Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mike-K - Here We Go Again (ft Maria Daines/Jim Miller)

Hear The Track Here

Seeing as this month has been a bit of a slog, I thought I may as well round it out with yet another track.... As if. With one notable exception. It would have to be something that featured three of my all time favourite Soundclick artists playing together on the same track. Fear not though, where rock stars fear to tread, unsigned artists slouch right through the door. For here is a new Mike-K track (an on-line music veteran if there ever was such a thing), aided and abetted with the stellar assistance of the Chocolate Lady (Ed: he means Maria Daines, I have the Child Lock on his mouth) and my favourite Texan saxman Jim Miller. Now, as you know, I have great respect for Mike-K as a musician even though we don't see eye to eye with his more easy listening style - and smooth jazz sure does promise to do that....

No assumptions mind... (Ed: riiiight)

Mike wrote the music and lyrics and produced this little jobbie and his meticulous attention to sound detail, a solid, professional mix and this wouldn't sound out of place on any late night radio show. In fact all three parties contributing here should receive a hearty pat on the back. Sure this music isn't that much of a stretch for any of them but they manage to sound fresh and different, each of them in their own way. I've watched Jim Miller (and Jim-n-Lisa) ever since he first appeared on Soundclick and as surprised as I was to discover that he could actually play a saxaphone, I am overwhelmed by what he has become since then. He has developed a style that can only be his, a way of phrasing, mannerisms that is instantly recognisable - and he can already be seen in a variety of other settings. Including a couple of mine. (Ed: BING! Shameless plug!)

The biggest surprise of all comes from the Screaming Saucebucket (Ed: that Child Lock was such a great idea...). Whereas the Maria Daines we know as the 60 fags a day, fire breathing dragon of a voice, viciously savaging the vocal as if it were a pesky varmint; the one that appears on Here We Go Again is a very different animal. She lends that fine vocal to the jazzy arrangement as if born to it, the vocal caught beautifully in the mix with just the merest echo overhang.... Classy. The combination of all of this is a superb (yep) middle of the road track the like of which you are unlikely to hear performed or produced better. And, just in case I haven't made this clear enough, I usually hate the beejesus out of this style, can't do that with this though.

Work of Art. MUST HAVE. (even for a peice of online history)

Fear 2 Stop - Attic Stomping

Hear The Track Here

Precariously perched right on the very edge of this months review list, Fear 2 Stop are nothing if not edgy. Listen ANYONE who can get away with a track called The Infamous Yellow Vagina Song has got to like riding lifes rollercoaster. They have been a bit quiet this year but I can forgive them everything for giving me a Track Of The Year 2006 with Dishevelled, a track that - if you knew the band from a few years ago - would surprise the hell out of you. It did me, and since then Fear 2 Stop have turned the corner on their more outre style and become - if not rich and famous - one of Soundclicks finest experimental artists.

Wooaaahh, bit rich...

This year fear 2 Stop have gathered a couple of Highly Recommendeds and a Must Have so it's not been exactly quiet, and there is always room for one more. Attic Stomping sounds like a return to the Fear 2 Stop of old, but with that added production chops. Sad to say it doesn't make the music any more baffling than it was back in the day, but hey it sure sounds a lot better than it did then. Over the years, I've heard so many different facets of this band that I guess I must be somewhat immune to what they may offer the newcomer but I sincerely hope that the said newcomer isn't of the unwary persuasion.

See, Fear 2 Stop in hard experimental style can be a shock to the system and well worthy of the 'wtf' uttered by almost everybody. Had I my druthers (who fekkin stole 'em anyway?) I would point this alleged unwary newcomer to the more commercial side of this excellent band such as Dishevelled, Givin In or even the Knapkin Fairy as a better introductory note. I'm not sure about this (who could be?) but there may well be errors on this track concerning levels and an unusally abrupt ending. There again, knowing this band, they could have done it on purpose.

Again, for fans only probably.

dtrg - Nighlight (Doxology)

Hear The Track Here

Not only does this artist have a name that sounds like someones cat strayed across the keyboard, but he's going to take us back fifteen years in time too!! See, who needs television? Your panic may be assuaged somewhat when I tell you that our guide for this track is none other than One Kids Lunch member Dave - or okl dave as he's more often known. Dtrg (sorry, I refuse to start a sentence off without a cap no matter what the artist thinks) is a younger, leaner, fitter okl dave then, and I bet he's hating me right around now for pointing out that he's no longer any of those things.

(reviewer falls over laughing) Ahem, s'cuse me. Slight fault on the line.

Nightlight (Doxology) is 'a lullabye I wrote for myself in a bleak time ' and if that didn't set the alarm bells racing, then nothing short of global warming will. As befits a member of so lauded an outfit, Dave generally has something to offer, albeit in his usual soft rock stylee. Nightlight (Doxology) is in most senses a lullabye; a beautifully played and realised peice of music to lull you into the arms of the Sandman. OK, y'all can stop all that yawning because as relaxing as it may seem, there's a lot in it that will keep me awake listening too. If it works for me, who knows anyone has a chance.

Its basically an extended guitar peice ranging from percussive harmonics (a most impressive beginning) through some splendid acoustic lead playing and even bordering on the heavier side of rock towards the end. All in all, I found it a great listen, especially the sound of the instruments - nothing like a well played guitar is there? I'm not whether this partic-you-lar version is fifteen years old, or just the birth of the track. Sounds a bit too good to have been made such a long time ago, ya know. There again, knowing his style, I wouldn't want to bet the farm on that.

Highly Recommended guitar instrumental and a MUST HAVE for OKL fans.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Legendary Fred Miller - The Corporate World

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The last time the (alleged)endary Fred Miller and I met, it wasn't a pretty sight. Oh, we didn't resort to fisticuffs or anything so brutish but it was obvious that we weren't going to see eye to eye musically. At least not for a while anyway. A Light In The Darkness (September 2007) was folk rock but of the most basic kind, although Fred acquitted himself well vocally. Just the instrumentation and musical performance that was a bit lacking, as was some fairly glaring basic recording errors. As I said at the time, I have a lot of time for what I refer to as American folk music and although A Light In The Darkness nodded in that general direction it was never going to be enough. Especially given that the competition is fierce in every which way; it's getting harder and harder to get yourself heard.

I mentioned in that review that Fred was probably going to be an acquired taste and if that were to be so, you would probably fare better by listening to this track to see exactly what this artist is about. It's actually a nice blend of the original folk ethos and modern rock and although you may compare it some of the majors, you can still make out the bulge in Fred's cheek where his tongue is. I must admit I wasn't looking forward to hearing this track (based on my past experience anyway) but I'm actually glad I've been able to get a more balanced look at this musician.

There is a lovely lope to this track that I found most relaxing allowing the song to soak in. As I said, vocally it's odd and even quirky but it works extremely well, especially when the backing vocals kick in. A prime component there is a vocal bassline that is pure country, pulling the chorus up by its bootstraps. Not quite sure what The Corporate World is all about, so yes Fred, posting lyrics would be very cool. There are some great touches to this track that you pull out long after you first started to play it, and that just about gets it said. Put it like this, I liked this because of its individual, idiosyncratic style (especially the chorus) but I'd think even you - yes you - may very well 'get this'

A nice blend of folk and country. Highly Recommended.

333maxwell - The Leads and Lags of Elevator

Hear The Track Here

Being a net user of long standing I have a tendency to fixate on certain things, which certainly means different sites. Dribble spots I call them because that is usually the outcome. I tend to drool over certain images (Ed: usually women) and end up leaving little sticky bits everywhere. Yes, I look (Ed: and drool) at women but I've also been known to get that glassy-eyed glare over kit too. Boys toys, geeky bits of kits or - in this case - a room full of instruments. 333maxwell may very well have the oddest name you ever saw, but he also (a faux band he says) has that selfsame room full of instruments. Yes, lucky bastard would cover this situation nicely, or at least that dribble spot I mentioned earlier.

Aaahh, but can all that beauty be put to good use?

The song comments give you some clue as to what to expect; live bass, clarinet and guitar, virtual keys and drums all delivered wrapped up in a cool jazz arrangement and a clean production and mix. While much attention has been spent on getting those live sounds right (the clarinet especially sounds wonderful), not so much has been done at tidying up certain stray ends where - I imagine - Chas Holman (for it is he) is trying to make it all fit together. That isn't to say that it's noticable, but to someone who can hear disjoints its a bit jarring. Jazz lovers probably won't too much notice either way because they'll be too busy digging the hep groove - whatever that means.

He's got as nice a jazz guitar sound as the clarinet and it's these two instruments that hold the whole thing together, and that is what most people will focus in on anyway. What I do like about this track is it's confident, accomplished manner, although its a bit short for my tastes but that's neither here nor there. Its a nice jazz combination too; the guitar sets off the clarinet nicely and not one you hear a lot of. While its not sufficiently strong enough to capture my attention for that long, I'm sure that the jazz/easy listening scene would certainly lap this up.

Excellent guitar/clarinet jazz. Recommended.

Mike Romig - Whatever I Do

Hear The Track Here

November has been a good month for me to meet some new musicians, it's been a while since I've had such an influx of new sounds and I freely admit that it is good to get away from the same names for a while. Variety is the spice of life and all that. Jazz is the specific genre and that sits well with me too because I do like a lot of jazz and for someone to name both John Coltrane and Miles Davis as influences, it gave me something to look forward to after all the usual bleepery I subject me poor ears to. Mike is American and I'm not sure what exactly he's playing here, or whether he's playing everything, in which case he's got some considerable chops about him and he's obviously not that new to making music, even if he's new to me. Judging by the amount of plays and page views he is not doing to badly either...

In the scheme of things, doncha know? ;)

He is also another in a long line of artists lately who choose to sell their material rather than allow free downloads. Fair enough I say, although as a reviewer I am bound to treat the track in a slightly different - and hopefully more professional - way because bucks is bucks innit? Mind you, at .50c this would be a steal even it were brown and pointy which - I hasten to add - it is most assuredly not. Nope what you get for your money is a very smooth peice of music that - should you like cool, relaxed jazz. Having spent a lot of time hanging around Ronnie Scott's (one of the worlds premier jazz spots doncha know), I was exposed to a lot of the great jazz trios and quartets and this harks back to that period beautifully.

There again, this is money we are talking about, are there any cons?

Well, sad to say, there are - but only a completely geeky muttonhead like me would ever know. Certainly not yer average Mr & Ms because all they would see and hear was whether it was a good track or not. Musically, I'd say it was very efficient. The slight arrangement helps the inherent laziness of the track to really show what its made of. My only quibble is again with certain 'factory' sounds and the tendency for MIDI instruments to sound - how can I put this? - hokey. There are a couple of those culprits on this track and they definitely detract from my enjoyment of the peice. Had those sounds been better realised, this would have been hard to tell from the real thing - and that's a back handed compliment if I have ever heard one.

Smooth, relaxed jazz in the grand manner. Recommended.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kleen Productions - How Can I Be (the luckiest man in the world)

Hear The Track Here

Kleen Productions is a new name, at least to me but that probably has much to do with the fact that he is a Smooth R&B artist and y'all know that me thoughts on most of the genre are not fit for print so that may account for that. It's not that I don't like the genre but it isn't one I would normally search out and - if I did - I would be very particuar about what I wanted from it. It's odd that this track and This Is Goodbye from MJK were back to back in the review schedule this month because I loved and raved about that track and it made a handy companion, which is a high compliment. While its not quite as fresh and original as MJK's track, it does show a particular aptitude for the poppier (ie boy band melodies) side of mainstream commercial R&B.

Judging by the amount of SC stations that are playing his material, Kleen Productions is not that new to the game, as the quality and expertise of How Can I Be will more than amply demonstrate. The more I listened to this track the more the whole boy band thing took on a life of its own and I was left imagining ghosts of boy bands past - not a pleasant nightcap. Hemlock would be wiser. Anyway, where was I? Ahhh, talent at getting the product sounding right.... If this track hadn't had the cruel fate of sharing it's place in the review list with MJK, this would have more than helped to fill that enormous gap.

Let me just be straight about one thing here, I am not into ANY of the boy bands as such, most of it is sweet enough to rot your teeth within weeks of exposure, but it has thrown up some dynamite songs and those I most definitely like. It helps that such a dynamite song then gets the right treatment from the music and the studio expertise that goes along with getting it right. Again, it should be a never ending wonder why artists of this calilibre can be unsigned because this artist may very make this music on a computer and other music tools, the result is about as professional as you are likely to get this side of a million dollars. How can I be the luckiest man in the world to have two such dynamite tracks come up side by side.....

Most Highly Recommended smooth R&B (yep I said that)

M J K - This Is Goodbye

Hear The Track Here

Third time around for Florida's M J K, an absolutely knockout singer (go to his page, pick a track ANY track) and one I have been pleased to review in the past thanks to that talent. Note that I don't EVER use the word talent lightly; take it to the bank that when I use that in any context it means they are usually way above the unsigned norm. These are artists I consider should be signed artists but - unless things change - probably won't be because they are just too good. Believe me, I've seen it happen thousands upon thousands of times. It's heartening to see that artists of such quality and professionalism have an outlet and an audience (although you really have to work for it), and it benefits us net music junkies enormously because you get to hear some of the most righteous music this side of heaven.

Speaking of which...

This Is Goodbye has provided MJK with his first Soundclick #1, which is not as easy as it seems and if that ain't proof and indication of my opening statements, then I don't know what is. Wait! Yes I do. Listening to the track will convince even the hardest of hearts that here is a real talent - a great singer, with an equally great song. To wish for some stunning arrangement, and a production quality second to none would seem like wishing for the moon with most artists but with someone of MJK's calibre that comes built in as standard. The simplicity of the arrangement serves brilliantly to highlight and boost the inherent confidence of the performance.

Ultimately though it's the way this guy uses his knowledge and experience to deliver the kind of vocal performance you haven't heard since the early days of Stevie Wonder - who this track reminds me of slightly. R&B then, but I put my money my where my mouth is, I bet you will not hear a finer example of a much denigrated (by me usually) genre, anywhere on the planet. When I reviewed Never Loved Me (February 2007) I loved it from the get go and rated it a Must Have. I'm not sure that this one isn't even better than that so does that make it a Must Have, Must Have? Whatever it is, I can sum it all up neatly it one little word.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Superbron - Two Bees Or Not Two Bees

Hear The Track Here

Two Bees Or Not Two Bees? It was only a matter of time I guess (sigh). Sooooo, third time around for Superbron, a Pop artist from the Netherlands who I have had a patchy couple of encounters with. Can't say as I liked Time Flies When You're Having Funk (July 2007) because...well it just wasn't. Funky, that is. What it suffered from most was a kind of blandness of sound that I have never liked, and believe me I heard a lot of bland. As Beneath A Burning Sun (October 2007) proved, the blandness certainly wasn't anything to do with the performance of either of these tracks because Superbron turns out to be a very clever musician; as this track so amply demonstrated. And I'm a sucker for Andreas Vollenweider, which is what it most reminded me of.

So, Two Bees Or Not Two Bees? Whadda we think?

The title comes about because the tune is inspired by one of my own musical heroes; BB King, a blues legend and obviously a step away from his normal Pop main genre. Well, I can't say with any honesty that Two Bees Or Not Two Bees, has much to do with the blues; unless it's a kind of third cousin to extremely l-o-o-s-e jazz tinged with the slightest tang of da blooz. To be sure, Superbron almost has that trademark BB sound but the fact that the guitar seems to be doing something slightly separate from the rest of the track kinda takes the shine off that idea.

To be honest, this sounds like a practice session track - at least to my ears. Whatever arguments can be advanced about how wide a church the blues is, I think I could quite easily find a counter argument. One thing the blues has always had for me is flow, and I don't find of that quality in this track. That's a shame because again Superbron demonstrates that he knows what hes doing technically but somehow it fails in the final execution - at least to my ears. I like all the elements (especially the guitar sound and that lucious organ) but put them all together and I'm kinda baffled. Which is par for the course for me I guess.

PKR - A Nu Birth

Hear The Track Here

Over the past couple of years I have reviewed a steady stream of Indian musicians of all stripes, but over the last year in particular, I seem to have become innundated with review requests from that continent. Now I am well aware of just how enormous India is, and the amount of people that country holds but the feeling still persists that they are passing my name around between themselves saying 'Go see Gilmore, he LIKES Indian musicians. While that is undoubtedly true, having championed the careers of two of India's finest Indie musicians from the getgo (Prash and Omnisine, seeing as you asked), I hope I am not heading towards Indian musician burnout territory. Thinking further though, the sheer high quality of the Indian musicians I have heard this year would stop that from happening.

PKR is extreme shorthand for Prakhar Kumar, the musician under scrutiny here. He's from Dehradun India and - not surprisingly - he's classed as a World music artist. Aaah, but as we well know, there is a chasm of difference between interpretations of the genre. A Nu Birth sounds surprisingly New Age soundtrack material to me, and I think most regular readers will know just how feel about that genre. Having said that, there is no doubt that Prakhar has put in the work to make the track sound the way it should, and people who DO like the genre (either soft World music or New Age/Soundtrack) will find much here that will relax them on the journey.

I think, therefore, that my reaction to this track is muted because of my dislike for this whole style. It shouldn't worry this musician in the slightest because at least I could find nothing to pick on in the execution of the track, and it's obvious he likes what he's doing and ultimately that's all that counts. If I had to raise a couple of quibbles, I would say that maybe the instruments were a little too clean for the way the track operates, but again that's more of a nitpick than a complaint. I seem to have a truncated version of this too, which doesn't really help the review process, and I can never get that stupid SC player to work properly...sheesh...

As the man says, 'something to soothe the soul'.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Antennaheadz - Mr Panache

Hear The Track Here

Rather than barging into the front of the review queue as he has been known to do just lately, Thomas J (aka The Antennaheadz) takes the lazy way round this month. The styles that this artist has attempted this year has been amazing, whatever the style was, The Antennaheadz had some version of it. In that way, I suspect that 2007 will end up being a very, very good year for this artist. Even, gaining his first ever Must Have from me when I reviewed the excellent (if lo-fi) Loveless Blues (October 2007). His first, I might add in about 4 years of reviewing. Now that, my friends, is what is known as taking the long view. Still better late than never eh? Part of the reason that track gained such plaudits was because it was the first time I had ever heard an actual SONG issue from this usually most experimental of artists.

So, what's on the menu this month?

Well, Mr Panache is showing much more of the usual experimental side of The Antennaheadz, but not in anything like his normal fashion. Thomas J seems to have undergone a transformation over the past few tracks and - there is no doubt in my mind - is turning out the best music he has produced so far in his long career. Surprise number two is that Mr Panache is also - like Loveless Blues - an actual song but only in that kinda/sorta way that Antennaheadz material has that makes it so endearing even when its giving you a musical headache. The more I listened to the track, the more I got to like it, and I absolutely loved it the first time round.

Yep, that immediate. Who'da thunk it?

Mr Panache starts like some kind of hokey semi-C&W track; this being down to the banjo/vocal intro all rendered with a very efficient, almost lo-fi production but only until the main track kicks in. Right around 0:30, the whole track shifts gear and the main event will surprise even die-hard fans of Thomas J in all his various musical guises. I will bet any currency you like that you never expected anything like this. He's got some really lovely things going on throughout the track to make it more interesting and is - technically anyway - one of his finer tracks in any genre. Of course, it should be remembered that the artist we are talking about here has always insisted in taking his own path, so it's unlikely you will have heard anything quite like this. All in all, a remarkable track in many ways, despite its built-in oddity.

MUST HAVE for innovation. First class experimental lo-fi (Ed: eh?)

By Fidelity and Fortitude - The Happy Song You Asked Me To Write

Hear The Track Here

Although the name will be convoluted and maybe new to you, the musical mind lurking behind By Fidelity and Fortitude is not. You may know him better by the name JCs Revenge, who I have reviewed a time or two. By Fidelity and Fortitude is, apparently, an 'acoustic sideshow' and 'a place to showcase some new material' or to 'produce some more experimental stuff'. Well, whatever it is, its a place that is separate from JCs Revenge and - presumably - a solo project. JCs Revenge being a fully fledged, working live band who also have a Soundpage which you can see by going clicky clicky. Although they haven't given me anything to get really steamed up about as yet, I live in high hope that they will sooner or later.

The Happy Song You Asked Me To Write is alternative: indie in much the same manner as the band itself, although lighter in tone and feel and with an almost lo-fi production that nonetheless backs up the song admirably. The Happy Song is in fact more charming than its title would have you believe and for alternative fans, this is going to go down well. I can't say, with all honesty that the genre does very much for me but having said that I am liking what is happening on this track, especially its whimsical almost 60-ish feel.

Nonetheless, it is an extremely lightweight listen and wouldn't tax even the sweetest old granny to have a listen ot six to it. Therein, I suspect, may lie its ultimate problem - it may well be too lightweight to make much of a difference. No matter though because it is a good song, and a very decent performance (in a hippyish 1960's stylee) from Sam Christie - the brains behind By Fidelity and Fortitude. In some ways it reminds me of Big Ship (whatever happened to Marcus?) at least in the production style if not in the song itself. The only real problem I had with the track is that it seemed to ewear out its welcome pretty quickly. After more than a few plays it tended to irritate rather than inspire, after more plays than that it really started to grate on me nerves. There again, do bear in mind that I am not a fan of this particualr style anyway.

Very reasonable lo-fi, low key alternative rock.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Anna Lea Pudan - Victim Of Love

Hear The Track Here

Second time around for Canadian singer/songwriter Anna Lea Pudan and she - and I - are probably both hoping that this review may go a little better than The Long Road (September 2007. See, I saw nothing wrong whatsoever in her claim to be a singer/songwriter, merely in the way it was presented. As we all become all too painfully aware first impressions count even more on the internet than real life, so what we release as 'musicians' numbers us in the eyes of our listeners more than anything else. One of the reasons that the HUGE unsigned underground scene has such a bad name in the RW is because of the often unprofessional way it is delivered to us. I'm not talking about anything particularly technical here mind, we all have to work with audio limitation, what I am talking about is presentation. Having the basic framework of a song and singing above it nmay well prove that you are a good songwriter, but only the full deal will establish you as an artist.

Now, let me put this soapbox away.....

Unfortunately Anna did not leave me a link for the track she wanted, so I'll choose my own. Victim Of Love it what I came up with because I was sure as heck not going to review a Christmas tune already :D Jazz is the flavour here, and smooth blue jazz at that; a genre that to my ears suits Anna's sultry vocal style. Although - it has to be said - there is no denying that musically and professionally Anna sounds like the newcomer to this music malarkey, but she can turn in a reasonable performance as this track displays - given the style and delivery. Stylistically it's a little fuller in sound than The Long Road, and that just cannot be a bad thing at all.

It's also the kind of jazzy blues that I really like which helps me to get over the shortcomings of the track itself (major hum problem, an odd sharpness on the guitar at times, and a very lacklustre sax sound). The sax sections are paced exactly right, the notes dripping out of the horn with the speed and consistency of molasses (Ed: a very sticky sticky thing). How I wish I could hear this with the right audio treatment. Still, this is what we have got and again Victim of Love shows that Anna can write good tunes, and even sing them with some conviction too, especially on tracks like this which she obviously feels most comfortable with. If that's all she wants, then I guess she is doing as well as she can given the limitations she is working under.

Cool jazzy blues though...

Tom Aragon - Deal With The Devil

Hear The Track Here

Although Tom Aragon is a new name to me, and I suspect Soundclick too. it's also possible that a good many people already know of him. At least you might be inclined to think that way when his SC webpages proudly states ' considered by many to be one of the most gifted artists on'. A large claim for sure but one I suspect Tom is only too willing to back up. After all, it would be pretty dumb to say something like that on Soundclick which is full of refugees. Seriously I have met a TON of brilliant artists from, so a claim like that would have me doing my usual research (Ed: he means grubbing for dirt). Lo and behold, Tom Arargon is extremely well known,he has a least two CD's out for sale that I can see and probably a shedload more too. So what does he do? Mmmmmm, let's see....

Welp judging from all I read, and the example of the tracks on his Soundclick page, Tom looks to do a bit of everything from electronica through new age and classical. Nothing though prepared me for the whack upside the head that Deal With The Devil came with. The last thing I would have have expected was good, old-fashioned blues rock. Not just an unsigned kinda rough-assed blues rock either, but a sharp, pointy stick of a track that will poke your eye out if you don't treat it with a bit of care. Although I may quibble (slightly) about some of the production and mix, it is beyond doubt a highly professional job all round. Deal With the Devil was produced by David Hayden of which me learn more when the artist responds to this review.

Deal With The Devil is a thoroughly professional job all round, musically, technically and lyrically, as good as anything you are likely to hear out there in the real world. Tom's vocal style verges on a Doors stylee at certain times - or is it that the whole track sounds like the Doors so he sings that way to fit in? Whatever it is, it works and it works a treat. For my money, when this track is cranked up and powering up your couple of braincells, it's about as hot as it gets. As if all that weren't enough, there is some inspired gob-iron (Ed: I think he means harmonica) playing that sends shivers down my spine. Can't hear that sound often enough.

Class all the way. Inspired blues rock. Highly Recommended.

Close (India) - Ghost Desert

Hear The Track Here

It's rare for a month to go by without me finding something to rave about and although I know I am a mucial liberal (as it were), I'm still picky, picky, picky about the tracks I want to keep close by me. Which also means, of course, that these tracks (the Must Haves) are then put together at the end of the year to help me put together the year end review - The Stevies. Yep, is it that time again? Almost. And - as it happens - Close got in there with the very first track to pass by my ears; Always Winter (October 2007). This turned out to be a wonderful blend of East and West that had me sighing with pleasure, which definitely raised some eyebrows in my family who couldn't hear what I was hearing.

So it goes without saying that I am bounding up and down like an excited puppy (Ed: THAT has to be a serious misprint) waiting for this to get its review turn. Close are a duo from Mumbai, India who - judging by the two examples I have heard - take great delight in creating works of seemingly effortless musical beauty. Ghost Desert (Premptive Attack) to give it its full title, builds on the musical flexibility that was displayed to great effect on Always Winter using the same combination of Western and Eastern instruments. Not surprising really considering that Abhishek plays all the western instruments (guitars, basses, snyths) while Bhushan contributes tabla and other percussive detail.

What makes all this special are the voilin parts, written by Abhishek but performed by Abhinav Shankar, an ideal compliment to what duo are doing with their respective instumentation. Ghost Desert also has the same highly competent mix and production that made Always Winter such a standout track, and it does the same for this track. As I mentioned in my previous review, Close's music is about as good a blend of East and West as it has ever been my pleasure to hear and Ghost Desert is a most worthy follow-on to the first track. Glancing (as you do) at the Stations Playing section of the website I noticed that they haven't got many stations playing them as yet, but the names of the stations that do are resoundingly familiar to anyone who knows how this place really works.

Very classy world blend. Highly Recommended and a MUST HAVE if you want the set :D

EQ - Fallin'

Hear The Track Here

Fifth and final review track from Popspace this month is EQ, a new name to me and maybe to you too. He (its a one man thing) is from Cardiff, Wales started by mixing and mc'ing in his area, moving on to write his own music with (gulp) the ill-fated Music software programs for Playstations. As usual, that phase didn't last long and he migrated yet again to join in with the big boys and use a little Reason. He's signed to a local label apparently, Cymru am Beats to be absolutely precise and even the most casual of listens to this work of lightness and beauty will show why that is a good thing.

EQ shows just how on the pulse he is by coming up with something that just about fulfills everything I need from a track. Some banging beats, several objects of aural desire and a sense of light and shade and Fallin' has all of those things in abundance. As a musician myself I have long been fascinated at the use of choirs and all manner of assembled voices in rock and its hundreds of millions of offshoots, and Fallin' contains an example of the use that will take your breath away. Even now, after much, much playing, I'm still undecided if the female vocals in this are composed of notes or phrases - and if the former, just how painstaking a peice of work this is.

After all, any old chump can sling a bunch of vocals onto a music track, can't they? Programs like Ejay, Magix and the like are the living proof of that BUT with one missing ingredient; musical knowledge. Making a work that is both musically and emotionally fulfilling is infinitely more difficult which is why programs like that are just another entry point. As it looks, I'd say that not only has EQ transferred his act across platforms perfectly, but he's got something a bit special going for him too; a musical knowledge and willingness to experiment that doesn't always go with the breakbeat field EQ says this is an old favourite, and I've have to agree with him, and I've only just made the tracks acquaintance.

Excellent genre-bender, and a lovely, lovely sound. Highly Recommended.

Tedd-Z - Propaganda Ft. Civilian Slave

Hear The Track Here

Another name all too familiar to me from MP3 Unsigned. I seem to have known Tedd-Z forever although I'm certain sure it can't be much more than four years or so since we first met. He's given my ears several right blisterings over the past mumble-mumble years, and - on the plus side - one or two quite tasteful moments. See, the one thing that can always be said about Tedd-Z is that he isn't always tasteful and his 'edgy electronica nonsense'. is often exactly that. It's a given then that his music is somewhat of an acquired taste - for the most part. On the odd occasion he can surprise but I think that's usually by accident rather than by design because Tedd-z, like a lot of electronica artists, does like to walk on the wild side.

He's also a clever and adaptable collaborator and on this track he is joined by Civilian Slave, a hip hop artist from - surprisingly enough - Glasgow in Scotland. Together they have produced an excellent - topical even - track that rocks along with the best of them. Considering the amount of time Tedd-Z has been at this game you would expect a certain level of competence and on this track he's done a great job of pasting this lot together. I'm not sure about this but if the music is all Tedd-Z, my hat is off to him for the cleverness of the arrangement and mix, and the inspired choices of instrumentation.

Propaganda is a bombastic ground-pounder of a track, which is apt considering the lyrical messages and the track's title. Civilian Slave delivers the damning evidence in a laconic Glasgow drawl that makes the track different but in a good way. The combination of that style of vocal and the oh-so-clever tricks going on in the musical track literally rivets it all together. It isn't often that I've had a rosy glow from a Tedd-Z track (he is not noted for that) but I certainly got one from this track. The inspired filter work is a joy to hear and if this is all Tedd-Z's work the man has been learning a LOT more tricks than I had previously suspected him of. A seriously killer, in-yer-face diatribe about todays political realities, this knocked me on my ass from the get go. It isn't exactly technically perfect but boy does it give you a serious buzz.

Hey Tedd-Z! Watch carefully.... MUST HAVE electronica.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Authist & Dub One! - La Cantina (Remastered)

Hear The Track Here

Readers of these reviews may remember this duo, although you would have had to have been reading this insane twaddle for many years now - and God knows what that does to yer average brain, let alone a musicians. It's almost exactly three years since I last encountered them except for a couple of Friday Night Live review sessions on Popspace's sister site. Damn shame because I particularly liked their style but Soundclick wasn't - and isn't - their prime hangout. While its true that I would be happy to listen to every peice of music ever made, with my schedule its hard to keep up with the ones I like who I deal with on a daily basis, let alone artists like Authist & Dub One! who I bump into every now and again. Still, maybe the next track won't be three years in the waiting ;)

I must admit I was a bit surprised when I noticed the Latin genre tag, but hey these guys do turn their hands to almost any musical style known to man - and usually make a damn fine job of it too. OK, all well and good when you like the genre, but what about when you don't? I can't say I like the style particularly, especially the Central/South American strains but thankfully La Cantina isn't built that way. It has more of an American sound to it, especially in the crystal clear production and the Kenny G soundalike tootling horn. That element of the track grated on me somewhat but only because I have a pathological hatred for all things Kenny G.

While its true that La Cantina has an undeniable easy listening slant, there is no denying also the amount of work, thought and deed went into making and producing such a beast. The style may bring me out in festering blisters but damn it, Authist & Dub One! do it so well I find myself forgiving them even while my skin crawls with distaste. That, my friends, is a very neat trick indeed. So, my own personal hate file aside, most people will like this lively, well thought out track, especially if the description I have given is ringing the right bells. It's certainly as classy as peice of music as any out there and better in many ways, even though it doesn't overcome my own mountain of predjudice.

Class Latin workout from some old friends. Highly Recommended for the light of heart.

Pidgeman - Misery Loves Company

Hear The Track Here

Pidgeman is a new name to me, this time from MP3 Unsigned and has the singular honour to finally rescue me from the almost constant electronica/trance diet I have had from that site since I started picking up reviews from there again. Moreover, Pidgeman promises to deliver some of my favourite; rock, and for that the man is like an oasis in the desert. Aaah burt, you sigh, rock can cover up a multitude of sins can't it? Yep, gotta agree with that but when you see the amount of downloads/comments and ratings this track has had from MP3 Unsigned's listening audience (a notoriously hard crowd to please), it bodes well

Craig Matthews is the Pidgeman in question and makes an excellent job of entertaining me with his special brand of pop rock and there's no doubt that he knows the moves, even the cursory listen to the structure and arrangement on display will show that he can deliver in style. Everything on Misery Loves Company is down to him and although it is obviously home produced, it cracks along like a thoroughbred, spitting out energy and drive in all directions. Look, stop obsessing about the 'home-produced' part Gilmore, most people don't even notice that stuff. I know that most people do but with me, it does detract somewhat from the overall effect when the production hasn't the same punch and drive as the song.

Craig has a very passable rock voice in many ways, although I felt he was straining a bit sometimes. There again, considering the twists and turns he subjects this track to, it's a hard track to perform for one person. The bass also felt a little light, I had to really spank my EQ to get it to seriously register. Nonetheless, these are minor niggles and offered - hopefully - as friendly advice. As far as most people are concerned (especially if they are rock animals like me) will gobble this bad boy right up. He's an excellent songwriter that knows how to construct a song that can stretch over five minutes and yet still keep you interested all the way through. Not just once or twice either. The more I played this track, the more I liked it with the very minor exceptions I have mentioned. An artist to watch methinks.

Recommended Pop Rock.

Buzrk - Where You Rather Be

Hear The Track Here

Showing only too well that first impressions count, I watched the approach of this track with some trepidation. I reviewed Bzurk's One Last To Arms (September 2007) and wasn't best pleased. There again, when the way you make music is to beg/steal/buy or borrow the beats you use and then rap over the top of them, your choices have to be limited. I think my main gripe about that track was the same gripe I level at a certain of online (ie unsigned) hip hop artists. Having a raw sound is all well and good, but then there is a point where it will affect the listener too and that isn't affect in a good way. The truth is that hip hop (and in a wider sense R&b) is the major musical trend for many years now and not everyone is going to be the dogs danglys.

And not everybody is going to like it.

It's best then, if you were a hip hop artist, to have something different to offer. On that score, even though Buzrk proves to be a competent rapper on both tracks I have heard, he is going to have to up his game quite a bit to make any serious headway. Because - I imagine - of his recording difficulties the raps are pretty much flat with little in the way of production or tweaking to make the vocals cut through better. One of the things he would do well to pay a bit more attention to is somehow treating his vocals to a little more EQ, reverb and the like. There again, if you haven't got the kit, you haven't got the kit and what comes out comes out. That is what a lot of this track sounds like to me, and I don't mean that in as bad a way as it sounds.

The original music track here comes from Beat Basement and excellent it is too. A great selection of instruments and a neat arrangement and you couldn't want better for 'store bought beats' that's for sure. Buzrk doesn't make the same mistake this time with the volume levels and the rap mostly lays on the track as it should. After all that is said and done, it's going to come down to a question of whether you would like this rappers style or not. Like a great many of them, I can see he has determination and willingness but it takes more than that to break a crowd as cynical as the one on Soundclick. For my part I liked the music very much but didn't feel the same about the rap, partly because of that underproduced sound I mentioned.

Cam's Even Song - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

For some totally spaced out reason I seem to have two Cam's Even Song tracks for review this month; Dot Common and Lately all the Leaves are Falling Down so I might as well combine them and explain something. As many of you know, Cam's Even Song was my Artist Of The Year 2006 and like all such mythical beasts, I like to keep track of where it goes from there (Ed: can only go up innit??). It's a fact that he hasn't had the barnstormer of a year as last, but that kind of quality and pace takes it out of a body - even one as consistent as Cam. It's also true that I haven't fielded that many reviews for him this year either, whether that's because he has been slowing down some or he doesn't want to deluge me is anyones guess. Bring it on I say - as always.

So here we are, almost exactly a years since those heady days, what's been happening in Cam World?

Lately all The Leaves are Falling Down is brand new, having only been uploaded at the beginning of the month and shows Cam in his Quasi Bob (Dylan) pants. It's a touch more idiosyncratic than his more commercial feel but dedicated fans and listeners will warm to it immediately, as did I. The music is a lot looser in style than some of his work, but when the base is essentially country rock, it doesn't matter overly much. Whatever else is said, this is yet another classic Cam song, as only he can deliver. Yes, I'm certain he is an acquired taste but there are a great many people who have the habit. There is a lovely chorus on Lately all The Leaves... that will have you snared in about two plays, even though some of the vocals are a bit odd...

Speaking of which, Dot Common will also strike you as odd too, but probably only for the first play. Musically, Cam's work has always reminded me of both the Beatles and Mr Zimmerman, he kinda veers drunkenly between the two points and that has always been one of his greatest assets. Dot Common is Cam in beatle-ish Psychedelic Rock territory and - like Lately All The Leaves - has a kind of looseness to it that is initially offputting. Second or third listens soon iron out that problem, if indeed it is a problem in the first place. Judging by what I am hearing Cam well be messing about with some new kit again because these tracks are quite a different sound to previous outings. Out of the two tracks I find it hard to say which one I liked best because they both have lots to offer. Nothing new there then? ;)

Catch Cam. Excellent shades of rock, terrific songs. Highly Recommended.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lucie Dubue and John Collins - Sometimes

Hear The Track Here

You can stop scratching your heads, this is the artist formerly known as John and Lucie Collins and YES I have reviewed Sometimes before and indeed I have on a couple of their tracks (Voices In The Night I think) but hey, sometimes its nice to hear the finished thing ya know? Considering that I don't really like ballads, show tunes or some of the other things John and Lucie have done, I have to say that I do like their style even if the material isn't to my taste. He is a very competent and knowledgable musician and producer and she has the looks and voice of an angel so how could it not work?

At the beginning of this year (I think) John and Lucie got involved with noted producer Art Munson through their daughter Alyssa and before this starts turning into a soap plotline, this year they have spent honing and perfecting the tracks John and Lucie have online. I've heard several versions of Sometimes, the last being in August 2006 when I wrote 'although I'll wait for the final mix of this track, I WILL be keeping some version of this and that's for sure' because it is and was a terrific song full of enough energy and emotion to fuel a small city. I do like what used to be called 'torch songs' and Sometimes is a classic example of the breed.

So, here it is. The final version.

All of the things that made the original track are here, but some with some major tweaking, especially with the addition of a vocal backing arrangement that could have only come from the mind of a master of the art. Tell you the truth though, the mix seems a little too clean to me but hey, it does the job more than very well. In some ways it's this understated production that raises the bar on this particular song because it allows all the little nuances now in this track to come through with equal weight. If you have heard this before and liked it, this IS the definitive version and then some. The choir is nothing short of inspirational and whoever thought of it deserves a medal. As professional a track as you are ever likely to hear - online or off it.

Excellent power ballad. Highly Recommended.

DiCarlo Productions - Love Is The Key

Hear The Track Here

I've come across the artist mostly known as DICARLO on lots and lots of different sites (but mainly Soundclick) but I think this is absolutely the first time I have ever reviewed a track by him. I picked up a little about him along the way, he seems to live life through two cities; Berlin and New York and they happen to be two of the most musical cities on the planet so that should tell you something. He is a drummer by preference but obviously it goes a lot, lot further than that and the overidding impression of you get of this artist is that he has paid the dues, taken the lumps and improved beyond measure in both technical and emotional appeal.

In other words, a thorough going professional.

There shouldn't be, therefore, anything much to say about the technical aspects of Love Is The Key. To my ears, even before I hear note one, it should be perfect in every detail - and indeed it is. Leaving whether you like the style or content about the only thing left to talk about. Seriously, Love Is The Key is exactly what I would have expected from someone of DICARLO's experience; a clean clear mix with enough vocal headroom to give the voices the room they need to breathe and yeah amen, emote. Having worked in a Brooklyn NYC recording studio during the early 1980's I was exposed to a lot of material like Love Is The Key, all of it brilliantly written and realised. The sort of track you KNOW would work in radio and probably everywhere else too. Where are they now? Nowhere, most of that material never even seen the light of day, and that includes some great unreleased Bobby McFerrin stuff.

Aaah, but the internet is a very different place and I can see a masive audience for this wonderful song, sung with consummate ease by Ingrid Arthur a voice I would like to hear a great deal more of. Veering between fairly commercial R&B and adapting an almost spiritual/gospel feel as a second taste, it's also a track that has plenty of mileage in it. If I had to FIND a gripe (a small one admittedly) it would have to be the slight overuse of the echo on bits of the vocal. In all other respects, Love Is The Key is a terrific track that should rightly be making its way out there in the real world music business because - face it - that's where it belongs. In the meantime, though, us lucky so and so's get to have it all to ourselves. It's a very middle of the road style though but don't let that put you off, this is craftsmanship of a high order.

Highly Recommended Soul Siren.

Stella Polaris Project - The Question

Hear The Track Here

Here's a question that's been rattling around my brain for a while; what has twenty fingers and two filthy minds? Well I don't know cos I guess I'm too old to be thinking about it, but I do know such an entity has a name - Stellar Polaris Project. This is the second track I've heard from this duo from MP3 Unsigned comprising of Ricky Mancini (aka MD-1 Project) and Melinda Mohn. Although I know Ricky mostly through his own work, Melinda came as a surprise to me, and the combination of the harder edginess of Mr Mancini and the cool sophistication of Ms Mohn made for one great track. Yep, Hello Anonymous was a splendid introduction to them and it still gets played on a regular basis. All the signs of a keeper, in fact.

Which is nice.

Now, of course, I know what to expect, but do I? See what I wasn't expecting was a musical flashback, almost so vidid that I could taste the acid in my mouth, the first time I put The Question through its paces. To be sure, it isn't as out there as some of Ricky's wilder excursions but by God this is some complex, complicated track that has a surprise around every corner but none more so than the vocal sweepout at the end, my own personal favourite. I've always been a fan of musicians who push the envelope so I'm bound to like bands like PIL (Public Image Limited) or Killing Joke both of whom - surprisingly enough - crop up as influences in this track and yeah, I like it. A lot more experimental then Hello Anonymous for sure, but still undeniably a creation of this very innovative combination. The music could have stood alone on its own merits and got much the same reaction, but throw Melinda in the mix and it just gets better and better.

Her soaring, swooping voice is used to great effect in this track, pinning down what is so obviously the most slippery track you have ever heard. One of those tracks that has you stupified from the first note wondering wtf is gonna happen next. For me, it's just over three minutes seems to last around the same amount of seconds. There is so much to pick out of this track it's gonna take forever. As much as I liked what they did on Hello Anonymous, I have to say that I much prefer this side of the duo. A dark, edgy masterpeice (nay tour-de-fekkin-force) that will have you gasping for breath every second of it. It's a given that you should like the more experimental side of life, but this also has an atmosphere you could cut with a knife.

MUST HAVE. Knockout experimental track.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Da Luck Ent - The Go (Chicago)

Hear The Track Here

I don't know whether having two tracks of the same genre back to back in my review list is good but sometimes it just happens, as it does with this track and IQ's Go Home which it was paired with. As well as showing two quite different looks at pretty much the same style, it shows just how broad a church Hip Hop is. I've heard Da Luck Ent's Young Kannon a lot by this stage (The Go is one of his raps) and liked what he does mostly although the line between what gets me and what doesn't in this genre is pretty thin. This is especially true for rappers because I EXPECT them to dazzle me with words but, unfortunately, not many do and that's a great loss.

Young Kannon certainly more than holds up his own though, and his 'This Ain't Working Out' earned an extremely rare Must Have from me. Hip Hop in general hasn't earned that many of those, and rap in particular even less. Whereas that track was a bit of a departure (it featured two rappers) The Go is back to standard Young Kannon; a beat and arrangement that harks back to when the music was fresh and exciting and a rap flow that lays back into the track enough to make it sound effortless. Can't put my hand on my heart and say that I liked this track enough to keep it because - to be honest - it's a little too 'in the hood' even for me.

However, that is definitely a stylistic opinion because the track - despite its initial impression of sparseness - sounds hard, modern and pointed at the more commercial side of this genre. One of the game concessions that has held me transfixed over the past few years has been the Need For Speed racing simulations. Part of that lure has been the sheer adrenaline rush of the game itself, and some for the hardcore hip hop/rap soundtrack that goes with the game. It introduced me to some gerat artists I probably wouldn't have heard otherwise. The reason I mention this is because The Go could easily have been one of those tracks.

Highly Recommended.

IQ The Goon To End Them All - Go Home

Hear The Track Here

I am not sure that I quite agree with some of the 'hardcore rap is played out' routine, especially when you get to hear an artist take something that worked and reinvented it in a fresh, innovative way. Surely the most oddly named artist on Soundclick, IQ The Goon To End Them All, was first introduced to me on a storming version of Old Man; a song first created by Neil Young back in the golden age. IQ's Old Man (October 2007) was welcomed by me because of that past connection, and the correct respect the artist paid those roots, but also because IQ the rapper had made a rap about his father that complimented the original song perfectly.

That takes HUGE balls AND a hefty slice of luck.

That track got a Must Have from me first time out, and that doesn't happen often. The problem with knocking me on my ass once, is that it's going to be sooo much harder to do it twice and almost unheard of to do it three times in a row. So, let's see what he's got this time... None of the smart little tricks that made Old Man so enjoyable, but hey can't do that every time. The real heart and soul of this track isn't so much the music which is pretty much endless repetition of a string laden riff and some of the most pedestrian beats you are likely to hear anywhere. Kinda strange then because that isn't what I expected at all; its merely there to support the rap. Mind you, this was for (I think) a compo of some kind so that would go a long way towards explaining the lack of basic arrangements.

Like a lot of his work, Go Home has the obligatory Parental Advisory sticker slathered all over it so there'll be a lot of cussing in the air, which as I know tends to give some people a bug up the ass. Still, fekk 'em eh? The rap is what counts and on that score IQ lays down with the same skill that earmarked his previous track. In the world I inhabit, it's tremendously comforting that not everyone wants to sound like yer usual pale clone, so an artist with a distinct sound and lyrical sharpness makes all the difference. It was obvious that IQ wasn't going to better my reaction to Old Man but this is probably a truer picture of his usual material and hey, it ain't bad at all.

Recommended Rap.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

dcallen - What Is It This Time?

Hear The Track Here

It never fails to surprise me that I've been at this game now for over a decade, watching (and listening) to artists come and go, and I'm almost never surprised when someone does disappear (for a while or forever). Not surprised yeah, but that doesn't mean to say that there are certain artists I do miss and (hopefully) await their return. One such is electronica artist dcallen, who had other things going on there for a couple of years that kept him less active on the scene than previously, where he had built up a very nice reputation thanks to some very tasteful peices of music and a willingness to join in what was happening at the time. Of course, that Soundclick and the rejuvenated 'Click we live with at present are two different beasts and one of the things that seems to have got lost along the way is a vibrant (and active) forum community.

Well? Am I wrong?

Still, time moves one, and dcallen returns and delivers a couple of his specialties
as an immediate howdy, and it's as if the dam cur hadn't been away. Certainly Is This A Problem? (June 2007) and Closed For Repairs (October 2007) showed that young Dave (Ed: I say, bit cheeky what?) has lost none of his edge while was out and about and gained a lot more knowledge about production. You just couldn't make these tracks work so well without having a considerable amount of production/arrangement skills at your fingertips and either of these two tracks proves that. About the only thing dcallen and me have ever crossed swords over is style, can't fault the mans musical knowledge.

His work usually comes in a couple of blends, pure electronic fukry and a more structured - recognisably more commercial style. What Is It This Time is from the former camp, being essentially an electronica soundscape that dcallen drapes with all kinds of sweeps, spheres and anything else that hangs on to a note for long enough. It's therefore fairly sparse instrumentally, only including the slightest of drum/hihat percussion, most of the rhythm tasks are carried by sequences. Its certainly a nice peice and one his many listeners will lap up but - had I to be honest - have heard better but that is almost certainly down to the style, it isn't something I would normally search out.

Electronica, tagged and bagged as only dcallen can. Recommended.

Dan Tharp - Beg To Differ

Hear The Track Here

The second review this month from Popspace, this time a name that is new to me. Dan Tharp is an acoustic guitarist and there is a term that will set a few hackles to rise up. Longer term readers of those reviews will know full well my appreciation of guitarists such as Bert Jansch, Leo Kottke et al, and especially my love for Spanish classical guitar music and know that the term (acoustic guitarist in case you had forgotten) doesn't just cover some bearded, pot bellied cove who strums the odd chord to help his caterwauling to pierce even the most protected nerves. There is a world of difference between acoustic music (ie what most people refer to as folk) and acoustic instrumental music. Finger picking? Why sure it is, but not in that country sense you mean either.

The thing I most loved about these artists (and Christopher Martin Hansen is a contemporary who springs right to mind) is their fluidity, grace and style. Anyone who has experienced - live and in person - a guitar player of the likes I have mentioned above will know that this isn't just another guitar player. This is one who strives mightily at his craft because - when all is said and done - talent will only get you so far. With music of this calibre and quality, the one thing that is immediately apparent is that such dexterity can only come with practice. Welp, seems like Dan has certainly had the experience having started playing in his early teens, so I guess if ya ain't mastered it in twenty odd years, the chances are you never will. Not that I think Dan has any such problem, the only probelm I see is why he didn't start exploring THIS musical world a while ago. He'd have found lots of takers.

Good instrumentalists are as rare as hens teeth so when you find one you tend to cling onto them, and I'm certain that Dan is going to be one of those artists. While it is true that I do love a well played instrument, it also has be contain something more than technical expertise and where Beg To Differ makes up for the lack of emotional excitement (a common factor with music of this style IMHO) it's in the very Kottke-esque arrangement. It's a track full of little guitarists flourishes (harmonics, note flurries all that good s****) so obviously it will definitely appeal to axeheads everywhere; especially those who recognise the names I have used to partially describe what Dan's music sounds like. My only (very small) quibble is that it all seemed a bit dry, a touch of the right EQ and echo and this would really sing. Ultimately here is an artist who develop rapidly now he has the internet/home recording bit between his teeth, and it's going to be most pleasant being along for the ride.

Extremely classy acoustic instrumental. Highly Recommended in every way.

MSL - Overcoming Obstacles (Part 1)

Hear The Track Here

Now for an artist who is not new to me from MP3 Unsigned. When I first encountered MSL when I reviewed Keep It High (October 2005) I wrote that 'there is plenty of room for this duo to grow into, I'd say expect some big things from them' and events proved that to be the case. They carried in experimenting with tracks right throughout the rest of 2005 and into 2006 when they changed direction; A Revering Site (July 2006) was - if anything - a classically derived peice and not a bad example at that. Since that track, and my absence from MP3 Unsigned for the past few months, I haven't heard anything from MSL and it's way past time to rectify that error. Two years on then, and the duo has turned into a singleton (Michael Scott Levi) and gone into (gulp) Soundtracks.

Sorry but as you know, any kind of film music gives me the heaves - unless, of course, it comes complete with film. Still, I have liked this artists classical side in the past so..... Apparently, MSL has been suffering from writers block (don't we all?) so Overcoming Obstacles is his reply to that and considering he had been suffering, it's plain he shouldn't be any more. 'Its orchestral and epic' he says in the song comments and I'd have to say that sums it up perfectly. Considering the kind of track it is, classical in everything but name, you would probably have expected it to be longer than two and a half minutes but that's what you get. The real question is, is it a good, worthwhile two and a half minutes?

I certainly have no quibble with the track itself, stylistically or technically and beleive me I spent some time looking. Overcoming Obstacles is a fine peice of music, should you happen to be classically inclined - always a hard genre to nail authentically. Mind you, I have commented on MSL's ability to do this both in tone and texture; some of the instrument sounds he is using on this track are just plain gorgeous. The piano tone in particular is well suited to the track, although you'll have to get through the intro before that happens. I want music like this to stir and move me and this is one track that does manage to do that on most levels. Having put my predjudice aside for anything labelled soundtrack, I'm sure you could also appreciate a beautifully tasteful classical peice that shouldn't be kept within such narrow boundaries.

Highly Recommended orchestral magic

Friday, November 09, 2007

Christopher Martin Hansen - Caravan

Hear The Track Here

It's probably shameful the amount of praise that I have heaped on the shoulders of Christopher Martin Hansen, but I have no concept of shame so nrr to you all and here's a new lot. See, I happen to think CMH is one of the very best guitarists around and in his field (acoustic) on Soundclick there is no one to touch him. With the amount of tracks that slide my way its often hard to keep up with most of an artists output but Christopher Martin Hansen is one of those artists I just cannot resist collecting. I saw a forum comment about this but didn't pay that much attention until I came to track down the track (as it were). I finally found a copy on Songplanet (that's the link above) so - despite CMH declining a review after submitting it. In my world, if its already on my hard drive (aha, wots this??) then it will damn well sit still and be reviewed.

Come on, how can I resist??

Caravan is a track from Chris's Leaning Toward Oblivion album and although it's billed as a world track (it does have elements of a world feel), the lead lines have more in common with yer average common or garden rock. There is a notable section of backwards shenannigans in the intro because I got an immediate Beatles reference or two almost from the first listen, but there again most everything this guitarist does is notable. What I must admit I didn't expect was the heavy guitar style CMH brings to this particular party, showing that he can wail as well as wassail. For sure, Caravan is a marked departure from the tracks he has become known for, and it took me a while to fully warm to it because of that.

Nonetheless, with the right combination of plays, Caravan starts clicking into place like the well oiled machine it is. I have never been in any doubt about Chris's performance ability and talent but this track also highlights him as a spot on, wide-screen producer of the most modern sort. Hard where it needs to be, supplying the light and air we have become used to from this artist. The most surprising element of this track was the enhanced production and mix, which just goes to show that whatever else is going on, CMH keeps learning and applying, learning and applying...

Excellent world flavoured Guitar God track. Highly Recommended.

Matt Wong - Eternity (FFX-2 Remix)

Hear The Track Here

God alone knows that I spent enough time whinging on last month about all the tracks I got from MP3 Unsigned were Trance of some kind. Not my favourite dish at the best of times but - surprisingly enough - most of the tracks acquitted themselves well. Seems that I am to get no respite this month either because the first one out of the bag is indeed Trance, of a most recognisable kind. If I am a fan of the genre it is definitely because I like the whole Final Fantasty like a lot of red blooded males, and a lot of other Japanese Anime into the bargain. Now Tifa, don't get me started on that!... Anyway, dragging my mind from the gutter yet again, I have liked much of the musical accompaniment to these games, so I didn't expect too much of a shock on hearing this track. I have to say here that I have been way too busy on other things lately to even look at a game but I've certainly eyeballed the product.

As one does.

The kind of trance that I will always associate with the images of Ibiza and figures such as DJ Tiesto (cited as an influence by Matt) has always been a real hit and miss affair for me. I can certainly understand how much more you might get out of the whole dancing in the sunshine out of your brains experience then love the track because of that, but getting to like this music from a standing start has always been a struggle for me. So I like bits of the genre, particularly a good sequencer line and some nice filtering - all of which take part in the proceedings of this track. All well and good then, because even for a philistine like me, there is something here to chew over.

While it will sound obviously generic (kinda goes with the territory) to most people, it's certainly nothing that the artist should be beating himself up about. Yeah yeah, believe me I've heard a lot, lot worse. There is nothing wrong with the track structurally, it flows well as indeed it should and if you are a big fan of the genre then there is lots to this track you will like. For me, as always this will always come down to a personal choice because it isn't a style I get into much - and then usually only by playing the game it's attached to. As a respectful nod back to the way Trance sounded back in the day, this is excellent stuff and shouts that Matt has lots to offer. I worked on a DJ Sammy remix a few years back and this has much of the same feel and style; the more you listen the more it will get to you.

Recommended Trance.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Project Overseer - Eastern Passion

Hear The Track Here

Being the musical slut I am, I see nothing wrong with having several net homes at once. Eggs, baskets and all that bollocks, know what I mean? One of the newest places I have started hanging out is Popspace, a website created by one Chris Bishop. Nice place it is too, and still at that small, intimate stage so get it while the getting is good. It's also nice to re-acqaint myself with Chris and his myriad of friends and - of course - it gives me chance to catch up with some names I personally haven't heard for a while. As a consequence, five of the tracks I am reviewing this month come from Popspace, and what better way to begin than with the boss man himself?

Step forward Project Overseer...

Ah, now you know who this is, at least those of you who have been around Soundclick for more than a few days. Just in case, Project Overseer made a very substantial noise on Soundclick a couple of years ago before going off and starting the excellent original POP site (Popspace is an offshoot of that). Anyfekkinhow, I got to know Chris first through his musical work; a heady blend of a million different sounds all bound up in Chris's unique musical vision. Technically and musically, I found Project Overseer much to my taste but kind of lost track of him a lot more once he got into the webbier side of things. I still have some of his early tracks hanging around somewhere so that should tell you a thing or two. Morever, let's face it, ANYTHING that has Eastern in front of it is my kinda track...

I've always been a fan of that strange way Indian music has with the use of violins; of which this is a classical example. Eastern Passion is a track redolent with atmosphere, classy instrumentation and a insistent pull that has you quickly hooked. Great finish has always been a feature of Project Overseer's work and Eastern Passion has the kind of production and mix
most of us would give a bodily part for. Given its title, it should be fairly obvious that this is a World Music track, and one of a very high order. Not sure exactly who does what (or even whether this is all just Chris) but hey, with a track of this obvious quality, who cares? There are people who say I flatter some artists, and I suppose that there is some truth in that, but I always make sure I have the music to back it up with, and Eastern Passion is a great example of that excellence.

MUST HAVE World music.

Fluidity - Pendulum

Hear The Track Here

I was in a bit of a hurry transcribing my review list into some coherent form (I had tracks from everywhichaway this month), I seem to have written down the title of this new Fluidity track wrong. Now the trouble with that is that once I have made this elemental mistake, I get gear lock on that particular thought and therefore - forever afterwards - always will refer to this track as Pendulous, which as we all know flops about like said Pendulum but when all is said and done are completely different things. Breasts is breasts and a pendulum...... wtf DOES a pendulum do anyway? Now, before we all misty eyed at the amount of titties I've managed to stuff into this opening paragrah, let's get back to the reason we are here.

To get a bit of fluidity... (Ed: I have the blue pencil poised!!) Kiwi Fluidity then, the more exotic the better!!

To say that John Paul Carroll (aka Fluidity) has been having a great year is a massive understatement. In terms of output, he has been peaking throughout much of the year, delivering a string of Fluidity flavoured rock treats that have been going down a storm. He's grabbed a string of extremely favourable reviews from me including a Must Have for Did It Again (September 2007) and shows all the signs of a musician who is just gathering pace. Listen, for example, to the way he uses the guitar to embellish the high points of the verse. Nice. Certainly, if you like his style, Pendulum is gonna knock you on your ass because it's the same accomplished, polished artist I first saw on Did It Again. What made that track happen, of course, alongside the confident, assured performance was that underneath it was a terrific song - lyrically and musically.

The same applies to Pendulum (note to self: stop thinking about breasts), top class energetic performance underscored by a strong song and lyric. What could be better? Well, not much. Admittedly I have developed a marked taste for what Fluidity makes so I am almost bound to like whatever he does, but I do recognise the fact that some might not find his music as entertaining. There again, they haven't watched him developing the considerable musical chops he is currently displaying for all he is worth, and it gives me the warmest of glows. As fellow musician Kulamafi (aka HELLbus) says on the Fluidity message board 'you've been outdoing yourself in a straight line upwards'... Couldn't agree more.

Highly Recommended (and a MUST HAVE for fans)

Sumit - Changes

Hear The Track Here

S'always nice to start off a new month of reviews with new artists, and doubly so this time because Sumit (or Sumit Attempt, not sure which) is from India - an area of specific interest for this reviewer. The quality and style of most of the Indian artists I have had the pleasure of reviewing has been outstandingly high (viz Omnisine, Prash, Close et al) so I approached this first track from Sumit with a certain amount of anticipation. Not always a good thing, but hey, I like to live dangerously. So, apparently, does Sumit because his main genre is Blues Rock and if that ain't living on the edge of the abyss, I don't know what is. So, he's a guitarist and he cites both Jimi and Jeff as musical influences and that sold me before I heard note one.

Tell you one thing about Indian musicians that always get my respect. Unfailingly, to a man or woman, their feel for the genre is faultless and - considering their own musical environment - that is some achievement. Changes is 'a song about life as I've known it' according to the man himself who I also assume is responsible for everything I am hearing. In which case, take a bow maestro. There are some American musicians who could only WISH they sounded this laid back and cool. The vocal, although punching a little underweight showed that not only can Sumit shred a mean axe, he can also do a reasonably good impersonation of David Bowie when called upon.

All in all, Changes does nothing whatsoever to tarnish the reputations of Indian musicians and much to elevate it further. No problem musically then and certainly no problem with the no-nonsense straight ahead mix that accompanied it. Structurally, Changes is much more country blues than yer average and decidely American in feel and delivery and - I have to say this - it is wonderful to hear a skilled slide guitar in action for a change. I could have done with hearing more of the backing organ but that's because I have a fetish for that sound, especially when used in a classic rock arrangement such as the one Changes frolics in. Sure, I know that blues isn't everybody's poison, and a country tinged blues at that but I give this the rating I do because - given the genre - this is some of the best you are likely to hear.

MUST HAVE Country Blues. From India.