Singles  Review

White Reapers

Musically and thematically free of any obvious connection, the only common denominator here is that they all tickle our aural fancy.


This week’s roll call includes: Saint Agnes,  The Bordellos,    I Heart The Monster Hero,  Christian Gregory, Francis Macdonald & Harry Pye,  White Reaper,  Franklin, and Heiðrik.

Saint Agnes  ‘Old Bone Rattler’  (Energy Snake Records)  Available Right Now

Finding yet another outlet with which to channel their mutual spirit for obscure spaghetti westerns, reverb ghostly blues and sleazy glam, the pairing of Lolo Colt’s Kitty Austin and the Lost Soul Club’s Jon Tufnell, bond together in another suitably esoteric country inspired project, finding sanctuary under the venerable Saint Agnes moniker.


Their latest desert hewn single takes a spurs-booted solitary stomp from the sleazy roadhouse into the mirage shimmering humid plains. The ‘Old Bone Rattler’ could be some poor redemptive souls swan song, as the sexy and highly flammable Marc Bolan slinky opening soon turns into a pained guitar led funeral march, with Nick Cave, the Raveonetts and Jack White all in attendance, scattering a kitsch moody omen upon a lost love in Death Valley.


Wandering off in a down tempo direction, Saint Agnes attempt to revive the Lizard King’s ghost on The Doors ‘Roadhouse Blues’. They certainly conjure up the right atmosphere – somewhere between southern black magic and haunted fairground allure. Though this is indeed the lingering, plaintive harmonica blues, vocally, Tufnell and Austin’s seductive duet tones never sound overtly moody and serious, which is a good thing. They incarnate a most sanctified apostle of the counter-culture, without paying too much respect and ruining it.  But it is undoubtedly the A side that is performed with the most relish and vigor, relishing the prospect of bringing an imaginary backstory and world to life.

The Bordellos  ‘The Gospel According To Julian Cope’  (Small Bear Records)  Taken from the Will.I.Am, You’re Really Nothing LP

To borrow a, much reworked for my own ends, Shakespearian quote: The Bordellos have not come to burry or praise Julian Cope, but instead, use him as a totem chainsaw, cutting through the mediocre malaise that passes for the music scene. As any serious ‘head’ will know, Cope has done more than most to pour scorn, vitriol and brimstone on anyone who calls themselves a music fan, but doesn’t own a 13th Floor Elevator or Popol Vuh album. Manning his own, mostly ignored, barricades for decades, Cope’s fixation with all things rock – from the musical Kraut, Detroit and Jap affixed genres to the, literal, monolithic kind – is used here by the St. Helens trio as a languid battle cry.


They marry this gospel according to their duly anointed patron with a suitable backing of dirge-y Jesus and the Mary Jane meets The Butthole Surfers, but with that one crucial endearing quality: a melody. This the leading track from their first album for the Small Bear Records label, Will.I.Am, You’re Really Nothing – which contains a whole industrial, whining, fuzz fest of similarly cultural referenced protestations and denouncements on the digital age – is a belter and a kick up the arse.

I Heart The Monster Hero  ‘Toni Bailey’  (Crocfingers)  16th June 2014

Bouncing around to a tubular clanging, illuminating, electro backing of naive, but happy, Casio circuitry and multilayered analogue sounding quirks and counting mechanisms, I Heart The Monster Hero have crafted a radiant burst of pop.

The Dublin band announces their intentions clearly; spritely injecting Cars era synth radio hits with an air of boisterous contemporary psych and twisted power pop, to produce a fuzzy and noisy but harmonious ode to pixilated joy.

‘Toni Bailey’, whoever that is, the muse of distraction or protagonist who left our band heartbroken, is the leading single from their upcoming album, Rhythm & Pals. 

Christian Gregory  ‘Won’t Get Nowhere’  (Movement Records)  7th July 2014

Following up his much-trumpeted debut for Michael Kiwanuka’s burgeoning Movement Records, British soul revivalist Christian Gregory takes the tempo down low on his ‘Won’t Get Nowhere’ balled, turn Prince-style wailed guitar anthem. That last, more upbeat, affair, ‘Count On You’, showed a penchant for Bill Withers and Marvin Gaye, his latest is less clear cut, beginning as it does with an atmospheric intro of wind chimes, running water and a time-stretched languid crunchy drum clap.


Encouraging us to keep on keeping on, Gregory’s sophisticated Philly soul sound meets 80s R&B discards much of our modern technology – with no plug-ins or digital editing – in favour of recording directly onto a 70s MCI tape machine. The result is far warmer and sumptuously expansive, giving the music and that sweet vocal the right room to breath. Easily on a par with the best that the US of A can offer, Gregory’s soul chops are guaranteed success.

Francis Macdonald & Harry Pye  ‘Sympathy For Jean-Luc Godard’ 

In case the French new wave of cinema escaped you, one of its leading auteurs, the venerated but equally met with quizzical expressions, Jean-Luc Godard, was persuaded to visualize, in his inimitable style, the musical ideas and concepts of a creatively on-fire, Rolling Stones. Filmed during the making of Beggars Banquet in 1968, Godard’s infamous documentary style movie, took its name and themes from the album’s seminal ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ opus. Cutting between footage of the group piecing together the song that would later be made legendary as the macabre tune played whilst a man was beaten to death at Altamont – the end of the 60s dream, and all that -, Godard intersected politically radical avant-garde scenes of Maoists in book shops and Black Panthers in a junkyard, with narrations from controversial texts. Of course it passed most people by, and was routinely panned, forgotten or held up as fierce piece of reification theatre by whomever you chose to ask.


To be frank, it’s not exactly one of his crowning achievements, and apart from its title, riffed on here, doesn’t make it into this swooning, breezy paean. However, many of Godard’s more cherished and romanticized films do make the list that is run-off like a troubadours love poem. With an existential sigh the first track and video from the recently formed partnership of artist Harry Pye and Teenage Fanclub stalwart, Francis MacDonald, is a tender pastel shaded homage that draws upon memorable scenes, characters and the La Nouvelle Vague spirit of cooler than cool 60s era Paris.


Encapsulated in the naïve, but somehow totally summary, full of character, sketches of Pye and the softly played strings and daintily placed twinkly backing, Sympathy For Jean-Luc Godard is quite a touching piece of work that comes together disarmingly in the Gordon Beswick video.


Originally part of the This Is Art, This Is Our Music exhibition held at The David Risley Gallery in Copenhagen, February (which also saw contributions from Faust, R. Crumb and David Byrne, to name just a few luminaries), the video and song are now being made freely available, ahead of, we hope as nothing has been decided, an eventual album.

White Reaper  ‘Half Bad’  (Polyvinyl)  Taken from the upcoming titular EP, released 24th June 2014

Bish bosch bap, the wire-y, enervated, thrash-out garage new wave of White Reaper is effortlessly cooler than thou. Smashing through a muffled, distressed and hollowed lo-fi wall of grime, the Louisville gang of enthusiastic DIYers, sound like a Black Hole chronicled Californian punk era Wolf Parade throwing stones at the surfer jocks, down on rockaway beach.


Taken from their debut assault, an eponymous named 6-track EP, the noisy yet melodic ‘Half Bad’, is a blistering dose of clashing drums (and intentionally bleeding-over), spooked turning to reverent synth and growling guitar; a miscreant mismatch of adolescent garage and alternative collage radio rock.

Franklin ‘Give Me A Break’  (Plug Research Records & Wool Recordings)  Available Right Now

Brooding with a diaphanous hazy-shrouded intro and glittering but sad melodic pop brilliance the latest effluent tune from the Frenchman of mystery, Frank Rabeyrolles, is a quite lamentable dreamy hymn. Turning his previous solo project, one of many he’s experimented with over the years, into a duo, the Franklin partnership has embraced the Parisian producer Lockhart and tweaked the electro-glide in synth songwriting template to produce something illuminating.


Dreamily swathed in Gallic sophistication and a pondering, romantically sighed, beat, this hallowed choral beauty is one the highlights from his recent album, the surrealistic eye-in-the-oyster cover, Cold Dreamer.

Heiðrik   ‘Maria’s Donkey’  14th July 

For anyone growing tired or weary of the constant revolving door of new, mostly spritely, emerging artists from the Scandinavian low and highlands, you could do a lot worse than look to the unassuming and far flung Faroe Islands for inspiration. Stuck out in the middle of the North Sea, between Norway and Iceland, the Islands have proved fertile grounds for one singer, the melancholic, broody, Heiðrik. His debut single, ‘Maria’s Donkey’ is richly imbued with his homelands mix of Norse and Gaelic heritage and atavistic toil.


Collaborating with the award-winning British composer, Rosabella Gregory, whose plaintively driven pizzicato strings add an air of romantic classism to proceedings, Heiðrik ‘s debut single builds to a long ship beckoned, tumultuous drum beating, Moddi backed by He Poos Clouds, finale.


Earnestly plowing the granite rock face of heart-aching remorse, Heiðrik is off to a fine start.


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