Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lord Skye - Summer ~ Waves Crash

Hear The Track Here

Third time round for Lord Skye and the second track from his Four Seasons project. I've already reviewed Spring ~ Sunny Meadow and found it musically intriguing but flabby sounding. Now, it should be noted that I have a marked tendency not to like anthemic, wide screen epics which - to be honest - I thought belonged in the films and games soundtracks they were made for. So as usual, it's best to take my own personal bias into account when reading between the various lines.

One of the problems that has dogged the first two tracks I have heard from this artist is the distinct ordinariness of his samplesets; a major distraction from some decent music. I can't say the problem has disappeared with this instalment of the quartet, but its certainly a lively enough tune. Mind you, there's also an edge of 'look at how clever I am' about it that fair sets my teeth on edge. Still, that's only because I'm as jealous as hell because I can't be a keyboard whiz like the good Lord. It also because of the variety and intricacy of the arrangement, showing a strong taste for jazzy riffs delivered with consummate ease. S'enough to make anyone sick, I tell you.

I found myself liking this track in many ways, but hating it in some others. As usual, it seems unfair to bore you again about the quality of sounds but it is a major factor in anyone's enjoyment. The funny thing is that I kinda like what Lord Skye does musically, and in most cases would rate it much higher than I do - had it been created with a keener eye to a larger aural picture. For me, Lord Skye's music should have the same kind of sound as anything that strives towards the epic... In this day and age of samplers (soft or hard), virtual instruments and effects up the wazoo, such a thing is within anyone's grasp. Musically very efficent, although you would have to like your music with a dash of would be virtuoso attached and a sound that screams 'factory settings' for it to really sink in.

Herult Hennreg - Home (431verSTAERKER Remix)

Hear The Track Here

To the casual reader of these reviews, should there be one, it may seem like I am a musical gadfly, spewing highly recommended's and must have's hither and yon. While it's arguably true that there are literally thousands of good musicians (and hundreds of great musicians), surely there can't be that much? And indeed there can't. I consider myself fairly strict at what gets recommended by me, and nowhere more so than in the must have department. Although I've reviewed hundreds of tracks already this years, I only have a few must haves - on average say one or twice a month. The reason I am yammering on like this is because Herult Hennereg managed to score such a must have rating for Journeyman (September 2006) and here he is again to see if he can get two in a row...

Abolutely the very first thing I like for in a track is aural fidelity and that is something that Herult supplies in spades. Cleaner, more powerful tracks would be a hard thing to find. Even harder would be to find the breadth of musical knowledge to construct a track like Home which, if I had my pigeon-holer, should be rightly termed electronica: prog rock - because as weird as it sounds, it sounds a treat. Most of that must be put down to the mix which is damn near perfect as far as I can tell and I can really appreciate the depth of work the artist put into this aspect of the production.

Even if it were recorded in a wooly sack, the strength of Home would have come across but encased in such a mix, it is breathtaking. Herult Hennereg established some pretty heavy credentials with Journeyman, and Home is likely to add much to that reputation. Where I think it may suffer - from a listeners prepective - is in the material which I love, but there are some who certainly wouldn't. I agree with you that they would be completely mad to pass up such a splendid aural treat, but some people are ornery like that, ya know? For me, and I suspect, any lover of great music played with unnerving skill in both performance and production, Herult is now firmly in our gaze. I so want to give this a must have rating because of how good it sounds, but I'll err on the side of caution because of the style...

Highly Recommended Must Have (curse that typo) :D

Friday, October 27, 2006

Alderman - Dreamtime Drums

Hear The Track Here

Although I have been on Soundclick for over four years I came across a review where I ranted (ooo, that's unusual) about other websites (and one in particular), newbies and things in general. The artist who happened to bear the brunt of this verbal diatribe was - as if you hadn't already guessed - one Lief Erikson. No. Wait, that's another guy! THIS Lief is Liljeqvist and (as I mentioned in that long ago review) 'someone to keep an eye on'. Since then he has shown that his initial promise really had weight, and the list of Alderman keepers gets longer as time goes on. That track record is exemplified in the really creative collaboration with Jim-n-Lisa in the Pond Surfers personna, any of whose tracks can be checked out here.

Dreamtime Drums is inspired in part by the Australian Aboriginal dreamtime mythic tradition. It is, as you might imagine, a bit Australian in sound, but not African, and Indian and native American Indian and and and... Aahh, you may be thinking, this is stepping right into your arena isn't it Gilmore? Yep, sure is - in fact judging by this we've both got the same samples at least a couple of times. Tell ya what, the boy did good. Sonically this is ace, especially the opening drum section. The vocals add tremendously to the tracks build and all in all I really enjoyed listening to this track - as I would.

However, continued plays brought a couple of things to light but only, of course, in my opinion. I felt that as good as each little section was, there didn't seem to be a lot holding all those disparate parts together - and that is definitely something I know about. For my money, for a track of this type to work, it has to contain more than an element of cohesion. This does, as I say, in the individual sections, but not when taken as a whole. However, there is a definite art in making seamless tracks, especially of this type and that art come with experimentation and - on that score - Alderman has come up holding all aces. Most people will either like this eclectic mix of instruments and sounds or not, and my judgement won't matter much either way. Personally, I'd say if you like what I do musically, you will find much to like in this track too.

Excellent world collection.

Envy - Lilac Daze

Hear The Track Here

I first reviewed this young MP3 Unsigned rock band last month with their track Everything (September 2006) and, being yer ultimate rock animal found it quite pleasant but not something that blew me ears off. S'ok, it doesn't happen every time and that's only to be expected, however there was certainly enough there for me to want to have a further listen. The band (Davii Adams, James Somerville, Marcus Seale and David Drynan all hail from Sarf East London (that's south for those who don't speak the lingo) with a marked hatred for the state of the UK music scene and in that I can only join them. Thank God (and Stew) for good old fashioned do-it-yerself UK music sites. For my money, they are the best A&R departments around and it's a sign of ennui in the music business that they haven't been extensively mined for talent.

Speaking of which, lets get on with it.

The admittedly small flaws that marred Everything, do not seem to affect Lilac Daze which is a slice of psychedelic rock par excellence. One of the flaws that stood out in the first track I reviewed, the vocals (which I thought tried to hard) are done to almost perfection on this track, although I personally would have liked them a whole lot more present in the track than they were. There is also a marked wooliness in this mix that will not help the track to really register especially with the more casual browser, but given time this track would definitely win you over. More so if you liked a bit of rock with that roll.

One of the chief reasons that Lilac Daze scores with me is because it does recreate a tremendously fertile musical time when rock had teeth and claws and wasn't afraid to show them. There is a most definite American sound and feel to the track although the mix doesn't help in trying to work out what's going on where. It's only now, after a great many plays, that I know that the one thing that is happening here to my liking is a terrific song, lovingly performed and one that - given a better setting - may well have scored much higher with me. Nonetheless, the same production details affect this track to the band's detriment, and that has to be put right. Here's my twopence: more emphasis on tightening up the structure, and ya gotta work on the sound - big time. See, it's ultimately about clarity because to me clarity equals power and that is an essential element of all true rock music.

Interesting classic rock but well worth a listen. Recommended, despite...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Alchemystic - Lounge Life

Hear The Track Here

I wish I had a large denomination banknote for all the times I have seen people online say 'I'm going to give this (releasing music and being active on the internet) up and get on my my real life'. Had that happened I would now be living the life to which I would love to become accustomed to. Sadly, life has a habit of being all to real, and that usually means being poor. So, here I sit, in my sackcloth and ashes contemplating the doings of such individuals (Alchemystic is obviously the victim here). I can well understand the feeling because when I first came online it was hard; reviews were often stingingly effective and putdowns common. Still and all, I have to smile when I see them come trundling back having learned the lesson that this is real life too...

Except for your eyes only, as it were.

Speaking of ears (Ed: which you weren't...), what's even more puzzling about this whole scenario is that Alchemystic is GOOD at what he does. Anyfekkinhow, I am glad to see that ol' Alky seems to have only caught a mild does of it, since I have reviewed at least two new tracks since he uttered that immortal statement. Lounge Life being the second. Even the most cursory listen to a track with the feel and quality of Lounge Life will shown anyone with any musical brains that here is an artist worth nurturing. Jazzy, Alchemystic says in the song comments, and he's not wrong there.

Ahhh but it's been Alchemysticallised.... (Ed: groans)

Starting out sounding like some track out of an obscure 1960's film, Lounge Life soon stamps itself into your brain forever, it's even got a bassline I wish I'd written. One thing I have always liked about this artists work ever since the beginning has been his production values and this track employs every trick in the book to deliver a killer mix that is so wide open its scary. That airy feeling helps to propel this blend of 60's rock and jazzy overtones into a track that really convinces from the first listen - another hallmark of this musician. Add to all that, a keen sense of which sound should convey what, and it all adds up to a special listening experience.

A fine blend. Highly Recommended.

Aaron and Ivan - Freedom

Hear The Track Here

People who frequent Soundclick's forums (more commonly known as nutters) have been assailed by a new breed of forum beast - the Ivan (or ifunkus as he is known). Possibly the most loose mouthed human you are ever likely to meet. Ivan's outpourings have kept me entertained for years, even though he often steps over the lines people draw. I first encountered this phenomenon on another site a few years ago, and even reviewed some of his tracks if I remember correctly but they seem to have disappeared into the massive backup system I have. So much information and I haven't a fekkin clue where anything is, not that's what I call progress. I could, of course, root out reviews from pre-2003 but you know what?

I just can't be arsed.

Mind you, when put up against facing eight minutes and more of instrumental electronica from Ivan and (I presume) brother Aaron, even that idea has some merit. All merely because of two little words: electronica instrumental (shudder). Having spent years poring over the chicken scratchings of internet musicians, it's the one area that still retains its terrors - especially the long winded, overblown variety. As I say though, Ivan has been around long enough to know how to put it al together, so it's not gonna be the usual sonic maelstrom. Once I started to play the track it soon became obvious (despite it's initial disjointedness) that Aaron and Ivan were fairly serious about the way their music sounded.

Like a lot of electronica, Freedom is not really a tune as such. More like a series of themes held together (in this case very loosely) by some kind of unifying instrument - in this case a notoriously infamous plucked instrument sound. So although Freedom is definitely an easier listen than most material in the genre, it suffers from a lack of focus. It wanders much too much IMHO and there were times when I just thought 'get on with it!!' For my money, this track could lose at least a couple of minutes or more and still ably get its point across.

Still, if you like the genre, you may find it interesting especially in light of the sound quality.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Magnu - Mechaniq

Hear The Track Here

I seem to be surrounded all of a sudden by people who I first met years ago, many of who have turned up in the past few weeks. All to the good of course because, as I never tire of mentioning, the internet can be a great place to find real friends and it's nice to see some of them around again. None more so than one of my all time favourites from 'back in the day' - Magnu. The list of must have tracks this artist has had from me is endless. Over the 3 years or so that I have known him he has shown a remarkable consistency in his work, marking him out as different from the norm. Although I reviewed him on another site, the first Soundclick review I can find is of the magnificent Something Wicked This Way Comes (November 2003), but there are 50 of his tracks on the page so plenty to go round.

This is a remake of an earlier track (also on the page) but it has changed so significantly that it really should be taken as complete structural improvement. There is a much improved flow in this new version and a distinctly alluring blend of rock, out and out electronica and stereo trickery. All of which adds up to what I have come to expect from this artist; a slick, polished sound that helps this track to slide down your earholes as easily as the pint you necked earlier. People who aware of Magnu will already be aware of these new tracks and have probably downloaded the lot for leisurely digestion - which is absolutely the only way to take this artist.

There is a level of detail in all of this artists tracks that - for my money - marks him out as being a little special. He's always packed his track to the rafters with nifty tricks, extranous noises and counter melodies, so half the time is spent playing spot the element. In the song comments it states that 'this is the sound of Magnu' and you know what, I agree with that. The Magnu I knew back then is represented by the electronica spice this track is imbued with, being topped by the newer, guitar playing Magnu that shows just what he can bring to the party. Along with his power tools of course, which this track seems to have an abundance of ;)

Great blend of electronica and rock. Highly Recommended.

Avalanche - Time Is Wasting

Hear The Track Here

Speaking of which, do you ever think you are drowning in a fall of rock? Michael Foster, Michael Corsini, Barry and Mark Easton certainly are, but they are used to it because that's what they do for a living. Rock the joint, and often. I've already written a fair bit about this band on Soundclick, which is really good because they have only just joined this site so now is your chance to catch up. Regular readers will be only too well aware of my rock animal credentials and my liking for this particular bands interpretation of the genre. Classic, guitar based rock is what Avalanche is all about but underlying that is a sharp eye to a songs basics - the hallmark of a performing musician. Have a listen to Excessive (August 2006) which I gave a must have rating to see what I mean.

So, here's another month and I get a choice of two tracks, so which to review? I plumped for Time Is Wasting because - to me - it exemplifies exactly why I rate this band. Big is the key word here. Big fekking drums, big fekkin geetars and a vocalist who knows what the word soul means. Time Is Wasting borders on the clever-clever and on a couple of fronts, and I mean that in a good way. The constant stuttering, chord changing of the guitars of Mark Easton and Mike Foster shows a tightness that can only be achieved by musicians who understand how to play together; all ably pinned to the floor by a classic bass and drum combination.

Time Is Wasting is billed on Avalanche's SC page as being 'Southern flavoured' and by crikey that's a very accurate description. The instant the guitar/hi hat combination hit my ears, I was up to my eyes in homily grits and cattle the size of France. So it stands to reason if you like either Avalanche or Southern Rock, you will gobble this bad boy right up. If you have no idea what I am talking about, think ZZ Top, with a dash of Johnny Winter and Ted Nugent to spice up the works. Rock, red in tooth and claw and in the rudest of health in Avalanche's capable hands.

Excellent Southern Rock from the old school. Highly Recommended.

The Words - Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

Hear The Track Here

Wotz wordz? Well hold on to your hat because we are about to find through new MP3 Unsigned artists, The Words. They have been creating a frair old stir on that site so it's nice to get a chance to see whether it's all worth it. The Words appear to be a live, gigging band - which is unusual in this world of bedroom studios. It's not unusual that they happen to be from Manchester, a prime UK centre for music of the better variety. So, all in all, before you even start the track, this band SHOULD have a lot going for them; experience and musical nous. If there is one thing that gigging does teach you, it's the ability to push the boundaries of what you do AND get instant feedback on it.

Which then, of course, can turn to shit in a millisecond ;)

But hey, anyone who lists the immortal Love as a musical influence just hit my play button so let the music roll. It's almost impossible to separate the music from the city so the first rush of plays will instantly give the last 20 years of Mancunian rock, showering you with references from Echo and The Bunnymen to Stone Roses and out through Happy Mondays and the incomparable Buzzcocks. Like all of those artists, The Words specialise in rock based songwriting - and of a high order too. Of course you may be the only person in the world who can't stand these kinds of bands because you struggle to get past the bloated corpse of Oasis, but that is to do the whole Manchester scene a great disservice.

Yeah, yeah, yak yak... But wot about The Woidz??

Once I got past the endless musical references, the tune itself begun to impinge on my brain. Truth to tell - as much as they share a similar musical root - The Words have more in common with bands like the Buzzcocks than Oasis. To my ears a much sharper edge than Oasis could must in a month of Sundays. So if you like that whole northern rock thingie, you may very well like this band a lot and Too Much, Too Little Too Late is an excellent place to start and I've already made the introductions so off you go. As much as I enjoyed the track, it isn't the absolute floor-wiper I feel this band have hanging around somewhere and you can bet your life I am going to start looking for it. A welcome introduction to a band that fulfills all my main food groups.

Excellent UK Indie. Recommended.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Rude Corps - You Never Can Tell

Hear The Track Here

God knows what it is with this artist but if he was a rabbit I would have to conclude that he had been at it. You know, doing what rabbits do. See, the last time I reviewed one of his tracks (Cosmetics Part Two, August 2006) I happened to mention that he had some 152 tracks on his page and the boggle factor was enormous. Damn me if I haven't just gone back there and discovered that this enormous (nay prodigious) pile had grown to 173 tracks!! Oi, Rude Corps!! Noooooooooooooo...

We want them (points at the audience) to think this stuff is hard, don't we?

Absolutely fekkin not would be my answer too, making music IS easy to do especially now. Making good music, however, takes all the usual time, trouble and strife. Rude Corps is joined on this track by Midge McKay] who supplied the excellent lyrics and (I believe) took on the vocal performance too. Certainly the guy on the phone (in the track) is Glaswegian to a tee, and I think I detect a Scots burr in the vocal. If that is the case, take a bow because this is a great vocal; lovely tone, delivery lazy but timely. All in all, a very decent track by anybody standards and well worthy of a quick listen.

Ahhh, but does it have any legs?

I've been giving this earspace for the best part of a week now and it's grown on me considerably, and there are probably a couple of reasons for that. The first is the talent of both musicians, You Can Never Tell is an absolutely terrific track, full of little details and a tune that carries itself like a thoroughbred. Top marks then to Rude Corps for the musical side of the deal and that brings me to reason two for liking this track. What RC has contrived here is a faultless rendering of music I hold very dear to my heart. Bands like Simple Minds, Big Country, and other such guitar legends. Closest to my heart is a prediliction for Lloyd Cole (and the Commotions) and that is what I am most strongly reminded of here, not because Midge sounds like him but because of the textural detail of the music. With Midge's classic vocal on top of this, it makes me truly appreciate Scots musical history; the kind of track that sends shivers down your spine.

Excellent. Highly Recommended.

Itchy Tasty - One Fine Morning In The Circus

Hear The Track Here

Chameleons are extraordinary creatures. This what Wikipedia (the oracle-NOT) has to say about them "Chameleons are squamates that belong to one of the best known lizard families. They are known for their ability to change their color, their elongated sticky tongue, and for their eyes which can be moved independently of each other". The reason I mention this incredible fact is because I know a musical version of this creature, who 'changes style with every breath, his tongue is legendary and ALL his eyes move independently - because he is many things to many people'. In this case, should you think you are reading the rantings of a confirmed lunatic, you will not know that behind the Itchy Tasty exterior lies the more mundane face of Soundclick's resident lab rat - Dr Heronymous Pilesar.

Aaahh, now I see that palsied hand.....

So, Pilesar = a) unqualified pleasure b) a strangely textured rash or c) the maddest man (and musician) on the planet? Welp if that were a multi-choice question I would definitely be putting my X next to 1 and 3 which IMHO define the man precisely. Or men maybe because this guy has so many personalities it fair brings on a headache. As always with Pilesar's work, there is a serious musician lurking below the surface of everything and that - for me - has always been the attraction. Admittedly I have been drawn to the weird side a bit late in life but hey I got to hear Pilesar, you know what I mean?.

Take this Itchy Tasty personna for example? What is this guy like? One Fine Morning In The Circus is exactly what you would expect from the title, except with the weirdest 'helter skelter' feel to it. Remember Stephen King movies? The real creepy ones like IT? This would go down well in the soundtrack of one of those. However, as I say, behind this lurks a keen musical mind. Circus is an exercise in economy, nothing is wasted and every note counts. Giving you, the listener, the unedifying task of visualising the bunch of spivs, no hopers, winos and deadbeats who played on this track. Now THAT is going to give me nightmares for years...

Not what it appears to be. Pilesar (genre: experimental mad professor)

Live dangerously, walk on the wild side. Recommended.

Slippy-T - Raw (Caught Up Mix)

Hear The Track Here

Already mentioned this artist once this month in my review of Conkuss, yet another mate from a few years back who has just re-appeared on the scene. As many of you already know, I have a very soft spot for this vocalist whose highly distinctive style - I've found anyway - people either love or hate. I like what he does and always have and he has consistently given me aural pleasure (Oooo missis!!) throughout the years I've known him. True, his collaborations often outweigh his own work, but here's one of his own, fresh out of the toaster.

So quit yer moaning....

'A sleazy roll of a thing' Slippy chirpily informs us and I have to agree with him. This is so down and dirty I've had forty baths this week. Still, on the brighter side, that's me set up for the next forty years bathwise. One of the reasons I've always been pulled by Slippy's music is that he is never fazed by anything. His music can go into (and come from) some of the most unusual directions but somehow come out a real treat for the ears. With it's dub overtones (killer bass, killer drums) Raw is exactly that and for this happy puppy it's another treat from a treasured national resource.

Hee hee, that'll piss him off.

I've always liked where Rob (aka Slippy) goes musically but - as much as I like his vocal style - I've often found his wilder stretches a tad strained. Luckily that's the only real downside to this excellent - and extremely meaty - broth. So far this week I have played this on four different systems, two houseshakers and two lightweights and it sounds perfectly brutal in all of them. Then I thought I'd give it a go in my Ipod and fekk me if I'm not still recovering from ear blisters, I got this peculiar throbbing in my breastbone that I put down to the 'phantom kick' syndrome after being pelted by this track at full tilt.

Takes No Prisoners. Highly recommended for hard beat nuts.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tin Gods - Mouth Shut

Hear The Track Here

OK I can admit a certain amount of the usual puzzlement that surrounds me, but I could have sworn this was something to do with the SC artist Big Wheel? Hey, maybe an earlier incarnation? Welp, judging by the photo on the band page these guys could be older than me and that would be seriously worrying - at least for them. I've had a couple of thousand years to get used to the concept and am used to being numbered among the undead...

So, where was I? Hey, where'd everybody go??

I'm not a big fan of Alternative, not the kind of whine I like at all. Mine comes in bottles and gets you absolutely slaughtered THEN puts you to sleep. Mind you, given that this is an old track (or so I believe) there is a definitely dated feel to it. There again, just throwing a sound like this into one genre is meaningless, there are shades of everything in here from Cheap Trick to prog rock. The Cheap Trick comparison will become evident once you hear the chorus, and IMHO this is the real meat and potatoes of the track, and for me one of it's eventual saviours.

Mouth Shut takes a while to really register though, so a play or two isn't really going to do it justice, there's a solid, knowledgeable song at the heart of this track. It's obviously had some form of professional arrangement, as well as a credible production. It's in the production that dates this track, I am reminded of tracks I was making ten, fifteen years ago while listening to this. Put it like this, there is enough going on in here that I think I'll hang on to it for a while. That's partly because I do like the track itself but it also evokes in me the process by which I am hearing this track. You make a blistering track, you expend vast amounts of blood, sweat and tears and container ships worth of cash to face a sea of...well....nothing really. Believe me, it's a feeling I am all too intimate with, and I always lean on the one rock that's worthwhile. At least here's a track from the heart and it WILL be heard, no matter what. I, for one, am glad of the opportunity because it's a fine peice of music, and a terrific song that deserves a much better fate. Its interesting blend of styles and professional approach saved it for me from the beginning but it was the song that finally won me over.

Highly Recommended

D-Connection - So Far Away Live

Hear The Track Here

Lurking behind that luridly disco-fied bandname is a well known MP3 Unsigned face Drainage. Over the last year or so, I've heard a fair bit of this artists work, including what was to become one of my all time favourite songs, although tragically not the way any of us would have wanted it. Hans Mulders (aka Drainage) was part of the collaboration (with the late, much missed Mary Gottschalk) that came up with the work known to most of us as Silent Storm (January 2006). Considering this is a ballad of the highest order (a three hankie job at least), it's a big surprise to me that this track meant so much too me - and that was before Mary's untimely death. Since that time mind, Drainage has delivered plenty of good stuff in his own right including at least one Must Have, so life goes on...

So Far Away is your own private session with the fabled Lollievox, unless you count the other 50,000 people in the audience that is. Put that way, it seems about as private as taking your bollocks out in public and having a good scratch. While you are still puzzling your way out of that one, I'll get on with wondering just how big Hans' bedroom is that he can get that amount of people in it. I have to admit that none of this fazed me from grooving right along with what these two collaborators have come up with, and I'd hazard a guess and say that it would probably go down a real treat with you too.

I first encountered Lollievox when I reviewed Redshirt Theory's track Moon Shine (July 2006) to which her voxes (as it were) and saxaphone were added to make a fine dance brew, but I think this track is the first I have heard a 'proper' vocal from this quarter. As I mentioned before, I have a preference for the more dulcet female tones, and Lollie's is right up there with the best of them. Join the crowd and listen to the first 40 or 50 seconds of this and you'll see what I mean. Of course, by now the track will be registering with you and you notice that the drummer is pounding the crap (in a good way) out of his kit to propel this song along. Aaahhh, that'll be the Hans effect. With its propulsive qualities on overdrive and Lollie sweet talking her way into your life this is a sure fire light-up-your-life track. As live as you are ever going to get it. Nice trick, btw.

A quality collaboration and Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Burp - Lily's Chicken

Hear The Track Here

Way back in the mists of time when I was establishing myself on Soundclick I came across an artist by the name of Emetrics, who made music that delighted, surprised and confused in equal measure. Shortly Emetrics morphed into the Burp we see before us, a Munich, Germany based electronica artist the like of which I guarantee you will not have heard before. Whenever I feel the need for a good stereo workout (think of it as an aural ear-syringing) I will undoubtedly reach for a Burp track - in whatever guise he happens to be in. The quality of his productions over the years should be an example to anyone just starting off making their own music.

First rule, sound different.

NOBODY - and I mean nobody sounds like Burp, never has done and never will. I've never been able to put my finger exactly on what makes Burp's stuff work where others flounder incapably, and I suspect that is one of his biggest attractions for me. I am now of the opinion that whatever mode he is in (he's in Aceeeed mode on this one apparently) he is always in rhythmic mode. Yep, after years and years of Burp buffetting I finally work out that's he's just a rhythm hound. Being one of those myself, it was sure as sh... Err anything that I was going to take to his music. Lily's Chicken, btw, is exactly what you would expect from this aural showman - a thing of light, giddiness and speed.

Although he comes close once in a while, I have never known Burp to be out and out commercial and yet somehow tracks like Lily's Chicken get picked up on by all kinds of musical preferences. Especially when you consider his musical style is well on the far side of completely barmy. Stuff that keeps making you think 'this couldn't possibly be working' and yet still manages to freeze you before it's awesome ability to work, and wonderfully well too. I hear some lovely didgeridoo and flute sounds in this that make top billing for me, Burp does world music even. However, it's also the final impression the track leaves you in that really seals the deal. The smile on your face does the business.

Not chicken. Red meat. Chew, chew. Swallow, swallow. Burp. Gourmet diet.

Divine Turmoil - I Walk In My Own Shadow

Hear The Track Here

Now the last thing I am going to do in this review is to land myself in the verbal thicket I encountered the last time I tried to describe what Divine Turmoil was about. I still have nightmares about it. So, lets just say that the term 'acoustic' should be the main thing to bear in mind here, no matter what else I say to the contrary. I reviewed Ambivalent Emotions (September 2006) and was most pleasantly surprised to find an acoustic track that I actually quite liked. After all, with the exception of artists like Christopher Martin Hansen, Micheal Silvestri, the acoustic music genre is pretty much beset by aging folkies whose idea of guitar playing is a nice strum.

Mmmmmmm. I'm gonna get a good kicking for that comment.

Having popped my own musical cherry playing acoustic guitar it soon became evident to me that my playing was going to be limited. I can hold up a rhythm effortlessly (and for hours) but all that fluid, fingers like greased lightning was well beyond this sad little puppy. It's a good job then that there are some blindingly good guitar players out there, commercially and unsigned. As far as I am concerned almost any muppet can string two chords together but to really make a guitar emote you have to have a strong sense of what works and what doesn't. Guitar instrumentals are definitely not everyone's cup of tea but a good tune will win anyone over every time, no matter what instrument it's played on.

I Walk In My Own Shadow, like the track that preceeded it is a decent enough example of the genre, although I do hear noticeable fluffs but hey this is difficult music to pull off. Considering this is a four minute track, Divine Turmoil packs a lot into it and like Ambivalent Emotions it sometimes misses. The thing that didn't work for me in that track was some heavier guitar playing, and the same thing occurs in Shadow - except with considerably less of a disjoint. None the less, both tracks have plenty of ideas and are this close (makes motion with fingers) to happening, but it doesn't. What we get - since we don't get blown out of our socks - is a very likeable, interesting and varied guitar peice that is certainly a good listen but I personally feel this artist can do mushc better. Time will tell.

Very varied guitar instrumental that is worth a listen if you like the genre.

I'm Back - Bringing Shit Back

Hear The Track Here

The fact is if I wanted to listen to hardcore rap music one of the last places I would look would be online. Most of the stuff that really appealed to me over the last 10 years or so has come from commercial sources. Let's be frank, most of the rap you hear online is so cloned from current trends none of which has the political and social impact of the originators, kinda makes the whole exercise redundant. If, however, I could find something worthwhile it would have to be pretty special and do several things: have a decent music track that has relevance to the lyrics, said lyrics being about more than riches and bitches and - most important of all - a sense of its own roots.

I'm Back is - as you might have gathered - a hardcore rap artist although you may also know of him through his 810 personna, and here he is bringing shit back. The only question that really matters is how bad will it stink? More to the point isn't shit a bit hard to handle?? Still, in for a penny in for a pound, and I started to play the track. Within the first couple of plays it became obvious that Bringing Shit Back did fulfil at least one of my criteria: paying respect to their roots. In sound, tempo and feel this has Ice-T written all over it, and believe me that's a very, very nice thing indeed. See, I'm a big fan of the Iceman and have followed his career since back in the day.

One of the other (nicer) requirements is more than adequately brought to life to with Bringing Shit Back's chorus, a stick-in-your-mind arrangement that owes just as much to the old skool structures - and the prime reason why early hardcore rap took off. It was incredibly tuneful. Ultimately you can search the online music scene (unsigned variety) from end to end and still not come across that much rap that worthy of the term but surprisingly enough, this track is. Classic hip hop beats and pads, a proficent and well executed rap and a chorus you can sing along to. Yep, puts you right back in the day.

Well done hardcore rap, with a tune to boot. Recommended.

The Shed - Almoist A Bad Party

Hear The Track Here

It's been a dogs age since I last went in The Shed, so I'm gonna deviate from the normal list here for a minute and play catch up with one of my favourite bands this year. Right now I have all four of the tracks from their MP3 Unsigned page nestled away on my hard drive where they have stayed and more than likely take up residence. They've been well quiet though since the furore surrounding their The Parson, The Pauper and The Peeping Toms Daughter (April 2006) track. Obviously a must have then and the only track - so far - I have ever given a perfect 10 to using MP3 Unsigned's marking system. Mind you, Hole Puncher (May 2006) came awful close as does every track I've ever heard from this refreshing band.

It's their consistency, however, that does them proud.

As much as they can, given the roots they come from, they stretch the envelope they work in and make it their own, giving them a highly singular voice in a sea of wannabees. The real deal and no equal. Almoist A Bad Party is a classic example of what the band does best, creating momentous pop tunes with a distinctive natural Irish traditional feel. From the opening mandolins to the almost orgasmic brass arrangement this track oozes quality with each passing note. There are some song you listen to, and move on. Almoist A Bad Party is one of those instantly certifiable guarantee download within the first minute or so. Given that premise, to only see it has gathered 43 downloads is something to give thought too. On one of the larger sites (Soundclick, Myspace,Artist Launch) these guys would be huge.

They can't help it. It's in their genes.

Again, Almoist A Bad Party shows exactly why these are one of THE most exciting finds - for me anyway - of this year. In any other world, this group of people would be world famous already. There is a strain of pop music (The Pogues on one hand, Dexys Midnight Runners on the other) that has always been a fresh and vibrant seam to mine, and The Shed have moved in and made it their own. The quality of the songwriting and vocals shine out like beacons of how it should be done, and the production - as always - is as good as you ever going to hear anywhere. As an example, take a listen to this track and pay attention to the brass arrangement I mentioned. Not only is it a clear, bright sound (as it should be) but it sits so right in the mix it feels like its always been there. If you needed any convincing that independent online music doesn't produce any real, lasting music (or stars), it's time you visited The Shed too.

Brilliantly realised pop music of the highest order. MUST HAVE

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Omnisine - The Bridge

Hear The Track Here

Because we all live everywhere around the world, getting onto my monthly review list is often as much a matter of geographic location as opportunity. Obviously those in Europe and the US fare well, but what about those spread further afield? Although it's open for a full 24 hours, people from Asia and the southern hemisphere often miss it. As is the case with Mumbai based Omnisine, but seeing as he is a big favourite of mine, and he has missed the list for some months running, lets look at something new from this Soundclick electronica stalwart.

The Bridge is part of a electronica compo being run on Soundclick's electronica forums, and despite Omnisine's HUGE explanation about the compo rules, I am still none the wiser. No surprise there then. S'only the music that counts around here anyway, and speaking of which... Turns out each compo section is a minute long and there have so far been 3 entries so it stands to reason that what I hear is actually three parts, as explained by Omnisine. Round 1 track is called The Distant Wisdom (the first minute), round 2 track is The Bridge (second minute) round three track is Between The Darkness And The Light (all the rest). I'm glad I know this because the way Omnisine has sewn the track together I would have assumed it was of a peice.

I'm also not sure if this is the finished article or not or whether there is another bit to add onto it but it sure sounds like it. As usual with Omnisine's work, the production quality is first rate and although I wouldn't really class him as electronica per se, this peice definitely is. It's mixture of class sounds, wide open stereo and musical vision are all hallmarks of this artists work, but it is worth pointing out that there's an even defter feel to this peice than his normal standard. Although there is a fair amount of differentation between the three themes, as I say, they are linked together seamlessly and add up with a track with grace, not a little majesty and some lovely sonic touches. Personally, I would love to hear The Darkness and the Light extended into a tradck in its own right because - to my ears - that is the overwhelming sound I am left with. Compo? Should do extremely well.

Class electronica, Omnisine writ large. Highly Recommended.

Gaz - Silently

Hear The Track Here

Short, sharp and to the point, this is the first time Gaz and I have had any doings. It doesn't look as if he is new to this game though, or to MP3 Unsigned which is where I encountered him. Gaz is a twenty something from the UK who works mostly with rock of the old school variety mentioning The Beatles, The Who, Blur, Bob Dylan, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd as some of his influences. Mine too as it happens with the prime exception of The Moody Blues who - I maintain - should have all been drowned at birth. Now the first assumption I would assume from someone who lists such luminaries as influences is that I am dealing with primarily a songwriter.

And, lo and behold, for the first time I assume correctly.

MP3 Unsigned seem to have a good deal of these singer/songwriters - some of them superb. This also means that people like Gaz have to face some pretty stiff competition so just dragging something together that just works, slapping a bog standard mix on top of it is not going to win any friends. Much less influence the hard hearted MP3 Unsigned audience. To some degree Gaz sidesteps most of the obvious pitfalls of the genre, delivering a mature song that - in certain sections - sounds extremely similar to something the Moody Blues would have done. Overall the production standards being brought to bear are more than worthy of the field and will help - I think - people to latch onto this extremely retro rock track.

I think the bulk of my own particular problems with the track are probably style issues and therefore a matter of personal choice. I did feel that the vocals - as good as they are - could have sounded better (more convincing), especially in the harmony sections. Again I think that's probably down to the limitations of this artists equipment and style rather than anything he is doing wrong. On the contrary, if you like a classic old school rock (think early '70's) then this would fit the bill perfectly. Although I would listen to more of this artist I personally didn't find this as strong or as different as most of its competition and ultimately that counts.

Well done classic rock ballad.

Rey Varela & Mike-K - Alone In A Box

Hear The Track Here

Regular readers will have driven to the point of insanity in my incessant reference to Mike Kohlgraf (aka Mike-K) and his Songplanet radio show Saturday Night Rocks, which happens - surprisingly enough - every Saturday night. OK you get to share some of the night with the two reprobates in question but you also get to meet a great many of the names you see in SC forums too - as well as having your ears blown off by some of the finest sounds around. Some of you may have noticed Cam's impassioned plea for the same thing to happen on Soundclick, and I can think of no better way of dragging this site forward. Still, back to the Germinator...

Who? WTF??

Over the years I've hung around SC, I have many dealings with these two guys, and reviewed them in their various solo careers or their many collaborations. I have to admit that I don't always like their style but I do do often like individual tracks and both musicians have fared very well by me over the years. Still that was then, and this is now. Muahahahaha (cough, splutter), and here they are all Alone In A Box. You may have noticed that I put Rey first in the billing because although this track is hosted on Mike's SC page, it's actually a Rey Varela song that Mike has added an electric guitar part to. You will find the original song on Rey's SC page here or at least I think it's the original although the do sound extremely similar.

It also hovers dangerously near my 'go-to-sleep' threshold, it being an acoustic chill out peice of some considerable musical charm. As usual, the performance and production are well up to the usual standards I expect from these guys and there's not much I can pick holes in there. Materially though, I personally think the song is a bit weak but that may well be my ambivalence towards the songs style, and not the fault of the song. As a reference it's got a sort of early Pink Floyd acoustic feel about it, especially when the vocals kick in where this reference really comes to the fore. Certainly a nice, pleasant listen and maybe something to kick back to when you are feeling mellow, but to my mind not strong enough to register much beyond an 'oh that's pretty' comment from yours truly.

Mellow Acoustic chillout.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Conkuss - Childish Lessons

Hear The Track Here

To look at me now, you wouldn't know that I used to be what is referred to as normal: I had friends, I had a life, damn I even had sex (once or twice). My story, however, has a very familiar ring to it. See, I'm one of those people who - as your Mum will patiently explain to you should you give her the slightest excuse - 'fell in with the wrong crowd'. They were a rum lot, to be sure, but we had some great times but like everything things change and so after a while we all moved on elsewhere. The really terrifying snippet of news for you, o nervous reader, is that most of us moved to MP3 Unsigned! People like Slippy T, Spyda, Ffabbia, Paradise Decay, Co-Exist, Xanthe, Dave (Mezzer) Meredith, are all part of that particular 'back in the day'. However, an essential element to that long lost scene had been missing for some time earlier. The name that rings down the ages since that long lost time shall be Conkuss.

Yep, tremble o mortals and all that old bollocks. The man, the leg end.

At the time I didn't know him that well (I was moderating the forum, I was a bit busy) but when I finally listened to some of his music I discovered a rare and remarkable talent. The guy was either barking mad or a genius. Still, as an indication of how impressed I was, I even bought one of his CD's and still play it from time to time. I've said from time to time that an artist like Conkuss should have his own genre because for sure there couldn't be many of these about. However, the only actual review I can dig up for him is on the wonderfully titled The Man Downstairs Is About To Speak And Its Bad News (July 2003) a superbly produced, dark as a nun's tit slice of mayhem that would knock even the most jaded cynic a-rocking. So obviously - after three years - Conkuss finally surfaces again with a track (nay a fekkin magnum opus!) that would tax the patience of a saint...

So far, so Conkuss...

One of the main reasons it would tax etc... is because it's damn long (16+minutes), it's a track that was inspired by bullying and an ultimate death. Conkuss claims that he's 'dark electronica, cheaply made' and I'd say there was an element of truth to that. Soundwise, the proverbial butt of bear comparison I normally employ here fails miserably and goes off for an early bath sulking. Leaving me wondering just how the fekk I can accurately describe what this track is - and what it's not. For sure, it is probably the hardest listen I've had in a long time; a harsh, abrasive, knife-edge of sound that torments, intimidates and terrifies in equal measure. It is a sound bully, carrying out exactly the same moves bullies do and - in that respect - Conkuss has nailed a sonic experience akin to nothing I have ever heard before. If I wanted to pick holes, Conkuss has provided me plenty of ammo but that isn't - I believe - what this track is about. It's about a cathartic process rendered into sound and fury and - in my books - that is special indeed. OK, not nice, I'll admit but God there is a power and fury in this track that leaves me breathless and that - I suspect - is the point.

A singular track from a singular artist. Be prepared for shock and awe though OK?

The Vantangle - He Is A Genius

Hear The Track Here

Uh oh. First thing I see when I start exploring who/what The Vantangle (or the vantangle to be absolutely accurate)are about is this steamy little quote: 'bad production and hurt'n, unispired tunes'. Ouch! Escaping the slight tang of defeatism that little motto imprinted on my day, I dug deeper. The band appears to consist of Marc Vantol, a Canadian indie artist who - judging by the hilarious reviews posted on the site - is definitely not gonna score highly at all. Yeah right, this is me we are talking about, I've heard the very best crap the net has to throw at me and I am used to looking a little further... I've lost count of the artists I have come across who seem not to know how to string a couple of things together initially, then after some time start turning in solid, polished material.

So the first thing to learn about this track is that it is none of those things.

If you are not a fan of basic (and I really mean that) home recording, it's best to turn away now. OK, so this is just a guy and a guitar, and we all know not to expect the moon from that combination. We all have to work within the constraints of our equipment (or lack of it) so it's only fair that a certain amount of leeway be afforded where lack of equipment is the main factor. Lack of equipment doesn't of course mean lack of ideas, and that - usually - is where tracks of this type usually score with me (regardless of how rough the sound is). If the idea behind the track is a good one, that will usually get it past most unbiased minds. Mind you, if the idea is a stinker in the first place, nothing on earth is going to come to your aid.

The basic idea behind this track is similiar to the one used on me (to hilarious effect) by the Krill Banks Conspiracy when they turned one of my harshest ever reviews into a track in its own right. You can find that track here, so it is an idea that has worked once, can it work again? What Genuis consists of are the reviews I discussed earlier being used as the lyrics to the song (with rebuttals presumably from the artist in his own defence). What it all adds up to is not very much. The guitar accompaniment is yer basic rhythm that does nothing whatsoever to the listener - given what kind of competition we all face online in getting people to listen to what we do. Unfortunately, at the end of all this, this track has nothing to offer a casual listener from either a musical or lyrical perspective (the lyrics are a riposte to the reviews) so it's even more obscure than necessary. If Marc is the artist he thinks he is, then this review will slide off him like water off a ducks back: that's what artists do.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fear 2 Stop - Disheveled

Hear The Track Here

Talking about learned patterns of behaviour (Ed: which we weren't), Pavlov's famous woofer has nothing on me. For example, whenever I see the this bands name appear in my review lists, I get serious mental problems. Will I be able to cope with the extra stress? Am I in for another seriously long session with the enigma known individually as Billy, Dana (Castillo) and Raymond (Proseus), and collectively as Fear 2 Stop? Believe me, if anyone has been there, I've been there. Seems though that over the two years or so I've known them, this band have pushed and pushed and have become, truly, something like no other.

That can only be a good thing.

I was re-reading some of my earlier (ie a couple of years ago) reviews of F2S and boy were they harsh. Out of all the artists I have ever reviewed, these people tested me most in their search for - as it turns out - their own musical voice. If all that has come my way from this quarter this year then they may well have stepped up to bat in a big way. They have gained a string of recommendeds from me this year, and consistently too, an attribute they have also gained along the way. Oh, don't get me wrong, they are still marvellously mad as hatters (sonically speaking) but they have acquired a muscle and maturity that I'm certain will floor a lot of people who just thought Fear 2 Stop was just a - and I quote - 'musical joke' Well, I'd say this track was the punchline to that comment, and I couldn't think of a better riposte.

Along with all the other massive strides the band have been making is a much more intense, concentrated feel to the way the music is presented. Giving a track like Dishevelment a punch and authority that may well finally break them of that reputation for being difficult to listen to. Dishevelment is a distinct pleasure to listen to and I intend to listen to it a great deal more because its certainly IMHO this bands finest hour. That feeling may well have to do with the personal satisfaction at seeing them 'come good' as it were, and it will have a great deal to do with their increased use of very viable, flowing musical structures. Got to tell you, I love the drums on this... That's my kinda pounding. Weirdest thing of all? This track plasters a great big s***kicking grin on my face, I'd say that was high praise indeed.

Must Have for Fear 2 Stop fans, and a Highly Recommended to all others. Ace track.

Ilias Pantelias - South Border

Hear The Track Here

Although I've come across Ilias Pantelias countless times, on MP3 Unsigned and other sites, I have yet to hear anything from him. Internet life is strange like that. You see a persons posts on forums for months and months (I don't really have time to go 'I'm feeling lucky' clicking) and unless it's a post that interests me, I am not likely to participate. Only so much time in a day and all that. Still, now is the time to put that right. Ilias Pantelias, as you may have gathered, is from Greece so a yassoo from all of us to the Golden Land, and then let's to business...

At this stage of the game, I've pretty much listened to musicians from all over the world - and even a couple that seem to live on other planets. No surprise there then. Most musicians from places whose own musical roots fascinate people like me, seem to have the same fascination with music that makes up our (the western world). Where I like playing with Mediterranean, middle eastern and arabic rhythms and instruments, they like the western line up - guitars, synths, drum tracks. This is also true of Ilias but there any comparisons should end. Considering he's only a sweet (counts on his fingers) 17 (Ed: he's probably got that wrong too) this is a classy, classy track and one I can only praise for it's excellence of production.

Tell ya what, click on the link to the webpage and take a look at this guy. 12 right?? So how the **** can he sound as mature and experienced as some of us old farts who have been doing this since (mumble, mumble). Take three and a quarter minutes out of your life and give your ears a treat by listening to this track because I can almost guarantee you will be ending up downloading it. Although he's using a recognisable sample, I suspect that this is mostly home recorded, and on that basis this is a splendid track. Ilias sings with a slight accent and, for my money, that helps the track to register more because it took a while for the music to work its magic on me. A nice fusion of styles, mostly but what the hey...

Very professional effort, and a real decent song too. Recommended.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jim-n-Lisa - Before Dreaming

Hear The Track Here

Just before I get started let me send a message to Jim Miller. You can only ever get ONE Stevie ya know. It's a once in a lifetime event, you can't win it twice so **** off out of it!! :D Seriously, JimBob Charliething and I are old friends by now and I can throw gratutious insults around like confetti and not have a care in the world about repercussions (Ed: It helps that Jim's in Texas and you are in the UK, Gilmore). If such a thing WERE possible, then Jim-n-Lisa might very well win more than their fair share and that is one of the reasons I decided to keep it to a once and only thing. (Travel Ed: You ever heard of airplanes? Be scared, Gilmore, quake in thy boots)

Jim-n-Lisa have already scored a string of Must Haves this year: Rasta Man (September 2006), Missing Douglas (August 2006), Lovely Walkers (June 2006) and a Highly Recommended for Jihad (April 2006) proving (to me anyway) just how right they were for the Artist Of The Year 2004 award I gave them. While you may have noticed my huge bias towards these Texans, their music and style can win over the most hardened of hearts and amply backs up any praise I - or other reviewers - festoon them with. What makes Before Dreaming an extra special experience is the dulcet voice of Madam Lisa herself, a thing of beauty we don't hear anywhere near enough of.

What we do hear enough of is the incredible musical touch of young Jim me lad. Believe me when I say this, I try REAL hard to be more critical with artists of this calibre, simply because I expect an excellence that few artists around can sustain for long. Let alone over years, in Jim-n-Lisa's case. That same excellence has been shown time after time by this husband and wife team, and nowhere so evident are they a team as on this wonderfully relaxed, warm massage of a track. With it's jazzy interludes, stylish performances from both vocalists, a really exceptional vocal arrangement and some lovely acoustic playing from Mr Miller, Beyond Dreaming is exactly what I would have expected from them. And then about another light year or two beyond that. Seriously, I am stunned at how complex, classy and worldly weary this track is, all at the same time. Not to be satisfied with the merely impossibly brilliant and as if all that wasn't enough digital stimulation to arouse a nunnery, it lasts for an orgasmic seven minutes and oh....oh...

Beautiful. Gorgeous. I Love You, have my babies....

(Ed: they took him away, babbling. He said to tell you get this MUST HAVE track or he'll be back!)

Nuff X - Arrogance Gets You Everywhere

Hear The Track Here

One of the reasons I've always avoided the electronica field is because I never seem to find much innovation there. To be sure there are the few bright spots but they are numbered in tens. Most electronica IMHO is boring, soulless rubbish (Ed: there goes the fire alarm, everybody run!) and considering the sheer amount of it, to find so few real innovators is a long, involved process. Over the years I have been reviewing at Soundclick I have - obviously - listened to and reviewed thousands of electronica tracks so I should know what I like and what I don't. Nuff X found out in short order what I didn't like about the genre when I first encountered him a year or so ago, and I have to say I am very impressed indeed at the direction he has taken - and conversely what he has done with it.

Now that's what I'M talking about...

Chief amongst the genres bugbears is a sub-genre: breakbeats. Even though I've been told I employ a lot of the sounds in my own work, to me it sounds very different. However, I do have a deep and abiding love for reggae and its more dubby offshoots and for me it's that musical track that Nuff X is pursuing. Although Arrogance couldn't in any way or form be compared to reggae, a lot of the technical tricks it comes up with are most definitely dubby tricks - albeit in a cut-up, shook up world and that is the beauty of what Nuff X is doing.

Nuff X has been having a pretty good year really, he's had a string of recommended or highly recommended from me and that's not bad going at all. This is a very bass heavy track so watch you don't bark your woofers, and I completely understand why. The cut up rhythm is really class, the 'whachoo looking at?' line increasing the effectiveness of the groove - and what a groove it is. To be fair, you would definitely want to be a fan of the wilder shores of electronica, or breakbeats or whatever to really get the full measure of the whack upside the head it gives you, but really I think almost anyone would mutter a quick 'wtf' after starting this. That, I suspect, is the point. I finished my last review of this artist by saying 'deeply disturbing' and I think I've found it's soulmate. Terrific achievement though.

Recommended Electronica.

Smalllife - Christian

Hear The Track Here

Smalllife have blasted onto my radar in a big way over the space of but a few tracks, primarily because they are a rock band that actually delivers the goods in every way. Proof of that claim, at least for this reviewer, are the three Smalllife tracks residing on my hard drive. For an artist to deliver such blistering tracks every time is just impossible and every time I now approach a new track I feel a sense of trepidation. The only other MP3 Unsigned artist to do so well with me this year is The Shed so I hope that goes some way towards showing my incredible bias for this band. Like the Shed, this is a band that LIKE to play together and it shows, they just have to be a hot band live or there is no justice.

Although you may get overtaken by the velocity that Smalllife's tracks come at you - I certainly did at first. Too busy gawking at the things whizzing by to really in the finer details, ya know what I mean? However, after extended listening you begin to realise that not only to do they play a blinder, they happen to write really cracking songs as well. Ultimately that is why so many of their tracks have ended up staying with me and maybe Christian is gonna join them, although the jury is still out right now on that. This isn't to say that Smalllife have delivered a dud. Anything is their usual style. Nope, the reason for this uncertainty is because of the style this is encased in - much more punk than rock.

Seriously this gambols out of the gate like a greyhound on methamphetamine, talk about taking your breath away. It'll take a minute or two for this to sink in because there is a very deceptive intro, before the fireworks start. Be prepared, therefore, around one minute in, to get your head kicked in. This track is serious mosh pit stuff, the kind of thing that would make for a memorable evening - should you survive it. Can't say that I am over the moon about the intro but damn the rest of the track more than makes up for it. Suffice to say Christian is again, a cracking song. Jaymz Lee Shaw is in terrific voice carrying enough energy in his performance to power a continent. Being a long admirer of punk (it is, after all, rock based) this is a virtuoso performance, so much so that I had to keep wiping spit off my face. Great song, wonderful themes, golden performances and tough, intelligent lyrics. At this stage of the game, Smalllife have just about everything going for them. Doncha just HATE that?? :P

Rock/punk hybrid heat seeking missile.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Silvertrain - Turn This Ship Around

Hear The Track Here

I know, I know, the month wouldn't be right without a Silvertrain track would it? Despite endless obstacles, my life has been brightened immensely by the four new 'studio' tracks the band have put together for their new Nine Lives CD. So if you thought you were in for yet another orgasmic spurt of criticism (yes, or ass kissing if you prefer) with Turn This Ship Around you would be dead wrong. Although I have to say that Angel By My Side is definitely one of my favourite of all Silvertrain tracks and it's a kinda/sorta ballad which makes it even more remarkable.

The reason I brought up the subject of Angel was because Turn This Ship around could well be its twin brother both in tone and content. In that respect, it absolutely typifies exactly what Silvertrain have always been about: short, sharp but incredibly sweet tracks that can be exhilarating or - in the rare instance - irritating. See it would come as no surprise to John and Ritchie (the engine drivers) that I dislike ballads but somehow they always seem to win me over - albeit eventually. I much prefer the rockier, upbeat style of the band but hey I'll take what I am given and be grateful for it.

Yeah. Riiiiigghhhtttt.

So, you are not going to get a lot out of Turn This Ship Around other than a plain unadorned guitar/voice track, and the smallest of why string arrangements. Wow, doesn't sound much like a hootenany does it? Welp, ya ungrateful varmints, just put your ear to it and see that despite that (major) obstacle, this is a classy, well sung track - in the time honoured Silvertrain fashion. Certainly a track I can see doing well on the millions of stations these guys seem to be on. Having lived with this track for a while, I can definitely see the potential but even in its raw state this a powerful song indeed. Even more gobsmacking is it's inordinately long 2:43 run time. This, remember, from the band who are renowned the world over for one minute wonders. In that respect, Turn This Ship Around counts as a magnum opus. Oh and tell me if this doesn't sound like Angel By My Side eh??

Bare naked, but a great song.

Fluidity - Sustainability

Hear The Track Here

I'm one of those musicians who can't leave things alone. Actually, more pack rat than musician, if you know what I mean. I have gigabytes of stored files, samples, snippets of tunes and general grooves as well as all the files connected with the hundreds of tracks I have released. Seems like John Paul Carroll (aka Fluidity) has much the same nasty habit because here's an older tune of his that he has just put through the re-work process. Personally, I find this process extremely useful, because all the time you are learning new processes. What you made two or three years ago can only be bettered by a remix/rework applying all you learned since you made the original tracks. Give it a go, if you haven't already, you are bound to surprise yourself.

At this stage of the game, me and Fluidity are extremely familiar and I like the guys output and attitude. Mind you, he does happen to press more than a few of my rock buttons, so I have to admit to a certain personal bias. After a raft of enjoyable tracks, its fairly obvious that whatever problems this artist has in making his music (equipment issues, recording equipment) he surmounts them easily enough and about the only thing I have ever found wrong with his tracks do seem like little niggles indeed.

Take Sustainability for example, classic rock song structure, a doomy kinda Black Sabbath back in the day vocal and lyrics that are about the way we've been treating the world and its repercussions. See, all the right buttons. My niggle this time is with that vocal, especially in the rougher, metallic section towards the end. Somehow it just doesn't carry the weight it should. That might have something to do with the way the stereo picture is structured, there's a very distinct left/right image in the first section of the track, which goes stereo into the chorus. I don't know, it throws me and just struck me as odd. On all other fronts this is a splendid track, full of rock bombast and fireworks. Fluidity doing what he does best, rocking out.

Recommended rock.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Cam's Even Song - The Satellite Song

Hear The Track Here

Cam's Even Song (aka Canadian Cameron Bastedo) hasn't put a foot wrong this year musically and has just had two Must Haves in a row from me: Face the Music (The Ballad of 4 Lepers) (August 2006) and In A Little While (September 2006). Both classic examples of what Cam does best; writes songs with content, style and meaning. Of course it's true that only one of those tracks rightly belongs to Cam's Even Song, the other being a Retrograde Pop track. Retrograde Pop being the ghost of Cam's past, and a very likeable, friendly ghost it is too.

As well as being one of the most visible of forum members, Cam is also well on the way to claiming the most prolific too, with a grand total of 155 songs on his Cam's Even Song page alone. That's not to take into account the equally prolific outputs from alter egos Sonic Salad and the aforementioned Retrograde Pop. People talk to me about where I find the time to do what I do, the same could be said of Cam. How does he fit it all in? While it's true that Cam is an acquired taste (more easily assimilated if you like the rocky side of life), at it's root is a serious, dedicated songwriter and musician with more sides than you could shake a pointy thing at. On that score, the difference between Face the Music and The Satellite Song is remarkable. Where the former is all heavy duty Dylan inspired country light, the latter is a blast of late 1960's pop/rock whimsy.

Huh? Whaddd dat??

One of the better delights of Cam tracks are the lyrics and I love to read while I work, if you know what I mean. To my mind, Cam is one of the finer songwriters on Soundclick, his music is simple, effective and to the point. The recent steps forward (over the last year or so) in production values is laudable but it would all fall flat on its face without the Captain's steady hand on the tiller. Not too little, not too much. It's that absolute variance in styles that really claimed me as a Cam fan, he is a man of many faces, all of them eminently listenable whatever your musical persuasion. The Satellite Song is a bit short (2:46) and considering it's tone I think it's wise length. It's sheer blast of bonhomie is more than enough for a couple of minutes, and more and you might to feel a bit seasick. As I've already said, there's a great '60's rock feel about this track with a hard punching, right-up-to-the-minute mix. At this stage of the game, Cam's Even Song have delivered 4 keepers for me this year, and I can't praise an artist any higher than that.

Class act, in a silly mood. Highly Recommended.

Onager - Embers - Rekindled

Hear The Track Here

Yet another collaboration featuring the enigmatic singer Essence, this time with a vocal borrowed from the Viral Essences collaboration, aided by an old MP3 Unsigned face Contayjen - who you may remember as Virus. Confused?? Fuck yeah. Still, seeing as that counts as normal anyway, I'll get on. I first came across this vocalist in yet another collaboration - this time with Redshirt Theory - last month and can definitely see why she gets around so much. Voice of an angel mateys, and no mistake. Yes, men in old macs, it IS also good that she looks like an angel too...


Onager (to drag this review back from the gutter) continues to impress with his very nicely produced sounds, and Embers - Rekindled shows that quality from note one. OK, one more thing about Essence and then I'll concentrate on the music.... Her vocal style lends itself so well to every track I have heard with her on, and that's a pretty diverse bunch, but it fits like a glove on this excellent, broody little jobbie. As good a job as Essence does, for me the real star here is Onager's reworking of this track and shows that the Highly Recommended I gave him last month is no flash in the pan. Matter of fact, I have spent just over a year now listening to this artist and noticed his increase in knowledge, and it's subsequent deepening of his musical style is a distinct pleasure to listen to.

Ally that with a brutal (as in all encompassing, in the nicest possible way) mix and I absolutely garantee that this track is gonna have you pooping them old panties... I've just spent some time hanging out in the Realworld site, listening to Shock The Monkey remixes for another review done at the same time as this one, and I am floored by how much of a comparison I can make between this track and some of the best tracks heard on that site IMHO. Just on the music alone, I would have loved this track; it's reach and it's endlessly fascinating flow alone would have done the trick and gained Onager yet another HR rating. However, the combination of a killer musical track with a killer vocalist puts this way over the top, and lightyears ahead of the competition. Congratulations to all concerned, this is a beautifully realised, effective track that is deserving of endless praise and a definite keeper for this reviewer.

MUST HAVE. Fekkin awesome, I tell 'ee...

Waxko - And Free Monkey Forgave Man

Hear The Track Here

First up this month is a bit of a weird choice on my part. This track is not available on Soundclick and is not available for download either (boooo). It's also, as it 'appens, a remix and a famous remix at that. That is the sole reason this is on the list this month because I am - as you know - a bit of a remix demon myself. Seeing as the original track is by none other than Peter Gabriel, the king of worldly angst - and IMHO in his most creative period so far. Shock The Monkey (one of the man's classic tracks) was up for remixing here and.... Well, let me put it like this. I've done thousands of remixes but when you are dealing with little bits of history, it's different.

Waxko is obviously a better man than this yeller belly...

He's also a wise man who knows not to fu... not to fu.... not to mess around with the flow of the original song too much. Come on, remember this track! It was EVERYWHERE for a while and I have to say that Waxko has done a cracking job on keeping the original feel and somehow injecting a fresh burst of energy in what had become a very familiar (maybe overfamiliar) the original had become. For my money, I felt there was probably a bit too much of the 'shock the monkey' strapline, especially in the later sections of the track. Waxko also says he had to downgrade the bitrate to get this track uploaded and I feel that is partly to blame for the lightweight feel of the sound.

I really had to pump up my own sound system to get something meaningful out of this track and that obviousy is a rendering problem, but not all the blame should be laid there. I felt that some of the instrumentation tended to get lost in amongst all the action. As you might suspect, this isn't a track that could - in any shape or form - be termed chill-out. Waxko brings a knowing jungleist sound to this particular party and as good as it was to hear this, I personally could have done with a bit more Waxko and a bit less His Majesty, know what I mean? Speaking of which, all the way through this review I kept thinking I was listening to Nad Sylvan, and if if that ain't the damndest thing then I don't know what is. If you loved the original you are gonna go ape when you blast this bad boy into your earballs.

KAPOW, action jackson. Recommended for some wild adventures.