December 27, 2011

Essentially Eclectic’s Albums of 2011: Numbers 10-1

Posted in Albums of 2011 tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:49 pm by essentiallyeclectic

Following on from 20-11, here be the top 10…

10. The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient

Beautifully languid Americana from Philly’s finest.

The War on Drugs – Brothers (Slave Ambient)

9. Evenings – Lately

Some ambient instrumental genius discovered over at Evening’s Bandcamp page.

Evenings – [Lately] See You Soon (Lately)

8. James Blake – James Blake

The much-lauded, self-titled debut from Blake deserved its plaudits.

James Blake – The Wilhelm Scream (James Blake)

Soft Powers – Outlandish Scandals

Brilliantly creative and esoteric rock from the outlandishly productive Soft Powers

Soft Powers – 1,300 Decibels (Outlandish Scandals)

6. Emika – Emika

One-woman producer/singer Emika created one of the year’s most forward-thinking bass music albums.

Emika – Count Backwards (Emika)

5. Summer Camp – Welcome to Condale

London duo combine pastiche with a sixth sense for melody, while proving themselves pretty handy live too

Summer Camp – Down (Welcome to Condale)

4. Pinch & Shackleton – Pinch & Shackleton

Some exquisitely composed and ambitious bass music from the two masters of the genre.

Pinch & Shackleton – Boracay Drift (Pinch & Shackleton)

3. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up

By far the best hip-hop album of the year, Black Up is dark, brooding and oozing effortless originality.

Shabazz Palaces – Recollections of the Wraith (Black Up)

2. Balam Acab – Wander/Wonder

Ethereal, ice-cold and majestic stuff from the Tri-Angle Records man with the visual nature.

Balam Acab – Apart (Wander/Wonder)

1. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for my Halo

Essentially Eclectic’s love affair with Kurt Vile is no secret, from tumbling superlatives about live performances to a more than positive review for Smoke Ring for my Halo. It’s no surprise then that the long-haired Philadelphia man tops the tree in our round-up of 2011.

Kurt Vile – Runner Ups (Smoke Ring for my Halo)

Kurt Vile – Society Is My Friend (Smoke Ring for my Halo)

September 9, 2011

EE Live: Kurt Vile @ Scala, 08/09/2011.

Posted in Reviews tagged , at 8:46 pm by essentiallyeclectic

Back in March this year, prolific Philadelphia based songwriter Kurt Vile released his 4th and most accomplished album to date. Smoke Ring for my Halo is a stunning realisation of Vile’s idiosyncratic style; ten tracks, carefully arranged and languidly performed, each an impressive notch on the singer’s belt as he positions himself as one of the great contemporary American songwriters.

            It’s the tracks from Smoke Ring… that went down the best with a sold out Scala crowd last night. Vile and his band (The Violators) played an intense set that was both unassuming and lacking in pretence, while all the time the singer’s understated melodies sang out from underneath armpit-length hair; a rake thin frame hunched over his guitar.

            Bookending the set alone at the mic with an acoustic, (a closing rendition of ‘Peeping Tom’ particularly stirring), it was backed by his band that Vile really shines. Fresh versions of ‘Society is my Friend’ and ‘Jesus Fever’ retained the charm and intrigue of their studio counterparts, while ‘Hitchhiker’s two chord stomp was reminiscent of Neil Young and Crazy Horse at their most determined.

But it’s the subtleties in Vile’s music – of production, performance, lyrical content – that make him infinitely more palatable than 99% of other guitar-clutching singer-songwriter types. There is “no woe-is-me”, no charade, and despite writing almost exclusively in the first person, Vile is rarely biographical – or at least not obviously so. At his most plain-spoken however, the man can be devastating, something that he proved last night with a well-received encore of ‘Baby’s Arms’, the yearning opening track from Smoke Ring… and a fitting close to the night.

April 12, 2011

Eclectic Mixup: Celebrating 50 years in Space…

Posted in Eclectic Mixup tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:58 pm by essentiallyeclectic

Today (April 12th, 2011) marks the 50th anniversary of young Russian Yuri Gagarin’s journey into outer-space, making him the first human to do so. In honour of 50 years in space, here’s a few tunes VERY loosely related to all things out of this world. Obviously there are thousands of other tracks that could potentially make this list, many of which I had to turn down. Please feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments section at the bottom of this post.



Pharaoh Sanders – Astral Traveling

Lonnie Liston Smith – In Search Of Truth

Sun Ra – Space is the Place

Moondog – Bird`s Lament

A few jazz cuts to start with, seeing as a lot of post-trad and freer end of the genre’s spectrum seems to be concerned with the wider universe (namely, the word ‘astral’ crops up a lot, and there are numerous 25-minute plus songs about interstellar travel and Sun gods etc). Pharaoh Sander’s Astral Travelling, Lonnie Liston Smith’s In Search of Truth (from album Astral Travelling), Sun Ra’s Space is the Place, and Moondog’s Bird’s Lament.

Max Romeo – I Chase The Devil

The Lee Perry produced, Max Romeo voiced I Chase the Devil (which includes the space-relevant lines about sending Satan to outer space), a much-sampled reggae classic from the singer’s 1976 classic War Ina Babylon.

Nacho Patrol – Africa Space Program

Featured on EE before on a previous mixup, any excuse to post up the brilliantly rampaging Africa Space Program by Nacho Patrol will be taken.

The Roots – Universe At War

Dr. Octagon – Earth People

Just a couple of hip-hop tracks for the list (there could be quite literally hundreds more). The Roots’ Universe at War, and Dr. Octagon’s Earth People.

Grouper – Alien Observer

Back to the fantasy end of space, with Alien Observer from Oregon ambient fiend Grouper, who has just released twin albums. This is the title track from one of these.

Björk – Venus As a Boy

Björk – Pluto

Mouse on Mars – Schnick-schnack

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my soft spot for Björk, the Icelandic pixie having popped up on more than one mixup in the past. Here she is representing the planets, along with German electro-funsters Mouse on Mars.

Air – Kelly Watch the Stars

Starkey – Stars (Feat. Anneka)

Seachange – Plain English

Time for a bit of star-gazing. Air’s Kelly Watch the Stars (which comes from the equally relevant Moon Safari), Starkey’s self-explanatory Stars, and Plain English from sadly disbanded indie-rockers Seachange, taken from the unreleased Stars Whiteout album.

Kurt Vile – Beach On the Moon (Recycled Lyrics)

White Hinterland – Moon Jam

Kurt Vile can do no wrong in my mind right now. Thankfully I could find a reason to put him in another post, with the chiming chords of Beach on the Moon (Recycled Lyrics). He’s joined by another EE favourite, White Hinterland, with Moon Jam from last year’s outstanding Kairos album.

The Bees – The Russian

Ella Fitzgerald – Russian Lullaby

To end with, a couple of tracks in tribute to Gagarin himself (unimaginatively just about Russians), with The Bees’ The Russian, and Ella Fitzgerald’s beautiful Russian Lullaby.

April 3, 2011

Eclectic Mixup: Clocks Forward Mix

Posted in Eclectic Mixup tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:42 pm by essentiallyeclectic

*Insert reverie about clocks going forward, spring time, longer days, sun etc here*

Bit late on this one, I know. But here’s some tunes for the better days…


José Larralde – Quimey Neuquen (Chancha Via Circuito remix)

A clever and subtle mix of old and new from Chancha Via Circuito’s fascinating Rio Arriba album of last year. The chosen moniker of Argentinian producer Pedro Canale, Chancha Via Circuito (an amalgamation of Canale’s train journey to and from Buenos Aires) gently reworks a lilting melody from fellow countryman, folk singer José Larralde.

Hype Williams – Blue Dream

Highly enigmatic producer Hype Williams (not to be confused with the director of the same name) may possibly be based in London or Berlin, or somewhere else. His productions are as elusive as his personal details, and the recently released One Nation is a dense mix of far away beats. Blue Dream is taken from previous album Find Out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite, And Start Getting Reel…

Kurt Vile – Goodbye Freaks

Having released the official Essentially Eclectic Album Of The Year So Far in the form of March’s Smoke Ring for my Halo, Kurt Vile makes it onto this mix with a bonus track from first Matador album, 2009’s Childish Prodigy. A riotous, driving instrumental, Goodbye Freaks is a uplifter, but in no way indicative of Vile’s usual songwriting.

Blackeye – Love Inks

Single teaser from Austin, TX based Love Inks, ahead of their debut full length release in May. Infectiously catchy 2-minutes of guitar pop.

Clams Casino – I’m God (Instrumental)

New Jersey-based Hip-Hop producer Mike Volpe, AKA Clams Casino, has just released his first instrumentals mix (download it for free HERE). I’m God isn’t on it, but shares the same euphoric production style as many cuts from this tape.

White Denim – Drug

White Denim return in June with a new album (D), with preview cut Drug doing the blog rounds at the moment. A semi-psychedelic rocker with a bit of a groove.

Burial, Four Tet, Thom Yorke – Ego

The Weeknd – What You Need

Peaking Lights – All The Sun That Shines

Galapagoose – Milkwood (feat. Panorama)

Four-in-a-row to induce a hypnotic state of being, including a radio rip of the upcoming Burial, Four Tet & Thom Yorke collaboration, a deep-frequency slice of R&B from flavour-of-the-monthers The Weeknd, the dubbed out Peaking Lights with a track from their recent 936 album, and a Galapagoose 2-stepper to snap you back out of it…

Manduka – Naranjita

Lastly, a track that just won’t leave me alone from south American Manduka’s 1972 debut. Intimately performed, aided by an over-saturated recording; one to fall asleep to.

March 7, 2011

Review: Kurt Vile – ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’

Posted in Reviews tagged , , , at 2:39 pm by essentiallyeclectic

Kurt Vile – ‘Smoke Ring for my Halo’


Prolificacy can be a curse amongst musicians. It often floods their back catalogues with unnecessary EPs and hastily compiled albums, and often obscures anything that might be of value to the first-time listener. Sometimes, however, it can serve as a perfect barometer of an artist’s musical development, as in the case of the much-lauded Kurt Vile.

During his relatively short recording career, Vile has produced four albums and two EPs of glorious and effortlessly leftfield Americana, each one building on the merits of the last. His latest long player, Smoke Ring for my Halo, seems to be the album Vile was travelling towards since his arrival on Matador with 2009’s Childish Prodigy: a most realised representation of his unique aesthetic and song writing capacity. While artists like Animal Collective and Deerhunter look to construct the enjoyable idiosyncrasy that comes so naturally to Vile, Smoke Ring for my Halo sees the Philadelphian heading in the opposite direction, resulting in his most accessible work to date while still remaining utterly distinctive.

Opener ‘Baby’s Arms’ is as close to a direct love song as Vile’s ever going to deliver, albeit via his own understated inimitability. The production is pitched perfectly; Vile’s familiar shimmering and distant acoustic work restrained by soft percussion and gentle harmonies, coated in a mandatory helping of reverb.

Vile’s vocal evokes a world-weariness that – while not missing from previous records – adds a genuine air of authenticity here as he sings “In my time I was whack and wild/I was just being myself, damn/but then I said that it was trying on faces/one that erases my discreet graces” on the self-examination ‘In My Time’.

Smoke Ring…flows from track to track with elegance and grace, and it fast becomes obvious that this is Vile’s first real attempt to compile an album of songs, as opposed to whittling down his unlimited fecundity into the requisite 11/12 bite-sized chunks. Single ‘Jesus Fever’ is a glorious slice of Americana, its harmonic progression and sentiment similar to Childish Prodigy-era track ‘He’s Alright’, yet far more powerful in delivery: a perfect example of Vile’s progression from riveting potential to proficient songwriter in full-bloom. ‘Puppet to the Man’ is a quick-witted piece disguised as an anarchic mid-paced rocker, while ‘On Tour’ begins a string of tracks that deal with nostalgia, introspect and autobiography.

The album is fleshed out by Vile’s band, The Violators: an unfortunate name for a group that so subtly and ably accentuate their leader’s vision, applying just the right amount of acumen to songs born and raised in alone in a bedroom. The attractive finger-picking work of previous releases makes sporadic but effective appearances here, most notably on ‘Peeping Tom’ and highlight ‘Runner Ups’, while the insistent acoustic plod of the title track nails down wistful slide guitar embellishments and piano. ‘Ghost Town’ serves as an appropriate climax to Vile’s finest work to date; its two chord verses filled with such non-committal admissions as “Christ was born, I was there/you know me; I’m around”.

If it had been released 35 years ago, Smoke Ring… would have cemented Vile’s place on the ambiguous list of ‘Great American Songwriters’ alongside those which the album brings to mind: Petty, Seger, Springsteen et al. As it is, the singer will have to be content sharing Elliott Smith’s mantle as the missing link between this lineage’s past and present.


Smoke Ring for my Halo is available now on Matador



January 11, 2011

Eclectic Mixup – Latecomers 2010, Newcomers 2011

Posted in Eclectic Mixup tagged , , , , , , , , , at 7:31 pm by essentiallyeclectic

Good day all, happy new year and all that. Just a bit of housekeeping here to tie up some loose ends and start the new year afresh. Here are a few tracks that didn’t make the Essentially Eclectic 2010 list for one reason or another (forgot, obtained too late, change of heart etc). Keep listening, don’t touch that dial…


White Hinterland – Icarus

White Hinterland’s Kairos album, released back in March, didn’t arrive in my ears until a couple of weeks ago, but is a great listen from front to back. Interesting production, and angelic vocals that successfully fail to set teeth on edge.

Persian Rugs – Always All

Always All appears to be the only track recorded by Persian Rugs to date (or at least the only one they are willing to share), not that lack of material holds bands back anymore. My personal attraction to this track could be something to do with an ongoing attempt to augment Teenage Riot in the wistful guitar music folder in my head.

Kurt Vile – My Best Friends (Don’t Even Pass This Way Again)

Damien Jurado – With Lightning In Your Hands

Two track grouped together mainly because they are both men-with-guitars. Kurt Vile’s My Best Friends…from the off-puttingly titled God is Saying This to You was the best track from yet another overly prolific year, while Damien Jurado’s quietly crafted harmonies that frame his songwriting are best demonstrated on With Lightening in your Hands from Saint Bartlett.


John Roberts – Navy Blue

Beautiful Bells – Jungle Overview

Actress – Hubble

You only have to glance at the Essentially Eclectic Top 40 of 2010 to understand how good last year was for electronic-based music, whether it’s the enlightening house of John Roberts’ fantastic Glass Eights album, the sketchy rhythms of Beautiful Bells, or the moody and muddy Hubble from Werk Discs’ own Actress.


Sleigh Bells – Rill Rill

Despite giving debut album Treats a not-so-favourable review a few months ago (the vast majority of which I stand by), Sleigh Bells’ Rill Rill track has wormed its way into my ear and set up camp. Damn it. Good use of Funkadelic’s Can You Get To That too.


Kisses – People Can Do The Most Amazing Things

Regardless of the atrocious band name, People Can Do The Most Amazing Things was perhaps the most glaring omission from the Essentially Eclectic Top 40 of 2010. Brilliant melody writing on show here, and one of the more successful ’80s production imitations from 2010.


Linda Perhacs – Chimacum Rain

And Finally…

Originally released in 1970 as the opening track to her first and only album Parallelograms, Linda Perhacs’ distressingly beautiful Chimacum Rain gets a full 4 LP re-release this year from tastemaker label Mexican Summer.