EP Round Up : Neil McSweeney, And the Giraffe, Karhide, Ummagma/Virta


Heeeeeeeeeeey, it’s been a long time since we’ve done one of these. DID YOU MISS THEM?

Dafuq you mean “no”? We write these for you!

Oh well, may a greased-up Jeremy Clarkson in a thong haunt your dreams.

WELCOME to our lovely EP round up, I’m your very entertaining (and slightly wacky) host, Orestes P. Xistos, climbing the pecking order in this shithole of a website (TM) one brown nose at a time.

In our usual analogy form, we will be comparing each of these EPs to something cool and entertaining. For this week’s edition, I’m comparing each EP to a character of that great show, Black Books. Will it work? WILL I FAIL AGAIN? I dunno, I brought two reviewers with me because I’m high on strawberry Kool Aid, so if this fails, blame them.

Oh, reviews, right…

Neil McSweeney – The Seventeen EP

Four tracks , three originals and a Townes Van Zant cover. There is a lovely familiar 70’s feel to this all too short offering from Neil McSweeney, one of Sheffield’s finest. Featuring some gentle and beautifully picked acoustic guitar this is a rare treat indeed. If Neil continues writing and recording with the same style and quality fame and fortune will surely be his.

The Townes Van Zant cover is tastefully reworked (‘To Live is to Fly’) but in testimony to the quality of Neil’s songwriting, his self penned material is equally as strong. Issued as a taster for an album due in the Autumn, The Seventeen EP is a limited printing, so what are you waiting for?

Heartfelt lyrics and a slightly world-weary slant as you might expect from such a craftsman, The Seventeen EP is engaging and hypnotic. One you will return to often I suspect. Enjoy. – Keefy.

This EP is: Fran Katzenjammer, always having a perfect turn but a slightly disturbing smile.  The cerebral one of the lot, though.

And the Giraffe – Creature Collector

Once upon a time,  a very lovely band blew my mind. It was called Decibully and they were best friends with Headlights (another excellent band). Both specialised on a dreamier side of pop. They are both gone. Worry not, as And the Giraffe are more than capable of grabbing the flickering torch left in the ground and perhaps make it shine stronger and hopefully, longer.

Creature Collector, a six track EP by And the Giraffe does not disappoint. It also feels too short, leaving you wanting for more music. ‘Find my name in the sun’ is the refreshing fruit salad that piques your interest and kickstarts your musical appetite. Banjo, ambient drones and a slight alt-country feel are all wrapped up just fine and dandy in this track that includes an eerie electronic sweep at the end with awesome drumming. What in Rivers Cuomo‘s voice was that?

‘Of the moment’, oh dear Jebus, this is THE track that piledrived me. It’s that mournful feel, painting the room in nostalgia, it’s that sudden change in pace and mood that pulls the veil and reveals another world behind. It’s that crazy drumming again. You reach escape velocity with this track. ‘Sorry’ is as mournful and grey as the name warns you, with a very well worked Slocore approach to music. This goes into a mixtape with Red House Painters. The electronic ending is another “double take” moment, mixing an alarm and some frantic vocal delivery in the back both fading into an uplifting sweep. What is this? And can I have some more?

Three more tracks. ‘The silent’ crossfades from the previous swollen sweep o’ sweetness (TM) and goes for the intimate, acoustic approach, with the sparsely plucked notes eventually accepting the help of songbirds, drums and a honey-sweet vocals. ‘Take Care’ feels like a lost transmission from the 70s, slightly fuzzy and gone too soon, like a quick flashback to your childhood (golden hues and all). ‘Enough is enough’ is a bit solemn, 60% electronics and 40% anthemic, exploding with the bravado of a Super Bowl half-time act and the gorgeous loveliness of a 3 hour hug (they do exist and they are awesome). Epic ending for a rather excellent EP (only 8 bucks in physical form.) Love these dudes. – Sam J. Valdés López

This EP is: Manny Bianco, trusty, talented and faithful. Just don’t give him drink espresso while watching The Bill or let the temperature reach 88 degrees.

Karhide – Rough Sleep

Well, this is cinematic. In all senses. Like the opening, fly-over opening of an early 90s film, Karhide’s Rough Sleep opens majestically with soaring chords, a post-rock demeanor and the proper use of a wah wah pedal. The song? ‘Rough Sleep’. The lens attached to the camera? Wide angle, getting that slightly warped look at the forests surrounding the sea-soaked highway you’ll drive through while listening to this. ‘Piano Run’ is slightly less confrontational, but retains that majestic, expansive nature of Karhide‘s, the one that makes the music memorable. Late night driving music, of course!

‘Daydream’, wait, should I keep with the film analogies? Sure! ‘Daydream’ is the long-ass montage you get as an expository flashback where it all is revealed. Think Tom Cruise figuring it all in 1996’s Mission: Impossible. Gorgeous track, with a mean undercurrent hiding monsters hitherto unseen.

You get 2 remixes in this EP. ‘Excerpts from sleep (MAB Rough Sleep Remix)’ is still post rock, but with an ambient flavour – chillaxing. ‘Ego Plusher (Mender Rough Sleep Remix)’ starts JUST LIKE CINDY LAUPER‘S ‘TRUE COLOURS’, therefore I love it.

And if you don’t like it, then you are Team Madonna instead of Team Cindy Lauper and that ain’t right.

RESPECT THE LAUPER. And Mender too. He’s ace – Orestes P. “Cindy is my girl” Xistos.

This EP is: Bernard Black, slightly misanthropic but still caring enough for everyone surrounding him. Just don’t look into the pizza boxes, least ye want to see dead wasps in your pepperoni!

Ummagma / Virta split EP

Virta is …. I dunno. What are they? They might come from the land of ice and snow, but their music sounds terribly warm, slowly flowing like dense lava (or is it magma?) through the pyroclastic rock slopes of an ancient volcano. That’s not a thunderous explosion, but a mournful sax bellowing in the distance in ‘Tales from the deep waters’, the smouldering opening track.

‘Traffic’ ups the ante, where the slow grooves last for a nanosecond until an urgent electronic loops plunges an adrenaline shot. It explodes furiously, angrily taking everything out on its sight. Once the fire subsides and the ashes settle, a lone, mournful voice stands alone.

Now, on the Ummagma side of things, we go shoegaze. Sort of. Which is good. And if you don’t think this is good, get out while I’m still finishing this pita.

I mean this.

‘Back to you’ feels a bit Latin-tinged, still with that dreamy atmosphere that is the underline in the hypothetical underlining of the Ummagma brand. Disembodied voices and a slightly overdriven guitar add a Weird Western vibe to ‘Back to you’. ‘River Town’ is less OK Corral and more “Rainy afternoon in the coast”. The lovely vocals have a tug of war with the playful guitar notes that bounce around like a caffeine-soaked kookaburra. Extremely refreshing. – Orestes P. “Your Father” Xistos.

This EP is: uh, there’s only 3 main characters in Black Books, therefore I’m screwed. I know! This split EP is like a bottle of Le Vin du Rosier that you are saving for The Pope. That’s how good it is. It’s like looking into the eye of a duck and sucking all the fluid from its beak.  (Reference for the non-initiated.)

That’s it. This is the EP round up. Be thankful I never mentioned the time Peter Serafinowicz cameoed as a guy reading the shipping forecast. That was weird.

And the Giraffe Twitter. Youtube. Soundcloud. Facebook. Bandcamp. Website.

Karhide Bandcamp. Facebook.

Neil McSweeney Website. Facebook. Twitter. Soundcloud.

Ummagma Bandcamp. Facebook. Twitter. Soundcloud. Reverbnation.

Virta Website. Facebook. Bandcamp. Twitter. Soundcloud.

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