From the archives: Cool Kid

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IT SAYS something that classic turntablist album Carpal Tunnel Syndrome comes with a free comic book and computer game.
Now that’s value for money – clearly Kid Koala, real name Eric San, is a DJ bulging with ideas.
And never content to just drop a beat and sit back, from start to finish this album is a lesson in DJ-ing technically as well as creatively.
And clearly the leg work has been done beforehand as well – there’s no Eric B or James Brown sampling here, in fact nothing obvious at all.
From the ‘wakey wakey, eggs and bakey’ of Music For Morning People through the meandering Drunk Trumpet to the clucking bizarre Like Irregular Chickens, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is some of the most original, skilled and entertaining music to come out of two turntables.

Review: Balkan brass sideshow is a blast

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IF YOU’RE looking for some music that’s exciting, energetic and just a little bit bonkers, then I suggest you get on board the Gipsy Balkan Caravan of the Boban and Marko Markovic Orchestra.
This Gipsy Manifesto LP is the group’s first album in four years, and you imagine they have been doing nothing but touring around performing their raucous, joyous Balkan brass in the interim – they clearly enjoy what they’re doing.
This collection starts off at a blistering pace with Caje Sukarije, which mixes brass with beats and a boing boing noise, and each and every track up until 2/3rds through either matches this pace or puts the foot even further on the gas.
It’s full on, and fun – but at 16 tracks long it is exhausting, like being around a host who’s trying a bit too hard to entertain. I think my three-year-old maybe enjoyed it more than me, perhaps as it sounds like tuning in to a crazy, confusing foreign kids TV show at times.
So while an upbeat diversion, perhaps this Orchestra is best suited to being a fun sideshow than a main attraction.

From the archives: Divine Grace

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IN THE pantheon of musicians who died before their time, up there with greats such as Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, should be Jeff Buckley.
If you’ve heard Jeff Buckley’s golden voice you know what I’m talking about. Sadly, most people haven’t as Jeff, son of folk great Tim, died in 1997 while working on a follow-up to 1994’s Grace, his only completed album.
This is an album that touches people that hear it, that cannot fail to bring a tear to the eye and a shiver to the spine.
Although Jeff drowned before completing the sophomore Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk, his music continues to grow in cult status through word of mouth and influence, which can be heard in countless critically-acclaimed artists luckily still around today, such as Radiohead, Chris Cornell, PJ Harvey, Muse, Rufus Wainwright, Our Lady Peace, John Legend, Badly Drawn Boy, Aimee Mann, Jason Mraz, the list goes on and on.

Haiku Reviews

SLAP on the wrist, I’ve been struggling to keep up with the volume of review requests I’ve had through recently and haven’t managed to review all the albums I should have done.
So to make it up to any acts who’ve slipped through the net in recent weeks, I’ve penned a haiku review of some of them.
Here they are –
Saint Max And The Fanatics – Saint Max Is Missing And The Fanatics Are Dead
Derivative rock,
Made much less derivative,
With inventive horns.
Fighting Fiction – The Long And Short Of It
Rabble rousing band,
With political insight,
Distracted by girls.
HAIM – Days Are Gone
Eighties tinted pop,
Perfect for the summertime,
Released in Autumn?
Deaf Havana – Old Souls
Wanted to review,
Postman delivered the case,
With no CD in.

Review: Samuel is a rising star

INTRODUCTORY EP Falling Star showcases someone who’s sure to be a rising star, even if he’s not quite at his heavenly best yet.
Samuel’s short and sweet iniation is a production of electronic bleeps and bass which although serving a purpose, are only a launchpad for the artist’s vocal.
Because in the crowded constellation of soulful electronic artists, where the likes of Jamie Woon and James Blake shine bright, the raw yearning tone of Samuel’s voice should set him apart.
His pipes are rich and emotional, but with an unusual edge – at times he sounds like Frank Ocean, at others he finds unusual sounds, like the hints of Ezra Koenig I detect on Death Star Wonder.
Samuel should be a rising star, and this is a decent launchpad for him – he needs to add fuel to this with his full offering now.

From the archives: Mraz you like it

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WITH his new single I’m Yours, Mechanicsville-born singer songwriter Jason Mraz is finally getting some deserved recognition in the UK.
And it’s about time too.
I’ve been a massive advocate of reggae-tinged rap singer Mraz since his 2002 debut album Waiting For My Rocket To Come.
From the tender tracks like You And I and Boy’s Gone to the cheeky patter of I’ll Do Anything and Curbside Prophet, Waiting For My Rocket To Come was an assured launchpad for an artist hopefully about to explode.

Review: I’ve heard that Fela before…

TAKING on the greats is always a tricky proposition, but Red Hot + Fela sees a myriad of artists both Western and African do just that with the late, great Fela Kuti.
And these are no standard covers – ranging from hip hop to house to jazz these reworkings are carried out with such imagination and enthusiasm that in most cases only the spirit and feeling of the originals remain.
Because of the variety the results are as you’d expect a mixed bag, but more hit than miss – personal standouts for me are the moving, largely-instrumental Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am, plus the Underworld-esque No Buredi.
And the all-star list of contributors – which include tUnE-yArDs, Questlove, My Morning Jacket, Alabama Shakes, Kronos Quartet and TV On The Radio among their ranks – have done this in the name of charity, to help raise money towards the fight against HIV/AIDs.
So if you’re a fan of Fela Kuti, I urge you to put any reservations to one side, and if you’re not, I’ll wager a listen to this and you’ll be looking to discover him afterwards.

Review: Kid Karate belt them out

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IRISH two piece Kid Karate really belt them out.
The group’s new EP, Lights Out, sees vocalist/guitarist Kevin Breen and drummer Steven Gannon shine with their sheer energy and verve.
The sound harks back to the last great golden age of guitar bands – with the pair sounding akin to a younger Young Knives in places, with hints of early Bloc Party and The Rakes et al, all played with a DIY White Stripes attitude.
There’s a definite need to polish up what’s going on here, but this teaser has enough of a kick to it for me to want to hear much more from Kid Karate.