Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland
Anna C delves within...

THE HUMANS- These boots are made for walking

The Humans are apparently very popular in Estonia. Perhaps it’s because they are a super-group of sorts. Featuring REM’s drummer, Bill Rieflin, and funk fusion artist, Chris Wong, their frontwoman is none other than Toyah Wilcox, who, despite being better known recently for overseeing the freaky goings-on in Tellytubby land, has a musical career that has seen her release a hefty twenty albums. Of course, her reputation as a somewhat eccentric performer precedes her here and one might be concerned at what is on offer- and, with all due respect, what the legendary Nancy Sinatra track ‘These boots are made for walking’ might sound like with that famous lisp. It was, therefore, with trepidation that I put the CD into the laptop. However, it appears that I am being ageist in my fear of a dated 80’s inspired onslaught that doesn’t come.

Roping in her husband, Robert Fripp (guitarist with ‘60’s prog-rockers, King Crimson, and solo artist in his own right), it is his crunchy riffs that really stand out first of all on this single release, the simple arrangement giving credibility to the great songwriting; finger snaps lending a show-stopping cabaret ambience to Wilcox’s assured vocal, building up eventually to a subtle crescendo through layers of harmonies in a way that sounds like she- nay, all of them- should be shimmying around in corsets and fishnets. If that’s a thought that pleases you, check out their album ‘We are the humans’, which is also out now. I don’t know if this track showcases what you will find, as the press release states that they sound like The White Stripes and Kate Bush to name but two (they do not), but might be worth a shufty.

Released 21st September, 2009. Whoops! Think we need to empty the PO Box more regularly!



The question is not if we know who multiple Grammy Award-winning Norah Jones is, but do we care? Her latest single ‘Stuck’- to be lifted from her critically acclaimed album ‘The Fall’- might just convince you, if need be, that she is actually more than industry hype and a gushing press release. She’s had a haircut. She’s grown up. That duet with Dave Grohl has had some effect on her as her new material features a blues/rock element, which, yes, has always been present in her music, but now there is more emphasis on the rock.

That’s not to say that this is a number to head bang to - of course it isn’t. ‘Stuck’ has the laidback feel that we are used to with Ms Jones but acoustic guitar and piano is replaced with subtly crunching riffs and pretty slide, a testament to the fact that she has teamed up with Ryan Adams to write some of her latest tracks, as well as featuring musicians who have worked with the likes of Al Green, Beck and Johnny Cash, this blend of soul and country apparent throughout. With a cool, wistful air, the track can be best likened to Sheryl Crow in her ‘Globe Sessions’ heyday- Norah’s voice effortless over some contemplative lyricry, distracting from the fact that the single is backed by two other versions of the title track. Still, the brainwashing may have worked. If you are already a fan, you will enjoy this no end. If not, perhaps ‘Stuck’ will convince you otherwise. Either way, if you’re interested, she is playing Manchester and London in June.

Released 8th March, 2010.

SHPONGLE- Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland

It seems apt that Shpongle’s fourth album should be released through indie label, Twisted Music. Nothing short of instrumental voyeurs, the internationally-acclaimed electronica project use sound as their playground to produce a collection of tracks to turn your world into a movie set, one that bends the senses like all good art should. Following two sell-out shows with an impressive 12-piece band in London last October, Simon Posford and Raja Ram- the two men responsible for these lengthy journeys through the far corners of the mind- return with ‘Ineffable mysteries…’ to prove that. though the word ‘shpongle’ may not be listed in the dictionary, it can still be defined as a feeling of positive and euphoric emotions. If you like that kind of thing.

The story behind the music sheds some light on what you will find herein. Formed in 1996 after the pair viewed a solar eclipse in India- and then recreated the experience in a twenty minute long track- Shpongle create a backdrop to the biggest action blockbusters but with a hint of ancient ethnic influence to often produce something rhythmically sensual yet a wee bit dangerous, the small details adding a compelling quality to songs that might otherwise be rather dull if you only looked at how long they are.

Still, although they do follow a prog-rock approach to arrangements, their strength remains in their variety. Inspired by Salvador Dali and acid-drenched outdoor parties in the English countryside, ‘Ineffable mysteries…’ was always going to be psychedelic in a way that one can only wonder at. Weird sample sounds blend with Ram’s confident flute work before descending into broken beats Lamb would be proud of, eventually submerging itself in reggae beats and laidback smoking vibes, whilst a darker element is portrayed on ‘I am you’, proud owner of an uneasy Aphex Twin-inspired introduction about a ten-foot rabbit head, an interesting contrast to the mournful cello solo of ‘Invisible Man In A Fluorescent Suit.

Their clear imagination leaves no doubt that they are festival favourites. I can see hands weaving amongst lasers to the standout title track, its Indian vocals adding a mystery to the worldly sounds that would appeal to lovers of Afro-Celt Sound System and similar artists. The live drums give it a more impressive sound, as does the soulful female voice and strings on ‘No Turn Un-Stoned’, a powerful jaunt through a bustling atmosphere, that confirms that Storm Thorgerson- responsible for Pink Floyd and Zeppelin artwork- was also the right man for the job on this occasion. Shpongle embark on a worldwide tour this year. Unique, stimulating and more than a little bit bonkers- all that is left to say is enjoy the trip.

Released 1st February, 2010.


East-London ‘rockers’, My Luminaries, have just won Q’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition. Well done them. Hardly a surprise what with Edith Bowman voting for them to play at T in the Park last year and their latest release being mastered by Greg Calbi (Springsteen/ Dylan). It has been a busy few years for the quintet, having changed line-ups umpteen times and previously forged a shambolic relationship with V2, a unity that only led to heartbreak when the label apparently wanted another copycat indie band- a factor that ML were not prepared to ditch their credibility for.
With that in mind, it seems a shame that the first single to be released from their debut album ‘Order from the chaos’- in all good record shops from May, pop pickers- paints a picture of an act that appear to be exactly that. For all its power, ‘Parasol’ may well be the best anthem for a new generation of mainstream music fans but original it is not. U2, Coldplay, Travis, Keane and an acoustic B-side reminiscent of Turin Brakes- as popular music goes, they have a perfect formula; strings, skimming guitars, a passionate vocal and a massive production budget achieve joyous results but whether frontman James Ewer and co. will stand the test of time or sink without a trace will remain to be seen. “Freedom when we walk as one/Into the burning sun”, he prompts. Decide for yourself whether My Luminaries are leaders of your new music revolution.

Released 22nd March, 2010.

Anna C