December barely rolls in and finally it looks like “winter” around Huntington Beach, CA, aka Surf City USA. “Winter” remains an ideal time to hit the waves for a chilly little surf session, and this warm, fuzzy track from our Surf City brothers down in New Zealand is the perfect soundtrack for such a jaunt. The band started when two friends connected in a video library just after one of the fellows, Davin, had purchased a four track recorder with money he received from a study grant. It sounds as if he spent more time studying the acoustics of a Volkswagen van because that’s what this EP sounds like: a more cheerful Jesus and Mary Chain as recorded in a VW. No matter your geographical location or its current climate, Surf City will sun up your heart and give you cozy toes.
First, my apologies for the unplanned hiatus from 3hive. It’s been a month since my last post, though I swear it doesn’t feel like it. To break the silence I’m taking it back to the old school—or is it the new school?—folk genre. Don’t know if it’s Joe’s long-awaited John Prine post or the near perfect weather here in Southeast Michigan (mid 70s and clear blue skies, ftw) but my ears seem to have an insatiable appetite for what Joel Nicholson, aka Butcher the Bar, cooked up in his bedroom studio in Manchester, England. His songs are immediately gratifying, they waste no time explaining themselves. Bare, beautiful guitar work and hushed lyrics of human relationship, of coming and going. As with all good stories, it’s what’s not said (or sung or played) that matters most. This is a truth that most 22-year-old musicians don’t learn until some time after their debut album, which is what makes Butcher the Bar’s Sleep at Your Own Speed that much more impressive.
My promo copy of Electric President’s new album Sleep Well is practically worn out already, but luckily, the release date for the new disc is just a few days away. Dreamy like the last one, but dark and brooding too, Ben Cooper and Alex Kane are still rocking the electrorganic (it does work, Sam) in the available-for-free-download, opening track “Monster,” as well as a bunch of other great spins on the disc. Check out the tinkly little piano in this song, the falsetto vocals in “We will Walk through Walls,” and the oh-so-true chorus of “It’s an Ugly Life,” all of these backed by occasional boops and bips and computer scratches.
Monsters [MP3, 7.8MB, 128kbps]
Sam’s original post: 01/21/06
Jacksonville, Florida’s Ben Cooper and Alex Kane had been collaborating as Radical Face Versus Phalex Sledgehammer for a couple years, when they mercifully decided to change their name to Electric President. They put together a five-song EP called You Have the Right to Remain Awesome which found its way to the Morr Music offices in Berlin. Morr now brings us their debut long-player which is nothing short of dreamy. Electric President’s electrorganic (just made that term up) pop fits right alongside labelmates Lali Puna, Styrofoam, b.fleischmann, and Mum. Ben also records solo as Radical Face (hence the duo’s original moniker) and should have an album out (also on Morr) later this year. He also makes really nice paintings. And he’s only 23. Yeah, I know…showoff.
More goodness from Morr Records. The Go Find, which began as a solo project of Dieter Sermeus, has developed into more of a full band affair. To get a sense of where The Go Find searches for inspiration, consider the artists they covered for a recent 7″: Hall & Oates backed with Pavement. A winning combination in my book. “Dictionary” blends both sounds well—understated, indie vocals over soft, 80s-style, electro-disco instrumentation (complete with echoing handclaps and Roxy Music-esque guitar riffs).
Sam and I are duking it out behind the scenes over Ben Cooper’s musical incarnations. See, Sam beat me to the post on Electric President but was snoozing on the new release from his alter-ego, Radical Face. The rule at 3hive follows: whoever drops the links into our back-end Movable Type site first gets to review that artist. So as a place holder, I wrote: “Sure, Sam snagged electric pres, but i got radical face.” I came back today to finish the post and I find this message waiting for me: “sean is a jerk.” I don’t want to take Sam’s forthcoming humiliation public, so I’ll drop it. And that’s easy to do while listening to Radical Face. You just can’t be mad at anyone listening to these simple, yet lush arrangements. His songs are cheerful without being sappy, well-textured without being muddy. Cooper mixes his acoustic and electronic instruments well, and during the recording of “Chewing Bottles” he did so under extenuating, yet amusing, circumstances.
With only 300,000 inhabitants, Iceland turns out more great music per capita than any other country. Another case in point: Benni Hemm Hemm. My favorite description of Benni Hemm Hemm is “a little big band with little big songs”. What began as a solo endeavor, the ReykjavÃk-based Benedikt H. Hermannsson eventually decided to go big…17 people big. Now, Benni Hemm Hemm bring together the sweet sounds of trombone, guitar, trumpet, cornet, glockenspiel, and much more with cheerful, hopeful, and sometimes silly crooning (occasionally sung in English—sellouts…). The songs are fleeting and leave you hungry for more, a convenient fact given Benni Hemm Hemm record quickly and frequently.
As I was putting together my best of 2005 list and got to the “artists we wish we could put on 3hive but who don’t offer fre and legal MP3 links so alas…” section, I instinctively started jotting down all my favorite Morr Music artists. Then I double-checked b.fleischmann’s website and realized, while Morr continues to embed their music in that damn lovely, illustrated Flash site of theirs, the artist is a bit more giving of his wares. Working bottom to top, these tracks demonstrate our man’s evolution from laptop glow to a richer blend of analog and digital textures. “Phones and Machines” is a fine example of the latter, a preview from The Humbucking Coil (pre-order from Boomkat). Here’s to more Morr in 2006!!