Free and Fantastic Albums [MBDY49]
14 July, 2013
It is, admittedly, rather sad that many very talented artists can't quite a turn a profit on their work. However, when some groups choose to give away their music for zilch - well, why refuse the offer? Today's pair of (long-winded - sorry!) recommendations commend two free, 80s-inspired albums. Read on for the goods:
Motorama – This is, admittedly, a third-hand recommendation. Savages suggested this band to their followers on Facebook, and Botha Kruger of the Wrong Rock Show spun this for his listeners. So – as you might expect, Motorama are a post-punk band, this sort hailing from Russia. Now, like in many modern post-punk bands, the lead vocalist does certainly sound like he covets Ian Curtis; however, Joy Division sound-alikes they are not. In fact, Motoroma have graciously shunned the whole gloom-shrouded, dramatic shtick fronted by Interpol and Editors – no, I hear more Yeah Yeah Nohs or even Orange Juice in their lively pop structures, bright and melodic guitars, and scuzzy production. Oh, yes, the bass is thick, and the drums are crisp – but Motorama are much more buoyant than many of their contemporaries, and also notably more earnest, too. And, as you’ll find in this review, considerably more danceable.
Granted, when we first spin this record and hear the opening bass riff on “Northern Seaside”, we might indeed suspect this to be yet another post-punk number – yet, as the somewhat moody track unfolds, sweet guitars leap out from hiding and woo us with clean, sunny melodies. Then “Warm Eyelids” blows that ol’ Factory stereotype completely out of the water; the triumphant chorus, jovial riffs, and shuffling drums lend some tasty indie pop sugar – at least, until the beat rushes into a crazed, cymbal-fuelled double-time at around 3’02”. Genius.
Elsewhere, there’s the wondrously spontaneous “Compass”, as joyous as any other indie pop number; “Wind In Her Hair” boasts some appropriately breezy riffing which reminds me a tad of Durutti Column. The achingly pretty title track sparkles with guitars and shuffles with bright ease, renders the verse “I am slow-slow-slowly dying” with some refreshing, albeit stately, cheer. Even more delightful, though, is the closer, “There’s No Hunters Here”, which cruises on a bass-driven pulse and boasts that marvelous cry in the chorus – “there’s no hunters HERE!” Throw in some electric washes of synths, and bliss couldn’t be closer at hand.
Oh – I told you Motorama were danceable, right? Right – while most of these tracks bear punchy enough rhythms for any happy dancer, none are nearly as ecstatic as “Letter Home”. The bass and guitar sync up for a delightfully bouncy (albeit reserved) number that somehow evokes both the gravity of Joy Division and the exuberance of Josef K all at once. “Ghost”, on the other hand, is a dynamic, soaring number tinged with a heavenly glaze and restless energy that’s as vital as it is catchy.
Ahh. What I love, love, LOVE about Motorama is that they seem to understand the multifaceted, smoky gem that post-punk truly was back in the 80s, and have brought out several of those elements without sounding too god-awfully derivative. No, Alps is ultimately a lighter shade of gray, and aims not to muse over despair, but to celebrate living within a more ambiguous world. The band has graciously posted this entire album up for free on their webpage – so go snap it up NOW. And if you REALLY love it, buy a physical copy, won't you?
BODYWORK – Stop me if you’ve heard this one – you stumble upon a single free track – from, say , Soundcloud – and you fall in love. It’s unbelievable how good this one offering is. You rotate it heavily for a few days, a few weeks perhaps – but, being a single track, you eventually neglect it, and lose it within your vast and ever-growing library.
That’s what happened to me and BODYWORK’S “Tame”. Good lord, what a track. Big, dramatic synths. Dreamy, breathless vocals. An edgy, screechy solo. Shimmering intrigue and echoing tropical haze. And that steamy flute-ish thing at the end! How on earth could one forget such cinematic electronica? Alas, I did, and for several months, too – until I stumbled upon an article entitled “Most Undrblogged Artists of the Year” (which, let’s admit, is a preposterous topic to claim knowledge of, but anywho). And who do you suppose was on that list? BODYWORK! With a link to a FREE album, The Grind. How could I resist?
Fortunately, I’m happy to report that the whole damn LP is just as brilliant as that single. I’d venture to call it “intelligent dance music” – the production here is absolutely astonishing, merging seething analogs, exotic percussion, soulful vocals, and searing guitars together into one gorgeous, bubbling, vivid sound. Consider “Body Heat”, which opens with a rumbling tom beat and visceral, haunted droning from the guitar; all at once, the synth drops and a tinny can tinkers along, and the album’s glorious mantra floats in: “Are you tiiired of romance?” Oh, yes. This ain’t Romantic new wave. This is lust and passion, channeled by one super-savvy producer. Just hear the lush intrigue of “The Grind” – which, contrary to its name, sways with balmy xylophone beats and its oh-so-serene chorus. Or dig the dirty, squelching sax of “Cruel Fascination”, while the sultry track saunters on with handclaps and hollow embellishments.
But, oh. “Speed Dial”. If I could be permitted to use the term “progressive electronica”, I’d use it here – if Genesis had truly adapted their challenging song structures for the new wave era, perhaps it’d sound like this. Leading in on a spiraling sax line, the song soon shifts with a drastic BLAM into a thumping, flute-laced melody graced with the singer’s mellifluous tenor. But THEN, after a quick reprise of the sax, we’re locked into a snaky guitar solo – and the saxes swarm in at full force, swirling and mingling prettily – and then this NASTY tangle of solos erupt. Good god, I’ve only described one song with an entire paragraph. You see? You see?!
I don’t know what I love more – the crazy complexity of “Speed Dial”, or the slick groove of “Lift Up Your Love”. Part of me is reminded of The The, another of the Rapture – oh man, but who am I kidding? It’s a gorgeous number in its own right, and so, so infectious that, as I write this, I can barely refrain myself from my own seat. “Tap That” is no less delicious, a massive track that reprises The Grind’s indelible mantra from “Body Heat”. “Global Hypercolor” bears the instantly recognizable stamp of Orbital, and is indeed almost entirely instrumental, but fascinates in its own style with ultra-smooth saxes and a more leisurely, yet beguiling tempo. We close on the haunting “Hold Tight”, with its slow, distant rumble, ZTT-esque choirs, and worldly guitar embellishments; then, at 3’08”, epic synths aid the stomping beat, and one sexy sax swings in. And then MMM, those vocals. Redemptive.
If this reads like one gushing rave, it’s because I’m absolutely obsessed with this album. For electro lovers, and those who yearn for a touch of the exotic, look no further: this IS euphoria. If haven’t experienced a steamy summer love affair yet (particularly a taboo one), this could be the closest alternative. And, like the Motorama track above, it’s 100% free on BODYWORK’s Bandcamp page. Joy.