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Outsideleft Week in Music Will Keep You Warm... We're hearing from... Nadine Khouri, Leyla McCalla, The Hold Steady, Mandy, Indiana, Mountainscape, Gagarin, High Llamas, Ancient Champion, Department S, Chris Connolly, James Elkington/Nathan Salsburg, Sandro Brugnolini, JM Stevens, Dave Guy, Iggy Pop, Ottla, Gitkin, Sasha Alex Sioan, Various, Then Comes Silence, LedFoot and Focus

Outsideleft Week in Music Will Keep You Warm...

We're hearing from... Nadine Khouri, Leyla McCalla, The Hold Steady, Mandy, Indiana, Mountainscape, Gagarin, High Llamas, Ancient Champion, Department S, Chris Connolly, James Elkington/Nathan Salsburg, Sandro Brugnolini, JM Stevens, Dave Guy, Iggy Pop, Ottla, Gitkin, Sasha Alex Sioan, Various, Then Comes Silence, LedFoot and Focus

by OL House Writer,
first published: April, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

Nadine Khouri "This is recorded music once heard, leaves an indelible imprint on your soul. Listen with care."

intro.

It's shocking that I can't ramble as much as you might be used to in this week's intro. But I have 30,000 words to write by Wednesday week or so, and am not allowed a helper. Admittedly I will erase 15,000 of those words for being more meaningless and incoherent than even I dare allow myself. Wait... there's a lot more skull crushing stuff besides that going on, so if I can just get through the next month I will live and love again. It is an if though. Be there for me friends! This week's indubitable reviewers? Thanks guys... Ancient Champion (4), Toon Traveller (6), Alan Rider (4), Danny Rose (1), Lee Paul (6), LamontPaul (1). There's no Week in Music without you.

singles.

NADINE KHOURI - The Night Will Keep Us Warm (Streaming and download platforms)
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by Ancient Champion

We last came across Nadine at the end of 2022 when she gave us a Bunch of Five (in the nicest possible way). And we loved her single, Keep on Pushing These Walls so much we played it to everyone whether they were ready to listen or not. By the end, generally they were so ready we'd put it on again. Nadine's about to bust out on tour, well I don't really know that Nadine's a bust out type of person, but is touring with Barry Adamson and that promises a damn fine night out. Legend John Parrish's production on The Night Will Keep Us Warm mellifluously marries Nadine's expressive, dusky, knowing voice, with moonlight on a body of water atmospherics. There's a stillness. It is quiet there. This is recorded music once heard, leaves an indelible imprint on your soul. Listen with care.

HIGH LLAMAS - How The Best Was Won ft Bonnie Prince Billy (Drag City)
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by Lee Paul

I'm really getting into the High Llamas because some famous music writer made me try it. Sure, gorgeously, the gospelly aspects of Dirty Projectors are to the fore, I can hear that and I have a lot of time for DP guy, David Longstreth, they really do signpost a post rock future in rock. And then I don't know. How The Best Was Won just gets baggy show tuney... To me, is that what's in thine ears too? Unfocussed and I know, it's like that dating lie, I'm the problem here. They are critically acclaimed to the high heavens and in the High Llamas they have the greatest name and they know their onions and I apparently have nothing but an opinion. I sort of want to say sorry for having it. 

CHRIS CONNOLLY - Fini Chagall (Bandcamp)
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by Toon Traveller

PR that I rarely read cites Scott Walker, Lou Reed, Bowie as heroes, similarities, influences. Sure there's Lou Reed's references to pain, and art. Lou in a more creative song mode. A Bowie inflection or two or three, and phrasing, sung sonorously. Reed's contemptuous, trademark, knowing sneer. Here we are wistfully peering over life's dark sided edge. There's that sense of being there, and yet not, being in 'it', not quite a participant. It's anthropological 'participant observer' activity, in song.  A life, performatively bohemian, drifting down. The outsider at the open mic, refusing to play the Nirvana song. Allegorical clever Reedisms, underpinned with simple guitar. That's it. 

LEDFOOT - I Do Believe (TBC Records)
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by Toon Traveller

Tim Scott McConnell (aka Ledfoot) is an American musician and songwriter who has been based in Norway for the last three decades. Starting out in 1980 as a member of The Rockats while still in his teens, he then recorded two solo records in the mid-‘80s before co-founding The Havalinas. Here, guitars! drums! action! An upbeat backing band contrasting with it's croaked (crocked?) vocals. Someone whose supped too many a beer maybe, and three-finger whiskies. Is is a true confession? Is it a cynical comment on Bible pushing, redemption seeking, faith proclaiming new converts? That's for us determine. "In Hell I do believe", he sings - a man saved from himself, or the Gods. He's looking for truth, it's inside us all, well that's what he believes. "it doesn't take much effort, to slip and fall from Grace, You shake hands with the devil, you'll find there's no escape", Powerful stuff, and I suppose it could be booze, dope, whatever, that's the devil here. The humour's desert dry, razor sharp, and message positive. This drives, races, braces, searches, and proclaims it's message over a hard rockin' Southern Blues pumping darn good tune!

MANDY, INDIANA - Idea Is Best (Fire Talk)
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by Alan Rider

Mandy, Indiana are, it seems, channeling Cabaret Voltaire for their new single, right down to the video.  This is a ferociously uncommercial and confrontational single, even for them.  Live they are quite the experience too.  They spoke exclusively to Outsideleft last summer, which you can read here.  If you haven't the time to do that, just take it from me that Mandy, Indiana are really something else and this is a very odd single choice. As an aside, the band promo shot that accompanies this is without doubt the worst I have ever seen.  It looks like a bad holiday shot, with the band standing in front of their car.  One of them has her face totally in shadow, another has a flagpole in the background that looks like it is growing out of his head, one looks like a tourist who has wandered into shot, clutching his man bag to his chest and wearing a loud flowery shirt.  It's laughably bad, like one of those 'before' examples of what mistakes to look out for when framing a shot!

SANDRO BRUGNOLINI - Ritorno In Macchina (version alt) (Sermi Film Ediz)
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by Ancient Champion

Arggghhhh. I have hit a vein. A really rich vein of Italian film-music adjacent, jazz types. Sandro goes on for a little longer than I would like. But rarely have I heard a piece of music that put me in mind of having sex in a speeding car quite so well as the version of Ritorno In Macchina here. You know that feeling right where the driver just can't keep their eyes on the road? A member in the 50s of the Italian Jazz Gang, Sandro Brugnolini is not kidding around. Brilliantine.

GITKIN - Don't You Want Me Baby (Wonderwheel)
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by Ancient Champion

As a sometime purveyor of dodgy cover versions, can I say this Gitkin record is a fabulously easy analog take on an enduring sheffield steel synth hit. The biggest of hits and neither that original hit nor Gitkin's cover make the world a worse place. Better for it. "Long," we said as we listened in the car while headomng home from rowing last Sunday morning. Long, but listenable.

MOUNTAINSCAPE - Towering Monoliths (Celestial Diadem)
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by Lee Paul

There's something unique about UK based instrumental Post-Metal/Rock group, Mountainscape. Towering Monoliths is the first single from the upcoming album 'Iridescent' which will be available on June 7th. For a moment I think, I should ask them to play at my garden party in the summer. And then I think maybe not. The nearest neighbours are less than a mile away.

DAVE GUY - Footwork (Big Crown)
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by LamontPaul

Dave Guy is a member of The Roots, The Dap Kings and The Budos Band. He has played with everyone from Amy Winehouse & Lizzo to Lee Fields & Charles Bradley. For Dave's first solo single on one of my favourite labels, Big Crown, he gets long time collaborators Homer Steinweiss & Nick Movshon producing as well as playing. Footwork - I like that title, it's a Latin inspired tune that's gonna get you up, lightly, on your toes and springing. Dave’s trumpet lines are the greatest. Full of air. There's a not a superfluous note. It's a contemporary vintage classic, already.

SASHA ALEX SIOAN - Glad You Did (RCA records)
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by Toon Traveller

When confronted by a singer-songwriter, it is for some a tune out, log out, before letting the ears, soul and heart make a reasoned judgement. Glad You Did? Softly strummed guitar, strained falsetto voice, hints of pain, loss, and the slow slide into depression. These are common themes for singer songwriters. It's about sanguine treasured memories, rolled now into a litany of bad days, and the voice captures that sense of tired, wistful, melancholic desperation. A beautiful song that her 1,600,000 instagram followers aside, the world will probably ignore.

LEYLA MCCALLA - Love We Had (Anti Records)
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by Danny Rose

Leyla McCalla's cover of Love We Had is infused with some of the joyous psychedelia of WITCH. The fuzzy electric guitars and thundering drums do it. The La-la-la's too, belong popping out of a bluetooth speaker at the beach this summer. Totally infectious. "When we were younger our hearts were open wide..." McCalla is a founding member of Our Native Daughters (with Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah and Allison Russell) and a former member of Grammy award-winning Black string band The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Love We Had is from her new solo LP Sun Without The Heat out on Anti records this week. Something to be excited about. I have and all-consuming greed for that.

THE HOLD STEADY - The Death of the Punchline (Positive Jams)
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by Ancient Champion

I love this band so much but sometimes it sounds like there's something wrong to me. Not quite there. Not quite like the good old days where every character on their album Boys and Girls in America seemed to end up in hospital in the aftermath of trying to have a good time. It can happen. But this one, The Death of the Punchline, once you get the extraneous strings out of the way - touch too much Verdi there fellas - is a good one. The American suburban nighthawk street poetry intact. And the guitars! Makes me want to get a Les Paul. If I could lift it up. The last one I owned was a Hondo in '78 or something. Les Paul-lite. Oh wait, I have Les Paul in the loft, I literally forgot about. It's not mine. I don't think about it. It has tuning instability. It doesn't have a whammy bar. They look awful when they do. It's been up there for 10 years. It's a dilemma. The actual owner is on a different continent. I Put The Death of the Punchline on a couple of times to make sure it was alright and I wasn't dreaming. Extra stars for working a Seabreeze (vodka-cranberry-grapefruit + lime for a citrus edge) in near the beginning. I would chill the glass too, wouldn't you? Made me want to get back on the bottle and as dreams go, that ain't bad a bad one at all.

JAMES ELKINGTON / NATHAN SALSBURG - Death Wishes To Kill (Paradise of Bachelors)
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by Toon Traveller

Lovely wistful guitar strings are what California dreams are made of. But also English Pastoralism, the romantic annotations abound. A mournful violin, memories, distant, melancholic. It's just a sunlight, dappled soundscape. Easing along, purposefully, with no real sense of direction, but that's its beauty. It's a soundtrack for the open spaces in movies yet to be made. There's magic in these strings that leaves me... Ahhhhhhh contented. 

JM STEVENS - Cherry Sunburst (independent)
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by Toon Traveller

Coffee, juice and toast with a side slinky sunkissed sounds. UK dull day, slice of down home, easy on the ear, country/soul. Tap your cup, chink your glass, annoy your partner, spread a smile, greet the day. Sure it sounds familiar, (in an oddly a mature Van Morrison way). Not the voice but those wonderful oozing, slinky, horns straight out of Van the Man's late 80s early 90s output. Bayou horns. There's talent here, melodies, lyrics, and especially arrangements. A good way to start the moments, that make up a dull day.

 

long plays.

VARIOUS - La Suspendida (Silent Pendulum)
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by Toon Traveller

There's a lot to absorb here. Strings, Cello, action, a Kate Bush high pitched, then deep, visceral rasped vocal. Perfection that complements mixed styled strings. No traditional melody, no continual sense of rhythm, or standard timings  Therein lies the magic, it underpins the narrative, emption and aural challenge. This Fizzes with ideas, mystery, and sharp jagged, stabs of voice. Angry, confused, distressed, happy, tender. It's all here, teutonic domination, East European passion. Enough of words listen and love.

OTTLA - Vogel (Unday)
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by Lee Paul

Ottla is the name of Kafka's favourite sister. Ottla is also a bird that sings beautifully and vigorously flaps and squawks. There's little flapping on Vogel though, it's all pretty taut. The opener Espejo begins with a moment of light, a slight of hand misdirection before the controlled chaos, a beautiful chaos it is. They're calling it jazz-improv-electro-noise-prog-afro-blues-groove-punk-krautrock. Uh-huh, I can hear all that. Some of the best drumming since Hocus Pocus by Focus. The rhythm section of Gerben Brijs and Louis Evrard definitely sticks together. Vogel is ultimately an arc-welder scorched dialogue between the players, a record I suspect for those ready to accept a rare, rich and diverse challenge. Bert Dockx does it again. It's that simples, ennit.

GAGARIN - Komorebi (Geo Records)
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by Alan Rider

Komorebi is a Japanese word that refers to how sunlight is seen and felt through leaves and branches. That's a simple concept, but one that Gagarin (aka Graham ‘Dids’ Dowdall, formerly of Nico's sometime backing band that later became Faction) takes and runs with.  There are oodles of light and shade on this, some quite beautiful, others hypnotic enough to send you into a trance.  From the opener' Margate Illuminati', which veers between ominous and lightly playful, indeed almost cinematic, through the jittery single 'Saeta', via the below par 'Hazmat' (which doesn't seem to be able to make its mind up where it is heading) through to the closing birdsong and chimes intro to 'Stanmer' before it unfolds like a flower, 'Komerebi' is both intoxicating and infuriating in equal measure, having an unfinished quality about it.  It feels like a great album is trying to get out, but just needs a little something more to get it over the finish line.  As it is, this is blissful, and full of promise.

THEN COMES SILENCE - Trickery (Metropolis)
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by Alan Rider

Its not often this reviewer is impressed by Goth tinged rock, but this is definitely one of those rare occasions.  This is, put simply, a stunningly powerful album. I can't fault the playing, production, recording, anything!  Its ferociously good and sets the standard for the genre for a good time to come.  Apparently this was recorded by a slimmed down version of the band as they were forced down to a three piece line up just before a US tour was about to kick off.  Sometimes that sort of event has the effect of rejuvinating and re-energising a band as they become determined not to disintegrate, but to emerge stronger from the experience. That they most certainly have. There are lots of nice touches included in here, little fairground asides between tracks and moments in each song, with a lot going on in the margins.  As always, I'm scrabbling for lazy comparisons to make it easier for you to get the gist of what this album is like.  Peak level Killing Joke?, The Cult burning at their best? Warsaw era Joy Division? None are really adequate comparisons. but that sort of thing, anyway.  It kicks in all the right places, it throbs and pulses, scratches and claws, soars and swoops, pounds and rumbles, and cracks like a whip on every track.   They have thought this through on every track and with every step, from start to finish.   Its a very well earnt five hearts.

so, have you got anything else.

FOCUS - Hocus Pocus (NBC)
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by Lee Paul

If you're question is why? You're a probably asking the wrong question.

DEPARTMENT S - Is Vic There (Demon Records)
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by Lee Paul

Is there any reason not to? Check that never to be repeated microphone handling style. I mean I doubt anyone wants to be tagged as channeling name. Very insistent, absolutely non-banal lyric. I can't count but this might be on par in terms of repetivity with Karma Chameleon. And almost equal in genius. I think I am going to start adding Youtube quotes to these reviews if not eventually replacing my input altogether. It's like remixing the user generated content that made social networks so rich. So, this... 

from youtube @deanramoth549 3 years ago
"The clip at the beginning is from The Xclusiv goth nightclub in Batley, my mum and dad met there back in '81"

IGGY POP - The Passenger (RCA)
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by Alan Rider

Prompted by hearing a dreadful, bastardised version of this by Siouxsie Sioux on an advert for Magnum ice creams of all things, I thought you needed to hear the real thing. This was the sound of a thousand punk discos at the time and you'd hear this wonderful track playing over the PA in the wait before many a gig. Once heard, you will never forget it. The only reason it hasn't scored five hearts is that would mean it popped up in the end of the month round up of five heart reviews, and of course that should always be reserved for great new music.

ANCIENT CHAMPION - Anarchy In The UK (youtube)
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by Lee Paul

Reading through the reviews and got to Gitkin. I wondered what Ancient Champion was going on about. I'd heard Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, I'd heard The Model and Lucky Guy from the eternally forthcoming This is Punk Rock and This is New Wave EP. But I hadn't heard this...

essentials

Main Image: Nadine Khouri by Marcin Opatczyk
The previous week in music, 'Let Retrofuturism Be Your Energy' is here→

OL House Writer

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