late of the pier

Album Review: FabricLive 51 - The Duke Dumont

The Duke Dumont appears to be getting his props for the right places - much like upstart Rory Phillips the Duke has seen increasing popularity as the result of a string of successful remixes for the right bands, triggered by his winning the Diesel U Music competition.

At thirteen tracks long FabricLive 51 features less tracks than most Fabric albums, let alone most albums in the FabricLive series and, whilst that may seem like a trivial point it says a lot about Adam Dyment's style. Ultimately this mix is about function more than anything else - there are no tricks here and FabricLive 51 demonstrates that, refreshingly, The Duke Dumont is more about playing ten quality songs than 20 average songs just to prove he can.

And the tracks themselves are a lovely mixture of big room, twisted techno and darker sounds. So from the Vincenzo Remix of Audio Soul Project's 'Reality Check' through to Dyment's own deliciously freaked-out remix of Late of the Pier's 'Bathroom Gurgle' the overall vibe is varied yet consistently spacious and atmospheric. Taking a step-back, FabricLive 51 ends with two slower tracks - Floating Points' loose breakbeat, Flying Lotus-esque 'K&G Beat' and Idioma's melodic 'Landscapes'. It's perhaps a brave move but it shows that The Duke Dumont is more than just a DJ and a good mix CD is more than just a DJ set.

FabricLive 51 may lack thrills but ultimately it delivers a fluid, considered collection of well-mixed tracks and demonstrates a better level of programming and sequencing than many DJs deliver on these sets.

BP x

FabricLive 51 is out now, available from on CD [affiliate link].

Comment: The Mercury Music Prize

For the most part BlackPlastic believes that music award ceremonies are for chumps. Like every good rule there is, however, an exception. And that exception is the Mercury Music Prize.

What makes the Mercury Music Prize transcend that crappy sycophantic lip-service of other award ceremonies is its simplicity: one album. That's it. By focusing on that at the expense of lifetime achievement awards, best newcomer, best use of women wearing gymwear in a music video and longest speech at last year's event it gets to the point and is much better placed to judge how has achieved greatness in the past year.

There are still obviously decisions BlackPlastic would disagree with. Particularly M People (1994), Talvin Singh (yawn, 1999) and Ms. Dynamite (WTF? 2002). But the discussion and the deliberation is half the point.

With the shortlist announced on 21 July here are our picks for who may / should get a nod (in no order of course):

The Horrors - Primary Colours
Art-y but relatively approachable and safe, Primary Colours was the shock-horror-it's-actually-alright album of the year when it was released. BlackPlastic loves it and tips it for the win.

Late of the Pier - Fantasy Black Channel
Noisy, unique, dark, mysterious - Late of the Pier's epic début had BlackPlastic gushing when it was released last year. It just sounds so fresh and new. In our opinion Fantasy Black Channel SHOULD win, but it probably won't.

Glasvegas - Glasvegas
Not BlackPlastic's cup of tea but they manage to come across as creative whilst still being a firm Dad favourite. It certainly did Elbow no harm.

Jack Peñate - Everything Is New
The other shock-horror-it's-actually-alright album for this year. To be fair, Jack's début was actually pretty enjoyable (certainly better than the Horrors' first effort) but this is clearly better. An album that drips in hot summer evenings, it took Jack from being an also-ran, coming in second place to Duffy and Adele, and gave him a genre all of his own.

Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
They're like a rowdy British version of Kings of Leon and from a judging point of view that can be no bad thing. Plus, you know, they're actually alright.

Metronomy - Nights Out
With added vocals and a pop sound offensive enough to irritate people on the next pod in your office Metronomy's sophomore effort feels like the Streets for the late 'noughties'. To deny then a place on the shortlist would seem churlish.

James Yorkston - When The Haar Rolls In
Beautiful and haunting and lapped up by the critics James is one of those chaps that most mere mortals have never heard of, let alone invested time and money in. Obviously if this was the late nineties, a time when you had to be unknown to even your mother if you wanted any real chance of winning, Yorkston would be a dead cert. It isn't, and he isn't, but it's still good enough that he could sneak a win.

Florence and the Machine - Lungs
Currently in vogue and universally loved so it seems a bit of a no-brainer for the shortlist, but BlackPlastic would be surprised if Lungs wins on the night.

Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires
Radio friendly and inventive, Friendly Fires make better house records than any other 'band' BlackPlastic has heard of, really challenging what people consider rock music to be. It's hard to find people that don't get at least a bit excited by their single 'Paris', and that has to mean something, right?

La Roux - La Roux
Total codswallop in BlackPlastic's opinion but since when did that matter? Bad edgy pop for the masses. She probably has enough attitude in her quiff to give her the edge over Little Boots and if they were both nominated it would be a bit boring, wouldn't it?

Bar for Lashes - Two Suns
Yawn. Loved by journos and students, probably. BlackPlastic doesn't care but she's bound to get nominated anyway.

Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You
The pop princess it's okay to like, this will help justify press coverage but it would be as ridiculous as, ooh... Ms Dynamite or M People winning if this got the prize.

Okay, so we are clearly missing the random token jazz an classical albums but we just aren't knowledgeable about those genres.

You can check the BBC's coverage of last year's Mercury Music Prize for footage of the winning announcement as well as interviews and performances.

Did we mention we thought the year Dynamite won was stupid?

Any thoughts?

BP x

P.S. We'll be back to discuss the shortlisted albums and predict the winner once the list is confirmed.

Five songs of the year

It's practically 2010 so it's well and truly time to wrap up our final 2008 lists with possibly the most fun one to put together... Our favourite songs:


5. Ice Cream - Muscles

Ice Cream, as a food, is not big and it's not really particularly clever. However, it is a lovely instant pick me up that melts in your mouth all too quickly. Seriously, everyone loves Ice Cream right? Same goes for this song: from the opening "wooh... ahhh" refrain through to the closing yelps ("I don't need your number, I just want to dance with my shirt off!") no other song acted quite so much like a security blanket for BlackPlastic this year. It's disposable and trivial but it's also gorgeous and super lovely: Ice Cream is gonna save the day. Again.


4. So Haunted (Knightlife's Sun-Soaked Reprise) - Cut Copy

Cut Copy's In Ghost Colours is just too right as a body of work for us to strip one track from it for "best song" honours so we will kind of cheat and go with a remix. Ever since the So Cosmic mix hit everyone has wanted this: the glorious italo-enthused re-imagining of So Haunted. The guitars have gone but otherwise this is a remarkably respectful re-edit. What makes it so great is that little freestyle bit at the end: it's like a five-minute holiday romance.


3. Space and the Woods - Late Of The Pier

Space and the woods still sounds just as good as it did when we first heard it, its raucous synths impervious to ageing: the sound of a fist fight with aliens whilst floating in space in a foil suit. Without doubt the highlight of one of our albums of the year, it demonstrates so much in such a short space of time that experiencing it should be considered homework.


2. Paris - Friendly Fires

We have gone on about it again and again and again (and, ahem... again... sorry). It still makes us go all gooey. The drums and cowbells are still lush, the synths still cosy, the fact it was self-produced astounding. France's capital may be over-priced and lack good restaurants or it may be the capital of romance and passion. Either way it has a song better than it deserves.


1. L.E.S Artistes (xxxchange Remix) - Santogold

BlackPlastic has listened to this song so much, put it on so many mix CDs, told so many people about it that it doesn't seem believable that it came out in 2008. Yet it did, and thank heavens for that. Spank Rock's xxxchange delivers a truly stellar remix again, discarding the fuzzy guitars of the original in favour of skyscraper levelling basslines. This version of 'L.E.S Artistes' retains 100% emotional punch but comes off more like the soundtrack to some Terminator war of the future. It ditches all the elements that potentially caused Santogold's début album to be overlooked - "I can say I hope it will be worth what I give up" indeed - an album of tunes like this one would have been a glorious thing.


BP x

Five Electronic Albums of the Year

Putting together these lists is always exceedingly difficult. Usually just remembering every record of note from a year is a challenge in itself but to pick just a handful and bestow some sort of special honour on those is practically impossible, this year more than most. For this year has seen some utterly fantastic records. 2007 was a great year due to a few select releases whereas 2008 had a massive breadth of fantastic releases.

A few that deserve mention that fail to make our list: The sophistication of Morgan Geist (and Junior Boy's Greenspan's) sophisticated Double Night Time. Midnight Juggernauts' Dystopia, which successfully paints another chapter in mixing rock music with dance. Metronomy's beautifully wonky Nights Out, a criminally overlooked pop re-birth. Gang Gang Dance's Saint Dymphna didn't even get a BlackPlastic review (we struggle to catch them all) but trust us - it barely misses out getting in our top five, as do the similarly unreviewed Third by Portishead and Los Angeles by Flying Lotus. The Presets grew to be more than just an also ran with Apocalypso - showing a new level of emotion that was missing off of their debut. M83's ode to Donnie Darko teenage kicks, Saturdays = Youth was another terrific addition to Anthony Gonzalez' cannon - it may lack Before The Dawn Heals Us' more ecstatic moments but it did demonstrate an growing level of focus and a refinement of the overall sound.  Hercules & Love Affair's eponymous album has been credited with the rebirth of disco - BlackPlastic isn't sure that has actually happened but that's nothing to do with the quality of this album, which has a level of maturity and sophistication that should ensure it a place in your collection next to Morgan Geist's 2008 album. Hot Chip failed to make the list, possibly purely due to their own desire for experimentation - in places Made In The Dark matches anything the group have previously released, it just suffered for being unfocused (but hey, focusing IS difficult in the dark).

So here is what DID make the list:


5. Hlllyh - The Mae Shi

Not a perfect record by any stretch, but that is the point in the Mae Shi.  Much to the bemusement of his companions BlackPlastic had the luck to catch them live earlier in the year and it was an unfocused, chaotic mess.  And it was fantastic.  Hlllyh is a record that does everything at once and just about makes it work and for that it deserves applause and love.  It's a rambunctious, noisy, angry-punk-pop-hippie-love-in and it gets a big hug from us.


4. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles

As BlackPlastic suspected back when it was reviewed, Crystal Castles' debut was an album that gets better with repeat listens.  Lonely, cold and yet never anything other than totally, uncompromisingly experimental, Crystal Castles have pushed the envelope for all those within the chiptune genre.


3. Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires

A record that is already seemingly suffering from the "Oh I'm slightly embarrassed I got so excited about that one" treatment for some journalists: Fact magazine's songs of the year list contained a snide comment about this album's failure to 'save indie dance'.

BlackPlastic loves Fact but to that we say a big "fuck you" because this album is so platinum-five-stars it's not even funny. If it has failed to set the world alight it is the failure of Fact, BlackPlastic, music publications everywhere and the general public at large for choosing some talent-less twat off X-Factor EVERY SINGLE TIME. It certainly is not a reflection of the ten gloriously produced punk-funk house-jams hear: this is a record to skip a heart beat too.


2. Fantasy Black Channel - Late of the Pier

Like waking up from a 70s slasher porn flick nightmare Fantasy Black Channel sounds like Bowies' imagined future.  The sound is far more cutting edge than the Klaxons managed on their debut and yet it is filtered through a glorious haze of thick chunky basslines from the aforementioned decade that just make it sound sexier than their contemporaries.  By the album's close, Fantasy Black Channel should have you on your knees with a lighter in the air.


1. In Ghost Colours - Cut Copy

If, for some reason, you are in any doubt as to what makes Cut Copy one of the best acts of our time go and grab their superb So Cosmic mix (alternative link) and, if you can't wait, scan forward to 29:30, where they mix Fleetwood Mac's 'Never Forget' with Lifelike's 'So Electric' and create a hands-in-the-air-tears-in-my-eyes anthem that deserves it's own release, the warm electronic waves of Lifelike's tracks gradually surrounding Stevie Nicks' vocals in a beautiful swell.  It is this mixture of old and new that makes Cut Copy so utterly charming, their ability to combine seemingly disparate sounds into one fantastic piece of music, and in the hands of the DFA's Tim Goldsworthy this ability truly shined.  Just check the glorious combination of the shoe-gazing guitar line of 'So Haunted' with the floating-in-space chorus and the final New Order-esque outro.

What's more, In Ghost Colours is a beautifully sequenced album. Ditch the bonus track bundled with the UK CD version and you have a record that fits together just perfectly, tracks bridged with a series of not-inconsequential interludes.

Cut Copy's debut, Bright Like Neon Love, was a fantastic record.  That In Ghost Colours represents a complete step change in everyone's perceptions of their abilities is a testament to the record: You won't hear a better collection of electronic pop songs from 2008.


BP x

Album Review: Fantasy Black Channel - Late Of The Pier

Erol Alkan's 2008 production 'Holy Trinity' draws to a close, with Late Of The Pier's Fantasy Black Channel following on from first the Mystery Jet's Twenty One and the Long Blonde's Couples.

The fact that a band like Late Of The Pier are getting the kind of mainstream attention they are really is a sign of the times and a testiment to their forebears. The sound of earlier pioneers such as Soulwax (more of whom soon) and the initial post-electroclash wave are all over this. And that is a good thing because it gives those that know more great music but it also further blows open the whole scene.

But enough chat. Fantasy Black Channel delivers, just as that recenty reviewed album by another band in the third wave of the dance / rock crossover does. In fucking spades.

Fantasy Black Channel is the air raid siren that signifies the end of the beginning for an entire genre: check out the opening synths of 'Space of the Woods'. They're so thick you can chew on those bastards as the ooze out of your speakers. When singer Samuel Eastgate indicates it's time to don a radiation suit you just might begin to worry there is something toxic in those basslines. The previously released single 'The Bears Are Coming' still fidgets and scratches like a bed of itching powder - warbling basslines and squelching drums contrasting beautifully to a the yelp of the bridge - whilst 'Random Firl' shows a more playful, sexy side.

And there is plenty of play and drama here - check out 'Whitesnake' and you can hear references to not just punk but maybe even some Deep Purple (deliberate given the name?) in the chugging bass and some Queen in the sheer over-the-top-ness of it all.

Overall Fantasy Black Channel sounds post-apocalyptic whilst managing to take this cliché and make it fresh. There are references throughout the lyrics but it is also in the music itself, in the dischordant and self-destructive melodies of 'VW' and 'Focker' for example, that this determinism shines through.

Some may try and call this album derivative - it is certainly more evolution than revolution - but there is no doubt that Late Of The Pier push harder, better, faster, stronger than their peers. The Klaxons have there work cut out for them if they are going to top the sheer spirit here. By the time the frenetic coupling of "get your hands on your waistline / and move your body to the bassline" arrives in the glam-opera closer (and past single) 'Bathroom Gurgle' and you progress to the subsequent ghost track that follows BlackPlastic's money is on you agreeing on this one.

BP x