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Yip Man - Pure Zen, Ken?

  • Published in UNX


Yip Man is the nom de plume for Al Nero. Scotland-born but now living in China, his music has the greatest hallmark of the music of the Far East. That is, he ignores staid old notions of genre and fills his music with heavy guitars, horn sections, heartfelt lyrics and general nonsense wherever he feels it’s appropriate.   The man has an ear for a hook. The chorus of the title track will lodge in your brain before the song has even finished and it will remain there until ‘Funky Town’ or ‘Baby Shark’ dislodge it. The same could be said for ‘Trying Not To Get Caught Out’ and it’s “Scoo-ooh-ooh-bay”.  

Nero is so un-self-conscious in his vocal delivery that it’s invigorating. At times he sounds like Billy Corgan and at others he’s more Steve Mason or Stephen Malkmus but it’s all delivered with an assurance and commitment that is enviably coherent. Every note is the right one for the moment it inhabits. Which sounds like the most basic idea behind popular music but if it were easy to do then everyone would be doing it. Yip Man is doing it and it sounds like he’s having a ball doing it. For further evidence of this, have a look at the videos for his recent singles. They combine performance and animation like Peter Gabriel’s collaboration with Aardman Studios.  

Pure Zen, Ken? is Yip Man’s second album. The title is a memorably Scottish phrase but it doesn’t hold a candle to the naming of his debut. Braw Power is high on my list of favourite album puns. Weird Al would be proud of that one. The album is front loaded with great tunes and, just as it seems to be losing steam after ‘Aye Peckin’, ‘Here Comes The Feeling’ comes along with a Rivers Cuomo melody to match its Weezer-esque guitars.  The 23 second ‘You Matter’ ends proceedings. Like Abbey Road’s ‘Her Majesty’, it’s a short, jaunty palette cleanser that makes you wish it went on longer. But then the play button is always there, ready to be pressed again. Pure Zen, Ken? lives up to its name.

Pure Zen, Ken? is available via bandcamp here.



Hate Colours - Know Nothing

  • Published in UNX


Fed up with the climate change-fuelled, spirit of '76, soaring temperatures of the summer (& all the hyperbole attached to it)? Longing for the dark winter days & nights along with the scares you can throw into yourself when the thermometer plummets and you become less sociable? Know Nothing is the album for you.

Think Aphex Twin-like, breathy sounds coupled with drum machines, found sounds, field recordings and a lot of songs about anxiety/paranoia and you'll have a reasonable idea of the sound Hate Colours have (they're a quintet lead by J. Turgenev, late of The Douglas Firs).

Second Track, 'House II', brings to mind Downward Spiral era NIN too so there's a bit of '90s industrial in the mix too. It's quite an achievement to keep things both upbeat an sinister but across the eight tracks there's generally enough of a beat to offset the creepy stuff. Goblin & their ilk are likely an influence too.

Recorded over the period of a couple of years (2015-2017) a number of the songs were inspired by a trip to Orcas island in Washington state. An online image search for the place doesn't produce the Blair Witch type scenes you'd expect from the music but we should probably be thankful that seeing the scenery and the whales didn't lead to an interest in dream catchers and crap campfire tunes. 

Hate Colours are definitely doing their own thing so good luck to them. The elements mentioned above are all atmospherically combined throughout the album and it definitely bears listening to more than once (and certainly more than its constituent parts in isolation would have you expect). Penultimate track 'Dream Lake Road' even manages to feel comforting despite the Einsturzende Neubaten-esque clangs during its five minutes so expectations are confounded right to the end. There's also not a single mention of Jon Snow.

Know Nothing is available from bandcamp here.

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