bit misty and rainy.”
Waaaay before I did any research on this track, I sensed the presence of Portland on it. It’s like all that mistiness and the heavy vegetation infuses itself into the production of any song that’s written and recorded there.
And so it is with The Canyon, which – similar to Edwards’ Voyageur – blends country leanings with the darker tones of musicians such as Bon Iver or Mappe Of; the mere entrance of the drums, slide guitars and bass bringing us out of the Nashville sunshine and into the more muted timbres of the American Northwest.
The verses toy with time signatures, teasing one then another and that just adds to the feeling of displacement contained within the lyrics (sample: “I’m here now but my time will come to be blowing through the canyon.”)
Elsewhere on the album, Veirs’ words meditate on the role of protectors in society; a mother tending her children or a lightning rod channeling energy. On The Canyon, not only has she channeled all the beauty and majesty of the environment in which it was recorded but also a fantastic energy and poetry.
And so we reach a cease-fire for this week. Click here to access the 45 RPM Spotify Playlist on Spotify or browse all of this year’s tracks on the Playlist below:
If you like what you hear (or even if you don’t), feel free to engage in dialogue with me @45rpm_Reviews on Twitter.
The silence is broken again next week when I’ll return with five more selections for your consideration. Until then, thank you and go in peace.