New Alternative Music | 15 February 2019

Manu Katché | Hanggai | Rival Sons | Nivhek | Tanya Tagaq | Gordi

Hello again friends, freaks and fans of new alternative music of the kind that is completely inappropriate for any social gathering.

It is Valentine’s Day evening as I write this and so it is that brevity will be the key with this week’s reviews, I’m afraid, lest I decide I want to sleep in the garage (not such a bad thing, given that my first love – my drum kit – is stored there.)

But, fear not, what you’ll lose in verbose reportage I have compensated for with more music than the average entry, both in terms of minutes (thank you, Nivhek) and in terms of actual number of songs. You lucky devils.

This week’s entry is a real split in tone right down the middle with the first three tracks being the proverbial bangers before the latter three are very much of a more contemplative stable.

In amongst it all, we’ve got Mongolian folk, French funk, Canadian Inuk throat singing, Aussie pop and some straight up rock n roll from the good ol’ U S of A. And then there’s Nivhek who’s… well…

So, off you go. I’ve got some service-station flowers to buy…


| The Charm Offensive |
Manu Katché: Keep Connexion
Hanggai: 丁吉圖灣

A joint award for this week’s Charm Offensive as both 丁吉圖灣 and Keep Connexion amused me in, simultaneously, exactly the same and yet completely opposite ways. And I just couldn’t rightly choose between the two, m’lud.

Both start as one thing and, mid-way through, take on elements of the other. In Hanggai’s case, you think it’s a ‘world music’ track of the likes which we’ve heard many times before from them, while Manu Katché’s track is a straight funk groove.

Then, whammy, somewhere in the middle, they flip as the Mongolian rockers whip out the big ol’ brass band and start resurrecting the ghost of Mustang Sally.

Meanwhile the French drumming legend’s whopped out his koto-playing buddy who’s now soloing all over the shop.

And yet, while all of that might sound a bit gimmicky, what bonds the two pieces is that they are melodically fantastic, superbly-crafted pop songs that really take you on a journey. They are, by some distance, the smartest charm offensive tracks I’ve reviewed in some time, all without losing any of their swagger.

Listen to both below.


| The Millitary Coup |
Rival Sons: Too Bad

I’m very much a fan of songs in which the last couple of minutes simply descend into four blokes sounding like they’re just living their best lives all over their various musical instruments. And never is that more compelling than when it involves some proper all-American rock music from Long Beach, California.

A heady cocktail consisting of one whole pint of Joe Bonamassa with a double chaser of Gary Clarke Jr and The Black Crowes, Rival Sons’ (pictured) Too Bad is probably the best song ever to combine a raucous, randy mother of a riff with a somewhat ill-advised gun/sex metaphor for a lyric.


| The Peaceful Protest |
Nivhek: After It’s Own Death: Side A

Nivhek is (another) pseudonym of the artist better known as Grouper (who’s, in turn, better known to her mum as Liz Harris).

The Oregon native dropped this new project completely out of the blue last week and, while her work is known for being, shall we say, a bit on the moody side, After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house” – the album from which this track comes – has gone fifty shades darker (and not in the sexy, Valentine’s Day movie kind of a way).

In the first seven minutes of the track (which is only half of it, by the way) she manages to weave seamlessly from Enya to Massive Attack to Apparat vibes in a piece that would be astonishingly dynamic for any artist, let alone a woman whose previous work barely raised its volume above a whisper.

True, in the second half, the song settles somewhat into its stride but by that point the foreboding mood has already been set.


| Guerilla Warfare |
Tanya Tagaq: Snowblind

Now, if I was to tell you I’ve got a song here where the singer sounds like she’s first imitating the sound of a walrus, then a dolphin… but in a completely serious way… what would you think? Well, the answer is, you’re reading this blog so you’d probably be intrigued (but you’d be weird and very much in the minority in that sense).

Nevertheless, Snowblind is a masterpiece of astonishing beauty, placed somewhere between the work of Bjork and Ash Koosha (who, actually, lends his hand to this piece.)

The track comes from Inuk experimental artist, Tanya Tagaq’s forthcoming album Toothsayer, which will be the sonic accompaniment to the National Maritime Museum’s “Polar Worlds” exhibit in London.

And, as ice-breakers go (pun very much intended) this will certainly start a conversation or two.


| The Quiet Riot |
Gordi: Heaven I Know – Acoustic

My god, I love this track. I’ve loved it from the moment I heard its original version in June 2017, its lyrics heavy with regret and longing; the piano holding our hand as it leads us on its long, lonely, sombre road.

There was always just one thing that bugged me and that was the one-two-three-one-two-three-one-two-three. one. two. counting in that heavy Aussie accent. It woke me from the dream. It placed the song’s origins in the real world when, actually, it should have been a sound ordained of angels, only transmitted to the earth via some celestial hiccup.

And so, when Sydney’s Sophie Payten (as Gordi is also known) announced that she would be releasing her Beneath the Reservoir EP, featuring acoustic versions of tracks from her debut full-length, it was a delight to me to find that said counting has been replaced with the soft pitter-pattering of the snare drum.

As a consequence, Payten’s voice is even more prominent and far more arresting and the piano firmer in purpose than ever before. A little bit like Michelangelo’s David it is a masterpiece that has been stripped back only to reveal its structure is carved from purest marble. Unlike David, it’s got massive balls.


The Outro

And so we reach a cease-fire for this week. You can find all of the tracks reviewed above in the 45 Revolutions per Minute playlist below or click to access the 45 RPM Playlist on Spotify itself.

If you like what you hear (or even if you don’t), please engage in dialogue with me @45rpm_Reviews on Twitter. And, if you’d like to receive updates weekly, please subscribe to the email list to get these recommendations sent to your inbox weekly.

The silence is broken again next week when I’ll return with five more selections for your consideration. Until then, thank you for reading and go in peace.

– SV –

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