Review: Still reeling from the two Linkwood albums that Athens Of The North released last year, label regular Warren Hampshire presents his fifth major solo work, Language Of The Birds. It follows his Galaxies Like Grains Of Sand and The Honey Bear albums (recorded with jazz pianist Greg Foat) - with this LP particularly finding its influence through the countryside and woodlands on the Isle of Wight. Through an influence of '60s psychedelic rock, instrumental folk, guitar music and other silver strings, Warren Hampshire expresses a deeper connection with nature here while weaving subtle themes of 'Catastrophism' & 'Extinction" into a balearic sound-world of electrified, acoustic and classical refrain.
Review: Two regular Athens Of The North artists join forces in the studio for the first time, with impressive results. Separately, Scotland's Linkwood (AKA Nick Moore) and Other Lands have explored a range of styles so far in their careers, from post-punk to house and techno, but together they've come up with an album that, though definitely having something of a Balearic feel to modern ears, actually sounds like nothing quite so much as late 70s/early 80s jazz-funk and jazz fusion - particularly that of the "one Californian and his Moog collection" variety. Some may find it all a bit muzak-ish, but if you're a fan of squelchy analogue synth sounds and jazz guitar licks you'll find much to enjoy here.
Review: Edinburgh label Athens Of The North reissue the only album ever recorded by Rivage, a Miami-based funk/soul four-piece, which was first released back in 1981. There are one or two tracks that haven't aged that well, it has to be said - the syrup-y soul of 'Waiting For A Sign' sounds too much like Boyzone or Westlife to modern ears! - but there's still much to enjoy. Opener 'Sha-Na-Na', for instance, comes on like Defunkt jamming with Earth Wind & Fire, while the title track is a fast n' furious funk workout and there's some fine jazz keys work to be heard on 'I Need You Baby'.
Review: Athens of the North originally contracted obscure 80s boogie artist Billy Bruner about reissuing two of his rare, sought-after singles - "The Tulsa Song" and "The Dream" - but instead raided his tape archives and putting together what's effectively his debut album. Combining previously released tracks, unheard extended versions and previously unheard songs, the album is warm, soulful, slick and summery, with highlights including the stuttering P-funk flex of "Cats Meow", the never-heard-before dancefloor heat of "School Dance" and the deliciously extended version of glassy-eyed '80s soul jam "Never". If sparkling, synth-heavy '80s soul is your thing, this is one surprise retrospective you won't want to miss.
Review: Brief Encounter were a nine-piece band from North Carolina who made their debut with 1977's 'Introducing' album. 'We Want To Play' followed on Music Town Records in 1981, original copies of which will set you back north of ?300... luckily, those democratising dons of the reissue Athens Of The North are on hand to bring you the same album for a fraction of the price! While not lacking in standout cuts - see the title track or 'Open Up Your Heart', for starters - it's an album that's perhaps most interesting as a musical snaphot of a time when 70s disco and soul was inexorably mutating into 80s boogie and electrofunk.