Erland and the Carnival 'Erland and the Carnival'

Erland and the Carnival 'Erland and the Carnival'

There's not much more British than slightly freaky folk music. As if to prove the point, Erland Cooper (along with Simon Tong (Verve, Blur) and (drummer from The Fireman) David Nock) has mined these pleasant pastures for a debut album of depth and weird beauty.

Together, they've taken various bits of existing poetry, lyrics, folk tales and songs, and melded them together with their own organs, guitars and lyrics. The result is a collection of engaging, swirling tracks and stories that sound like the soundtrack to a creepy, dreamy funfair.

The best example of this is The Derby Ram – an update of the traditional ballad about the giant ram which got the city its emblem.

Elsewhere, William Blake's verse The Echoing Green is set to a hypnotic offbeat guitar part that Cooper hides his voice behind. Leonard Cohen's return-to-libido poem Disturbed This Morning is given a curious reworking that makes it more wanderlust than old-man lust, and My Name Is Carnival (featured here) a cover of a track by tragic 60s folk singer Jackson C Frank (which gives the band their name) is a buxom, jazzy, introduction to the Carnival's shtick.

It's a curiosity alright, one you can file next to similarly interesting backwards-looking modern bands like The Decemberists, The Coral and Mystery Jets.

A freakbeat take on sample culture.

The Mummers 'Tale To Tell'

The Mummers 'Tale To Tell'

The Mummers drift out of your speakers with a debut which is both exciting and new, but such is its joy that it happily convinces the past to skip along with it.

It is clear that this is not going to be an album to stick to the obvious. The track 'Wonderland' storms out of the blocks with a sound best described as early Goldfrapp taking a ride on a carousel with a Danny Elfman orchestra in tow. When the vocals drift in, they again add another layer to the piece, an enchanting almost naive little voice which adds to the fairy-tale-like ambience of the record itself.

The lead single, 'March of the Dawn', is the perfect opening statement for the band. The track is all at once triumphant, bombastic, fragile, eccentric, and really, truly, lovely. It's happy enough to suggest a summery track, but at the same time it also has a magical winter vibe, conjuring the images of colourful and hazy Christmases past.

The cover depicts the lead singer in the woods, and the record does achieve the sense of the magical outdoors from fairy tales and 60s folk music. The album is whimsical to an extent, but it never pushes too far in to any sense of unbelievability. In fact 'Tale To Tell' suggests that this is only the first step in to the forest of the Mummers, with no need to leave a trail of sweets behind.

Big Audio Dynamite 'This is Big Audio Dynamite'

Big Audio Dynamite 'This is Big Audio Dynamite'

Elbowed out of the Clash, Mick Jones responded forcefully with Big Audio Dynamite, a modernist audio-terrorist outfit whose 1985 debut, 'This Is Big Audio Dynamite', seemed all the more futuristic when compared to Joe Strummer’s reductionist retro rejiggering of the Clash on 'Cut the Crap'.

As is often the case, what was once forward-looking seems inextricably tied to its time in retrospect and the clanking electro rhythms, Sergio Leone samples, chicken-scratch guitars, bleating synths, and six-minute songs of This Is Big Audio Dynamite evoke 1985 in a way few other records do.

Nevertheless, BAD’s boldness remains impressive, even visionary, pointing toward the cut-n-paste masterpieces of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and since Jones did not abandon his innate gift for hooks -- if anything, he found ways to create rhythmic hooks as well as melodic ones -- it’s quite accessible for an album that is, at its core, avant-rock.

UB40 'Signing Off'

UB40 'Signing Off'

So ubiquitous is UB40's grip on the pop-reggae market today, that it will be difficult for younger fans to comprehend just how their arrival shook up the British musical scene.

Their rhythms may have been reggae based, their music Jamaican inspired, but UB40 had such an original take on the genre that all comparisons were moot.

The moody roots fired "Tyler," which kicks off the set, is a potent condemnation of the US judicial system, while it's stellar dub "25%" appears later in the set. The smoky Far Eastern flavored "Burden" explores the dual tugs of national pride and shame over Britain's oppressive past (and present). If that was a thoughtful number, "Little by Little" was a blatant call for class warfare. Of course, Ali Campbell never raised his voice, he didn't need to, his words were his sword, and the creamier and sweeter his delivery, the deeper they cut.

From deep dubs shot through with jazzy sax, to the bright and breezy instrumental "12 Bar" with its splendid loose groove, that is transmuted later in the set to the jazzier and smokier "Adella," "Food" slams into the dance clubs, "King" (featured here) floats to the heavens.

A timeless masterpiece.

Jim Noir 'Tower of Love'

Jim Noir 'Tower of Love'

On his debut album, Jim Noir (a homage to Vic Reeves' real name, Jim Moir), proves himself to be a first-class mix-and-match master, blending the cheesy drum machines and bubbling synths of indie electronic, the lo-fi guitars and adult-child vocals of indie pop, and the full-bodied and harmony-drenched arrangements of chamber pop into a swirling, soothing, and truly lovely Technicolor pop confection.

There is the pronounced influence of those renowned American nutters, the mid-'70s edition of the Beach Boys. There are comparisons to be made to the anything-goes spirit and sound of contemporary explorers like Super Furry Animals and the Beta Band.

There really isn't a weak song to be had, and the album flows past like a gentle stream winding its way through a summer meadow.

The lyrics are light and breezy throughout, especially the songs about stealing footballs ("Eanie Meany") or the lighthearted threats. They help to bolster the childlike sense of wonder that the album is bathed in. You will be hard-pressed to keep from walking around all day grinning like a fish once you give the album an airing. The featured cut 'Computer Song' is one of my favourites, just for it's harmonies. Give it a listen and you'll see what I mean.

Doctors should prescribe a spin of Tower of Love to chase the blues away.

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