Lawrence English – Cruel Optimism


I’ve been listening to a lot of drone/ambient/modern composition and the like over the past few years but have seldom written about it. I find it hard to quite capture what’s going on in these abstract pieces. If writing about music is dancing about architecture (and cheers Zappa for sewing that seed of doubt in every music writer’s mind) then writing about abstract pieces is like trying to describe alien structures of non-Euclidean geometry whilst on too much acid to ascertain which limb is which.

Or at least it is for me. Maybe I just feel uncormtable describing anything I can’t overuse the word ‘riff’ for.

Anyhow. I had a go at reviewing the latest work from Lawrence English. i very much like it, something which I hope comes through in this unappetising word salad.

Review, as ever, over at Echoes and Dust.

Playlist: 10 Tracks to Learn to Love…Grails


To celebrate their first album in 5 years (check out my review here) I’ve tried to condense Grails’ work into 10 a mere tracks. Tricky stuff, though Spotify have made it easier by not having Take Refuge in Clean Living (check the video below for a taste of that), Black Tar Prophecies 1-3  or Interpretations Of Three Psychedelic Rock Songs From Around The World availableNeedless to say then that this is an incomplete primer; but it does just about trace the line from their early Dirty Three-esque sonic wanderings through their voyages into psychedelia, prog, soundtrack composers, krautrock and a hundred other musical hinterlands all the way to latest release Chalice Hymnal, the sound of a set of musicians playing and composing with complete freedom.

They’ve been a frequently misunderstood band over the years (hell, I’m not entirely sure I’ve truly got a handle on them) due to the scope of their ambition and, perhaps, the narrowing of ambitions of their supposed contemporaries. This selection won’t teach you all there is to know about their ways, but I hope it makes for a welcoming introduction to their world.

Grails – Chalice Hymnal

Grails Chalice Hymnal.jpg

Grails have been a favourite band of mine for a long while now. They were introduced to me as a post-rock/post-metal band sometime around a decade ago, around the time that Burning Off Impurities was released, but I quickly discovered they were far much more than genre-happy mooks. Attempts to label them so neatly fall desperately short – they collect and shed influences as it suits them, ever creating their own weather. Evocative of a whole heap of sounds and musical periods at once Chalice Hymnal is a trip down a whole new set of rabbitholes, a tough record to digest and a difficult one to articulate opinion on. I’ve no idea if I’ve done it justice or not.

See for yourself at Echoes & Dust.

Playlist: World, You Disappoint me

I love winter – for the first few months. After Christmas has packed up and left and the New Years promise dissolves into the same-old same-old it’s pleasures soon fade. I find around this time is when I reach for that breed of heaviness, of sonic density, that washes over you, envelops you, holds you close and won’t let you go. Be it the shoegazing of Blonde Redhead, the crushing beauty of Jesu or the heartbreaking slowcore of Low, when the world outside seems cold and uninviting (weatherwise or peoplewise) this is what I use to see me through until Spring.

Playlist: We Never Saw It Coming

Similar to last week’s this is a collection of modern composition/ambient/instrumental acoustic pieces from 2016. It was an ugly year but plenty of beauty somehow seeped through the cracks, like flowers between paving slabs. With the inauguration happening across the pond I for one would prefer to hide between my headphones and remember that.