Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ifunkus - Rebels to Revelations

Hear The Track Here

I spent years in the 1990's working through Usenet newsgroups, finally emigrating to the web in 1999 once it was established that MP3's would be the thing for the future. Like many musicians I tried many websites at first and - for my sins I guess - somehow ended up moderating the Ejay website forums in 2002 or thereabouts. Considering that software's pedigree, the Ejay forums held some rare - and quite unique - musicians many of whom are much better known these days. One of those musicians is none other than Ifunkus who amazingly turns up every once in a while, drops a track in my lap and then wanders off to only he knows where. Anyone who has encountered this guy on the forums will be only too well aware that when I use the word 'character' about him, you bet I mean it.

Rebels to Revelations (I spelt it right for you Ivan) is inspired by another old Ejay hand who I haven't heard from since forever; Kameleon and is - to quote the man himself - 'a very long story' Quite a long track too as it happens topping out at just a whisker over five minutes. It is blindingly obvious to me that Ifunkus has learned a lot over the years and his music has gained a lot for it. No longer is the work interesting but shambolic; the man has tightened up his act considerably. Even if, it has to be said, that he is treading over familiar ground for him.

Electronica is the name of Ifunkus's game and Rebels is a nice slice of the genre, with a hint of chill out thrown into the bargain. It doesn't do that much, and it doesn't go there in a hurry but its nice to kick back with which is, I suppose, the whole point of the exercise. Quite why it is billed as Experimental is a bit beyond me because its so obviously a very tasteful peice of electronic chillout. As five minutes goes in the presence of this track, you will find that it will pass surprisingly quickly and that says something about its structural composition too. In other words, it sounds great. :)

Highly Recommended chillout.

Mike-K Ft Kephas - Amigos

Hear The Track Here

Here come old flattop, he come grooving up slowly, he got joo joo eyeball... Wtf IS joo joo eyeball anyway? Still, enough of that, back to work. Indie music's favourite DJ Mike-K has found a very fruitful collaborative partnership with another Soundclick stalwart Florida based uber-guitarist Kephas. For those who haven't been exposed to the Kephas style, you have a treat in store. The first few tunes I heard from him were eerily (nay fekkin spookily) a twin of anything by Carlos Santana. Of course, I am a lazy bastard, and that would be the first musical reference anyone would get, but dig a little deeper and you find that Kephas has a distinctly different sound, feel and tone.

Oh and a healthy fire in his belly...

Anyone who could make a version of Bob Marley's classic Redemption Song and not completely crucify it has much kudos where I am concerned. Go listen, its on his page and its well tasty. Anyway Mike K is actually the focus of this review but the regard that these two musicians have for each other will outweigh Kephas hogging a lot of the spotlight. Funny that I should mention Santana (but not really) because the feel of the track instantly puts you in that latin mood and both guys style lend themselves to the task with considerable style.

There is no doubt that the instrumental line up (organ, bass, drums, percs everywhere) is one of the main reasons for the Santana connection, but the guitars amplify it too. So good, in fact, are the guitar leads and so closely do their two styles mesh that I am extremely hard pressed to say who is who and I thought I had Kephas's sound and tone down. Oh well, back to the drawing board. Mike-K is, as well as trading licks, the main musical muscle behind the track and he has done an outstanding job of making the whole thing sizzle with energy.

Guitar instrumental par excellence. Most Highly Recommended.

Produced by Radius - Altitude

Hear The Track Here

Just in case you are wondering, yes it is the same Radius as Sound Radius, so now ya know. When I first encountered this Canadian Film composer my heart sank because - as you know only too well - me and film scores just plain don't get on. Mind you, that is MOST film scores. Sound Radius produces work that is head and shouders above most film scores I hear and I still play the first track I ever heard from him - The Power WIthin Score (December 2006) - every once in a while when I am in that kind of mood. That, however, is Sound Radius; the entity we are dealing with here is a (allegedly) new direction.

Song writing Now there's a thing.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that Altitude is an instrumental, doesn't it? Songs is songs, as a man once said. Words and stuff. All true but once you listen to the track - and I do suggest you do - it becomes obvious that structurally and thematically this is a song waiting for lyrics and vocals. When that happens, provided it is done right, this is going to be one killer track. I've never had any problems whatsoever with this musician as far as what he is doing musically and Altitude is exactly what I expected.

See the thing I love most about Sound Radius's work is the depth of emotion he can pack into a track - and a purely instrumental track at that. The way he constructs melodies and then buillds on them relentlessy is also a bit of a trademark for him, and in this respect Altitude is a blinder. Sounding like a cross between electro-pop and pomp rock (I kid you not) this is one instrumental I definitely have time for. Mind you, as I said, I'd be a lot happier if it were a song but in the meatime this will do very well indeed.

Excellent, detailed 'lectronica. Highly Recommended (for an instrumental)

LeO IcON9 ByTE19 - Get Money

Hear The Track Here

Hereafter referred to as 'these guys' because I can't keep writing that bandname. I first encountered them when reviewing Night @ Alcazar (October 2008) and really liked this class mix of electronica, a complete surprise from what I had been expecting. As unfinished as it obviously was, there was certainly enough there to satisfy most knob twiddlers (Ed: I HOPE he is referring to electronica heads) and was a worthy introduction to a band that most definitely should not be taken at face value.

They may look like a bunch of rappers but don't go there :P

Officially classed this time as Neo-Soul (wtf?) its certainly a strange thing to get close to, at least going by first impressions. There again, this is a lesson I have learned from the last time so I know that whatever I thought upon first hearing was going to change quite a lot once I had more plays under my belt. I can kinda see the soul connection here because the tenor and style of the track comes directly from that tradition; the music comes from outer space.

Well not really outer space of course, because then we'd all be wearing suits and bumping into things, but definitely music of a stranger stripe than most. You know the style and yet somehow, no matter how often you play it, it just doesn't fit in any of the usual rhythm styles you are used to. Don't go looking for much in the way of structure either, the deal here is groove, groove and a likkle more groove. The musical depth they (Ed: these guys surely?) showed in Night @Alcazar is also on display on this excellent and yes, different slant on the rap tradition.

Excellent, different and tasty. Highly Recommended urban soul.

Solid Sounds - Exorcism Of Sound

Hear The Track Here

Solid Sounds are a new name to me but obviously not to Soundclick because they have some 80+ tracks awaiting your listening pleasure. A couple of local Sheffield lads, Shane and Ant are responsible for all those tracks and considering their relative age that is remarkable in itself. Ahhh but the more cynical among you may now be sniggering 'but it's techno and trance, how hard could that be?' Well, as much as I despise and abhor the genre, like any musical style if its done properly with even a modicum of style it's often listenable if not exactly pleasureable.

One of the main reasons I guess I have this phobia is because I was immersed in this stuff up to my eyeballs back in the day, and pretty much everything is retreading the same old ground. Nonetheless, every once in a while a trance track comes up with a bit more to offer than most and Solid Sounds seem to have it. It made a distinctly favourable impression from me from the getgo and that's always rare for me with this genre.

Most of the time its like 'ewww cooties!' if I have to listen to trance but Shane and Ant make it at least a good, worthy listen - especially if good solid trance is what floats your boats. A nice solid sound to back up the beats and sequences always helps with this kind of material and Solid Sounds stretch the sound right across the spectrum. What this does, IMHO, it to make it seem more welcoming, inviting. A kind of 'what next' reaction sets in and that definitely helps pull in the more casual listener. Damn, even I'd be interested in what Solid Sounds were about, if this is an example of what they can do and I fekkin hate techno and trance.

Excellent, well produced Trance. Highly Recommended

Musicarian - Get Your Soul Reborn

Hear The Track Here

Its been a dogs age since I last heard anything by Pakistani based guitarist Salman Anwer (aka Musicarian). Consulting my creaky filing system I notice that the last track I reviewed of his was That's Life (October 2004). For a while during that year this guy was everywhere and then suddenly poof! Four years roll by (but who's counting?) and up he pops again. Now many regular readers will be aware of my love affair with Indian music in general, and indeed many Indian musicians and there is a very good reason for that. In my time at Soundclick I have met some extremely talented musicians from the sub-continent, one of which is the previously lost in action Musicarian.

One of the main reasons I like and respect these musicians is because they are professional to their very core. When it says Jazz Fusion on the label, that's exactly what you are going to get but a thousand miles away from the pallid, lifeless pap that often masquerades as fusion. Musicarian gets his chops in early (as a producer) because the intro will blow you away and it is perfect for the track that follows. Even stretched out at a princely six minutes plus, Get Your Soul Reborn is a slice of guitar heaven that have your jaw on the floor. His music has life, energy, bite and a stupendously clear, deep mix that had my jaw dropping from the getgo.

If Mike K hasn't already spotted this then the man is getting old because THIS is right up his street, in every way I can think of. So, I think it would be fair to say that Musicarian has something in common with fluid, dexterous, emotional geetar players like Kephas, Salman brings a unique slant to the whole affair. For a guitar instrumental to really sway me it has to have fire in its belly and emotion pouring out of every note. Now I don't know whether its because of current events in India or because this really is as good as I think that I am so biased towards it. It might also be that the central message of the song is 'against all the killing in the world. A message to stop killing'. At this moment in time, its an apt reminder that - no matter where we come from - we are all simply human.

First class Jazz Fusion, first class guitarist. MUST HAVE.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Michael Hughes - Cold Rain Water

Hear The Track Here

Hows this for serendipity. Who likes 'post-punk stuff, machine music, jazz, 20th/21th century classical, contemporary acoustic-based music, American roots-oriented stuff, early country, African & Middle Eastern music'? Moreover who bangs on endlessly to anyone who will listen about the magical properties of Waves (and no, not the wet kind)? Such a description could be applied to yours truly but not in this case. Michael Hughes is the man of the hour, a Maine-based acoustic player who has just won the first Critics Corner competition - which is why I am wittering on about it now. Seriously, this track was up against some big time competition, but the votes are what counts.

Anybody who can field and play ukeles, banjos, steel guitars, dobros and endless other fascinating toys is gonna be A-fekkin-OK in my books. I love all manner of stringed instruments especially the kind named above, and more so when they are used in living, breathing country music. That is what Cold Rain Water promises to be on your first listen before it detours into some very interesting nooks and crannies; including some Eastern European strains of mandolin playing. Its easy to see why this won and I am glad that I didn't listen to the tracks beforehand because I would have been seriously biased towards this from the get go.

As such, I've been getting used to it since the competition finished but having said that it hasn't been far away from the start button either. Its not the raucous, yeehaaah fest I was expecting that's for sure; it's a much darker, complex song than the intro leads you to believe. Country fans will either see its instant appeal or they will be so far up their purist asses they couldn't even see daylight. Me, I loved this dour, sparse little track and will no doubt be playing it many more times before the year is out. All I want now is a track from them where they REALLY let rip. Yep, that would be a sight to behold.

MUST HAVE country genius (yep, that word. Listen to the track)

AvMo - Mo is Allright

Hear The Track Here

I know, I know but I didn't make up the title did I? Anyway, its alright innit? Sooo, where was I? Ah yes Avmo (aka Morris Avrashi) is a Canadian rock artist I've encountered a couple of times in the past and we both seem to have survived it. Although I have liked his style and musical ability something about the two tracks I have heard means the jury is still out on this artist. Can't even point at anything the guy is doing wrong either, as both of my past reviews state quite clearly, it just hasn't grabbed me yet. Ah well, another day another dollop...

AvMo bills this as ' low down and dirty rock&roll'. Them's big boots to fill.

It sounds low down and dirty, with the vocal to match first time around, although it has some problems deciding just how it wants to sound, low down or sweet and sassy. This comes about because of the backing vocals, a soft '60s sound, sounds at odds with the rest of the track. It works, nonetheless, and you can't argue with that coming across as a rough and ready testament to early rock. Continued playing however started to show some real problems - at least for me, most people would probably not notice.

There is a real bad timing problem in this track and at times the drumtrack is well off what's happening in the music. I didn't really pick up on it at first, but the more I played the track the more obvious it became. The first minute or so goes down quite with nothing that makes me go eh? It's after that first minute that things start to move weirdly and no, it ain't the drugs. Again, I am a well known nit picker and again, Mo hasn't given me much to pick apart and most people will probably never notice. What they will notice is a reasonable rock song with a nice line in smart talk.

Recommended 'down and dirty' rock.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cam's Even Song - You're Gonna Miss Me!

Hear The Track Here

And now the man who can make music out of anything. Seriously, you name the subject he can write a stirring, effective song to go with it. A song about a computer game?, Cam did it. A song about the woes of computers, Cam did it. Reality TV, burger corporations, nothing is beyond this guy. Ally that to a very likeable, accessible sound and a tongue in cheek style of delivering often brilliant lyrics and you have a working model of the astounding hit machine that is Cam's Even Song. If you think THAT is hyperbole, wait until I really get started...

No, maybe not.

Cam was thinking about people living apart for various reasons when, bish bash bosh a song appears about that very thing. It won me over in an instant when I spotted the very effective gob iron (Ed: he means a mouth organ) fill that introduces the song. 'You’re gonna miss me! , you better pucker up and kiss me!' the lyrics chirp and that should give you a clue that we are facing the more light hearted side of this musicians work. Coloured by the Beatles past, Cam's music reaches out to the listener - especially on these lighter numbers in a way that will plaster a smile on your face within seconds.

As always with Cam's Even Song the song is the thing and You're Gonna Miss Me is a faultless, picture perfect snapshot in all his clowning glory, and yet...and yet. The more you look, the more you find and deep, deep buried amongst all the apparent merriment of the track is an infinite, weary sadness at the vagaries of life. Set in a perfect 1960's pop production this is yet another example of just how many different genres this singer/songwriter can straddle - and all with infinite ease and not a little grace.

Excellent pop. Pucker up and kiss me! Highly Recommended.

The Peach Tree - The Dark Side

Hear The Track Here

After reviewing literally thousands of tracks over the years, I have noticed there are always certain artists that I have to struggle to understand. Sometimes its a 'is this a joke' reaction and sometimes it requires a more thought (and playing) for the full picture to become clear. Sometimes, of course, it doesn't happen at all and that's where the difficulty arises. Australian electronica musician The Peach Tree knows all about it and has bounced back surprisingly well gaining a highly recommended for A Perception of Change (Understanding) (October 2008) where - it has to be said - he went in a completely different direction.

A good one obviously. Although quite how good and experimental electronica can all fit in the same sentence is beyond me. Ha ha ha, little joke (Ed: then stfu and get on with it) This is the first track I have reviewed from the The Ghost Of Muses Past album and stands up well to its title. Dark electronica it is but then that Peach Tree oddness (never far away) injects itself into the mix and things get a whole lot stranger. The vocal - if that word can be applied here - is 'a chopped up interview with your average guy, Mark Heenan, talking about The Dark Side'

Well alrighty then. ????

I'm a big fan of slicin' and dicin' with notes and phrases and The Dark Side does a very reasonable job of knifin' n' guttin' - in more ways than one. Obviously there's a healthy interest in 'getting drunk, destroying things because you can't be killed' as the character says. I have to say that the music alone would qualify as doomy, but the disjointed, inarticulate feeling it puts behind the music does give the track its one edge. Soundwise this is very good and shows how much of a step this artist has already taken. Probably not something to play to cheer someone up with.

Interesting, doomy electronica. Recommended.

Slippy-T - Crossfire

Hear The Track Here

Its been blinking ages since I've heard a Slippy T effort, absolute yonks. Bleak (February 2008) was my last encounter and before that a year had passed since Ain't This Just the Feeling 2 (JB Tribute) (January 2007). The reason I mention this is because I have known Rob Taylor (aka Slippy T) since forever and believe me, this guys fingerprints were everywhere back in the day. In the meantime, of course, real life will have its way and Slippy's musical presence has obviouslt taken a back seat because if that. All the more reason to be joyful because Slippy is an experienced musician, songwriter and singer.

Yeah, lucky bastard. I agree.

Mind you, I was there at the beginning I know just how hard this guy worked to sound like this; polished, professional and right on the money. Slippy is an artist who always has his detractors, people I gues who can't get past his unique vocal style. Nothing startling mind, just the tone he pitches at. It's a style I will always associate with English artists and I am used to it. What Slippy always manages to do is to stretch the style just that little bit to accomodate his particular take on it. He's had a string of Must Haves from me over the years and each one deserved. Even a cursory listen to Crossfire, a classic electronica track if I ever heard one, will show that this is a musician who knows his own mind and capabilities.

What seems to get most people with Slippy is his songwriting style; for sure you won't have had much quite like this. He's always been fond of electronica and he's returning to a well trod path but overlaying it all is the vocal style he has perfected over the years; a kinda multi-harmony thing that works like gangbusters once you get used to it. There are a couple of major level problems on the track that mar the final product, one of which (the hi hat) could be fixed with the miniumum of fuss and this would be a worthy addition to anyone's Slippy T folder. Nonetheless, a good introduction to a fine vocalist and songwriter.

Highly Recommended Electronica.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Audio Cortex - Mind & Soul

Hear The Track Here

If the names Soul Summation and Active Minded ring some bells with you, it is probably because I have reviewed both of these POP based artists and have known of their work ever since the early days of the POP experience. Matter of fact, I reviewed Soul Summations Contact (January 2008) and enjoyed it a lot, very classy electronica. That's the common link between these two artists, they deliver some of the slickest, melodic electronica you are ever likely to hear. The reason I am chattering on about these two artists is because they have just become one: Audio Cortex.

A marriage made in heaven or in hell? Heaven, absolutely. Nirvana definitely.

From the opening burbles you will recognise that sonically this is a clean, sophisticated sound and that excellent attention to the overall sound was one of the first pluses I ascribed to this track. However, like all good electronica, the more you play it the more becomes apparent to your ears. Got to say that my first listen to this deceptively long track (it tops out at almost seven minutes) really surprised me because I could have sworn I was only listening for a couple of minutes. Further plays showed that this is probably more like two tracks than one - and maybe even three....

I know, I know. Crap description.

The problem is that you really have to experience this track to see what I mean. There is so much going on here you will take a month of Sundays to unravel it all. More to the point it is stuffed to the rafters with some of the most interesting sounds it has been my pleasure to hear this year. Anyone who can bring a melodica (my fave sound in reggae/dub) into an electronic conversation like this is quids in with me (Ed: I think he means he likes it). Mind you, I've listened to this track endless times now and the track still throws up things I hadn't heard before or maybe not noticed. Hand on heart, couldn't say that it really floats my boats but I am in awe of the amount of love and devotion that has been lavished on this outstanding slice of electronica.

Highly Recommended. Very classy blend of electronica.

Ron Gragg - My Fathers World

Hear The Track Here

Although the Ron Gragg tracks I have reviewed so far haven't entered any of the loftier spheres of hyperbole I am prone to, I have - I hope - shown that here is an artist who takes time and effort to get his thing done right. What most impressed me this year about our Ron isn't so much his music but the committment to bringing his faith into the musical equation. For once, I might add, in a way that I personally don't mind at all. When I reviewed Nothing But The Blood (August 2008) I was more enthusiastic that it was an interpretation of a hymn first published in 1876. Ron had actually gone to the trouble of researching the song and adding peices to it that had been missing for years.

Can't fault that.

My Fathers World is another track of this type. The words were written by a pastor called Maltbie D. Babcock, in 1901 and it was apparently a reference to his saying 'I’m going out to see my Father’s world.” when going about his business. Not sure whether this has ever been set to music but the music and arrangement are credited to Ron so I guess this is modern (as it were). There can be no doubt that Ron is a home producer but fair dos, he's come up with a relatively quiet track that delivers excellent sound on the guitar, although the vocal suffers considerably.

Again though, respect to the guy for coming up with this, I'm sure there are many people who will take to this lo-fi song of praise - particularly regular churchgoers in America who will certainly recognise the style. Again, that's where I can take or leave this stuff; for me if it has a Christian message attached to it, it's probably going to have to work harder to impress me. This is where Ron does score, and very well too. The excellent arrangement, tone and delivery of the lyrics and the outstanding guitar accompaniment all help to sell the song to the unconvinced and I do include myself in that. Rough yes, but we don't all have the luxury of properly produced sound and - in this case - it's what comes across that counts.

Recommended acoustic Christian rock.

Fear 2 Stop - Diabetes

Hear The Track Here

Never a band to shirk a challenge, Houston TX based Fear 2 Stop now decide to tackle a subject that most people don't have a clue about: diabetes. It's actually a subject I am personally familiar with having lost a member of my own family and a couple of friends to this disease, and not something to be taken lightly. Not that Billy, Dana and Raymond have ever taken anything lightly in their lives. Certainly they are one of the most uncompromising bands on Soundclick if not the world, for as long as I have been on Soundclick they have forged their own, very distinctive path. Of course it might not be a path to many other people would tread down because a lot of F2S's music is on the wilder edges of experimental.

If you don't believe me, listen to the first twenty seconds of this track, it will either send you screaming for the exit or re-arranging your strait-jacket so you feel a little more comfortable. Ever since I have known them Fear 2 Stop have approached their music in two ways, lead lines and various boings, clonks, whirrs and buzzes supplied by the kind of analog sounds that would - these days - be called retro. Ally this with a ever shifting quicksand of rhythmic fukry, usually nailed down by some way eccentric drumming and you would have the recipe for making a track like Diabetes.

Yeah bert, you ask, is it any good?

Well, regular readers will already know that Fear 2 Stop are most definitely an acquired taste; you either like them straight away (probably for daring to be different) or you will spit them out explosively and dash off to be copiously sick. Personally, I have more than a grudging respect for this band, even though I couldn't truthfully say I like/understand the bulk of their work. Nonetheless, what they do HAS impoved immensely over the years and tracks like Diabetes show that to a huge degree. It may be sonically painful but its well put together painfulness. Besides, there are always painkillers on tap in my household, it's a prerequisite if you have small children. Warped electronica from Soundlclick veterans.

Not for the foolhardy but definitely a Highly Recommended for fans.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Devorah Love - Should I Cry?

Hear The Track Here

On those rare times when I actually manage to get some online time that isn't either promotional or work related, I will often play Soundclick roulette to fill in the time. This consists of adopting a 'do you feel lucky punk?' attitude and just click whatever links appealed to me. Wouldn't it be great if Soundclick instituted a 'Play Random Track' feature? Instead I rely on my reckless click finger and just click anything. It was while doing this one day that I came across Devorah Love (Ed: no surprises for guessing WHY he clicked on that link), a NY based singer/songwriter. Having worked in the area myself and being well aware of the history of this particular breed (female singer/songwriters, NY is bursting with them), I must admit I was surprised to find out fresh and vibrant Devorah's music was.

'Self pity sucks. If I cry will you go away?' Devorah says in the song comments about this excellent diatribe against people who JUST HAVE TO tell you their tragic life stories. Hello? Who gives a shit? Gedda life. Its a sure bet that a song with that sort of slant will definitely interest me from the start, as will its definite pop rock roots and sub-Blondie intro. Speaking of which, here is a case where the intro is so good, the track falls immediately flat as soon as it ends. Not that its that noticeable, I say this because I am a well known nitpicker. At this stage of the proceeeding I'd be sharpening my knives ready to cut some critical havoc and it's in Devorah's favour that she manages to still deliver a track that demands plays - and plenty of them.

Think of any NYC based female singer and you are bound to hear echoes of them in Devorah's work. The strongest influence - for me anyway - is Debbie Harry in her Blondie punk days, but I hear a million others in there too. I think the reason I get this most strongly is because the whole production ethos on this track is heavily slanted towards the do-it-yourself sound and - again credit to her - she pulls it off remarkably well. At the end of the day this is a very enjoyable song performed with tremendous energy and drive, if a little rough around the sonic edges. So if you think I'm only trying to foist yet another pretty face onto you, just be aware that this has already been a #1 Pop track on Soundclick and that says everything. Well deserved, I say and I'll be watching this artist for more of the same.

Excellent, punky pop. Highly Recommended.

(and here is the video even)

William - Elvin and Me (WIP)

Hear The Track Here

William, you may wail, who defuck he? Well, if you think you know the indie scene well, you should by now be hanging your head real low because William is one well known, and connected dude. I first came across him through my old Soundclick mate Dave Allen (aka dcallen) on an absolutely rocking Bad Karma Gonna Get You (July 2005), a classic dcallen track from an artist that I always assumed to be an electronica nut. Bad Karma soon put paid to that assumption but also introduced me to names that have become incredibly familiar to me since that time, including William. This being the second time I have reviewed him in his own right.

I reviewed Lonely Street (April 2008) and liked what I heard, even though it obviously failed to strike me that deeply - at least re-reading the review of it I was probably damning with faint praise. The WIP designation in the title denotes a work in progress, and I think its a good description because it doesn't exactly do very much. William purchased a Arp Pro Soloist from the worlds most famous music store (Ed: This may be sarcasm because he's actually referring to Ebay) and this was his first attempt at putting a track together with it. Don't get me wrong, this is a good peice of work; he's obviously a competent, experienced keyboard player.

The shortcomings though, are obvious. Pretty much factory sounds from the outset and considering this is a whisker shy of six minutes long, that can be a problem if you can't stay basic synth demos. Actually I'm being well unfair there because synth demos most definitely do not sound this good. See what William does with it sees no fault with me. This is a clean, straightforward - if slightly dated - sound and some good keyboard licks into the bargain. I'm certain that this isn't going to appeal to anyone outside of other ivory plinkers but if you like analog synths and someone who can actually use them, then this is the track for you.

Reasonable analog instrumental but, to be blunt, nothing special.

Dan E Peck - The Demize

Hear The Track Here

Judging by the response to my last review of this Peoria, AZ based rock guitarist on Soundclick, this is another MP3 Unsigned artist who could do well by being on both sites. Dan is one of those rare guitarists who instinctively know what to do. Sure, a lot of that would be down to experience but it also - IMHO anyway -might have a lot to do with Dan being self taught. Musicians who teach themselves instruments just for the heck of it tend to stretch themselves considerably more than musicians who have been taught how to play. They don't know, for example, that some of the things they do should but done but hey, proof is in the pudding. It works. If you think I'm jonking go listen to Peace Pipe (October 2008) which was an absolute must have for me - being a long time admirer of good lead guitarists.

The Demize was apparently written 'some 13-14 years ago' and was performed by Dan and his late brother, who this track is dedicated to. Obviously this is a re-mastered version because - as usual - the sound fidelity spot on; a regular thing with this excellent rock musician. Anyone who likes guitar slingers (as Dan calls them) and/or plank spankers (my name for lead guitarists) is seriously remiss if they don't have at least some of Dan's work tucked away on their hard drive - and getting played regularly into the bargain.

I had the good fortune a couple of weeks ago to see Jeff Beck live and Dan Peck has a lot of the attributes that make Jeff Back such a hero to me. Everywhere you look on the internet you are going to see rock bands, let's face it they are two a penny. Good (even great) rock guitarists are much, much thinner on the ground. The essence to me of making truly stunning lead guitar instrumentals is to make them different and - if you can and have the dexterity - to make them [i]listenable[/i] - please note my emphasis. Dan E Peck is one of the very few unknown guitarists who can do both and long may he keep making such gems as there. Bloody marvellous. Top Class guitarist, top class instrumental, jaw dropping licks.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pilesar - Cap'n Fleak

Hear The Track Here

When someone requests a review, the last thing I would normally expect is a comment like this:
' I've decided to try something a little different this time around. so, what's it going to be? Door #1 Door #2 or Door #3? Choose wisely, your fate is in your hands!' Because this is Pilesar we are talking about I do tend to take the man at his word and nervously chose Door #2 not knowing whether the sky would come crashing down or I would win a million smackeroos. Door 2 led to a track called Cap'n Fleak which piqued my curiousity somewhat because it appeared to be a SONG. Yep, with lyrics. Not something you would normally associate with an artist with Pilesar's intense lean towards the more experimental edges of the experimental genre.

In other words, way, way out there.

While I don't really like (and often merely tolerate) most experimental tracks, Pilesar is a known quantity. As experimental as he often gets there is always a thread of intelligent musical thought running through it and nobody - but NOBODY - can out-weird Pilesar. Believe me, many have tried and all have fallen way short. Shades of The Residents and The Mothers Of Invention shine through almost every lo-fi, ramshackle note of this amiable little song so you really SHOULD have an appreciation of music that may very well sound shit in your ears but breaks ground in many other ways. See, I do understand that most experimental music is indeed viewed as being crap but as always, there is a world of difference in noise for noise sake and Pilesars exercises in musical lunacy.

Fleak is essentially a folk rock (kinda/sorta) tale about Fleak who is 'Like rainman on speed, like shirts without sleeves' and who 'eats corn with his peas' and 'leaps buildings with ease, likes non-dairy cheese' I mean, come on, whats not to like? Seriously its a lot funnier when you hear it with musical accompaniment and shows - yet again - that even completely random Pilesar tracks deliver challenges to overcome. There is no doubt in my mind that Pilesar is one of Soundclick's unsung artists and that his label, Chameleon Dish Archives (already mentioned this month as part of an Antennaheadz review) is one of the freshest labels around for talent that defies most descriptions.

Folk, as only he can do it. Recommended lo-fi musical lunacy.

Avalanche - Are We Ever Going To Learn

Hear The Track Here

Been a while I guess since we last heard from everybody's favourite Soundclick rock band but there is a very good reason for that. Avalanche's chief cook and bottlewasher, Mike (NAV) Foster has been having medical problems, for which I am sure you would like to wish him a speedy recovery. Still, in the meantime heres a new (to me) Avalanche track although I noticed it has been online since March of this year so its obviously not new to some of you. There is a style of rock music that has always appealed to me, and Avalanche tap right into that so it's a given that I am going to like them and the same thing goes for anyone who likes their rock in the classic mode.

As in kerrrang!! yes...

Give yourself a listen to the first 20 seconds of this track and you'll whether it will appeal to you or not. One of the things I like most about reviewing Avalanche tracks is that Mike Foster is one of those rare things: a musician as articulate as he is competent. You will find more information written about most tracks than you can shake a stick at. Are We Ever Going To Learn, for example, was first written in 1984 and recently updated and was originally written about acid rain but these days can pretty much apply to any of the worlds numerous ecological problems. See, that's another thing about this musician and band, they have an opinion about pretty much everything and are not afraid to say it; musically or personally.

Nowt wrong with that.

The really great thing about Avalanche is that they are the nucleus of TWO of the best indie rock bands around right now, Avalanche itself and the excellent Easton Brothers Band (guitarist Mark and drummer Barry). If, God forbid, I was asked to choose which band is the better, I would have to throw my hands up in despair because they are BOTH as good as it gets - and Are We Ever Going To Learn is a classic example of what Avalanche does best. Rock the house. To be blunt, I wouldn't say that this is one of my more favoured Avalanche tracks but hey even this takes a dump over most of the competition. Nonetheless if you like rock, you will LOVE Avalanche.

Highly Recommended classic rock (with a message).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

David Pendragon and Tribe World Ensemble - Downloading Life

Hear The Track Here

The internet, as we know, is not exactly a great place for grand and extravagant projects. The vagaries of computers and music creation is bad enough, but mix that up with the vagaries of online life and the ups and down of the internet itself and you wonder how any meaningful collaborations happen at all. Therefore, God knows how Australian musician David Pendragon managed to pull together a grand total of 25 musicians from Europe, the USA, Canada, the UK, India, Singapore and all points south. Just getting it all together is a monumental task (with the emphasis on mental probably) let alone getting any decent tracks done. The only other Tribe Ensemble track I have reviewed, Lay Down Your Guns (March 2008) is a great song that got a Must Have rating from me.

Obviously I am not the only one a bit in awe of what this amazing orchestra can do because they have some very envious stats already and that always speaks louder than words. David Pendragon is not the musical lynchpin for this track but an old mate of mine, the legendary mOOch, a familiar figure on the older POP site. So not only do I get to keep up with someone whose music I have liked in the past, but I get to wax lyrical about what a peice of sonic art these geezers have cooked up between them. mOOch is the man responsible for the absolutely outstanding music, performance and production on the track, David supplied the lyrics and an excellent set of vocal pipes to stir the whole thing along.

As good as a lot of unsigned music is (and it REALLY is) it's actually rare to come across something that I would consider finished. Although I slide things through because the track touched me somehow, when a track gets a must have from me it has to be a) brilliant OR b) different or c) a combination of both. Anything, I got to tell you, that either mOOch or David Pendragon set their hands to is going to be at least a and b, but even I got to admit that they covered the c with spectacular results too. Downloading Life has such an air of confidence about it when I first played it, I had a smile wide for exactly 4:07 minutes, which funnily enough is the exact duration of the track. Despite my critical largesse I am not normally bowled over by first impressions, and the more I played this the deeper I fell in love. Great music, stirring vocals, inspirational lyrics...I mean come on.....

A perfect 10. Awesome track. MUST HAVE

333maxwell - After Hours

Hear The Track Here

Over the past year Chas Holman (aka 333maxwell) has thrown some really excellent tracks at me, not the least of them being the incredibly faithful to the period Post War Dreaming (September 2008). It was an absolutely faultless reproduction of a sound and an era that doesn't get half the attention it truly deserves. There again, it is jazz we are talking about and that's always been a contentious area for anyone. What is jazz? Well, for me, true jazz is about rhythms and syncopations often outside of the more linear style favoured by jazz artists crossing over to commercial. Yep the kind of jazz it is forgiven to hate, and in fact encouraged to hate by yours because it is one of music's greatest abominations.

(Ed: uh oh, quick get the meds!)

Whenever Chas has used the J word around me, I have found him to be a dedicated purveyor of what I would consider the truest of jazz forms; the smoky cellar sound. He re-created the 1940's and 50's with Post War Dreaming and he's gone back even further with After Hours. Oh no, you say, that style is more modern than that, its the kind of thing that was happening at the same time. Sorry to burst your bubble, but this style was popular in some areas of America long before that century. It might not have been called jazz but for sure it would have some roots in the New Orleans/Louisana school of music.

It has that so lazy, I just can't move feel that is so essential to pulling off the 'cool' a track like this demands, but does it such a way that each note, each beat seems like a cliff to fall off. The real star of the track just has to be the incredibly warm, brassy oh my God shiver inducing tenor sax that takes up the first section of the track. The song itself appears around two minutes in and is exactly in tune with the feel and tone of the track, the voice relaxed and suitably husky. In short, another excellent recreation of a byegone age, but also something more than that. A flame keeping true jazz afloat and for that alone, I will raise a glass or two to 333maxwell. Obviously you should like jazz, and preferably of the old school but this would make just as good a chill out track as any. Jazz is, after all, the original chill out music.  Excellent old school Jazz of the highest order. 

Highly Recommended and a MUST HAVE for jazz fans.

The Antennaheadz - A Modern Secret

Hear The Track Here

If you carelessly clicked on the website link above expecting to see the familiar visage of one Thomas J (aka The Antennaheadz) you will now be venting a few wtf's. I know this may be a bit jarring to you but that's a very familiar feeling around Pilesar because - lo and behold - that is the site you end up at. Pilesar and Thomas J? Surely a match created by tiny demonic imps with the voices of chipmunks and the even, placid temper of a silverback gorilla on the rampage? Pilesar, as well as being a musician of some note is also the proud owner of one of the best labels on Soundclick, the aptly named Chameleon Dish Archive. Put it like this, if you like music that is challenging, bizarre, often lol funny, then Chameleon Dish Archive will supply all the main food groups.

A Modern Secret is another track from the CDA Thomas J EP Let Them Down Gently and - as you may have noticed - is actually released under his own name. When I reviewed Everyone is Weird (October 2008) I went overboard as usual because I really like where Thomas has been going with his music. Sure its usually basic, often kinda lo-fi but hey I got to tell you its also got a lot of charm and a cracking song to go with it. Moreover, it's a sound that Thomas seems to have made his own. Put it like this, these days I look forward to hearing tracks from this artist, believe me it was not always so.

Speaking of cracking songs, you GOT to get a listen to this...

I know I have a bad case of this artist but when push comes to push with me, the song is always the main factor and - because of Thomas's particular style - this is a killer from the opening piano chords to the outro piano chords. As you know, you can never have enough pianos. Which is probably all to the good really because A Modern Secret is pretty much all piano, vocal and not much else. Might sound cheap and cheerful but the reality of the track soons dispels the 'well it can' be up to much' impulse I usually associate with such lineups. The difference is, of course, the song itself and A Modern Secret should not be so secret for long. All this bodes extremely well for both Thomas J and Chameleon Dish Archive because so far they are onto an absolute blinder.

MUST HAVE (oh yeah) but beware, not yer normal thing.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Buzrk - Dream Conqueror

Hear The Track Here

Most of my attention as far as beatmakers go this past few months has been on the excellent Sinima Beats, but Soundclick veterans Shadowville Productions still play a major part in the beats factory scene. Dream Conqueror is yet another Shadowville joint and a good riff it is too, if a little overused in this Buzrk track. I've reviewed a good many of Buzrk's tracks and have often found him to be entertaining enough, especially after a not very inspiring start. Like a lot of home produced rappers, Buzrk's quality does tend to fluctuate somewhat but - in general - he is a competent enough rapper who is probably building a following.

I know that sounds like damning with faint praise but, as far as this reviewer is concerned, he has yet to deliver a solid enough track to really knock me on my ass. The music track plays around with a 1930's/1940's violin line and is particularly effective until you realise that the main riff stretches out without pause (pretty much) for the whole four minutes of this tracks life. A point in Buzrk's favour is that as wordy as the rap it, it doesn't step over the musical track which is something he has been guilty of in the past.

At the end of the day, liking this rapper or that is going to be a question of personal taste based on flow and lyrical power, and again Buzrk hasn't hit me enough yet. I am sure that he definitely has his own sound and flow and I have become used to it over the time I have been reviewing his tracks. Hand on my heart, I think again that, as far as my own personal taste goes, Buzrk tends to overdo the rap and even strains sometimes to fit it all in. Now obviously that has to be a personal thing because I'm sure he could just as easily find people who would say his rap is fine. All a question of preference I guess.

Recommended home produced rap.

Wreckless Music (Ejay) - Sleep When You're Dead

Hear The Track Here

Over the course of this past year, Maryland, US based rapper Wreckless Music has supplied a diverse collection of tracks, some just OK but mostly of a high standard of production and performance nous. He really hit the spot with this reviewer when I flipped over his extremely timely diatribe about the state of hiphop, Old Times (October 2008), giving it a Must Have rating which is rare for this genre. Partly for the way Wreckless Music performed the peice and partly because of the inspirational message it contained, Old Times is definitely one of the best hiphop tracks I have heard in a good while.

But, as always, you are only as good as your last track...

Now say what you like about Wreckless Music but big respect to the guy for ALWAYS, and I mean always, stretching himself musically. Sleep When You Are Dead is a classic case in point. The first thing I thought of when I saw the title was, damn that sounds like a heavy metal track and guess what? It is, with a kinda/sorta blues rock twist. Obviously then the next connection to make would be to the classic Aerosmith/RunDMC Walk This Way combination and that would be fairly accurate too because this track is a direct descendent.

Got to say that initially I found this track rough as old boots but - given the material - that is to be expected. There is a definite lo-fi home produced feel about the backing track and a live distortion on the vocal that is odd at first but you'll soon get past that. Almost a blues rock feel about the track helps enormously to push this track out ahead of its peers, despite the roughness of the sound. Can't say that it is going to become a favourite Wreckless Music track for me but God bless the guy for pushing the boat out a little further. Certainly deserves its billing as Alternative Hiphop.

Highly Recommended blend of blues rock and rap. (Ed: He isn't kidding)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Kay'Vion - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

First track out of the review bag this month is, in fact, a holdover from last month. If I was ever in doubt about opening up my review blog, this year has certainly dispelled those doubts. Not only is the blog picking up readers but the bucketload, I'm also getting a lot more requests for reviews from it. So KayVion sent me (Ed: actually Crystal did but lets not muddy the water any more) a bunch of tracks from his latest album and although I don't generally do this, I thought what the hey - it's my blog, I can do as I damn well please. KayVion is a hiphop artist from the state of Virginia USA, and judging by the quality of the tracks I have heard is well poised to profit from a professional career. However, as of right now, you can get in at the ground floor and download the tracks I am going to talk about at the artists own site.

Regular readers will not be surprised when I say there is a sector of hiphop I really don't like. I call it chick rock (sorta like chick-lit if you will); sweet, syrupy, gushy love songs with accompanying sick-making plinky music. Pushing Back definitely settled into that state immediately. Then the second track, a remix/rework of Olivia Newton John's classic Let's Get Physical pressed yet another hate switch; cover versions. Not looking good for Kay'Vion you might think as the sound of knife sharpening reaches a crescendo. Well, we would be dining on finely diced KayVion right now except remember what I said in the first paragraph? (OK, for ****'s sake go back and read it!). See, I can forgive any amount of personal predjudice if a) the artist approach the chick rock from a unique angle and b) if you are going to do a cover version, at least have the talent and foresight to make it your own and not some pale imitation. In both cases, KayVion comes up smelling of roses; as sweet and cloying as Pushing Back is its also a wonderfully arranged and produced ballad of the highest order.

Let's Get Physical, let's face it a REAL hard track to cover, only suffers slightly because I so loved the original. KayVion gives it a much softer, more musical feel, the vocals in particular lend themselves to the arrangement. Hand on heart, I couldn't swear that this floated my boats but huge respect for getting it mostly right. If I had to chose a GOOD cover of this track, this would be right up there. Again, both tracks show an incredible grasp of production and presentation so either KayVion IS this good, or he has some very professional help. Truth To Be Told is both the title track from his album and the last track I got from this artist. I'm real glad I listened to them in this order because it's a case of saving the best for last. Seriously Truth To Be Told is a wonderful peice of soft hiphop showcasing the understated, but very effective, vocal style KayVion brings to the party. Definitely, and beyond all shadow of a doubt, aimed squarely at the female of the species, I am certain they would lap this up in droves. Me, I stand in awe of this young man's achievement. Very fine music indeed. Girls!! HE is here :)

MUST HAVE for ladies and Highly Recommended musically.