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Tough Baby

    Unsurprisingly, Tough Baby is a record with purpose and resolve. Nothing is wasted. Sometimes the music feels deliberately compressed, the essences extracted and bottled into an overpowering cordial, as on ‘115 At Night’, which sounds like an ‘80s Van Halen track being squeezed into another shape. And it’s difficult to see how a track like ‘Virtuous Industry’ can hold itself together, such are the sonic hoops it jumps through. The sharp angles and hook- laden guitar lines that were once seen as a trademark sound are less in evidence. Last track ‘Crackin Up’ does nod back to earlier releases with a booming beat and guitars that snag, like wool on barbed wire.But maybe there’s another focus taking shape, one that was not fully realised on the band’s remarkable debut, Pain Olympics.

    Zach Choy: “We made that album with no expectation of making another.” Maybe that expectation lent Pain Olympics its febrile, combustible atmosphere. But the world moves on, and Tough Baby is moving with it. The new record reflects Choy’s point that “we are always maturing emotionally with our experiences, and so how we understand and express them evolves over our lifetime.” There is a sleekness here: cinematic dreamer music that takes in the street romanticisms and seedy cruises of classic alternative pop. Indeed, the record could be a brilliant C21st riposte to the likes of The Pogues, the Blockheads, Roxy Music or Armand Schaubroeck. ‘The Politician’ could be a search party sent out to find The Bogus Man after 50 years.

    This is music that is happy to colour outside the lines prescribed for it. In fact, Tough Baby reminds one of reading a Nabokov novel, with lots of stylistic conceits and clevernesses, sometimes outrageous pretentiousness, all there to better reveal the brutal truths about the human condition. ‘Please Yourself’ - what a great title - is a mix of all these things, a powerful track with plenty of muscle and sinew and not afraid to switch into a strung- out doodle on a piano. The title track employs orchestral sweeps and other stylings: a Broadway musical perhaps, or the sort of uplifting orchestrations that would sit snugly on a modern film soundtrack, and boasting an intermission where we could be listening to UNKLE. Key track is ‘Criminal’ - also the longest on the record, weighing in at 6 minutes - an angry soliloquy which suddenly snaps into life around a primitive beat (which sounds like someone whacking at a door with a hammer) and a scuzzy bass line. The intermittent vocals and sighs at the end only add to the drama.

    The band does offer antidotes to help your head find some equilibrium: ‘Afterthought (Sukhi’s Prayer)’ is a melange of sounds that prop up an impassioned, sometimes baffling address to the heavens. It does clean your headspace, however strange the elixir.Tough Baby contains music to think to, music with which to educate, agitate and organise. Zach Choy: “The name Tough Baby is an allusion to our Planet. To our Culture. And to our Selves.” It’s made to remind us that whilst we are all in the gutter to some extent, some of us are looking at the kerb.


    Danny's Message
    The Politician
    Costly Engineered Illusion
    Please Yourself
    Virtuous Industry
    Tough Baby
    115 At Night
    Afterthought (Sukhi's Prayer)
    Crackin Up



      In September of 2019, Deliluh took flight with sights set on new horizons. A long plotted scheme to uproot the group from their Toronto home and airlift them into the touring bastion of Europe seemed like a pot worth gambling their stack on. Their future in the old world was read with wide-eyed optimism, emboldened by two albums newly waxed and tour dates rolling in. Greener pastures with foreign allure, a promised land chalk full of experimental art and sound, and a plethora of unconventional venues ripe for the picking... it’s open season, what could possibly go wrong?
      Well, the best-laid plans…

      Amulet is the first release since Deliluh’s departure from home, an opening document of the group’s transition abroad. Mirrored images of the same composition occupy each side; ‘A’ performed by their previous four-piece lineup, and ‘B’ by the current active two-piece. The lyrics depict a jewel thief committing crimes with the conviction of a merciless zealot, and justifying them with a spite for the status quo. The protagonist amuses with the threat of being “caught”, a fate seemingly imminent and yet laughable in the crooked context of societal greed. Knapp delivers sharp criticisms with a swagger liberated of fear, imploring us all to root for the anti-hero in a time when danger is craved en masse.

      The tonal contrasts between both versions testify to the group’s versatility. The A side pulls tension by way of minimalism, leaning into a sinister synth sequence that navigates a pitch dark sonic terrain. Swooning guitar, plucking violin, whispering synths and darting tape effects peek in and out of the periphery, circling with unsettled starkness around Jude’s gloomy bass drone, through until Wharton-Shukster’s string soaring climax.

      Flip to the B side, and the immediate motorik groove turns the sequence on it’s head, snapping to a gritty dance track for nights long yearned for. Pedersen’s modular synth takes on a fresh persona of dusted drums and otherworldly high hats, cracking on the beat while guitar scratches, processed sax, and string synths build with harmonic euphoria, all until the tape slips and pulls the rug from under the DIY dance floor.

      Amulet demonstrates Deliluh’s potential growing fearlessly in the face of a tight game. They promise a plentiful stash of recordings soon to be unearthed, giving the sense that their recently tested process of creation has been far from hindered. What comes next is anyones guess, though Amulet at the very least reassures that we’re still, as always, in trusted hands. 


      Patrick says: Bleak, cold atmospheres and ambience which seems miles out of place on a warm Summer's afternoon but which will grow more and more appropriate as Winter's tight grip quickly edges in...


      1. Amulet A
      2. Amulet B

      Trembling Bells And Bonnie "Prince" Billy

      The Bonnie Bells Of Oxford

        On 2012's The Marble Downs, Bonnie Prince Billy provided vocals for an album of songs by Trembling Bells. It was a fruitful meeting of mind and voice, but one that promised the real bounty when those songs were taken on the road.

        That was delivered in summer of that year when the Bells & Bonnie revue brought their own brand of rolling thunder to parts of the UK. This live album, The Bonnie Bells Of Oxford, captures the highlights of one of those special shows on vinyl and CD.

        The transatlantic recording of The Marble Downs is now distilled to a room on one night in Oxford town, and the force of the songs and performance concentrated similarly. It stands as a more genuinely collaborative record than its predecessor, with songs drawn from the oeuvres of both artists and reworked with a joyous spontaneity. Tensions are dissolved in this heady brew, between warring lovers, goat and ram, dark and light, heaven & hell, country and folk, this world and the next, a rhapsodic dialectic embodied by the ouborous vocals of Bonnie Billy & Lavinia Blackwall. It's a giddy whirling carnival ride over all too soon, which is the supreme advantage of having this on vinyl; when dizzy and reeling and eager for more, just wheel it up and go again.

        No live album can substitute for the precious fleetingness of music heard live but the best of them can offer something else, a document, recorded proof almost that something special was created on that stage on that night by those musicians in front of that audience. More importantly, a chance to create and hear something special yourself every time you spin this record.

        Trembling Bells

        Who Call The Law? / Made For The May


          Trembling Bells we joined by Stevie "Reverb" Jackson (Belle and Sebastian) on this brand new recording exclusive for Record Store Day. It was recorded by "The Sovereign Self" engineer Luigi Pasquini.

          "Who Call The Law?" is an amorous crime caper written by maverick English songsmith, Dan Haywood. It examines the antagonisms that ensue when a relationship disintegrates and the big questions that we are left to face

          Trembling Bells

          Wide Majestic Aire

            Trembling Bells are back with Wide Majestic Aire; a seven-track mini-album, which acts as a companion, piece to The Sovereign Self and cements their reputation as one of Britain’s most exciting and exploratory groups.

            “‘Wide Majestic Aire’ is among my favourite songs that I’ve written,” says the band’s founder and leader Alex Neilson of the title track. This romantic ballad, sung by Lavinia Blackwall, sees the compass of the band’s music swing back in the direction of folk after the prog and acid rock of Sovereign Self. It is in some ways archetypally Trembling Bells in its evocation of the landscapes of Yorkshire and Oxford and its invocation of great artists of the past - Larkin, Blake, Lorca and Turner. Such a sweet and melodic song could function as a gateway drug to the rest of the band’s music, which is to be welcomed, as there is much to explore in their rich back catalogue.

            A major river in Yorkshire, the Aire passes through Leeds, Neilson’s hometown. “The Aire was a sanctuary for me,” he says. “I grew up on a council estate in Bramley and the river was five minutes away. As a teenager I’d listen to the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and Incredible String Band while walking my dogs along the banks. These were the things that moulded me and sent me on a certain path in life.”

            Trembling Bells

            The Sovereign Self

              The Sovereign Self - named after a line from Dennis Potter, the late television auteur - is the fifth album from Glasgow's Trembling Bells, their first since 2012's The Marble Downs, a collaboration with Will Oldham. It is a driving, dramatic and at times hallucinatory work, filled with a great sense of tension and release; a witches' brew, a psychedelic stew mixing up the range of the band's musical interests - everything from ramshackled ballads to ancient May Day chants, swaggering acid rock to swirling prog epics.

              "Some songs are a little challenging" says lead vocalist Lavinia Blackwall, "Bringing Alasdair C Mitchell into the band means we have the interplay of two guitar parts. Musically, this album has been a lot more collaborative and democratic and as a result a lot of our other influences have come through - psychedelia, early-70s prog and rock. It's heavier and darker. I find it physically and emotionally draining to sing these songs, because they are quite intense you have to put so much into them."

              The range of cultural and counter-cultural interest from the band is apparent on the front cover of The Sovereign Self - a series of twenty portraits painted by Lavinia Blackwall: an eclectic gallery of genius from Emily Dickinson to Aeschylus; Lou Reed to Ovid.

              Another key influence, psych-folk pioneers the Incredible String Band, has loomed large in the lives of Trembling Bells in recent years. They have toured with ISB co-founder Mike Heron, performing tracks from his songbook.

              Having released five cracking LPs in six years, in addition to a number of side-projects, Trembling Bells show no signs of slowing down. Already, work is being done on solo records from three members, and there are plans for an album of reworked traditional folk songs with vocals from comedian Stewart Lee. This is quite simply a group of people with music pouring out of them.

              Trembling Bells & Bonnie Prince Billy

              New Trip On The Old Wine


                RSD 2014 exclusive. 500 pressing, picture bag.

                XXL (XiuXiu / Larsen)


                  Emerging from a collaboration between two acts, their friendships and passion to produce music together, XXL aka Xiu Xiu and Larsen 'Düde' is their third studio album following on from ' Spicchiology' which saw the group touring and uniting furthermore as a band rather than a side project. Remaining true to their previous endeavours the album was recorded with a similar disciplined 'real time' process in mind. Improvised, rearranged and recorded the day after. 'Film Me In The Laundry' is a three part voyeuristic composition that takes the listener through the record. The opening instrumental begins with Larsen leading the improvisation. Part 2 comes later - a much shorter piece with heavy bass and rhythm akin to the suggested environment. Part 3 brings the album to Düde's last chapter 'closing time'. XXL's funkier number 'Disco Chrome' brings up the pace of the record with a heavy dose of Xiu Xiu style percussion and synths. In 'Apsorbtion' one hears an electrified Kaolimba accompanied by Ramon Moro on the trumpet and flugelhorn. Following this comes 'Krampus' a dark and majestic ode to the mythical creature recognized in Alpine countries with Korean spoken word from Angela. 'Oi! Düde' fills 18 minutes with XXL krautrock visions as that leads to Vaire. Düde is the first XXL album featuring Xiu Xiu's Angela Seo instead of previous keyboard player and vocalist Caralee McElroy.

                  Two Wings

                  Love's Spring

                    As the noughties came to a close, Two Wings (whose core members are singer/multi- instrumentalist/visual artist Hanna Tuulikki and guitarist/singer Ben Reynolds) formed. Having spent years bumping into each other in Glasgow's burgeoning folk scene, the pair finally took some time out to explore and develop their own compositions together, following in the direction of their many musical passions - from traditional folk (rock) to rock n' roll to psychedelia to soul and beyond. Glasgow has always been fertile ground for those seeking to synthesize traditional/ popular musical forms with a more progressive approach, and Hanna and Ben have long been travellers on this path. Hanna's experimental song-based project Nalle was described by Wire Magazine as "easily some of the most convincing free-folk the UK has ever produced". She was also a member of free form jazz folk ensemble Scatter and The Family Elan. Ben has been a solo artist for many years and his numerous releases include the 2009 solo guitar album How Day Earnt Its Night, released by New York's Tompkins Square Records. Ben was also the original lead-guitarist in critically acclaimed Glasgow folk-rockers TREMBLING BELLS and has collaborated with a number of other artists including Glasgow's Alasdair Roberts and Tin Angel Records' Baby Dee.

                    Tin Angel Records has made quite a noise with some of its recent signings, and Two Wings join an already fabulous roster. On tracks like the album opener Eikon, Hanna's utterly unique vocals steal the show, while the seven minute title track is progressive, haunting, even unsettling at times. Elsewhere, Alters & Thrones marries twinkles and chimes with ethereal vocals and the 8 minute epic album closer Forbidden Sublime purposefully meanders its way to a spellbinding climax. Two Wings are quite simply impossible to ignore.

                    "Mantler's 2010 effort “Monody” is a soulful and engagingly moody album that features singer/songwriter Chris A. Cummings' knack for bare-bones soft rock and indie soul. With songs centred most prominently around Cummings' lo-fi Wurlitzer keyboard compositions, “Monody” often sounds something like a mix of 70s icons Steely Dan backed by French pop duo Air. These are low-key but still somehow hugely cinematic tracks that register as a kind of indie rock take on film noir. It doesn't hurt that Cummings fills out these arrangements with orchestral flourishes, various wind instruments, and percussion elements that help to broaden his already expansive jazz-infused musical palette. However, just when you think you've got Cummings pegged as the captain of his soft rock yacht, he smacks you with such mid-album cuts as "Fresh and Fair" that pop and percolate with electronic keyboards and programmed beats. Similarly, the creeping and stealthy "Breaking Past and Day" hits with a kind of 80s synth pop Taco-meets-ELO vibe" - All Music Guide.

                    Devon Sproule

                    Don't Hurry For Heaven

                      Recorded in a remote rural studio in England, the album captures the fantastically tight band that toured most of the summer festivals last year, produced by her husband the formidable guitarist and songwriter Paul Curreri, and featuring the pedal-steel playing of the legendary BJ Cole. The great Jesse Winchester, a fellow Southerner (and hero of Sproule's), also makes a cameo appearance. Continuing in the tradition of her previous works, "Don't Hurry For Heaven" sports a variety of sonic influences. Sproule's youthfulness and romantic sense of humour are deepened by a hurling undercurrent of musical ambition and multi-genre awareness - amongst her own jazzy country songs, Sproule and Curreri even duet on a left-field, desert-bluesy version of Black Uhuru's "Sponji Reggae". Her effortless delivery of a deceptively complex melody, or her charmingly badass guitar work, give out an infectious vitality that simply enthrals.

                      Devon Sproule

                      Deep Your Silver Shined

                        "Keep Your Silver Shined" highlights Devon's talent for combining Appalachian country with distinctive folk and jazz influences. With her trademark vintage dresses and 50-year-old Gibson guitar, this is old-time Americana bluegrass/country with a jazzy/swing feel - reminiscent of Jolie Holland or The Be Good Tanyas. From the front porch thump of "Old Virginia Block", to the high lonesome traditional "The Weeping Willow" featuring fellow-Virginian Mary Chapin Carpenter, Devon's songs are candid and poetic, described by This American Life as 'ringing with a sweet heartbreaking majesty, these songs are beautiful, timeless and transporting'. Her previous album was included in Rolling Stone's Critics Top Albums of 2003 ('Sproule's vocal and lyrical beauty is unmatched'), and she has been described as 'worthy of holding her own on a shelf with anyone from Joni Mitchell to Gillian Welch'.

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