Album Review: Beak> – >>>

Review from Ben Forrester

Watching the evolution of Beak> sure has been interesting. Starting life a decade back as somewhat of a jam band, the three piece have ramped up a lot of interest across two full lengths, a soundtrack and a plethora of live shows spanning from sweaty clubs to massive rooms. Following from the sci-fi-gets-sassy groove of last years ‘Sex Music‘ single, Beak> showed off a slightly different tone to their kraut inspired sound and it’s this sonic shift that informs the experimental nature of their third album ‘>>>‘.

Of course, Beak> have always been ones to experiment and switch things up on each release, but this album feels a lot more varied to the point where you’re not sure where it’s gonna go next and if anything, it’s ridiculously enticing. Opening track ‘The Brazilian‘ is nothing short of menacing, as it bursts into this 70’s prog style bass riff while a singular note from their analogue synth collection pierces your ears like an air raid siren. You can’t help but be drawn in with this sense of bewilderment and darkness that lurks in its delivery. The rest of the record pretty much keeps that feeling alive; on your toes, eye brows arched, wondering what’s around the corner.

Brean Down‘ is an absolutely killer track, probably contender for track of the year for me! It’s already been described as Nirvana gatecrashing a Bronx B-Boy convention, which I think is perfect! Again, its instrumental is really edgy and unnerving, especially with the bass line, but it’s when the chorus comes in that it turns into this really cool little pop tune with quite the ear worm hook. Following track ‘Birthday Suit‘ is quite similar too, it’s this tense John Carpenter inspired synth track, but ends on this big melody line that will refuse to leave your head. Melodically, Beak> have made some bolder, catchier choices for this record, which work phenomenally well against their oddball instrumentals.

There is a definite sense of ambition on ‘>>>’, with the tracklisting twisting and turning through electro kraut pulses all the way to acid folk comedowns, but it’s wrapped up in this beautiful sonic blanket that gives it a sense of cohesion and order. Basically, it sounds fucking amazing, which we all thought would be the case. But sonically, I am so drawn to it, especially that jazz meets breakbeat drum sound and with that bass tone and those synth textures, it’s just beyond glorious. All in all, I love the sense of mystique with this record and it’s this feeling of intrigue and uncertainty that makes for an entrancing and thrilling listening experience that I can see being a big hit for Beak>.

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a/s/l: Viagra Boys

Remember the days of the old schoolyard? Remember when Myspace was a thing? Remember those time-wasting, laborious quizzes that everyone used to love so much? Birthday Cake For Breakfast is bringing them back! 

Every couple of weeks, an unsuspecting band will be subject to the same old questions about dead bodies, Hitler, crying and crushes.  

This week: Ahead of the release of their debut album ‘Street Worms’, we pitched these Q’s to gnarly Swedish outfit Viagra Boys – Guitarist Benjamin was kind enough to answer.

a/s/l?
44/Male/Stockholm.

Have you ever seen a dead body?
Yes, I saw the cops fishing up a blue blob from the waters here In Stockholm a couple of years ago. Far enough to avoid any smell though. Wasn’t pretty. he had been involuntary scuba diving for a long time.

Who is your favourite Simpsons character?
Nelson. HAHA. He might be a pain in the ass, but deliver hard truths sometimes. And sometimes he’s just a douche. Really dig Ralph Wiggum too. He is the personality we all have but try our hardest to press down.

What T-Shirt are you wearing?
Discharge, ”Hear nothing…”

What did your last text message say?
It only says ”Thanks” and it’s from Mattias from Tiger Lou. I just fixed his computer.

What’s the last song you listened to?
Isotope Soap – ‘Fragile Dream (check em out on Soundcloud)

How did you meet the people in your band?
Me (Benjamin, guitar) have known Benke (bass, conductor of the band) since around 14 years. He asked me if I wanted to start a hardcore band and so we did. Countless 7” and a couple of LPs. Toured mostly Europe but even Brazil and the US. Then later we started up Pig Eyes, a post punk band. And Sebastian is working as a tattooer where Benke was a shop assistant, and they went out for karaoke one evening and there and then Benke decided that VB should start. Think I got the text left, which came the day after. We rehearsed like a week later and the rest is history 🙂

What’s the first record you bought?
SWEET – ‘Golden Greats’. I was 4 years old and spend my candy money on an LP instead. They looked like Deep Purple with their long hair and all, and I really loved (still love) the ‘Machine Head’ album. The Sweet album was a bit of let down, but they have some pretty decent tunes.

What was your favourite VHS growing up?
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Rambo 2.

When was the last time you cried?
The other day, It was close to the remembrance day of my brother dying a couple of years ago.

Have you ever kissed someone & regretted it?
Nah, not really. It’s only mouth and tongue and saliva. A kiss is just a kiss, haven’t to be sexual. Luckily never against my will, like girls/women live under the threat with every day. Most memorable make out it probably with Jello Biafra.

Best Physical Feature?
My hands and brain?

Worst physical feature?
A bit to fat, 20kgs or so, but I’m getting there. Stranded beach whale 2019 – here we come.

Reasonably ok/not bad feature that you’re not fussed about?
(A true man of mystery – Ed)

Do you have any pets?
Nah, to much of a hustle cleaning out your own shit.

Ever picked up any injuries on tour?
I got a seizure once, but that was only the aftermath of too much substance abuse.

What did you do for your last birthday?
Wow, can’t remember. Think I stayed all day in bed haha.

Name something you CANNOT wait for?
The total disclosure of the UFO program. It will come, it will come 😉

Do you have a crush on someone?
Yes.

What’s the shittest experience you’ve had as a musician?
My old band Nine (which our manager Oskar also played in) had a gig in Holland, and we played together with the US band Daughters. They were kicking back with some weed, and asked me if I wanted some. I asked if it was strong, since I was supposed to hit the stage in like 30 minutes. Well, time to get on stage, and I’m fucking spaghetti you know haha. It was horrible and after the show they laughed at me, apparently it was one of the strongest strains at the time. But the gave me a lot of beer afterwards so I forgave them.

If you could go back in time, how far would you go?
10 min forward so this interview is over haha. Nah, just kidding. I probably go back somewhere to make a life decision for my mother. I truly miss her, she was the back bone of my life.

How do you want to die?
Peacefully, maybe calming drugs that just make me fall asleep. The funeral though is gonna be spectacular. Party on! Or if the doctor says ”Well ol sport, you’re gonna die tomorrow” then I might put my self in a snow racer, high on LCD (!), and try ride a 90m ski jumping hill haha.

What’s your favourite thing about pizza?
To wake up on Sunday and realize the local pizza place have opened early. When it comes to pizza I truly think that Swedish pizza along with NY pizza is the best. Even better that Italian, and believe me, I’ve seriously had AT LEAST 30 pizzas in Italy.

What are you craving right now?
Really sour lemonade and some crumpets.

Have you ever been on a horse?
When I was 15, i was dating a girl who was all in to horses, and she lied to the instructor that I was well accustomed with horses and all that, so there was no problem to go the stable and rig the beast up, and sat up on it. Then it fucking freaked, straight away, running around 60kmh and I had fallen off, hanging from its neck. This thing wasn’t gonna stop! So hanging there, I started punching the poor thing on the nose, and finally it stopped. I blame my ex and myself for this ride of terror even to have taken place. Poor beast, it was just scared. I thought I’d be trampled to death.

What did you dream about last night?
I dreamed that I was like a tree and all living things were to, and all connected to each other with roots. To much Sci-Fi lately for me I guess.

If you could go back in time and kill the baby Hitler, would you?
Well, my instinct says yes, just sit on his face and fart him to death, but what if that would lead to an ever greater psychopath taking over the world. But, my answer have to be yes. Skip all possible scenarios. Sit on his face. Fart a little.

Do you like Chinese food?
Depends which restaurant who makes it, so sometimes yes, sometimes heeeeell no.

Have you ever been on TV?
Yes, several times.

Ever meet someone famous?
Not like Sir Attenborough – famous, but made out with Jello Biafra, Smoked weed with Phil Anselmo, the list goes on and on. Tompa from At the Gates actually made me work out with Shane from Napalm Death. He was all ”Give us a kiss”. He tasted like an automobile shop.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Be part time musician and part time marine biologist. Had a real fascination for sharks since as far as I can remember.

Viagra Boys debut album Street Worms is out Sept 28th via YEAR0001! Head here to pre-order that boy boy!

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What’s On Michael Portillo’s iPod: Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs

Here at Birthday Cake For Breakfast, we like to get to the heart of what an artist is all about. We feel the music they listen to is just as important as the music they make. With that in mind, we’re delighted to have mind-melting riff lords Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs in the hot seat, talking us through five releases that have had them inspired around their latest release.

(Photo Credit: Janina Sabaliauskaite)

El-P – ‘Deep Space 9mm(Fantastic Damage, 2002)

At the time of moving to Newcastle back in January, I was listening to a frankly obscene amount of Run The Jewels, having seen them in Manchester the previous November. Their show was so engaging and energetic that I fell into serious fanboy territory for months and months.

This led to me rediscovering a lot of old hip hop favourites, including this masterpiece by El-Producto himself from the album ‘Fantastic Damage’. I love how gritty the production is, sounding both futuristic and dystopian, with rhymes cryptic and overt, all smothered in sci fi references. The beats are maximal/minimal and the samples are weird as fuck.

I guess this hip hop binge aided me in staying focused on how the beats for ‘King of Cowards’ needed to be in order to help pop the riffs over on record. The whole album (Fantastic Damage) was years ahead back in 2002 with this track being a straight up highlight for me. The video is well worth checking out too.” – Christopher Morley (Drums).

Anna Von Hausswolff – ‘The Mysterious Vanishing Of Electra‘ (Dead Magic, 2018)

I saw Anna Von Hausswolff open for Swans in Newcastle a couple of years ago and was spellbound by her performance. Her vocal range is mind blowing and she has a beguiling quality both live and on record that only my favourite musicians can captivate me with.

I was excited when she announced a new album ‘Dead Magic’ earlier this year. I pre-ordered it straight away after hearing the first single ‘The Mysterious Vanishing Of Electra’. It’s everything I was hoping to hear from a new Anna Von Hausswolff song – bewitching and charged with a brooding intensity.” – Matthew Baty (Vocals).

The Stooges‘I Wanna Be Your Dog‘ (The Stooges, 1969)

It’s a really simple track, both in arrangement and melody, but so much more powerful for it. It’s also super edgy in terms of sonics of the time, being scuzzed up and as harsh as you could take a track like that without the whole thing overshooting its mark. There’s a bravery and a confidence in the execution that’s hard to put onto a record – something we try to aspire towards. All combined with that piano running through it, and the guitar tone in the solo, I don’t want to call it perfect, but as far as that world of music goes, it’s about nailed it across the board.” – Sam Grant (Guitar).

XTC – ‘Wake Up’ (The Big Express, 1984)

I acquired this record as a result of stumbling across a house clearance next door to my old house about 4 years ago…

There was a keyboard stand outside the front door saving a parking space for a removal vans imminent arrival, I asked whether or not the keyboard stand was up for grabs as I knew Matt Baty was after one at the time. “Are you a musician?” was the reply, “come inside, I may have something that could interest you….” I went into this house, which was possibly the most sad and terrifying thing I’ve ever seen, the previous owner had passed away in there 6 months prior, but had only just been discovered within the last week. An awful situation to stumble across. The person’s brother in law was charged with clearing the property and with me asking about the keyboard stand, he knew I’d potentially be able to help him…

There were records and musical instruments scattered everywhere, but were systematically being sent to the skip, I couldn’t let this happen. I was propositioned and ended up selling all of the gear for the guys family and splitting the money. It was a strange time. I was told I could keep anything I wanted too, the main thing being a short scale bass guitar which I use when I play live with Richard Dawson, I like to think I’m helping this guys love of music and cheap guitars live on seeing as his family were going to bin everything he ever owned. They were self proclaimed haters of music and only dabbled in a bit of Radio 4.

I rummaged through his collection of records and took a few bits, ‘Bitches Brew’ by Miles Davis and Meco’s ‘Music Inspired By Star Wars And Other Galactic Funk’ (Wow, what a ride) were the stand out gems in there, but one record I took a punt on was ‘The Big Express’ by XTC, mainly based on the fact that I love ‘Making Plans For Nigel’, but I’d not delved much further into their catalogue. Plus the unusual round record sleeve intrigued me too.

The record sat on my shelf for years after this, until around the time I was moving into mine and my partner Emmas first house together. Chris Morley moved in with us too for a short while and for the first week or so we sat around and listened to loads of records, I remembered this XTC record and decided to finally whack it on. What a treat it was. I found the opening track addictive immediately, I was listening to it daily around the time the second Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs album was being finalised and recorded. I love the counterpoint guitars at the start along with the synths and stuttering drums, it flows on so beautifully. It’s so weird, XTC really had a special knack. I love ultra tight gak era 80s pop rock, this record was a revelation to me, I love it. I’m not sure if it particularly inspired what I was doing around the time of the Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs album writing and recording, but I think it could have planted a seed that will influence and inspire a future version of myself.” – John-Michael Hedley (Bass).

TLC – ‘No scrubs’ (FanMail, 1999)

“Just put it on.” – Adam Ian Sykes (Guitar).

King of Cowards‘ is out September 28th through Rocket Recordings! Bag a copy (or two) here.

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Album Review: a-tota-so – S/T

Review from Ben Forrester

It’s not what you know, its who you know. A phrase that fits well into the aesthetic of Nottingham based instrumental trio a-tota-so. Formed in 2016 as a result of bands Alright the Captain and Cheap Jazz going on hiatus, these three friends have utilised their contacts, touring all over the shop whilst tightening the screws to their twiddle rock machine. Having mustered up an albums worth of material, the three piece headed back to Notts earlier this year to lay down this debut LP.

Having followed the band since their formation, the first thing that hit me when listening to this record was the introduction of bass. In their original format, guitarist Chris would handle the lower end guitar duties whilst other guitarist Marty took the lead. But during tracking, Chris experimented in playing his parts on bass which ended up giving more depth thus making the final cut. Although I liked the dual guitar attack, the replacement for bass definitely pays off here and neatens up the overall dynamics of the band. It gives Marty’s more intricate guitar work some breathing space while helping ram home some of the record’s darker, heavier moments.

You can tell that this is a band of music lovers as each track brings a different influence into focus, whether it’s the soaring post-rock climax on opener ‘Black Market Broccoli‘ or the mathed up riffiness that shakes up the second half of ‘Double Deaf‘. The band have commented on this album documenting a yin and yang year for them, both personally and as a unit. This is very much apparent in the array of shades that shift across the albums duration, each track packed with mood swings. The best example here is ‘Tea Leaf’, which begins spaced out and pensive but leads to this fully joyful conclusion, complete with a rip roaring guitar lead.

Drummer Jamie is probably the MVP on this record, not only do I love the big natural drum sound they’ve captured but Jamie puts in a right shift, showing off some muscular drum chops. Ultimately, I feel like he compliments the guitars really well, offering slack and a sense of looseness in its quieter moments but knowing when to let rip to get some super quick fire fills into the mix.

There is no denying the craft and care that a-tota-so have put into making this album. I do think some tracks can suffer from too many ideas and it’s when the band lean back, sink into a groove or hone into a hook that they really shine. It’s got some gnarly heavy bits for sure but it’s the beautifully poised melodies that totally steal the show for me. Generally speaking, a-tota-so have made a self assured and self aware debut that is sure to dazzle the math heads this year.

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a/s/l: a-tota-so

Remember the days of the old schoolyard? Remember when Myspace was a thing? Remember those time-wasting, laborious quizzes that everyone used to love so much? Birthday Cake For Breakfast is bringing them back! 

Every couple of weeks, an unsuspecting band will be subject to the same old questions about dead bodies, Hitler, crying and crushes.  

This week: Ahead of the release of their self-titled debut album, it’s ‘Party’ Marty of the wunderbar a-tota-so!

a/s/l?
35/ M / Derby

Have you ever seen a dead body?
Yes.

Who is your favourite Simpsons character?
Hans Moleman.

What T-Shirt are you wearing?
Chiyoda Ku.

What did your last text message say?
“Yes Boss x”

What’s the last song you listened to?
International Dreambeat‘ by Adebisi Shank.

How did you meet the people in your band?
Drunk at a New Years Eve party.

What’s the first record you bought?
‘Cotton Eye Joe.

What was your favourite VHS growing up?
The Golden Child

When was the last time you cried?
At a recent funeral.

Have you ever kissed someone & regretted it?
No.

Best Physical Feature?
Eyes.

Worst physical feature?
Wrists.

Reasonably ok/not bad feature that you’re not fussed about?
Ears.

Do you have any pets?
No.

Ever picked up any injuries on tour?
Not while on the road but have been on tour round Europe with a scratched cornea which sucked!

What did you do for your last birthday?
Got wrecked and had a BBQ.

Name something you CANNOT wait for?
Releasing the a-tota-so album finally.

Do you have a crush on someone?
Yeah my girlfriend Zoe.

What’s the shittest experience you’ve had as a musician?
Having all of our gear stolen from our van.

If you could go back in time, how far would you go?
I’d go back to being 22 and get the back pains i suffered sorted out rather than waiting til my 30’s to do it.

How do you want to die?
Quickly and preferably in my sleep.

What’s your favourite thing about pizza?
How damn good it tastes.

What are you craving right now?
Pizza since you’ve brought it up.

Have you ever been on a horse?
No, been on a camel though.

What did you dream about last night?
My boss announcing his retirement.

If you could go back in time and kill the baby Hitler, would you?
Probably not, it could make things worse but i’d make sure he got plenty of nice treats in the hope that he’d grow up happier and maybe change things that way.

Do you like Chinese food?
Yes, who doesn’t? Prawn Balls ftw!

Have you ever been on TV?
Not that i know of.

Ever meet someone famous?
Does John Niblock count? (Ed – No)

What do you want to be when you grow up?
An astronaut.

The debut album from a-tota-so is out September 17th 2018 on ButtonpusherLonely Voyage and Circuit Sweet! Head here to pick it up on release!

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Album Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks – The More I Sleep The Less I Dream

Review from Ben Forrester

The More I Sleep The Less I Dream‘ follows a four year silence on the release front for Scottish quartet We Were Promised Jetpacks. Following on from the polished rock pomp of 2014’s ‘The Unravelling‘, the band’s fourth LP features the guitar pedal trickery and in depth grooves that informed its predecessor, with a nod to the sounds that made them achieve cult status at the turn of the decade.

Impossible‘ feels like a warming hug off an old friend. Dynamically, it builds under a meandering rhythm section and elegant post-rock guitars that instantly reminds me of their majestic, awe inspiring debut. Finish this off with strong, assuring lines like “I’m letting go of anger, to find what truly matters” and you’ve got a truly magic opener that already encapsulates what this band do so well.

In Light‘ and ‘Someone Else’s Problem‘ come in with a lot more urgency, mainly thanks to a full steam ahead rhythm section and some stylish yet angular guitar work soaring above it all. The band have said they relied very much on instinct when recording this record and you definitely feel the energy of the room on a lot of it, each member feeding off each other and sinking into these affecting indie-rock compositions.

Another thing I can’t help but pick out is the US influence the album has. With it being recorded in lush studio spaces in both New York and Philadelphia, there’s a slick city tone that informs some of the instrumentals; ‘When I Know More‘ for example sounds like it was written in a downtown NY basement, with the members of Interpol jamming along. It flickers between bold, rockier moments (‘Repeating Patterns’) to expansive, glossier sections (‘The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream’) that work in total harmony together, creating a perfect dynamic balance.

The More I Sleep The Less I Dream‘ is an album that looks forward and pushes a fresher sound for We Were Promised Jetpacks, but it’s still very much informed by the foundations on what makes this band so great. Jetpacks set the bar high on their first album and in terms of full lengths, this is the first time I feel like they have matched the emotion and energy that made that album so influential. A triumphant return? I’d say so.

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Album Review: Vennart – To Cure A Blizzard Upon A Plastic Sea

Review from Ben Forrester

In 2015, former Oceansize frontman Mike Vennart gave us alt-rock nerds what we all wanted, his debut solo album ‘The Demon Joke‘. It was proggy, riffy and full of pop hooks which, needless to say, went down a treat! Since then, Vennart has been back on the road as second guitarist for rock giants Biffy Clyro, as well as releasing an album with his industrial pop project British Theatre. Thankfully he was able to find the time to write another solo record, re-enlisting the help of his former Oceansize bandmates Steve and Gambler, with Young Legionnaire drummer Dean returning behind the kit once again.

As the title suggests, ‘To Cure A Blizzard Upon A Plastic Sea‘ is an even more progressive affair than its predecessor. Whereas ‘The Demon Joke’ flickered between genres, each track here goes down the rabbit hole, most of them stretching the five minute mark to make way for some utterly mind bending results. From the synth metal opening of ‘Sentientia‘, to the baggy influenced bass groove of ‘Spider Bones‘, Vennart seems to be throwing everything into the melting pot, bringing some fresh, exciting shifts into these already huge sounding prog-rock compositions.

Vennart has a broad musical taste make no mistake, which is why this album is a such an enticing listening experience, with some sounds that you may not have expected. As soon as you get stuck into a big old riff, some absolutely gorgeous melody comes in. The contrasts of sound are a constant breath of fresh air. Sonically, this is so sumptuous, I mean the harmony soaked chorus on ‘Friends Don’t Owe‘ alone is just glorious. I also like that they’ve kept in Vennart chuckling during a vocal take on this track, it resulting in one of many heart warming moments here.

There is no denying both the guitar and vocal genius of Vennart and to me, he really pushes himself on this record, providing some stunning results. The vocal push on the last section of ‘Donkey Kong‘ will make you wanna pump your fist in the air so hard, while the vocals on ‘Diamond Ballgag‘ are a master class in dynamics; beautifully delicate in the verses then heart wrenchingly soaring in the choruses. We could talk about the guitar work all bloody day, but let’s just say this is a righteous mix of planet exploding riffs, wonderfully fuzzy noodling and gorgeously clean tones for some of the records more gentle sections.

To Cure A Blizzard Upon A Plastic Sea‘ is a technicolour tapestry of brilliance. The album has been described by Vennart as being about ‘Mindfulness, Madness and Magic’ but this could also be applied to what this album actually sounds like. Its certainly mindful, definitely mad but ultimately Magical!

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