The 12 Days of Christmas // Label :: Reeks of Effort

Reeks of Effort

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Sometimes it is difficult not to be but a little disconcerted by how seemingly little others care about something you are passionate about. I mean to say, I appreciate my mum reading the articles I’ve posted on the blog, but sometimes I wouldn’t mind someone else doing so. I’m joking of course, my mum hates it, but sometimes it is hard for music and labels to find a voice when all the money in the world and all the attention is directed elsewhere. Sometimes it is hard for ventures to find a place in a world saturated in distraction and short attention span. But that is what they want us to believe: We know people care, if only because we do.

Reeks of Effort are a Cardiff (and elsewhere) collective that started out in 2010 as a music blog, ventured into putting on shows and finally took the plunge into becoming a fully fledged record label in 2012. If you visit any of their social media spaces you will see they describe themselves as a DIY record label battling monumental indifference. Although this is a lifted lyric bathed in gallows humour, there is a certain truth posturing against a brick wall of insouciance: Namely that nonchalance is cool, eagerness is not. Them’s the rules. However Reeks of Effort don’t care for rules, they do what they want, because they can and because they care. The word “collective” can be served up on a plate of platitudes, but with Reeks of Effort the collective avidity shines through, with the likes of members of Joanna Gruesome, Playlounge and King of Cats all digging in and helping out. It’s by the people, for the people stuff and as they put it when we spoke to them, “It’s just cool to occupy your free time with phat tunes and nice people, it beats most other things.” As mission statements go, we think that’s pretty fucking grand. As a result of this we get to hear lots of superbly lo-fi, joyfully thrashy and genuinely affecting music..

2013 has seen Reeks of Effort release music from the likes of Trust Fund, Ides, Beta Blocker and the Body Clock, Joey Fourr, Lone Omi, Birdskulls, YRRS, and of course, King of Cats and Playlounge as well as putting on shows and even holding their very own pool party.

Whilst musical trends can be subject to the whim of marketing executives, label politics and self satisfied taste-makers, people get together, form bands, write songs, play shows and all because in some way they have been touched by something that has gone before them. Or perhaps because it’s fucking fun and beats joining the real world. Whatever. It’s not necessarily the kind of music that will attain commercial success (although Joanna Gruesome are doing alright I’d say) but it does and will touch others. Here are a collection of songs released on Reeks of Effort this year that have touched us.

We asked for Reeks of Effort for their thoughts on 2013 and hopes for 2014 and here is what they had to say:

My favourite album of the year is probably Dean Blunt – The Redeemer. I just think he’s like the coolest dude and I’m also really into what he did with Hype Williams too. He also did a hushed release of an album that he recorded in a hotel room in Moscow called stone island which is really great.

Trust Fund is one to watch for 2014, we put out the Don’t Let Them Begin EP this year; he’s the nicest dude and is really dedicated to the DIY pop scene which is always something to admire in an artist. I’m not 100% sure what his plans for 2014 are, but whatever he does will rule.

The Playlounge and Plaids albums are also something to look out for next year. Laurie and Sam of Playlounge help out a lot with Reeks of Effort and are two of the most hard working and genuine guys. Basically; super cool guys, super cool band. Big riffs, bigger hearts. Plaids are another really hard working band (they run a DIY venue / recording space in notts called JT Soar) and Greenberg (Plaids Guitarist) writes some killer licks.

Amen

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7Tracks #9 (Christmas Special)

Christmas Special

”All I want for Christmas is you”

Len

Of all the times of the a year when I get corny and emotional, Christmas might be the number 1. Nothing brings back more memories than the Christmas tree set up in our family room, heavy with memorabilia of a pleasant and cheerful childhood – my favourite being little mailboxes made of plastic canvas that my sister and I would pack with wishes on pieces of paper. I look forward to spending time with my family, playing trivia games, eating all kinds of vegetarian Christmas food my mummy makes me and above all, singing songs. I grew up listening to The Carpenters An Old-Fashioned Christmas Album as well as Billie Holiday, Jean-Pierre Ferland, etc..

In an effort to give something new and exciting to my folks to listen to, I have put together this mixtape: some of my favourite artists sharing their take of classic carols – Summer Camp would have had my Granpa share a dance with me. Hot Club De Paris, because I am ridiculously in love and so fucking thankful for it. White Poppy with dreamy vocals served on a savoury bass line and She & Him country sound topped with Zooey’s old-timer voice, to comfort me. In early December, Will Currie & the Country French‘s Christmas in Berlin made my heart swoon with their mention of Victoria Station which I like to imagine is the one in London, where so many times over the summer, I took the train to Brighton. Bright Eyes sings the sorrow of being apart over fuzzy guitar notes and The XX create eletronical magic out of my all time favourite.

It’s a mix of joyful and sad, a little bit like my cute self – excited for the parties, dances and cocktails but with my mind drifting away, one continent over, to the bearded man I love.

The 12 Days of Christmas // Debut EP :: Crushed Beaks

Tropes

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You know that feeling, when you were a child, running outside in the park with an unbounded and near reckless abandonment. Some days felt like forever, where you’d forget to eat and sometimes have so much fun you’d almost forget to breathe. That kind of unabashed enthusiasm dies at some point and as we get older we only see it in glimpses. Like when the snow falls for the first night, and you trudge out with too few clothes on and throw snowballs at each other hidden behind parked cars until you can’t feel your hands anymore, or when you are at a gig, and the music is so relentlessly furious that you lose yourself and your inhibitions to it. Listening to Tropes by Crushed Beaks kind of gives me that feeling.

The hazy intro of the EP opener Feelers masks what follows, but as the drums slowly push through the dawn mist the listener is treated to the kind of adrenaline rush that usually comes with government warnings. The London two-piece creating an intensely raucous yet strangely euphoric slice of fuzz-pop which bounces around and off the walls at 350mph. It’s nearly impossible to listen to it and sit still — go on try it. It’s a breathless kind of sensory deprivation buzzing around your head, but there is a melody in the vocals – vocals which become a third instrument thrown into the heady mix, incoherent and yet somehow offering more meaning through human empathy than many a one-liner can provide.

There is no letting off just yet, as the heartbeat starts to slow down at the end of Feelers the title track, Tropes comes crashing in, a buoyant beach ball bobbing on a crowd of thousands. The chorus has the end of a festival euphoria; uplifting, urgent and essential. Like a scuzzy shot of life into the arm, reverberated guitars are flung around the track as Alex Morris’s drumming becomes more and more frenziedly demented.

Lies slows the pace down somewhat, seeing Crushed Beaks in as close as we can call reflective mode. It’s a much needed breather and showcases the bands talent with a cute and earnest melody in the vocals as Matthew Poile sings “We keep on telling ourselves the same lies, it’s fine, it’s fine”. As the song breaks down at the 2.30 minute mark a hazy nostalgia takes over. ‘Remember those days when all we did was run around like crazed fools? Look at us now.’

They finish the EP off with Day Residue, which blends the cloying noise of the opening tracks with the aforementioned melody to create something almost anthemic and leaving you wanting more. In total, Tropes comes in at under 15 minutes, but just like childhood, time doesn’t seem to matter. Just remember to breathe.

The 12 Days of Christmas // Forward Thinking :: Maica Mia

Maica Mia

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I was first introduced to Maica Mia on a warm end-of-summer night of September 2013 in Quebec City when an impressive lineup of Montreal ensembles were opening for New Yorkers ARP. They went first and made my night. Nothing charms me more than being surprised, when all you know of a band is the name you saw on a cool poster. With Maicamia, you can forget your expectations. The duo turned trio in the last year – joined by bass player Mauro Pezzente of GY!BE – create a unique and personal rock; a slightly eerie, musically pungent, always intense experience.

From being tagged slowcore to dark folk, Maicamia doesn’t seem to follow genre rules. Guitar barely audible, overtaken by the penetrating vocals until it explodes into shreds and dismantles any idea you had of where the song was going. A similar phenomenon with the drums: live, it turns into a cohesive battle. Their texts, like a ripple of complex emotions, might speak to you,  although it feels as if they are not meant to be guessed or deconstructed; Maicamia are simply there, they exist because they feel a need to.

December of 2012 marked the release of their spectacularly dense and capable debut LP, Sparcity Blues.Therefore, 2013 was an important year for the band; in the aftermath of the release, they played many festivals around the province, notably EMF(I WANT TO GO) and Pop Montreal. Shows played in churches can be really special and I can imagine how their darkly ethereal sound would resonate in such a space. The band also took the time to record Des Era which will be available January of 2014:

‘’Getting this new album recorded felt really good. We look forward to having something out there that represents us.’’

They recorded this new LP in their pratice/recording studio in Montreal a.k.a. Paradise Studio. The writing process of such unrestricted, experimental music comes in waves where they feed off one another’s inspiration:

‘’ It’s always pretty organic in the sense that, someone just starts playing something and somebody else jumps right in there to keep it going. It’s like you catch a bus and you might not even realize that you did so, but someone else in the room is very aware of the magical bus you are on and they go make sure to keep it driving.
However, when Jonny is working on the MPC, it’s much more of a process. He spends hours and hours in his room and every once in a while, he will call me over to listen to some new beats or whatever and then we take it from there.’’

Maicamia plans to start recording again in March. Maybe 2014 will bless us with two of their releases. I wouldn’t complain nor would I be surprised if their ascertainable talent made them the linchpin of an scene everflowing with talented musicians.

The 12 Days Of Christmas // Forward Thinking :: Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice

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Everybody is blogging about them and for good reason. Wolf Alice were one of the most exciting potential crossover bands that we heard this year. Something of a musical chameleon, Wolf Alice lurched from the minimalistic folk-tinged beauty of Leaving You that got tongues wagging in 2012, into February’s playfully self-deprecating and fantastically raucous Fluffy. From the opening squall of noise grinding riffs combine with deep bass lines, attitude bursts from the seams alongside a melody that borders on sultry. It marked a definite change in tact, whilst behind the noise and bravado it still managed to sound like Wolf Alice. B-side White Leather could have been an a-side in its own right, a glimmering and heart-stopping love song that floats in the air with the delicate touch of a feather.

They followed this up with their second single of the year Bros, which is the kind of song that comes around only every couple of years. As the guitars in the intro fade into a shimmering, sparking explosion of sound and light I am lost to it. Like the feeling of love pulsing in the heart, it’s addictive. There is a timeless sentimentality to Bros, I suspect there is a science to writing the perfect pop song, and for me, it isn’t far off.

Wolf Alice kept the momentum going with their debut EP, the self-styled rock-opera Blush. The title track is the standout, hauntingly beautiful with the fragility in the opening bars betrayed by an inner strength that courses throughout. It’s not bluster; it feels real, proudly defiant and showcases that same ability to pierce through and illuminate the listeners heart, to write songs that scatter electrodes through the brain and crucially talk to you, the listener, as an individual. The next track, She, sees Wolf Alice head off into another new direction, agitated and twitchy, full of bristle and bustle. The video is a great watch, too. Nosedive and 90 Mile Beach further bolster their reputation, mixing the naivety of youth with the complexity of sound, hushed vocals, slow builds and charting the story of an ever expanding world, hurtling through space.

Wolf Alice are due to finish the year off with a headline set at Koko on NYE, and 2014 should see the release of Wolf Alice’s debut LP. If this showcases the same songwriting depth and flexibility as displayed in 2013 we can safely say that 2014 will be the year of the Wolf (Alice).

The 12 Days of Christmas // LABEL :: You’ve Changed Records

You’ve Changed Records

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My love affair with You’ve Changed Records began three years ago, on a sticky summer night. Through my actions, I had managed to break my young heart and I was chain smoking, sitting by the window of my flat, listening in the dark to this record a friend recommended. Daniel, Fred and Julie, S/T. Saying that the folky notes of sadness and impressive story telling were soothing would be a lie, but it wasn’t the point. Is it ever the point, with country music? Where I believe it might work for some, for me it just scrapes my heart raw.

Operating since 2007, YCR is a personal and unpretentious endeavour serving a creative group of friends and collaborators who, in the word of co-founder Steve Lambke (Baby Eagle), ‘’share certain thoughts on certain things: that songs can hold more than they are often asked to do; that creative independence takes a lot of work but is work worth doing; that as people we are always changing and learning things and that playing music is a nice way to move through life; that we can help each other out and are enriched by doing so.’’

This group of artists and I dare to say friends, are responsible for some great LPs in 2013. They are driving by collaboration which can be witnessed throughout the various releases of the label. Taking a look at the album credits is proof. It’s as if working together became the source of their creativity; as if they feed off of each other.  This year, the label introduced what quickly became a favourite heart-wrenching listen of mine;  The Weather Station Duet series in which Tamara Lindeman (The Weather Station) pairs with her favourite song writers to craft with eloquence a collection of sincerity-injected country songs.

Going into their 7th year of existence in 2014, not only can we expect a continuation of The Weather Station duets but a very exciting split with Headless Owl Records will be released; an extensive piece of collaborative work featuring brand new tunes from Shotgun Jimmie, Marine Dreams, Richard Laviolette, Baby Eagle, The Burning Hell, Construction and Destruction, Wax Mannequin, Michael Feuerstack and Kyle Cashen, recorded during a recent stay in the Yukon where they played in history-rich Dawson City.

When I asked him about his favourite record of the year, Steve Lambke describes beautifully his appreciation for the work of friends:

“My favourite record this year that we didn’t put out (Marine Dreams – Corner of the Eye and Shotgun Jimmie – Everything, Everything being the two excellent records we did release) was Construction and Destruction – Dark Lark; a great weird cry from the wilderness; heavy, dark, and spooked; well-read rock outs; nature-haunted. It’s a beautiful looking LP too.”

For my part, I am completely charmed and utterly impressed by their work. It’s heartfelt and candid; there are songs to contemplate our own worries to, some to sing-a-long and ride your bike to.  And to dive right into the depth of them procures a certain tranquillity.

The Week That Was #12

Yesterday Warm Brains released the four track EP Happy Accidents on Art is Hard Records. It has been on constant repeat at AHDTR towers ever since and forget this past week: it’s one of my favourites from the past year. We wrote about the title track back in November, calling it “an upbeat and altogether jolly affair” which might have been a bit of a surprise to Rory Attwell, the brains behind the, er, ‘Brains. However, throughout the EP – even in it’s more reflective moments, there is something almost celebratory about it to this listener. Two Fingered Salute epitomises this, with a chorus so rich and warm it makes me want to ditch the coat and frolic in the snow.

Jaguar Cub are a new band from Brighton (and as a man who treats facebook like gospel, they must be new; they only signed up 12 days ago) who have just dropped two demos. Deep Ends is the first of the two, and it is the kind of song that demands your attention from the very first moment, creating poised atmosphere and screaming anthem. With gravelly vocals, guitars that cut swathes through mountainous grooves, and scattergun drums that bristle and spit, Deep Ends is a grand statement of intent. We’re pretty excited to see what comes next.

Francis Lung slows things right back down with the delicate and touching Age Limits. It’s a gorgeous ballet, full of incandescent beauty that sparkles as it twirls you around the dancefloor. It glides along until Tom McLung’s emotionally brittle and rather astounding vocals break out into a reverb drenched loveliness which sounds like a modern gospel for the Manchester rain.

Vancouver band Weed released their debut LP Deserve earlier this year. It’s loud, discordant, abrasive, and oppresive, and yet behind the reverb and feedback, curiously melodic. Set Me Back is the lead single from the LP, it’s murky shutters well and truly down, only occasionally releasing glimpses of light into the dank shadows of sound. Love it.

We’ll stay with grunge, but a less fuggy brand. Wrexham’s Mowbird are in the midst of releasing two singles on two different labels, the harlots. Happy Active Horse Organ, released on Popty Ping Records, mixes post punky grunge with surf rock and youthful effervescence. The second single, Brompton, released on Shape Records, is a short and sugary headrush through pop fields and punk hedges.

Halifax, Canada’s Moon released their self-titled debut EP in 2013, a veritable treasure trove and sonic bazaar, spanning the kind of locked-in groove krautrock that makes you wonder what would happen if it never ended, to off-kilter pop songs full of electronica loops and mathematical equations. It’s complicated and fun, and Dented in The Bag combines the two to great effect. The vocals sound suspiciously like Kings Of Leon layered over a spikey motorik beat, before it heads off into more psychedelic territory as the rhythm section is cranked up to propel the song off into the aether.