THE BEGINNING

From last month’s issue of Loud And Quiet, 5 7″ singles and EPs that it’s most definitely worth paying attention to.

blankdogssingle

Blank Dogs
Phrases
[Captured Tracks]

Not strictly a 7” (this 4-track EP is a whole 5 inches wider than that), Blank Dogs’ ‘Phrases’ is particularly worth cocking an ear to because it’s not merely Mike Sniper filling the gap between albums with leftovers from last years brilliantly murky ‘Under And Under’. This much is clear because nothing here could really call that record home.

While Blank Dogs’ debut seemed to be inspired by Cure guitar parts, drowning vocals and desperate, lingering organ chords, ‘Phrases’ largely explores a brighter side of the 80’s where disco electronics befriend spidery guitars (‘Heat and Depression’) and lyrics audibly chirp with a positivity not previously seen or heard from Blank Dogs (‘Blurred Tonight’).

There is still a certain amount of gloom on even the most upbeat track (‘Heat and Depression’) as Sniper groans his baritone, multi-tracked moan to soil the jollity somewhat, and reverb is still unquestionably this New Yorker’s favourite bedfellow, but, oddly, the heightened clarity of the vocals found on ‘Phrases’ prevent it from being as mysteriously appealing as Mike Sniper’s debut album.

The sound of Blank Dogs seemingly playing underwater is missing, as is some of the anger. It’s just Sniper progressing as you’d expect him to but perhaps shedding the tricks that made him so special.

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Zoo Zero
Radical Light EP
[Self Released]

Zoo Zero are a 3-piece guitar band from east London: a slice of information that’s as red herring as you’re likely to come by. They’re not twee or into reverb, they’re not happily distracted by Brooklyn and/or west coast garage bands from 2010, and they’re certainly not ‘lo-fi’. This self-released 3-tracker is their debut calling card, and is shaped like Pixies, a heavy Pavement and pre ‘Everything Must Go’ Manics (due to Tom Churchyard’s James Bradfield-esque cries). Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, what’s really impressive about ‘Radical Light’ is its continual and relentless sense of grungy menace.

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Summer Camp
Ghost Train
[Moshi Moshi]

For a short time it was a secret that Summer Camp was the new project of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Shankey, perhaps due to preconceptions of Warmsley’’s previous folky show-tunes, sang in a tightly wound tone as Marmite as Rufus Wainright’s. Shankey does the singing here though, angelically chirping about love found on National Rail. It’s twee like Telepathe are when they’re rolling to downbeat electronics and dubby bass, which is no bad thing. And although the simple niceness of ‘Ghost Train’ is unlikely to radically change your life it serves as a perfectly warming indie pop experience.

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Fair Ohs/Spectrals
Split 7”
[Tough Love]

Squashed onto 7 inches of royal blue vinyl, here you’ll find two tracks from tropical Dalston punks Fair Ohs and two lackadaisical surf pop numbers by Leeds’ Phil Spector obsessive Spectrals. On the ‘F’ side is ‘Hey Lizzy’, which could quite easily be Fair Ohs’ best island melody to date, and ‘Himalayas’, which clearly isn’t, due to seeming like a cobbled together after-thought. Side ‘S’ tells a similar tale as ‘Birthday Kiss’ drags its heels thanks to its extra muddy recording while ‘Keep Your Magic Out Of My House’ is perfect, lolloping doo wop. Two for four: there’s plenty worth hearing here.

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Bonobo
Eyesdown
[Ninja Tune]

The military reggaeton remix from Warrior 1 aside, let’s chuck out the re-workings of Bonobo’s latest. They are, after all, lesser, samey versions of this nostalgic, trip hop lullaby. The original, though, is a prime slab of melancholy dub-step that could have click-a-clacked its way out of Bristol circa-’97. This is largely due to its contemporary two-step snaps and Andreya Triana’s ethereal vocals, reminiscent of a less icy Beth Gibbon. Like the highlights of ‘Blue Lines’, it’s sullen yet uplifting, and although far from original sounding it’s impressively smooth and semi-stoned. 

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Originally published in issue 15 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. March 2010

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