Category: Reviews (Page 1 of 164)


Celebrating forty years as recording artists, DURAN DURAN release their fifteenth studio album ‘Future Past’, a “live for the moment” reference of how something today can become a cherished memory in times to come.

Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Roger and Nick Rhodes’ previous album ‘Paper Gods’ was a disappointment, especially after the return to form of the Mark Ronson produced ‘All You Need Is Now’ released in 2011. With the latter’s own 2007 predecessor ‘Red Carpet Massacre’ (with its contributions from Justin Timberlake and Timbaland) being as underwhelming as ‘Paper Gods’, will ‘Future Past’ see DURAN DURAN regain their groove?

The credits certainly indicate some potential with two tracks produced by electronic disco maestro Giorgio Moroder. But the majority of ‘Future Past’ has been helmed by British producer Erol Alkan of BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE fame. Also contributing guitar on most tracks is Graham Coxon of BLUR who might be seen as an unusual collaborator, but Britpop anthem ‘Girls & Boys’ was to all intents and purposes, a DURAN DURAN homage.

Certainly the chiptune inspired ‘More Joy!’ is reminiscent of former glories, its syncopated disco poise capturing DURAN DURAN at what they do best and with hypnotic electronics offset by a wonderful bass guitar run and chants by Japanese rock band CHAI, it exhilarates in a manner that is greatly appreciated.

Meanwhile, Giorgio Moroder lends his deft touch to ‘Beautiful Lies’ and ‘Tonight United’. With early DURAN DURAN songs like ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘Careless Memories’ having owed more than a debt to the Italian’s influence, the two songs deliver what is expected and that is no bad thing. The more immediate of the pair, ‘Beautiful Lies’ is a cousin to ‘Being Followed’ from ‘All You Need Is Now’ while ‘Tonight United’ swoops and rouses in a slightly funkier manner.

Sonically, the Moroder produced tracks have a clarity and power over the Erol Alkan produced offerings which suffer in places from the percussive harshness that seems to plague modern music, with recordings by acts such as BLANCK MASS and AVEC SANS being recent examples. ‘Invisible’ particularly falls victim to this and it would have been interesting to hear how Mark Ronson might have handled it as there is a good chorus in there!

Ronson does appear on guitar for ‘Wing’, a cinematic tune with Bond theme characteristics but this too is ruined by the drum sounds, although they are less obtrusive than on ‘Invisible’. More pleasing to the ear is the pumping and self-acknowledging ‘Anniversary’ which offers hints of ‘The Wild Boys’, ‘Girls On Film’ and ‘Save A Prayer’ like Easter eggs in an ode to four decades of friendship.

Following in the footsteps of Kelis, Ana Matronic, Janelle Monáe, Kiesza and Lindsay Lohan, Swedish songstress and Max Martin collaborator Tove Lo features on the introspective ‘Give It All Up’ which is enjoyable enough with an uplifting chorus and some soothing orchestrations, but ‘Hammerhead’ with drill rapper Ivorian Doll sees DURAN DURAN fall into prey to their often misguided desire to be current and contemporary.

Arranged to be epic, the ‘Future Past’ title track is a bit laboured while ‘Nothing Less’ sees Saffron Le Bon duetting with her father on a pleasant enough ballad. But for those preferring something of a more contemplative and arty vein, the lengthy drum machine driven ‘Falling’ sees David Bowie’s longest standing band member Mike Garson present his famed jazzy ivory runs to close.

Although a mixed bag, ‘Future Past’ is a vast improvement on ‘Paper Gods’, although it doesn’t hit the consistent heights of ‘All You Need Is Now’. There are enough good tracks in the classic DURAN DURAN mould to keep long standing fans of the band happy, with those likely to be live favourites as the band host on their belated Ruby anniversary parties around the world.

‘Future Past’ is released by Tape Modern / BMG to all digital platforms as well as being available as a CD, limited edition deluxe hardback book CD with additional tracks, coloured vinyl LP and cassette

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by John Swannell
22nd October 2021


‘Fast Idol’ is Chris Stewart’s fourth album as BLACK MARBLE and his second on Sacred Bones Records, home to THE SOFT MOON and ZOLA JESUS.

Capturing the uncertainty of the future provoked by world events, Stewart pays homage to “the forgotten bedroom kids of the analogue era” such as ASYLUM PARTY, FUTURISK and OPPENHEIMER ANALYSIS.

While the previous BLACK MARBLE album ‘Bigger Than Life’ looked at cultural shifts in the US inspired during bus rides to his Los Angeles studio, ‘Fast Idol’ is more enclosed and inward looking, solitary even…

The sub-six minute ‘Somewhere’ acts as a fine opener with a beautiful filmic introduction before suddenly speeding up for its vocal section to offer some vibrant stoner synthpop reminiscent of New Yorkers NATION OF LANGUAGE, dressed with digital chimes, plonks and incessant pulsations.

Wonderfully lo-fi, ‘Bodies’ sees its gloomy vocal tone offset by bright synthesizer tones and a hypnotic passage of nocturnal moods to finish. Also as charming, ‘Royal Walls’ offers bell-like keys and groovy electronic bass like PET SHOP BOYS if they had beards while with a lilting octave shift, ‘Try’ gives a take on NEW ORDER, complete with higher end Hooky bass.

The minimal structuring of ‘The Garden’ presents a doom-laden drum machine waltz and is given a barrage boost of toms and cascading keys. But more guitar driven with an optimistic Far Eastern tone, ‘Say It First’ plays on post-punk Northern Englishness like THE DURUTTI COLUMN gone perky.

‘Streetlight’ reveals the influence of acts like CLUSTER with its shuffling take on Motorik and THOBBING GRISTLE dropped into moonlit gothic cocoon while the percussive ‘Ceiling’ is a homage to NEW ORDER’s early tribal gothic disco.

Despite its array of offbeats, ‘Ship To Shore’ remains constant with its driving staccato backbone, but ‘Preoccupation’ is phat and pumping with counter-melodies galore before ‘Brighter & Bigger’ closes with a spacey ballad that cleverly doesn’t reveal itself to be a waltz until about a minute in.

The nonchalant vocals, while a trademark of BLACK MARBLE sound, will not be to everyone’s taste and will begin to grate over what is a long album at 53 minutes. However, musically and synthetically, the content of ‘Fast Idol’ is intriguing and appeal despite not having the more immediate accessibility of say, NATION OF LANGUAGE.

‘Fast Idol’ is released by Sacred Bones Records in vinyl LP, CD and digital formats

BLACK MARBLE 2021 live dates featuring special guest DISCOVERY ZONE include:

Bournemouth Anvil (23rd October), Cardiff Club Ifor Bach (24th October), Milton Keynes Craufurd Arms (25th October), Hull The Adelphi (26th October), Edinburgh Mash House (27th October), Glasgow Stereo (28th October), Dundee Hunter S Thompson (29th October), Newcastle Anarchy Brewing Company (31st October), Chester Live Rooms (1st November), Oxford O2 Academy (2nd November), St Albans The Horn (3rd November), Bath Moles (5th November), London Moth Club (6th November), Hebden Bridge Trades Club (7th November)

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Ashley Leahy
22nd October 2021


If Jane Birkin had been backed by minimal electronics from Serge Gainsbourg, then they probably would have sounded like XENO & OAKLANDER.

Already veterans of seven albums, Liz Wendelbo and Sean McBride’s new long player ‘Vi/deo’ continues to expand on the duo’s multi-sensory exploration of synaesthesia, inspired by perfumes, celebrity culture and vintage technology such as Roland’s SH101, RS09, System 100 and TR808 alongside a Serge modular system and ARP sequencer.

Although recorded at their Southern Connecticut home studio, ‘Vi/deo’ exhibits hints of authentic Europeanism in the form of Italo and French disco-noir courtesy of Wendelbo’s wispy Franco / Norwegian charm.

She said: “The title of the album ‘Vi/deo’ is a reference to the Latin meaning of the word, ‘I see’. I’m really interested in the way senses influence each other: colors that are sounds that are scents that are tastes. Synaesthesia is a fascinating effect: how music can trigger different senses all at once, a note can have a color, a sensation, a scent.”

In a period when short and sharp eight track albums have been prevalent, XENO & OAKLANDER push the definition boundaries in an engaging seven song offering. With an unexpected industrial introduction and those textures later being inter-dispersed throughout, ‘Infinite Sadness’ plays with simulated slapped bass over a tense machine beat to provide a melancholic but vibrant start.

Meanwhile, the catchy electro-disco of ‘Poison’ has its rhythmic syncopation offset by the uneasy feel of a supernatural drama. Expanding on a European disco theme, the wonderful ‘Afar’ is the best song on ‘Vi/deo’, alluringly presented en Français for an infectious if bittersweet dancefloor experience.

Like it was tailor made for an Autumnal drive along the Côte d’Azur, ‘Technicolor’ exhibits a moody cocooned squelch in its widescreen setting with pretty synth melodies complimenting Wendelbo’s almost whispered tones.

The harder edged ‘Gain’ offers a boisterous bounce to proceedings laced with some accelerated keyboard jabs, while the more steadfast ‘Movie Star’ captures the innocence of an enthralling visit to the cinema and being hypnotised by the lead. Closing with ‘Rain Garden’, the cacophony of blips and a solid staccato synthbass provide the backbone for an airy uptempo conclusion.

If you have any of XENO & OAKLANDER’s previous releases, then ‘Vi/deo’ will undoubtedly appeal. Flirtatious and perhaps less icy than previously in the aural equivalent of Gauloises smoke filling a Parisian night club, while the vocal style will continue to be polarising for some, the album’s dancier template may possess crossover potential to more synthpop-inclined audiences.

‘Vi/deo’ is released by Dais Records in various coloured vinyl LP formats as well as CD and digital, available from

Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th October 2021

SEA FEVER Folding Lines

Manchester, so much to answer for…

SEA FEVER are a new but seasoned quintet whose musical family trees link up through their various associations with some of the city’s best known bands such as NEW ORDER, THE SMITHS, SECTION 25 and THE FALL.

Comprising of Iwan Gronow, Beth Cassidy, Tom Chapman, Phil Cunningham and Elliot Barlow, their debut album ‘Folding Lines’ is the sound of a band instinctively working together, exploring the music that has inspired each band member to merge into a new whole.

Aiming to explore new sounds and unusual instrumentations, examples of this approach come with the sombre indie rock of ‘Crossed Wires’ where Phil Cunningham’s guitar sounds are played through one of Tom Chapman’s synths and ‘Built To Last’ which uses a string quartet to complement the virtual orchestra sound.

Similarly filmic, ‘The Finder’ takes inspiration from the soundtracks of Bernard Hermann, Georges Delerue, Ennio Morricone and Ryuichi Sakamoto, while a hammered dulcimer makes an appearance to add tension and mood to the dual vocalled ‘Folding Lines’ title track.

‘Under Duress’ also exudes a particularly expansive sound with electronics, strings and anthemic vocal lines like Björk’s ‘Homogenic’ meeting a modern Mancunian Spaghetti Western soundtrack, while the buzzing electronically assisted indie rock of ‘Afterthought’ is equally spirited.

Two of the album’s best songs are tightly electronically driven; ‘De Facto’ is a delightful indie-disco feast with an adrenalin rush guaranteeing dancefloor satisfaction. Meanwhile cut from a similar cloth, the slightly less frantic ‘Le Coup’ sees Beth Cassidy take the lead vocal over a blend of many Mancunian club influences.

Closing with a choir on ‘Programme Your Life’ recorded at the Royal Northern School of Music in Manchester alongside woodwinds and strings, ‘Folding Lines’ is an eclectic collection of music showcasing no particular sound or feel other than being SEA FEVER.

If you a fan of any of the bands that SEA FEVER are linked with, you will be sure to love at least 3-4 tracks. Although all the members have other bands to return to, album number two has already been written, so more is to come…

‘Folding Lines’ is released by Kartel Records on 22nd October 2021 in vinyl LP, CD and digital formats – pre-order from

SEA FEVER play Manchester Night & Day Cafe on 22nd October and London Rough Trade East on 29th October 2021

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Anthony Harrison
17th October 2021

LONELADY (There Is) No Logic

Hailing from Manchester, LONELADY released her first album ‘Nerve Up’ on Warp Records in 2010.

The nom de théâtre of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Julie Campbell, her influences include post-punk, funk and electronic pop. Her stark urgent sound came from initially working with basic tools such an 8-track cassette recorder, Fender Telecaster, and Yamaha keyboard which triggered invention through enforced economy.

Embracing the funk, LONELADY’s second album ‘Hinterland’ came out in 2015 with the scratchy ‘Bunkerpop’ acting as kind of manifesto statement. She came to the attention of John Foxx and recorded a cover of ‘030’ from ‘Metamatic’ for the officially sanctioned ‘He’s A Liquid’ tribute EP saying “I live in a high-rise right next to a dual carriageway, so John Foxx’s music makes a lot of sense to me”.

Recorded in a basement bunker beneath Somerset House in London and released earlier in the summer, the third LONELADY album ‘Former Things’ saw an increased use of drum machines, sequencers and synths (particularly the ARP Odyssey and Korg MS10) in a lively but mournful eulogy to the lost golden age of childhood and youth.

Following opening for NEW ORDER, LONELADY was invited to perform ‘(There Is) No Logic’ on the BBC’s ‘Later… with Jools Holland’; the song itself is one of the highlights on ‘Former Things’, a hypnotic blippy slice of industrial funk which while adopting soulful Trans-Atlantic forms, is distinctly English in its art punk presentation, recalling CABARET VOLTAIRE and ‘Sensoria’ in particular.

Filmed in the desolate grandeur of Brunswick Mill where JOY DIVISION were captured for their ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ video, the charismatic performance also features James Field on electronic drums and Kendra Frost of KITE BASE on synths.

‘Former Things’ is without doubt, the most immediate and accessible LONELADY album yet. Previous single ‘Fear Colours’ crosses PRINCE with TALKING HEADS while using a LinnDrum and a straightforward synthbass pattern for its backbone, ‘Time Time Time’ is a passionate slice of post-punk funk featuring a Korg Triton given to Campbell by Brian Eno. Driven by a distant rhythm unit, ‘The Catcher’ takes on a sombre disposition despite the classic electro groove while the title song brings in hushed disco vibes.

As well as an upcoming European tour, LONELADY’s affinity with CABARET VOLTAIRE is taken to the next level in new collaboration with Stephen Mallinder and WRANGLER bandmate Benge for a six track mini-album ‘Clinker’ with the first preview track ‘Camouflage’ recalling A CERTAIN RATIO.

Out on Les Disques du Crepuscule, the project actually began a few years but the various commitments of the trio saw the recordings exiled on a hard drive until now.

‘(There Is) No Logic’ is from the album ‘Former Things’ released by Warp Records in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats

‘Clinker’ as Campbell Mallinder Benge is released by Les Disques du Crepuscule in vinyl and digital formats from

LONELADY 2022 UK + European tour dates:

Hebden Bridge Trades Club (14 January), Liverpool 24 Kitchen Street (15 January), Sheffield Record Junkee (16 January), Birmingham Hare & Hounds (17 January), Paris Le Hasard Ludique (19 January), Ghent Charlatan (20 January), Hamburg Headcrash (22 January), Berlin Kantine am Berghain (23 January), Cologne Blue Shell (24 January), Amsterdam Paradiso Kleine Zaal (25 January), Cambridge Junction 2 (27 January), Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach (28 January), Southampton The Joiners (29 January), Norwich Arts Centre (30 January), Nottingham Bodega (1 February), Edinburgh The Mash House (2 February), Glasgow Audio (3 February), Dublin The Grand Social (15 February), Ulster Sports Club (16 February)

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Alex Hurst
15th October 2021

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