The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'minimum chips'
Despite being on indefinite hiatus, Melbourne/Brisbane krautesque art-pop combo Minimum Chips are following the likes of The Lucksmiths, Sodastream and Architecture In Helsinki into Europe, having just released a retrospective album. Titled "Lady Grey", it combines tracks from Sound Asleep and Kitchen Tea Thankyou (their last two releases). Reviews have so far been pretty good, with the expected comparisons to early Broadcast and Stereolab, with added Australian sunshine.
If you like Lady Grey, you may want to check out some of their earlier tracks; they've made MP3s of everything before Sound Asleep available on their web site.
Melbourne/Brisbane twee-krautpop outfit Minimum Chips have released a video to their song Goodbye, from their most recent album, Kitchen Tea Thankyou. Filmed in oversaturated Super 8, it involves the band members packing into an old turquoise Toyota and going for a picnic in the park, and goes quite well with their music. There's a streaming Flash version on YouTube here, and Spiked Candy has put up a downloadable version here.
Apparently Minimum Chips are going on indefinite hiatus, as frontwoman Nicole is having a baby; which could mean no more Minimum Chips, or just a longer than usual wait for the next EP. However, they're not leaving fans empty-handed; they have posted (128kbps) MP3s of their entire back-catalogue, including their recent album Kitchen Tea Thankyou, on their discography page.
And here are my records of 2005, in no particular order:
- Machine Translations, Wolf on a String*. Six tracks, subtle and impeccably produced, layering guitars, electronics and understated vocals, and with a great deal of thought in the arrangements and compositions. The title track is hauntingly lovely, and Miss China and Paris Road are low-key pop gems. The other three tracks are good too.
- Broadcast, Tender Buttons. Their last album was a bit bland compared to The Noise Made By People; this one is a return to form. It's like early Stereolab playing on a Game Boy, all sparse, motorik grooves, gloriously dirty aliased waveforms and Trish's dreamy vocals.
- Sambassadeur, Between The Lines EP. A four track EP, released in Sweden last year but the UK only this year, from another good Swedish indie band. They also released a quite decent album later this year, but for some reason, this grabbed me more. The title track of the EP is a joyous piece of upbeat indie-pop; the other tracks are fitting B-sides, pop songs with guitar, trumpet, melodica, and a bit of shoegazing feedback and Mary Chain-style fuzz.
- Holidays On Ice, Playing Boyfriends and Girlfriends* Classy, polished indie-pop from various established Australian musicians, including Angie Hart of Frenté/Splendid; has echoes of Yo La Tengo. Even though the idea of a group of thirtysomething Australian band veterans releasing a record with an unbelievably fey title and a naïve picture of kids playing in the snow (presumably somewhere in Northern Europe or North America) on the cover does seem a tad contrived, the product is eminently listenable. Highlights include the upbeat pop of Sailor Girl, Speak-n-Spell-driven semi-instrumental Spell Happiness, the board-game-referencing (though not AIH-referencing) glock-pop of Fingers crossed and some of the instrumentals.
- Minimum Chips, Kitchen Tea Thankyou* This one took me by surprise. After getting used to the Chips putting out one EP every few years, I did not expect them to drop an entire album one year after their last EP. But they did, and we get almost 50 minutes of Minimum Chips goodness: modular organ grooves, jagged guitar jangle, sophisticated Continental pop sounds filtered through Melbourne/Brisbane indie-rock, and Nicole's floating vocals, more "aaah" than "ba ba ba". ("Lady Grey", in particular, could be descibed as "Golden Brown", had it been written by Stereolab about tea rather than The Stranglers about heroin.) A few of the tracks were familiar from Minimum Chips gigs two years ago, and had only made it onto record now.
- Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd, the Mysterious Skin film score Possibly the best thing Guthrie has put out since Victorialand. Ethereal and moody, like golden sunlight in a dream. The film was quite good too (though somewhat more disturbing).
- The Winter Ship, Teardrops EP*. Four tracks of shoegazing post-rock goodness, with rather nice string arrangements, from the Melbourne instrumental outfit. Swimming Through A Narrow Space sounds not unlike Mogwai's Helicon 1 only with words. The other tracks are no less lovely.
Honourable mentions go to Architecture In Helsinki, In Case We Die, Broken Social Scene's self-titled album (which I received only in the last days of the year, too late to fully get into, though I get the feeling it may be a grower), LCD Soundsystem's self-titled album, The Magic Numbers' self-titled debut (which has some strong guitar-pop tracks, though is a bit bland in places, and may not be a proper CD in all territories), Momus, Otto Spooky, Francis Plagne, Idle Bones (which has a few good songs and a lot of meandering ambient field recordings; were the ratio reversed, it'd be quite impressive), and Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, #3.
It was also a good year for rereleases, with the entire Field Mice back-catalogue seeing the light of day again, in the form of new releases of Snowball, Skywriting and For Keeps, all extended with non-album tracks, and all three Slowdive albums (Just For A Day, Souvlaki and the exquisite Pygmalion) being rereleased—the first two with bonus discs full of EP and live tracks—through Sanctuary; meanwhile, neo-shoegazer Ulrich Schnauss's first album, Far Away Trains Passing By, is seeing the light of day again (good to see that Domino are using their NMECarlingnuwaveartrock windfall for good).
My gigs of 2005:
- Belle & Sebastian playing If You're Feeling Sinister at the Barbican. They brought their second album to life really well, and played a few other favourites before and after it.
- My Favorite, playing at Underbelly, 17 June. The last ever gig they did in the UK before breaking up. Their brand of immaculate, upbeat, New Order/OMD-influenced pop with lyrics of suburban alienation and existential angst really appealed to me.
- One of the three Architecture In Helsinki gigs I caught on their two UK tours; let's say, for the sake of argument, the one at the Dublin Castle in Camden. Their live performances seemed a lot tighter and more energetic than they were when I saw them back in Melbourne.
- Broadcast at Koko. They brought their new album to life quite well, and played some of their old tracks too.
As usual, here is my purely subjective roundup of albums/EPs of the past six months. Some are new, some are older, but all are things I obtained in the past six months and (in the case of things a few years old), by bands I only recently discovered. This list is, of course, completely subjective; you may disagree, but to paraphrase a Lush lyric, maybe you're right but this is my blog.
- Minimum Chips, Sound Asleep (Sound Malfunction); the long-awaited new 7-track EP/album from the Chips actually came out in 2004, but I only got it this year on account of being abroad. It wasn't a disappointment. Seven tracks, with their trademark tight, jaunty grooves, clunky bass lines, vintage electric organs, glockenspiels, trombones and Nicole's vocals, recorded with the perfectionistic production values their EPs are known for. It varies from twee to angular, and ends with a 1-minute explosion of krautrock-tinged noise.
- The Rumours, We Are Happy (Cavalier Records); tight guitar pop in a classic vein from the Melbourne band, with songs of unrequited love, hopes, fears and moments, delivered in a very Australian pure-pop sensibility; hearing this in the London winter was like sunshine in aural form.
- Sambassadeur, Between The Lines (Labrador); a 4-track EP from a Swedish indiepop group. Elements of C86/Sarah Records-style fey indiepop and shoegazer. Jangly guitars, handclaps, tambourines, catchy pop harmonies and low-key vocals with lyrics (in English) about watching the northern lights and just enough reverb/delay and the odd bit of Mary Chain-esque skronk. I look forward to the album (which is out in Sweden and awaiting a UK release through local shoegazer indie AC30).
- Laura, Mapping Your Dreams (Alone Again). I heard this when walking past Perfect post-rock; evocatively atmospheric moodscapes of layered guitar, driving basslines, drums and the odd synth, glockenspiel and murmured vocal, with not a note out of place. Not too far from Mogwai territory via inner-north Melbourne, and strays into Prop territory in one track. Simply sublime.
- July Skies, The English Cold (Make Mine Music); sparse, evocative post-rock soundscapes of minimalist reverb-washed guitar, and understated vocals; like a more understated Piano Magic circa Artists' Rifles, with a bit of late-period Slowdive; this is a concept album, ostensibly about the southern English countryside at the outbreak of World War 2, with song titles like Farmers And Villagers Living Within The Shadow Of Aerodromes, Strangers In Our Lanes and Countryside of 1939.
- Robin Guthrie/Harold Budd, Music from the film Mysterious Skin (Commotion); Guthrie's most sublimely ethereal work since Victorialand; works beautifully within the film, and manages to stand on its own too.
- My Favorite, The Happiest Days Of Our Lives (Double Agent Records); indiepop that's like synthpop with guitars, bass and live drums. Shimmering guitar, keyboards reminiscent of OMD or 1980s New Order, the odd melancholy piano, overlaid with alternate male/female vocals. Beneath the sweetness and light there is a darnkess and a deep melancholy; the pure-pop sweetness of Andrea's voice melds incongruously with the lyrical subject matter of suburban alienation, mental illness, violence and loss; the monochromatic booklet with its post-rock-esque blurry photographs and essay about the ghost of Joan of Arc as the original emo kid, adding even more incongruity. It also comes with a second disc of synthpoppy remixes, including one by Future Bible Heroes.
- Trademark, Want More (Truck Records). Theatrical, somewhat spoddy and ever-so-slightly facetious synthpop from three English blokes in labcoats. Parts of it border on goth-club material, with cold, industrial distortion, melodrama in a minor key and Depeche Mode affectations, whilst others head into Human League/OMD club-pop territory, and the rest of it being not unlike Baxendale; polished, clever and very English. The songwriting is nimble, with plenty of wordplay, and the arrangements and production are impeccable, using the medium to its full expressive potential and keeping things interesting. And it features songs equating emotions with oscillator waveforms, and a love song with the words "simple harmonic motion"; how can you go wrong?
It looks like Minimum Chips have a new EP out. (It may have come out as early as September, or may be coming out tomorrow; not being in Melbourne makes it hard to notice these things.) Anyway, it has 7 tracks, and is as close to an album as the Chips get.
(Hint to friends in Australia: it'd make an excellent birthday present. That or the Dogs In Space DVD that should be out soon.)
And by the way, they seem to have MP3s of some sort of their entire back-catalogue on their web site. The site hosting them seems to be down, though, so I've no idea whether they're complete tracks or excerpts, or at what bitrate.
In the early 90s, the Spill label (which seemed to have been connected to the Fortitude Valley indie scene in Brisbane) released 3 compilations of songs by Australian indie bands. These compilations have now been made available in MP3 format; they include tracks by Minimum Chips, Clag, Clowns Smiling Backwards, New Waver, and The Sea Haggs (which was Laura/Lora Macfarlane's old band), as well as less-known bands with intriguing names like Volvox, Wank Engine and Farfisas In Exile. The MP3s are of fairly low quality (22kHz sample rate, and 56kbps bit rate), but they're better than nothing. (via Rocknerd)
And if you like the Clag tracks there, you can find some more Clag MP3s here.
The Null Device's top 8 records of 2003:
- 8. Yo La Tengo - Summer Sun. A nicely laid-back collection of grooves from Yo La Tengo, and more than a worthy follow-up to And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.
- 7. Martin L. Gore - Counterfeit2. Covers of acts including Nick Cave, the Velvet Underground and others, done in glitchy, electronic fashion, with the characteristic Depeche Mode formula of aching humanity and cold electronics. Note: the Australian release is corrupt; the US release isn't.
- 6. Ninetynine - Receiving the Sounds of Science Fiction EP. A five-track taster of their upcoming album, available only through a singles club in the US. Has some good new tracks, though I still think they shouldn't have taken the guitar line out of San Pedro.
- 5. The Postal Service - Give Up. Indie synth-pop from Seattle; intelligent and well arranged, even if some of the love ballads may be a bit too perky.
- 4. Radiohead - Hail To The Thief. This could possibly have been album of the year, or close to, had it not been for EMI deciding to release only defective versions in most markets (the US being an exception). In any case, the set of MP3s leaked onto the internet prior to release was actually slightly better than the released version (for example, The Gloaming lost its third verse before making it to CD). NOTE: The Null Device does not advocate violating copyright laws.
- 3. Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress. The Glaswegian indie-pop collective's latest album, produced by Trevor Horn, and bouncing all over the place, from rock to pop to retro. A bit fey in places, but then again, you'd sort of expect that.
- 2. Minimum Chips - Gardenesque. Three tracks they recorded for SBS and a longish studio arrangement. Good, if a bit short. Maybe one of these years they'll record a full-length album?
- 1. Spearmint - My Missing Days. Spearmint probably have the best songwriting of any English indie band these days. Their songs are very much about subjective experience, and don't confine themselves to the usual romantic-relationship clichés that sell well, but cover other things, like accumulating too much stuff as one goes through life, or the process of really getting into a book. Their music is pretty good too, reminiscent in places of Pulp or someones.
(A number of albums were disqualified for not being available to the public in non-defective CD format; being available on import from the United States or similar was sufficient. These include albums by David Bridie, The Thrills and Client.)
There are some tracks worth voting for in the Triple J Net 50; Love of Diagrams, Minimum Chips, Manitoba and Interpol are in the current one. So's an Architecture in Helsinki song, but it's not one I'm all that fond of. (There is such a thing as too twee, you know.)
Not sure if my vote will be counted, though, given that I put in my real age.
Unlike some people, I didn't get to go to Iceland, but I did get to see a small piece of Iceland tonight at the Corner; namely, Múm. They were supported by Minimum Chips (my second favourite local band at the moment) and Architecture In Helsinki.
The Chips played two sets on the side stage: one shortly after 9, when the doors opened, and one after AIH finished while Múm were setting up. For the first set and half of the second, they played without Ian, with the drum kit standing empty and an old analogue drum machine carefully programmed with all their drum patterns. They played all the tracks off Gardenesque, a few old songs from around the time of Swish and a few from various compilations, which was good.
Between their two sets, local twee indie-pop orchestra Architecture In Helsinki took to the main stage and played for about 45 minutes. They played some tracks off Fingers Crossed (some in extended versions) and a few new tracks; their new material is somewhat less sugary than the album tracks, and perhaps a bit reggae/dub/ska inspired in places. (Which makes sense; they have enough personnel to form a ska band, for one.)
And Múm were pretty good. Their music was rather sparse, drifting between pieces. It is probably a dreadful cliché to say that it evokes the sparse Icelandic landscapes, but it did. They played a number of pieces, including some new ones, melding from piece to piece. I was expecting them to be standing behind laptops and controlling some mysterious process that made plinking noises, but most of the music was live, played on melodica, violin, keyboards (including a vintage Wurlitzer and a Moog), guitar, drums and xylophone; oh, and the obligatory PowerBook. They finished up with an encore of I'm 9 Today. And the Guns'n'Roses T-shirt one of the band was wearing was quite amusing.
And someone kept blowing soap bubbles over the audience during their set. Probably an AIH fan.
I went along to the Minimum Chips EP launch at the Rob Roy tonight. Other than the tracks from Gardenesque, they played a lot of new material. No, really. And it was quite impressive. Now they've got even less of an excuse for not recording a new album.
Between songs, Nicole entertained the audience with her dialogues with various hecklers, on topics such as Evan Dando's drug habits (apparently he's into something called Crackstasy), the Brisbane Gothic Scene (apparently it's huge), and whether Minimum Chips are electroclash (apparently they are, even though none of their songs are about snorting cocaine with movie stars or anything like that).
Oh, and they're playing on the Wednesday after this coming one at the First Floor (i.e., Chapel St.'s beachhead on Brunswick St., a haunt of the Beautiful People best known for its house music, overpriced drinks and tabletop Galaga machine). Apparently the First Floor people are booking more bands, including rockers Registered Nurse, which strikes me as rather odd.
I managed to get my hands on a preview copy of the new Minimum Chips EP, Gardenesque, which is coming out in a few weeks through Trifekta (the Fitzrovian indie label that's also home to AIH, Gersey and the last Ninetynine album). The first three tracks are from the SBS Whatever Sessions, and thus have more of a live feel than the usual Chips recording (the band being noted studio perfectionists); the first two tracks (Friends and Sunny Spot) being somewhat mellow and laid-back and the third (Rounds) having more of a driving groove to it. There's a fair amount of angular krautrockish guitar riffs and choppy electric-organ chords here, as you'd expect from the Chips. The last track, titled Oooo after its entire lyrics, was put together seperately and has a somewhat more ambient, layered sound, with a xylophone and glitchy electronic percussion joining the usual electric organ; a bit of a departure from their earlier recordings, though still characteristically Chips. All in all, it's something worth keeping an eye out for in a few weeks when it hits the shops. (As it's distributed through FMR, your local JB Hi-Fi should be able to get it.)
The unthinkable has happened: Minimum Chips have gone into a recording studio for long enough to make a new EP. Granted, it took SBS to make them do it, but they ended up putting the tracks on an EP. Titled Gardenesque, it is believed to be their first recording since the track they did for the 555/Red Square Popfest compilation of last year.
Tonight I caught part of the Chapter Music show at the Rob Roy. This was sort of the last hurrah of Chapter; the founder, Guy Blackman (who also plays bass in Minimum Chips, and cohosted Untune The Sky on 3RRR) leaves for Japan on Monday, and is winding the label down, at least for the time being.
Jeremy Dower did a set of his combination of experimental glitch electronica and Casiotone boudoir jazz (be very afraid!); much of his set seemed to be prerecorded on a MiniDisc or somesuch (in time-honoured indie/electropop fashion), though over that he played synths, tweaked knobs and at one stage got out a saxophone and played that. Towards the end, he played what sounded like a Casio-driven twee-electro version of Wham's Last Christmas, with jazzy improvisations; which was amusing, in a silly sort of way. After him, Minimum Chips came on and played a set of their groovy, krautrock-meets-lounge-pop brand of music. (If you haven't seen Minimum Chips, imagine what Stereolab would be like if they came from Fortitude Valley, had played at the Punters Club for years and had an aversion to going inside a studio and recording, and you might have some idea of what they're like.) Which was good, as they played a number of the songs they haven't gotten around to recording.
(Aside: I always find that Minimum Chips are the sort of band who sound better on recordings than live. Perhaps this is because they're such perfectionists in the studio that recordings come out highly polished and impeccable; one of the reasons why they don't have much released output. They're sort of like the opposite of Ninetynine (who sound better live than on recordings) in this way.)
I left shortly after Minimum Chips finished (the Wagons, the next act, are a bit too country'n'Preston for my liking), but I went away with the Chapter retrospective compilation Double Figures, as well as the recent Chapter rerelease of Essendon Airport's Sonic Investigations of the Trivial.
This coming Saturday at Pony looks like being another great electro-pop night, with quite an impressive lineup. New Buffalo, Letraset and Laura McFarlane of Ninetynine are all playing on the night.
Tonight I went to night 2 of the 555/Red Square/&c popfest at the Empress. It was perhaps even better than night 1; for one, the music was a bit more diverse. There were also fewer people there, perhaps because something else was on.
First up, Guy Blackman and Mia Schoen played a set (of which I missed the start); with Guy (who also co-hosts Untune The Sky and runs local indie label Chapter Music) singing and playing guitar, and Mia playing piano. Then Fog and Ocean came on; they consisted of people from various bands (including Stuart and Jen, and Kellie from Sleepy Township) singing, and noodling (or miming) on toy instruments over a MiniDisc of prerecorded electropop. They had a lot of fun doing it, and pulled it off with style. (At one stage, Kellie pretended to play a Casiotone keyboard (which had "WE DON'T ROCK" written on the back in black marker) with a piece of paper on the keys.) Julian Teakle played overdriven electric guitar riffs and sang about timeless themes such as parties being over; his style sounded very pub-rawk.
Even As We Speak, Sydney's contribution to the Sarah Records fey-indie-pop sound of the early 90s, were scheduled to play next, and did, with a drastically reduced lineup. (Only Mary, the vocalist, made it down to Melbourne.) She had a go at playing the guitar lines and singing, and then enlisted another guy to help her on acoustic guitar. Her set was very lovely indeed; nice chords and melodies and touchingly sincere lyrics delivered in a mellifluous voice. It's good to know that Even As We Speak are still around; apparently, they're working on new material; their Peel Sessions CD is about to be released, and they're negotiating with the Sarah Records people to rerelease their back catalogue. I look forward to hearing more from them.
They were followed by Minimum Chips, who played a very tight and groovy set of their brand of retro-styled pop. They played mostly new, as yet unrecorded, songs (though one does appear on the souvenir CD that was given away at the door). It was then that the crowd started gathering in earnest. When they finished, they lent their Yamaha organ to Huon.
Finally, Boyracer came on (this time consisting of Stewart and Jen, with the guy from Bend Over Boyfriend on drums) and tore the roof off the house; seriously rocking out with some frantic power-pop. As usual, Stewart (who, in his Lambretta shirt and red-and-blue-target-logo boots was more Mod than Damon Albarn and both Gallagher brothers put together) jumped around like a maniac and thrashed the hell out of his guitar.
(Once again I ended up buying too many CDs, as one does at these sorts of events. Tonight I picked up the retrospectives from Boyracer and Minimum Chips, a rather nice guitars-and-bleeps pop record from an outfit called The Love Letter Band and the new Tracey Read album. I've spent a ridiculous amount on CDs this weekend. Though, upon listening to some of them, I'd say it was money well spent.)
Anyway, it was a great night. For those who missed it but wish you hadn't, Boyracer, Mary of Even As We Speak and Ashtrayboy are playing at Pony tomorrow (Sunday) night.
31/12; 7 hours remaining (cont.):
Favourite CDs of 2000:
- Cocteau Twins - Stars and Topsoil
- A collection of some of the Cocteau Twins' best material from 1982 to 1990. Has some great songs, like Aikea-Guinea and Heaven or Las Vegas
- Radiohead - Kid A
- Yes, it was over-hyped; the press wouldn't shut up about it and your local Sanity/HMV had stacks of it. And yes, others said it was a load of wank. But once you get past that, you have an interesting album. Some have compared it to The Cure's Pornography, perhaps fairly, only with more of a Warp influence and some odd time signatures. Favourite track: probably How To Disappear Completely.
- Minimum Chips - Freckles
- An EP from a local act, in a sort of Stereolabish vein; hope they do a full album soon.
- Baxendale - You Will Have Your Revenge
- Electronic pop (though not synthpop) with tongue firmly in cheek. Some of the songs get boring after a while, but I Love the Sound of Dance Music is a classic.
- Stone Roses - The Remixes
- Some great reworkings of the Stone Roses, ranging from Rabbit in the Moon's acid-rave remix of I Wanna Be Adored (which sounds as if they could have done most of it with ReBirth) to Kinobe's mellow reworking of Elizabeth My Dear.
- FourPlay String Quartet, The Joy Of
- Their second album, with some great tracks, including a dub/klezmer two-part and a vicious-sounding PWEI remake. Their remix CD, slated for early 2001, will be something to look out for.
- Piano Magic, Artists' Rifles
- Arty and understated and hard to describe, though something I've been listening to a lot.
With honourable mentions going to Broadcast, Extended Play Two, Björk, SelmaSongs, Beulah, When Your Heartstrings Break, Deepchild, Hymns from Babylon, LTJ Bukem, Journey Inwards, Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out and Black Box Recorder's various EPs (mostly for the B-sides), (Note: this is counting only CDs I acquired this year.)