ENSEMBLE- Ensemble

This particular Ensemble, rather ironically, is just one man. French-born Canada-resident, Olivier Alary, started working under the title way back in 1998 with a view to mashing together melodic noise and disjointed pop. He wanted to run delicate musical movements into walls of sound. Eight years later, he might have just perfected his art.

To call this pop music could be stretching it. There's no sugary-sweetness or genre clichés. Sometimes there aren't even hooks, melodies or choruses. Still, this is infinitely listenable stuff. There are waves of rising, mutating radio hiss, there's chirping electronica, almost-folk arrangements and sharp string movements. It all adds to the rising clank of an odd orchestra that should sound cluttered and messy but knits together like some forgotten minimal Múm or Sigur Ros B-side.

There are plenty of guest vocalists here to make up the numbers too. Mileece makes Avary's skipping beats sound awfully close to the summery slop of Zero 7 but the ghostly intonations of Chan Marshall (of Cat Power fame) are fantastic and when Lou Barlow whispers and croons over 'One Kind, Two Minds' it's as good as any of the more alternative material Sufjan Stevens has put his name to.Elsewhere, track-long expanses of wind whistling and wave crashing add satisfyingly safe elements to this ethereal noise that might otherwise threaten to never let you back to Earth again.

Also appears at Rock Midgets.


Watch where you point your finger...

...I Am Hollywood.


Mad as a bag of spoons Americans on the verge of releasing 'Suck Out The Poison', their second long-player. They could be the band that put all this whatever-core to bed.
When they play live they steal shows with the cunning use of having fun- remember when shows used to be like that?
When they play in the studio they come out with all-at-once cute and crazy schizophrenic jams like 'The Seduction' or 'Dixie Wolf'. Hope and pray they tour the UK soon.

STATE RADIO- Us Against The Crown

Politics. With a capital P. The stuff is all the rage these days. What with Green Day and Fat Mike riding the ‘fuck Bush’ bandwagon all the way to the bank it’s clear that dipping a toe or two into the way the world works is now worth more than a clear conscience. There’s money to made in them there polls.

‘Us Against The Crown’ is most definitely a political record. There are songs about the ongoing war in Iraq, the importance of voting and the rights of the poor, elderly and disabled. For State Radio though, this isn’t about shifting units, it’s about trying to create awareness and make some changes. This isn’t marketable pop or headline-stealing spleen-venting punk either. The main sound of ‘Us Against The Crown’ is laid-back rock and reggae. Like Matisyahu recently, this band condenses their woes into soft-groove radio-fodder. It’s the sort of smooth-on-the-outside, hard-on-the-inside mix that will have people flicking through the lyrics booklet to double check they just heard such vehement comment amongst such laid-back music.

The sunny sound means this can’t possibly be all doom and gloom. And in fact, if you search a little deeper, there are a few looks towards the promise and potential of the future (presumably a future where everybody listens to State Radio) and even a song about love. It’s in these moments though that the band display their worst qualities, sounding as dull as Audioslave, like Rancid at their least effective or worse, like happy-happy-joy-joy chart-monkey Jack Johnson. These are defiantly vintage licks though. Which, while very warm and pleasant sounding and valiantly in line with the music’s age-old inspiration, don’t exactly inspire feelings of revolution. More like feelings of falling asleep in a hammock somewhere in the nice part of Jamaica.

There is room for State Radio to really blow up. Hell, if Rage Against The Machine were around today they’d be the biggest band in the world. But it’s Rage’s vitriolic, impacting and immediate messages and not this band’s quiet mumbles that are really needed. There’s nothing terribly wrong with State Radio’s sound but rebellion has never sounded so redundantly nice.

Also appears at Rock Midgets


ROSES ARE RED- What Became Of Me

Time was not on the side of Roses Are Red. Emerging in 2004 the New York five-piece had the much-lauded Trustkill Records stamp but garnered little acknowledgment. This was just another screamo band, never to be heard from again. At least that’s what most people thought. RAR frontman, Vince Minervino, had other ideas though. Back with a new line up the singer has helmed his band towards a new sound. Think Jimmy Eat World instead of Atreyu, Foo Fighters rather than From Autumn To Ashes. They still struggle to cement an identity of their own but with Minervino’s much improved voice and a penchant for emotional depth where hardcore hissyfits used to be, success is much closer for Roses Are Red. There’s no glaring errors here, no duff tracks, just a collection of solid rock songs. And, unbelievably, it’s easier to listen to than the latest Crash Romeo, Matchbook Romance or Eighteen Visions albums.