Acoustic Ladyland album launch and gig

Just when you thought it was safe to close your 2006 Best Of¦ lists, Acoustic Ladyland deliver their brilliant third album Skinny Grin. Featuring James Chance, mixing from Scott Walker and production by Paul Epworth and Robert Harder, who worked on their highly praised previous effort, Last Chance Disco in 2005, this London quartet of mischief makers and incandescent musicians raise the bar again, hopscotching feeble attempts at genre categorisation.

This most singular of bands loves to mess with convention, although there is nothing about this band that is tricky or arch. Of jazz, but not in the least inhibited by jazz tradition, and with a fierce post-punk attitude, Acoustic Ladyland simply create potent, soul-searching music: intense, life-affirming pop.

What better way to view the band’s appeal than the first single ‘Salt Water’ (released November 20) As Acoustic Ladyland mastermind Pete Wareham puts it, ‘A cup of salt water quenches your thirst and then doubles it’. The same could be applied to the band on record and even more so when they play live. You feel satiated, then have a burning desire for more. The strength of conviction in this unit of people is overwhelming.

Based upon their mutual distaste for jazz sterility and respect for Jimi Hendrix (hence the name), Acoustic Ladyland have been rattling minds since inception in 2001. The band is Pete Wareham (saxophone/vocals) with Seb Rochford (of Mercury-nominated Polar Bear) on thunderous drums, Tom Herbert (bass) and Tom Cawley (keys). In Wareham’s own words he wanted to find a place that was as ‘musically substantial as Coltrane, but was as much fun as ‘Waiting For The Man” by The Velvet Underground.

Such was their euphoria at playing together for the first time, Acoustic Ladyland say they ‘felt like a band from day one’. Seb Rochford was extremely ready to bash away with an ear for Napalm Death and Slayer, while Pete Wareham was desperate to make the saxophone sound like a guitar. The transformation was immediate and extreme.

Even though the success of Last Chance Disco was of deep satisfaction to the band, Pete wanted to break up the previous ‘saxophone-led sound’ and his wife Maxine Wareham had been writing more and more stark lyrics that needed to be given a certain vocal – slightly weary and blistered, in the manner that Ian Dury always had down pat. Pete was convinced that he finally had to embrace the notion of ‘singing’ and the choices for female fronted tracks proved to be a revelation.

For ‘Paris’, Alice Grant (singer with Seb’s band Fulborn Teversham) delivers a wonderfully disdainful and indifferent lyric (‘if you gave me dog it would bite me / If you planted a rose it would die’) On ‘Cuts and Lies’, the band needed someone more louche and velvety, with a dark sexual energy. Thanks to, they chanced upon Anne Booty.

A track as special as ‘Salt Water’ was always going to be one of the album centre pieces, but when James Chance agreed to be involved, it was taken to a different level. As Pete states himself, ‘I’m so glad he’s on the track as he still sounds like he’s biting through your neck with razor-sharp teeth. He’s the only saxophone player I’ve ever heard who sounds like he’s playing a flick-knife’. When the track was completed the band glibly asked the bosses if they could hunt down Scott Walker for a remix. Not only did Mr Walker concur, he worked revelatory magic ‘creating all these terrifying and subliminal dynamic shifts’.

This splendid London onslaught includes so many nuggets, from the mesmeric opener ‘Road of Bones’ that unfolds in the spirit of David Shire’s sparse and haunting ‘The Conversation’ soundtrack and rounds on the listener like a grinding hardcore monster. This is followed with ‘New Me’, and a gattling gun sax-refrain courtesy of Wareham that imitates the manic vocal style of Jello Biafra, settling afterwards into the ‘oily, stretched sound’ of ‘Red Sky’.

‘Your Shame’ gives a nod to Mark Sandman’s Morphine saddled to filthy Chicago blues and segues beautifully into the hectic badness of the Bad Brains-inspired title track, ‘Skinny Grin’.

The album explores the sonic boundaries and human frailties that bind us all. As a whole it ties it all together with a nervous and edgy production ethic that is second to none. The two main masters brought in to harness this sound were Robert Harder and the inimitable Paul Epworth. As Pete emphatically states of Harder, ‘the sound that he has created here is at once rough and polished, technical and vague: Robert has an uncanny ability to create aural paradoxes due to his incredible control and mastery of the recording studio – each track has its own identity but there is a consistent flow, and he was able to create a strong studio sound while capturing the live experience of the band.’

And of Epworth, who produced the debut albums for Bloc Party, The Futureheads and Maximo Park? ‘I was very pleased with the fact he gave the tracks so much strength and punch with his approach; he seemed to enjoy working with us too: he said that ‘Salt Water’ was the most exciting piece of music he’d worked on in the last 3 years’.

We hope you agree with Epworth’s appraisal and care to catch this incredible live band when they play a headline show in London on December 5th @ Islington Academy.

A full UK tour is set for March 2007.

Praise for Last Chance Disco –

‘rough and ready enough to makes its rebellious point: this is the least ‘smooth’ jazz album
in years. Last Chance Disco is headbangingly good’    4/5 The Guardian ‘CD of the Week’

‘The music of Acoustic Ladyland is thrillingly disrespectful’  4/5 Mojo

‘Acoustic Ladyland are guaranteed to blow any ‘post punk revivalists’ off the stage’ Time Out

‘My favourite of a strong new British movement’ Gilles Peterson

‘Sonically adventurous and damn loud, this is music to give Wynton a heart attack. The
album isn’t aimed at jazz audiences¦ ironically, they have created one of its most
irresistible albums in years’ 4/5 Jazzwise

Artist: Acoustic Ladyland
Title: Skinny Grin album
Label: V2
Cat Number: VVR1043682
Release Date: 27 November 2006
Websites: :

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