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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Album Review: Ringo Deathstarr – Colour Trip

For their debut effort, three Brit-loving Texans take us on a kaleidoscopic trip through melodic guitar pop and beyond.

Written by Rob Harris

Austra gig at The Windmill by Laura Godfrey
It may have been a typically miserable Monday night in January, viagra sale but we were safe from the elements within the hallowed hall that is the Windmill in Brixton. This unassuming little pub just off the busy thoroughfare of Brixton Hill (and in the shadow of a real windmill, pills the only one remaining in London), has seen many upcoming bands and surprise appearances from old faces grace its stage over the years. My favourite music venue in London (and my second gig there in 48 hours), I’ve had a lot of nights at the Windmill that have been great (including my second New Year’s Eve in London), hazy (ditto) and just plain bizarre.

The evening began with some haunting acoustica from Daughter, aka Elena Tonra. Plucking at an acoustic guitar, and backed by some subtle electric guitar washes, Tonra’s hushed vocals delivered some daintily dark lyrics that drew the onlookers in.

As the Windmill began to fill up, Viv Albertine took to the stage with her new band, Limerence. Once the guitarist and co-songwriter with iconic punk band The Slits, Albertine had been off the music scene for over 20 years after pursuing a career in TV and film directing, but she recently made a return to the stage (indeed, her debut was here at the Windmill) and has gone on to release an EP on the label of Sonic Youth’s very own Thurston Moore.

“Limerence” was a term coined to describe a near-obsessive form of romantic love, though Albertine joked that her songs were generally about pretty much the opposite. Limerence the band is a loose collective of musicians – I’d seen them play at the George Tavern in Stepney last year with pretty much a full compliment, but tonight it was just a pairing of violin and a combo of keyboard, guitar and ukulele. Musically, Albertine has moved on from the reggae infused sound of her old band, though her guitar is still as distinctive as it was on songs like Typical Girls. If anything, there’s a hint of Syd Barrett about songs like Fairytale and the twisted pop of Never Come, and the lyrics are as witty and spiky as you’d expect. Void references a darker part of her punk past, and was introduced with a few reminiscences of 1976. The paired down line-up actually gave an extra edge to Albertine’s songs, highlighted on the unsettling set closer, Confessions Of A Milf, which descended into a one-chord riff on suburban paranoia.

Canadian headliners Austra have been causing a bit of a buzz of late. Hailing from Toronto, and centred on vocalist Katie Stelmanis, with Maya Postepski on programming and Dorian Wolf on bass, they recently renamed themselves (having previously been going under Stelmanis’ moniker), signed to Domino and currently have a 12” single out, with an album in the pipeline for later this year.

IMAGE AUSTRA
Illustration by Anko

For the UK leg of a whistle-stop European tour, starting tonight, Stelmanis and co were joined by a drummer, keyboard player and two extra vocalists. There was a bit of a shaky start with a technical hitch before things got into their stride. It would be easy to make comparisons with Fever Ray and Glasser (especially as I’d seen both live fairly recently), and Austra do fall into that category of brooding female vocals over dark electronic beats. However, they’re not as dense as Fever Ray or as spectral as Glasser, especially live. I’d read somewhere that Austra were like “Fever Ray gone disco”, which actually isn’t a million miles off the mark. The single, Beat & the Pulse, is distinctly dance-friendly, and while Stelmanis’ vocal delivery may be reminiscent of Karin Dreijer Andersson, the general vibe is more akin to the early to mid 80’s indie-dance crossover. In the confined space of the Windmill, Austra’s songs become much more organic, with the live drums and bass giving an added kick. There was also plenty of theatricality, with Stelmanis and her sidekicks whirling and dipping during each song.

It was a typically great and varied mix of bands and styles tonight, another in a long line of great nights that I’ve experienced at the Windmill, and another one I’m sure that the venue’s legendary Roof Dog would approve of.

ringo deathstarr album artwork

You never see Ringo Starr and Gary Lineker in the same room. Come on, information pills think about it! Anyway, ed I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a band called Ringo Deathstarr. Some kind of black metal/merseybeat hybrid? I can categorically state otherwise, although I would be intrigued to hear what that sounded like. The album title gives more of an insight into their trippy, lysergic sound, but the key influences here are the late 80s/early 90s Creation bands like My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain, with their squalling feedback and dreamy soundscapes.

Ringo Deathstarr by Avril Kelly
Illustration by Avril Kelly

Now, terms such as Shoegaze and Cathedrals of Sound do not exactly fill me with glee, but luckily Ringo Deathstarr give us a fresh and playful take on this kind of stuff. The brilliant opener Imagine Hearts starts with distorted 8-bit drum sounds before coming on like The Breeders’ Cannonball, with it’s dizzy, swirling guitars and bass player Alex Gehring’s dreamy, Kim Deal-like voice.

Ringo Deathstarr by James Boast
Illustration by James Boast

Throughout the album Gehring’s pretty, girly vocals duel with guitarist Elliot Frazier’s deeper, Ian Curtis-like croon, which provides a great counterpoint. On penultimate track Never Drive the band sound like a souped-up Joy Division.

It’s clear that these three Texans (the line-up is completed by drummer Daniel Coborn) love their vintage British indie. They’ve toured with fey 80’s jangle-merchants The Wedding Present. The breakdown in Two Girls sounds exactly like the intro to The Smiths’ Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before. And in the song Do it Every Time, Frazier sings a lyric that may or may not say “We’re falling apart again, you took my cardigan”.

Ringo Deathstarr by Matilde Sazio
Illustration by Matilde Sazio

But rather than coming across as foppish miserablists, Ringo Deathstarr’s music is often powerful and joyous, and they’re at their best when playing the colour-saturated, nostalgic pop of stand out tracks So High and Kaleidoscope, which are the aural equivalent of a faded Polaroid taken on a sunny day in a park. In the 80s.

Ringo Deathstarr by Rukmunal Hakim
Illustration by Rukmunal Hakim

The fact that much of the lyrics are unintelligible, buried as they are under feedback and reverb, adds to the whole dreamlike quality of the record. When you do catch a phrase or word here and there, it feels like a stolen snippet of a faded memory. So, a host of 80’s indie references, dreamy girl/boy vocals and sun-faded guitar hooks – what’s not to like? Gary would approve. I mean Ringo…

Colour Trip is released on 14th February 2011 on Club AC30.

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