Lilacs & Champagne [Review]

I think I’ve found my album of the year. Yup, I’m willing to crown it already. Lilacs & Champagne, Alex Hall and Emil Amos of instrumental rockers Grails, have managed to craft one of the most interesting and promising debuts I think I’ve ever heard. It’s a rich tapestry woven from samples and organic pieces strung together perfectly to create a sound that’s incredibly fresh.To put it crudely, if you take the Grails template from their recent efforts and give it a hip hop, sample focused twist, this is what you get.

Throughout it’s surprisingly short run-time there’s a real 70’s B-movie vibe, it’s a cool sound indeed with fuzzy warm production and interesting samples. As Grails fans will attest, the duo obviously aren’t afraid to bring in influences from over seas and this enhances the already broad spectrum to pull from with an eastern feel on many tracks. It’s psychedelic stuff; a broad collage of ideas and moments that never outstay their welcome, perhaps due to the length of the record, but either way one of Lilacs & Champagnes greatest strengths. There are some wonderful melodies here and the addition of vocals on Lilacs (check out the video below) and Battling The City really bring them to life. It’s these short bursts of brilliance that really help this debut shine, it really is a versatile record and for something that on paper sounds like it should never work Hall and Amos have really succeeded in pulling it together.

It’s colourful stuff and you’ll yearn for repeat listens in order to take it all in. It’s going to take something special to remove this from the top of my album of the year pedestal and I’m confident I’m not going to find anything like it for a while – if you can place something in front of me similar or better I challenge you.

Grails have been having some hard-drive issues recently and there was mention of the next Lilacs & Champagne record being on said hard-drive, we can only keep our fingers crossed it survives (along with the next Grails albums) as if it’s anything like this debut, there’s plenty to look forward to.

Tracklisting is as follows:

01 Everywhere, Everyone
02 Lilacs
03 Nice Man
04 Sensations
05 Battling The City
06 Corridors of Power II
07 King Of Kings
08 Laid Fucking Back
09 Moroccan Handjob
10 Midnight Creeper
11 Listener X

The album’s available from mexican summer on LP, CD and mp3.

Hidden Orchestra – Flight Mixtape [Mix]

Joe Acheson of Hidden Orchestra has thrown out this rather wonderful mixtape to celebrate the release of the new Flight EP on Tru Thoughts. It’s an extensive collection and expertly woven with some of my favourite artists cropping up through it’s 86 minute run time. It’s also FREE courtesy of Paris DJs (which, by the way, is well worth a regular visit!).

Head here to Paris Djs to download the mix in it’s entirety. Tracklisting is as follows;

[00:00] 01. Hidden Orchestra – Flight
[00:01] 02. Shake Keane – One a Week with Water (excerpt from poetry recital)
[02:44] 03. Hamalais-Osakunnan Laulajat – Prelude – Kesa (by Matthew Whittall)
[02:48] 04. Origamibiro – Dissect Ephemeral
[02:51] 05. (interview) – Marke’s favourite sound pt.1
[05:19] 06. Hidden Orchestra – The Windfall (Drums-Only version)
[05:42] 07. Hidden Orchestra – Out of Nowhere (No-Drums version)
[06:01] 08. Björk – Hidden Place (acapella)
[07:03] 09. Hidden Orchestra – Stammer (Drums-Only version)
[08:06] 10. Hidden Orchestra feat. Julia Biel – Footsteps (Lost Twin Remix)
[11:40] 11. Nils Frahm & Anne Muller – Long Enough
[11:53] 12. Jeru the Damaja – War (acapella)
[13:51] 13. Origamibiro – Womb Duvet
[14:20] 14. Phuong Dung – Do Ai (Riddles)
[15:36] 15. Joe Acheson – Riddles
[16:59] 16. Long Arm – After 4am
[18:13] 17. The Pharcyde – Runnin’ (acapella)
[19:20] 18. DJ Cam – Free Your Turntable And Your Scratch Will Follow
[20:41] 19. Lewis Parker – Shadows of Autumn (acapella)
[23:40] 20. Guru – The Revolutionist (acapella)
[23:41] 21. Madlib – Distant Land
[27:34] 22. Linton Kwesi Johnson – Reggae fi Dada (live poetry recital)
[27:37] 23. Boards of Canada – Everything you do is a Balloon
[27:38] 24. Gorodisch – Omaha
[30:08] 25. Madlib – Episode VI
[31:16] 26. Billie Holiday – One, Two Buckle my Shoe
[31:25] 27. Madlib – Slim’s Return
[31:31] 28. Björk – 107 steps (acapella)
[34:02] 29. Madlib – Episode XI
[34:40] 30. Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Shimmy (acapella)
[35:03] 31. Quasimoto – Put a Curse on You (acapella)
[35:04] 32. Controller 7 – Untitled Demo 2
[35:44] 33. Mu-ziq – Hasty Boom Alert
[37:16] 34. Hidden Orchestra – Dust (Drums-Only version)
[37:28] 35. M.O.P. – Pounds Up (acapella)
[40:13] 36. Hidden Orchestra – Dust (Floex Remix)
[43:08] 37. Street Smartz feat. O.C. and Pharoahe Monch – Metal Thangz (acapella)
[45:51] 38. Jaga Jazzist – Real Racecars have Doors
[47:42] 39. Chali 2na – Comin Thru (acapella)
[49:54] 40. Madlib – Static Invazion
[50:22] 41. Talib Kweli – Some Kind of Wonderful (acapella)
[50:39] 42. Controller 7 – Untitled Demo 1
[51:10] 43. Thelonius Monk – Caravan
[52:21] 44. Radiohead – Paperbag Writer
[52:21] 45. Four Tet – Cload
[55:00] 46. Wu-Tang Clan – Chessboxin’ (acapella)
[56:25] 47. Peruvian Marching Band – Memphis Soul Stewed
[56:42] 48. Elvis Presley – Suspicious Minds (acapella)
[58:22] 49. Madlib – Funky Blue Note
[59:52] 50. Kuljit Bhamra & Orlando Consort – Tabla Talum
[62:38] 51. Origamibiro – Remnants
[62:48] 52. (interview) – Marke’s favourite sound pt.2
[63:39] 53. Xploding Plastix – Kissed by a Kisser
[66:11] 54. Dizzy Gillespie – Jambo
[68:36] 55. Radiohead – These Are My Twisted Words
[70:03] 56. Shake Keane – Poetry and Jazz (excerpt from interview)
[72:04] 57. Amon Tobin – The Killer’s Vanilla
[73:03] 58. DJ Shadow – Going Nowhere
[74:39] 59. Shankles – Branches
[75:00] 60. Nils Frahm & Anne Muller – Reminds to Teeth
[75:16] 61. Shake Keane – Soufriere (poetry recital and flugal horn solo)
[78:32] 62. (radio documentary excerpt) – Angel Horn – produced by Matt Thompson
[78:44] 63. Hidden Orchestra – Flight (Drums-Only Version)
[78:58] 64. Igor Boxx – Last Party in Breslau
[80:26] 65. Nils Frahm & Anne Muller – 7fingers
[80:57] 66. Profisee – Welcome (acapella)
[83:56] 67. Four Tet – The Butterfly Effect
[86:12] 68. Hidden Orchestra – Flight (No-Drums Version)

Hidden Orchestra’s Flight EP is out now on Tru Thoughts and if you’ve never heard their stellar debut Night Walks, I implore you to check it out.