30.3.07

Pleasantly Surprised

third side records
Never generalize a country's musical output because of one band or one collective. It's easiest to do this when discussing French music: most of the buzz-worthy music coming from the country originates at Ed Banger's studios or from Daft Punk's entourage.
But with groups like Hey Hey My My and Poney Poney, it's pretty clear that the nation is not united by electro-pop and dance.

The other day I stumbled upon Cocosuma (MySpace), a Parisian duo that clearly has a singer/songwriter folk aesthetic, but beneath it all, a post-punk or gothic vibe (reL Joy Division, Bauhaus). The minimalist arrangements are sprinkled with spectacular little intrigues ... compelling chord changes and keys, experimental drumming ...

Cocosuma is signed to a great French label called Third Street Records. The label's roster is quite wide, including a sort of garage/prog group called Steeple Remove (MySpace) and another favorite of mine, Austine (MySpace). The singer/songwriter's got one heck of a unique style. There's some country, some folk, some pop ... but most importantly, her music is especially jovial and light-hearted. Layer upon layer of acoustic guitar, tambourine, vocal harmonies, banjo, and plenty of other instruments wrap around each other, eventually bursting forth in an energetic climax. The structure really works well with her mild stop/start formula, and man do I dig.

Alright. That's about it for now. Check back in soon!

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29.3.07

Give Me More!

plastic palace alice
I realized today that I've now posted 666 posts, and because of the Satanic undertone there, I felt the urge to post immediately ... don't want any bad vibes coming from BiBaBiDi!

A friend once made this astute observation: Australian bands continually have a sense of twee to their music, whether it be over or covert. I'm not quite sure what it is in them, but so many groups over there have a cute sort of appeal to them ... whether it be chimes, clean and simple guitar melodies, shaky yet sincere vocals ... there's always this aspect of innocence and naivety there.

Plastic Palace Alice is certainly not your usual twee band (no four-track, no one mic recording sessions) -- there are definitely undertones of U2 here -- but their unique breed of post-punk is lined with sing-along vocals, sweet lyrics, bells, and a vindication that's special and attractive.

Absolutely hit these guys up ... MySpace page. I think someone from the Sleepy Jackson is producing the album which is very exciting!
Plastic Palace Alice - Empire Falls

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27.3.07

Unbuttoned

buttonhead
I wrote about Buttonhead a while back after learning about the London-based sextet via Thomas of Tap Tap fame.
Well, the group's got big plans for the future, it seems. They're upcoming material is some of the best I've heard from them yet, and like everything they do, they'll blow your socks off.

Literally ... Buttonhead is like a crazed Stereolab with psyche roots having children with the Deerhoof trio. Amazing, super-complex drumming, spectacular -- and rather high pitched -- female vocals, and an amazing knack for a start-stop structure that's chalk full of hooks as well as experimental melodies that'll never get your bored nor exhausted from the shroud of mystery, detail, and intense layering.

So listen, listen, listen ... dig, dig, dig ... and most importantly, keep an eye out for Buttonhead ... they're going to blast off ... somewhere, that I know.
Buttonshead - Boys In the Ball Pool
Buttonhead - Kitson

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26.3.07

The Fox Returns

digitalism
Sorry, but Kitsune totally fell off the bandwagon there. Ed Banger popped up and the great French label sank. Or that's what I thought had been happening until a few things surface ...

First off, Fox n' Wolf (MySpace) have been working on some new stuff. It's crazier, more apocalyptic, more smoke and lasers, more blood and gore: intensity at it's climax. Definitely keep an eye on them ... big things happening in the near future.

The word is that this Palermo Disko Machine is also going to be releasing stuff on Kitsune soon, too. Man do I wish I'd found this act earlier ... there's some Metronomy here, there's some Zongamin (where'd he wander off to!?), and definitely some Digitalism, too ... look into these Italian dance wizards; something big brewing with them, too.

Speaking of Digitalism ... who cannot wait for their album, Idealism!? The singles that are out there (check the MySpace page) are phenomenal. Dancey, absolutely, but with added depth and texture. A little bit of the Cure, a little bit of old skool Cut Copy, and *duh* ... Digitalism. Get down down down to this shit.
P.S. ... am I off? Has Kitsune totally been under all of your radars? Am I ... out of it!?
Fox n' Wolf - In Yr Underwear
Digitalism - TVTV
Digitalism - Pogo

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24.3.07

Sustain!

semifinalists
I feel like I've gotten back on track here and I'm prepared to write about several bands that are all worthwhile and cool.
Semifinalists are a terribly sweet yet rather moody and melancholy trio (one girl, two guys) from London. Imagine a sort of lo-fi, twee shoe-gaze or something of that variety. Instead of being full of dark swaths of thick bass lines and guitar walls of sound, Semifinalists are bubbling over with pastel colors, clean melodies, clear vocals (albeit with quite a bit of reverb), and quick, confident drumming. Definitely worth checking out ... for sure for sure.

Ratattagg is also from London, but man do they have a different sound. The singer sounds like the dude from Blood Brothers blended with Mark E. Smith. Or wait ... are there two singers there? It's hard to tell since they meld real well. Instrumentally, they actually sound quite a bit like the Fall: guitars are used to accent the jagged vocals, drums don't really keep the beat as much as set the spastic, frantic mood ...
You definitely should check out their MySpace page for music music!

Someone pointed me in the direction of Cajuan (cute, huh?), an electro act from Germany. These guys sounds a lot a lot a lot like MSTRKRFT: harsh, almost angry dancey electronic music. It's pretty cool, though. There's something very melodic about all of their compositions, but man do they get you moving (I'm sure ... )
Check out their MySpace page, too ...
Truly an eclectic mix o' stuff today. Plenty of cool and more interesting features coming up, though. I just wanted to keep you all posted! Until next time ...

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22.3.07

Next Level Updatez

next level
My apologies to all of you for not updating much this week. Or to rephrase, for doing lame updates. I've been really busy with jobs and the third issue of Next Level.
I won't give away too much yet as there's still a good week or so of work I need to put in to finish it, but it'll be quite a bit different from the previous efforts.

Thanks for all the support concerning the magazine, and I hope you enjoy the upcoming one as well!

Download the back issues here:
Next Level Vol. 1 No. 2
Next Level Vol. 1 No. 2(alternate download)
Next Level Vol. 1 No. 1

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Alter It All

alterkicks
Hey, even if you get tired of all the indie coming from the U.K. right about now, you have to be thankful that the bands didn't stick to the Coldplay or Oasis template. I feel like what's going on there right now is far, far from a lost cause (re: all my other posts tagged "British"), yet had everyone gone the way of Coldplay, the country would be full of mellow dramatic idiots with soft heads.

This band I just found, Alterkicks ain't nothin' too new. In fact, they sound a bit much like the Mystery Jets to me, but that's certainly not a bad thing. On top of that similarity, the Liverpool five-piece has quite an affinity for the Pixies, Radiohead, and other noisier, more experimental alternative groups.

So check 'em out, yeah? They've a MySpace page ... duh.

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21.3.07

Rumble, Rumble

the rumble strips
Maddness's debut, One Step Beyond was a grossly under-rated record from the 70s. A perfect combination of ska, post-punk aesthetic, and goof-ball fun. Granted, after that, their lightning bolt inspiration disappeared, and we were left only with "Our House."

Hopefully, such a fate will not befall the Rumble Strips who, to me, sound like a spectacular mix of Maddness (the horns, the rhythms, the fun), the Monochrome Set (that jazzy vibe), and Echo & the Bunnymen (those vocals! those chops!) ...

I'm so excited to see who else emerges from this revival of something in the U.K. ... first it was Vincent Vincent & the Villains, now it's the Rumble Strips ... the movement's really compelling, and boy do I want more, more, more ...

Oh ... listen to some stuff on their MySpace page!
the Rumble Strips - Motorcycle
the Rumble Strips - Running Away

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19.3.07

Swaying In the Breeze

chris & mollie
Boy, this Santa Cruz duo, Chris & Mollie makes some of the most depressing music I've heard in recent years, from recent years.
Alienation, coldness, emotional distress, suicide ... just a few of the things these two sing about.
However, they make some of the most fantastic lo-fi twee I've ever heard. Imagine a cuter, cleaner Jesus and Mary Chain with a grungier feel (maybe the Swirlies) and a stop-start formula that I simply can't compare to the Unicorns. While this stuff is terribly sad, it really wrings your heart in all its genuineness, truth, honesty, and sincerity.
Additionally, man do I love this sort of production. These two are workin' with nearly nothin', but the songs never lack character and uniqueness. While the most recent effort, The Palm Tree, has more glitz than their previous recordings, it's pretty damn sparse and I never want them to change.

Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet ... never let these two go.

(Go to their MySpace page before I forget.)
Chris & Mollie - Slow Sunrise
Chris & Mollie - Transition Trade
Chris & Mollie - Waltz

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18.3.07

Astronomy for Dogs

the aliens
The much anticipated debut by the Aliens is finally out!
For those of you who don't know 'em, the're the Beta Band minus one member. But the Aliens are pretty far removed from the Beta Band. They're more 60s, they're funner, they're lighter, they're dancier, they're -- unfortunatley -- a tad more annoying.
But I dig it, regardless. If you're looking for something that'll cheer you up, change your perspective on things, turn your frown into a smile ... then the Aliens are where you need to go.

Check out their MySpace page or hell, download a track from me.
the Aliens - I Am the Unknown
the Aliens - Honest Again

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17.3.07

Truly Truly

lizzy trullie
I know essentially nothing about this singer Lizzy Trullie, but the one reassurance about that is that ... no one else seems to know anything, either!

Maybe the shrowd of mystery makes her more compelling and fascinating to me. Trullie has this haunting voice which simultaneously channels Nico and Siouxsie Sioux: very impressive and much warmer and seductive than you'd imagine.
Instrumentally, her songs are simple, folky, but with a campy quality, too (re: K Records). It sounds bare bones, definitely, but it's more: bloody bare bones, maybe. This is so raw -- and so sharp, precise -- that there's almost some irritation.

She's doing something big in NYC, and I'm waiting for it to get even larger, larger ... but until then ...
Just listen, listen ... spectacular stuff.

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14.3.07

Chow Chow Chomp Chomp

chow chow
I simply don't get it: why are there so many damn bands coming out of London these days? Chow Chow is my latest find of this variety, and man are the neat. This stuff sounds like the guts and verboseness of U2 combined with like, the Starlight Mints or something. It's fun -- quirky vocals, scratchy synths -- but confident and strong-willed.
The band's got a MySpace page dedicated to downloads which I highly recommend checking out!

Now this ... this band is gold ... Ellis Island Sound is the name, and while both the name and sound are dripping with Americana, these lads are certainly from the U.K. as well. It's acoustic, it's folk, but there's a delicateness to it that reminds me of something Mark Mothersbaugh would have composed. Be certain, certain, certain to listen to 'em at their MySpace page!
Ellis Island Sound - The Orchid

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12.3.07

Reminder: Next Level Magazine

next level
I just wanted to remind all of you to read Next Level, my magazine, and for those of you who've yet to get it, to download it!
I'm working on the third issue now, and hope for it to be out within a month.
I'm trying to get more contributors and assistance on the upcoming installment, so it'll take a little more time.

In the meantime, though ... keep reading!
Next Level Vol. 1 No. 2
Next Level Vol. 1 No. 2 (alternate link)
Next Level Vol. 1 No. 1

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Real Gold

real gold
There's some fantastic small-label activity going on in London right now. From the Young Turks to Merok (who brought us Klaxons and Crystal Castles) to ... Real Gold. Real Gold has released a few good 7"s, but it seems that their main aim is to be a taste maker of sorts ... hosting many, many parties, DJ events, collaborations, and curating mix tapes.

Unfortunately, I can't get in on any of it since it's all happening in London. So, for those of you who're on the same boat, check out some of their stellar bands instead!

The Train Chronicles is a folk/pop singer with this bizarre modal sort of sound. That is, this stuff sounds sort of like what monks would play if they were hip and had guitars.

Just head over to their MySpace page to delve into all their projects and endeavors ... really spectacular stuff here!

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11.3.07

New Lcd Soundsystem B-side

sound of silver
I just listened to the North American Scum single by LCD Soundsystem, mostly to get the b-side, "Hippie Priest Bum-Out" b-side.
The track's pretty alright ... no vocals (bummer!), but interesting in that it's a bit funkier than the stuff featured on the album. Still intense in terms of heavy, dub bass and cowbell clanging, but this track's slower-moving and more relaxed.
An excellent interlude at least, and a strong track in my mind ...
So check it out already!
Also, I've posted a remix included on the single. Ace as well ...
LCD Soundsystem - Hippie Priest Bum-Out
LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum (Kris Menace Remix)

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9.3.07

Art School Dropout

art school dropout records, kiosk
My first encounter with Art School Dropout Records was when I ordered the label's Alden Penner 7". This thing is beautiful: screen printed on the reverse side of some cruddy old record. I think you were supposed to color in the cover art with the pack of crayons included ...
Anyway, it was a good single, and I'm glad I got my hands on it! The Australian label clearly knows how to find its stuff!

So I was looking them up again recently, and was happy to hear some of their new stuff!
Kiosk is this spectacular girl punk band fronted by a woman who channels Kim Gordon. Actually, there is something Sonic Youth-y about these guys ... the noisy, sloppy guitar, the feedback ... I don't know. Compelling, anyway ...

You all should check out the Art School Dropout Records MySpace page, hear some other stuff the company's behind ...
Kiosk - Tourist Attraction (clip)

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8.3.07

Hey Hey My My Interview (Part 2 of 2)

hey hey my my
(6) What are your future plans? I remember emailing you a while back, and you mentioned a goal of getting to America sometime. Anything else in the works? Collaborations, tours, etc. ...

We will release our album in April in France so we are getting ready for touring in our country. We’d like to find a licensing deal in UK and the US and we will be ready to tour there when necessary. One of the collaboration I can maybe speak about is having Audrey from the band Envelopes (French-Swedish band, who recently toured with Ratatat in the U.S.) singing on two songs of our album. They’re good friends of us, their music is amazing.


(7) I really like your "Too Much Space" video. It's really skilfully done, and on top of that, it's got a cool theme and look. Where'd you get the idea and how'd the thing come about?

The director Didier Kerbrat had the idea. We were stuck in the process of finding some good ideas for the video and he came with that simple but brilliant plan: to get back to the cover of the EP and to start the video there, the both of us on horses staring at something in the woods. Then we found some ideas to make our friends to appear in the video and to keep a surreal atmosphere in it. We didn’t want a usual "hit and run" video like a lot of bands do, with lots of cuts, a fast pace and edit. We founded more it interesting to have a slow progression inside the video to make things smooth, kind of wanting to slowly hypnotize the viewer rather than hitting him/her with a stick screaming "LOOK AT US WE PLAY GUITAR WE’RE A BAND WE HAVE NICE CLOTHES BUY OUR ALBUM!!!."

(8) I'm curious to know what the reaction's been to your music in France. You sing in English, which leads me to believe that you've plans and goals that reach beyond the border of your country.

Until now the reactions in France have been quite amazing, we’ve just released the EP and we already have press and radios (even national ones), so for us it’s a good surprise. As I said before, things are changing so it’s going to be interesting for us to see how France welcomes the full album. Our plans are to be able to quit our daily jobs and make a living out of our music. It will only be possible if we are big in France or if we manage to bring our music in Europe and elsewhere. Plus we want to do it as a kind of challenge, because we have been so influenced by American and English music, it changed so much of our lives than we want to be accepted among this world, this scene. So yeah, we are heading towards you people!!!

(9) Do you have any music recommendations? Anything you're listening to right now that needs to be exposed?

Listen to Envelopes!!!! We don’t say that because they are our friends. We became friends with them because we liked so much their music! They have been misinterpreted as a kind of new indie slacker band like “Architecture in Helsinki” but they are much more than that. To like their album demands further listen, once it’s inside it won’t leave you.
Otherwise I really like "Songs Ohia : Electric Magnolia corporation," Deerhoof.
Also it would be unfair to tell you so much about this French scene without giving you some band names. They’re part of what we’re listening to so here we go:
Stuck in the sound, Eldia, Fancy, Cocoon, Please don’t blame Mexico …There are many more we don’t remember for now but these ones should do for a start.

(0) Okay, I think I'll leave it at that. Thanks for agreeing to do the interview, and I can't wait to see and hear more from you guys!

Merci beaucoup! It was a pleasure

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6.3.07

Hey Hey My My Interview (Part 1 of 2)

hey hey my my
It should never be assumed that a country tightly connected with a certain music scene/style only is interested in that said style.
A lot of us probably assume that France is currently experiencing a rebound from the Daft Punk days: new electro acts are popping up left and right, and "party" seems to be the underlying theme for anything they create.
However ... in the case of Parisian Hey Hey My My, this is not the case! The name is from Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My," and that alone should speak volumes concerning the band's aesthetic. Loosely described, they're pop/folk, but influences are all across the board, and technically, the duo is on top of their game: it's rare to hear pop musicians play with this sort of confidence and ability.
I was able to get an interview in with Hey Hey My My, who are currently promoting their debut EP.


(1) Okay, I would like to start this out with a few essential, basic questions. Firstly, where did you get your name, Hey Hey My My? It's cool, yet ambiguous, and a little strange!

We liked the sound these 4 words make together and we like the Neil young song as well. “Hey Hey, My My”, as a song, is quite interesting, you can’t tell if Neil Young is sarcastic or he totally believes in what he sings, the listener can’t really know for sure, we felt connected to that. The song describes how Rock ’n Roll can be vital, a source of great artistic achievement, even a religious thing for some people, and at the same time it can be this kind of harsh and cynical business, totally bullshit.
Also Hey Hey My My is composed of two people, both named Julien (and with similar second names, Gaulier and Garnier) so it fitted quite well. Another thing is that Neil Young plays this song whether in a Folk or in a Rock version and we feel we are not just a “pop/folk” band, we can do some Rock as well. Last but not least, we like Neil Young a lot, so all these reasons made us choose this name.
Oh, and I can think of one last reason: being both French we think it’s quite funny to have chosen this name, so connected to the Anglo-Saxon world, and the English/American mythology of Rock!

(2) France is definitely the "it" place in terms of music scenes right now (from Ed Banger being the big name for us Americans), but you two don't really seem to subscribe to that at all ... so first off, what do you think about the current state of affairs for pop music in France?

Well, well, well, we could write a book about this matter! I don’t know if France is THE place in terms of music scenes, but I can really feel something changing right now.
Concerning Ed Banger, they are quite connected to “French Touch”, the guy at the head of it is Daft Punk manager, his artists pretty much do the same thing Daft Punk did (doing heavy international clubbing, proving they are good DJs for a start), it’s really “club” oriented. So concerning this Parisian electro-house hype type of thing we can see it exists, we like some of it, but we’re definitely not part of it. Air and Daft Punk were really French pioneers but I feel this clubbing scene is a bit too close to what has been done 10 years ago musically speaking.
On the other hand you have this Pop Rock scene in different cities and in Paris especially, it has became more and more interesting for 2 or 3 years. But what you have to understand is that France is not a Pop or Rock country, there is no such thing as pop music. People listen to “chanson française”, French R&B and rap, or they go to clubs to dance. So for a long time some bands have been kind of caught in the middle of this. The scene exists but it’s not yet a real deal for record companies, touring companies, radios … It still is a really indie underground thing in the real meaning of it. French people themselves have always been running after trends coming from in England or the US. So they are the first to be suspicious of their own bands, preferring the real deal to what most of the time used to be an imitation of English or American groups. On the other hand, the fact we’ve been ignored by usual medias allowed some bands to do their music better and better, they have matured. Right now new Rock/pop clubs open in Paris, we have more and more concerts and places to play, and the audience is following as well. It looks like it eventually blossoms at the right time.

(3) And secondly, what compelled you guys to make a band like Hey Hey My My, one which is rather folky and relaxed in nature.

For years we were doing this punk rock band, touring a bit, trying to make it. At the same time we were composing folk songs, each of us or together, but without thinking of it as really a “band”, it was just for us and friends. After some time we realized we had some good stuff and we should get people to hearing it and liking it. But as I wrote before, we don’t feel Hey Hey My My will only be a “folky” thing. We might do some Rock stuff for our next album; it just happened this way but nothing compelling.


(4) Which leads me to a follow up question of sorts: what are the main inspirations for you? What stuff molded your musical tastes and sensibilities?

The Beatles, Rock, good songs. Both of us were listening to Metallica, Nirvana, Rage against the Machine, Led Zeppelin when we were teenagers, and later more indie stuff, The Pixies, Pavement Cat Power Sonic Youth and many more. Basically anything that fell into our hands and showed enough life, energy. We love the fact some songs can be pop, simple, heartening and so well crafted they really are Art and “accessible” to everybody. Like “A day in a life” or other songs from The Beatles for instance. When I was 10/11 years old; I would just listened to it, loving it, not knowing it was made 30 years ago, I didn’t care if it was “avant-garde” or not at that time. Later I discovered what amount of work and what artistic achievement it meant. That’s what I like in music. Whether it is Johnny Cash, The Arcade Fire or Deerhoof …


(5) What's your musical background? To me, it sounds like both of you have quite a bit of traditional musical training under your belts: you play the guitar with chops and confidence, you sing with tight harmonies, always on key, and you drum with a casual tightness that does not come easy!

Mhhh, that’s funny, I didn’t know anyone could hear that in our songs. Thank a lot for theses compliments!! 
You are right actually, I did piano from 7 to 14 years old. My parents always listened to classical music (anything beyond Ravel is like hard rock for my father), we would sing at church when I was a kid. But I stopped doing music for quite some time and then started playing guitar at the age of 21/22. The other Julien played classical guitar during his teens (1 or 2 years) then switched to THE ELECTRIC (yeeehaaaaaaa!). Our drummer Michel Aubinais is a member of British Hawaii; he’s one of the best drummers we’ve ever met so we were quite lucky to have him on board!! That explains for the tightness I guess.

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4.3.07

Disco-Dance-Punk

disco drive
So maybe Torino is now not only "the place where the Winter Olympics" last occurred, but also a music scene focal point! Disco Drive is this tense, speedy, disco infused, dance-punk group from Torino, and they're pretty damn good! There's something very Gang of Four about these guys -- maybe it's the way the guitar accents the melodies and words or the mathematical, dancey drumming or the funk bass -- and it seems sincere and earnest. How could I ask for more!?
Check out their MySpace page or download the below track!

In a similar vein, the Po Po. These dudes hail from Pennsylvania and sound like a bizarre bastard child of like, the Fall and Rage Against the Machine (in a very good way, believe me). An element of Liars in there, too (I feel chilly, haunted, listening to these guys). Definitely keep an eye out for them ... or at least head over to their MySpace page, too!

In quite a different vein, I present you ... Polytechnic, a cheery indie-pop group from Manchester (a place that has gotten much less grey since the days of Ian Curtis and Tony Wilson, it seems).
This quintet seems totally confident and happy to be doing what they're doing, and they've the chops and hooks to support that!
At times I feel like they get a tad too cliché, but hey, I've no problem with intense rhythm guitar and grandiose harmonies every once in a while. So again, go to their MySpace page and check it out for yourself!
Disco Drive - All About This

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2.3.07

These New Puritans

these new puritans
Another band with one hell of a contradictory name, Southend's These New Puritans are far from resembling puritans. Vocally, the singer sounds like he's channeling Mark E. Smith, rhytmically, too, it's sort of like listening to the Fall plus a few parts Throwbing Gristle or any of those No Wave groups and Cabaret Voltaire's followers.
But man can you get down to These New Puritans ... they've the tonality and rhythm of Liars -- that is, clean, funk-based stuff filtered through noise, disjointed, and un-cleaned.

Get down to their dark, absent funk at their MySpace page.
These New Puritans - C 16
These New Puritans - Tracey Emin
These New Puritans - Home Cinema

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