The Third Ear

Music and imagination

Track of the Week #6: Wished Bone – Pollinate Me

It’s hay fever season, folks. Get the new Wished Bone album up yer nostrils. It’s got some of the best songwriting you’ll hear all summer. The strong DIY ethic makes it sound like it was recorded in a biscuit tin full of bees, which is good. Pollinate Me is the seasonal allergic rhinitis sex jam you never knew you needed.


Track of the Week #5: Anemone – Bout De Toi

This Canadian pop trio sound something like Metronomy being rescued from an African desert by the ghost of Brigitte Fontaine. Except that Brigitte Fontaine is still alive, ghosts don’t exist and Metronomy have never been more than ten miles from Totnes. Still, this is a perfect, catchy clash of worlds.

Track of the Week #4: Jenny Hval – Spells

The lead track from Hval’s new The Long Sleep EP, Spells sees the Norwegian composer/songwriter/producer at her most oneiric, and also her most accessible. It’s stunning. The sonic richness of Julia Holter, the sweet/sinister vocals, the drum beat that sounds like it was lifted from Queen’s I Want To Break Free… this has it all.

The Long Sleep EP comes out on 24th May


Track of the Week #3: Kero Kero Bonito – You Know How It Is

In which everyone’s favourite London-based J-pop/electro-twee pranksters go all C86, to winning effect. You know how it is…

Track of the Week #2: Christina Vantzou – Some Limited and Waning Memory

Christina Vantzou is based in Brussels and composes things. Her new album, No.4, is out on 6th April. This little taster is sublime. Ambient in all the best ways, with soft fringes of piano flickering like benign migraine auras around the edges. The album contains tracks called Glissando for Bodies and Machines in Space, Percussion in Nonspace and Garden of Forking Paths (presumably named after the Borges story), all of which bodes extremely well.

Track of the week: Kayla Painter – In the Witch Elm

Bristol-based producer and composer Kayla Painter has found herself in possession of some previously unheard samples by the revolutionary electronic music innovator Delia Derbyshire. For In the Witch Elm, she has stitched some of these together to create a new sonic landscape that pays discreet homage to Derbyshire’s vision while displaying her own considerable talent. As befits the source material, it sounds both futuristic and intangibly nostalgic, and achieves its effect without recourse to the overused tropes of hauntology.

Catch Kayla Painter live at Darkroom Espresso in Swindon on 21st April.

Album review: Oly Ralfe – Notes From Another Sea

Oly Ralfe’s piano credentials are undoubted: as the more song-oriented Ralfe Band he created graceful, slightly off-kilter pop, often built around wonky piano melodies whose influences veered from the wild west to the far east, fleshed out with full band backing. But on his first official solo outing he’s taken his instrument and isolated it, in an attempt to find its essence. It is a series of ostensibly introverted studies, stripped away from everything except for that moment of contact between finger and key, and the emotion that can pass between the two.

This is a seriously piano-y piano album. So much ivory that Ralfe could be successfully prosecuted as an elephant poacher. There are two ways you can approach and appraise it. The short track lengths lull you into thinking that these are just Ralfe Band songs with their clothes taken off. Pop music boiled down to its formative cells. But that would be doing Ralfe a disservice as a composer and a performer. This kind of music demands a kind of immersion on the part of the listener to enable it to be appreciated as a complete work. Get to the end, and listen again, and you will hear an overall aesthetic emerge. It is an aesthetic of Romanticism, but it is arrived at in ingenious ways, often via compositional techniques learned from modernism. In this way it is an heir to the work of both Chopin and Satie, and sits comfortably beside the piano works of Yann Tiersen.

It is infused, like so much solo piano music, with palpable melancholy. But like Tiersen, Ralfe has the natural and unpindownable sense for a sudden moment of melodic rapture. That he can pull it off continuously over a series of three-minute bursts, and with enough variation to keep you interested for fourteen tracks is seriously admirable. Icy landscapes (The Swallow Sleeps All Winter and A Forest In The City) sit comfortably alongside pretty (and very French-sounding) waltzes like On My Train and Lantern Waltz. It’s all very lovely, but more than that, it’s an assured set of mini-compositions that bridge the gap between pop and neo-classical without any of the frivolity that either of those genre labels implies.