Monday, September 29, 2008

SilentWave Ent - I Rap

Hear The Track Here

OK, now I am officially puzzled. I've seen a few things in my time on Soundclick but I think this is the first time I have ever seen a banner at the top of this artists page that says 'This account is currently under review' accompanied by a debt red border that is - well - intimidating. Why is this artist under review? More to the point, wtf IS being under review? Certainly has nothing to do with me, that's for sure but hey, I am interested in the way Soundclick works. If the name SilentWave is ringing bells that's because I reviewed their multi-rapper New World Order (May 2008) and liked it despite some small quibbles. I know that, like a lot of hiphop artists, SilentWave's work often carries a Parental Warning but nonetheless...

Enquiring minds want to know.

'I don't give a f***' is one motif that instantly impresses itself on your mind when you hear the track, accompanied by a veritable flood of similar phrases all sprinkled with cusswords. Well, so far, so Parentell Advisory but for us so-called grown ups, does this track hold any allure at all. We've all heard cursing used in place of real linguistic ability, and whenever I have encountered it being used just to fill space in the past I have tended to be harsh. As I say, I'm supposed to be a grown up, and I didn't find I Rap offensive in the slightest. Mind you, I am a loud-mouthed gobby bastard when I want to be, so I feel at ease with this method of passing information. And therein lies the difference between using profanity as a space filler and using it to EMOTE.

And f*** me (Ed: OK, Gilmore enough now) if the track isn't a blinder too. If you are sufficiently up on my reviewing you will know that I get through a lot of hiphop so I'm going to spot something good. THIS, my mind boggled friends, is something good. In rap/hiphop the game is lost and won in two areas; musical ideas and lyrical flow. I Rap is packed to the rafters with both; aided by someone called Frost & Omega delta. Whoever got this little beauty together deserves a nice big round of applause because this is killer, classic f*** you rap of the first order. You know I am not going to say that lightly and here is the proof.

MUST HAVE bad boy rap (Note: contains many, many curse words)

-LMS- - Change

Hear The Track Here

It isn't often that I end the month with a couple of tracks in the same genre, but this month I was blessed wth two hiphop/rap tracks that held a high standard lyrically and ideas enough to power a hit factory. Each track and artist (this one and I Rap by SilentWave Ent) is different, using their own sound and style well enough to make them stand out from the crowd. Both carry a very in-your-face message that has nothing whatsoever to do with the current hiphop fascination with gangsters, bling and beehatches. Miami based -LMS- has become a bit of a fixture in this way on Soundclick and is one of the only artists I know to have won acceptance in the right way.

Because these tracks ended up back to back it was inevitable that one would suffer from it, but that shouldn't be the case because they both have lots to offer. My immediate reaction to Change wasn't too positive having just been driven made by the swearfest that proceeded it. However, as I got more and more into the track and despite some odd timings dotted around, I started to realise that this track is certainly IMHO -LMS- at his finest.

Once you get used to the feel and the flow of this rap, you start to feel the emotion in back of it. Whatever else you may think, this guy is pissed off and he wants to know. The sound has an high end to it that also tends to blur the songs impact, but that is small change because when all is said and done you'll be way too busy riding the tiger of a rap, and believe me whiplash is a real possibility. Despite some misgivings, I really warmed to this because it contains -LMS- in full spate, certainly his best vocal performance IMO.  The line 'Can we make a change' does some seriously spooky shit to the hair at the back of my head.

Highly Recommended topical rap. Parental Advisory though.

A Cry Of Hounds - Charnel House

Hear The Track Here

A Cry Of Hounds is a four peice Canadian band who specialise - so I am told, new name to me - in '60's garage punk', whatever that means. Charnel House is a track from the band's 16 track debut album Garage Monsters, all the tracks being based on 16 b-grade horror flicks. Yep, all so woooooaahhh, so far right? Now I don't really give a crap about what you want to label your rock, to me it's all the same which means I would be approaching this track with some pleasure. Especially as I am into the sounds of the '60's in all its forms, but especially all the millions of bands that didn't quite reach the dizzy heights of some of their contemporaries.

The band members certainly sound an unruly bunch...

Captain Curtis the Undead Pirate is on keys and vocals, Mary Queen of Vampires on bass and vocals, Skully on drums and - last but not least - Screamin' J on guitar and vocals. The reason I single out J is because you may know this guy in another guise familiar to Soundclick users: Road Apples. Therefore knowing that he is on the case, I expected a good overall sound and performance and I wasn't disappointed. It's a solid, edgy track that has musical references up the wazoo, but at its base is that old standard, da blooz.

Part of the difficulty of creating retro sounds is that - these days anyway - it isn't easy to come across decent tube amps, and the 60's staple, the legendary Farfisa organ. Top marks then to A Cry Of Hounds for paying attention to the period detail because the organ being used in this track certainly sounds like a Farfisa. Musically, I place the track somehwere around 1964 America, but lyrically it could only have come from todays warped minds; warped - I might add - by crappy B movies from the period. So, its a given that you would have to like the style, but Charnel House is a very entertaining listen anyway. If you like retro sounds, this is exactly the track you have been searching for.

Music from the Golden Age. Fresh today. Highly Recommended.

Vesper - Till We Meeet Again

Hear The Track Here

September has been a very hectic month for reviews, almost 40 tracks from just about everywhere, so its no surprise that things have been messed up and tracks have been overlooked. So big apologies to Vesper because I know this UK based hiphop artist's review should have come sooner than this, but hey, I'm here now. I have a particular liking for UK hiphop which is quite different in tenor and tone to its bigger American cousin, and Soundclick boasts some very Good UK musicians and producers. So enter Vesper, a name I haven't heard before but obviously Till We Meet Again will solve that neatly.

Not much information about him, he's 17 years old and that's pretty much it, so obviously the music will have to speak for him. The music, in this case, coming from - yet again - Sinima Beats, the rap is Vesper's contribution. Seeing as I've just waxed lyrical about Sinima Beats on an earlier track this month let me just say that it is recognisably Sinima; lots of strings, a solid beat backing and a sequence running through it that could do equal justice to an Ibiza style dance track. My problem with the music, not the material, just the structure was that it became incredibly repetitive, incredibly quickly - not something I have associated with this excellent beat factory in the past.

Now at 17 years old, no matter how talented you are, confidence is going to be a problem. I'm not saying that verspers flow and delivery aren't right because he is surprisingly on the money. Nope, I think where this falls down is in the style of the track; the sort of young love gone wrong track that never really takes off. I admit that I am biased againt the overall genre, but nonetheless IMHO Vesper needs to up his rap game considerably to really get into the Soundclick game with any meaningful impact. Girls will love this though, and probably Vesper too and I guess that would please Vesper just as much. An interesting debut, nonetheless.

Reasonable UK based hip hop.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Apesoundscapes - Smoke 'Em Out

Hear The Track Here

Even Carl Best (aka Apesoundscapes) would admit that he is not the most prolific of artists, but I guess that doesn't really matter when you are talking about quality tracks - and that is what this artist does better than most. I first met this electronica artist way back in 2005 and have given him at least one Must Have rating. Considering that we are only talking about 1 or 2 new tracks a year, I'd say that was good going. That track - Out Of The Cold (March 2006) - still sits on my hard drive to this day, as does HazyDayz (April 2007) and considering his rate of output that is amazing.

You're only as good as your last track though...right? ;)

The beat on Smoke 'em Out comes from someone called Emotive and I know nothing whatsover about them. What did come as a surprise was the fact that this is a song, and a kinda/sorta Alternative song at that - even though it is billed as electronica/Indietronic. It's an odd little beast though, at least until you get used to it. The beats are odd, jerky but probably intentionally so because the track itself has an inbuilt lope that, I guess, would be difficult to would be difficult to pin down.

The more the track develops, and the longer you listen to it, you begin to realise that this is undeniably English in origin and most definitely of the alternative guitar band variety. A cross betwen Oasis and Blur although I am shamed to say that it a very lazy reference. The style does remind me of something but I can't for the life of me pin it down. It's also quite difficult to make out the lyrics and there are none posted which is a shame because at over five and a half minutes this is track with something to say. Not sure about the overall sound though, even when I have played it many times but maybe that's me going old.

Excellent Indietronic/alternative. Highly Recommended.

Mike-K - Springtime Serenade

Hear The Track Here

Mike Kohlgraf is a veteran of the music scene we all inhabit, and a long time member of Soundclick's active community firstly through his reviews (back in the day) and latterly through his Flavour Of The Genres stations and his live Saturday Night Rocks radio show. He is also, as you would expect, a musician in his own right and a collaborator with many, many friends to play with. Names such as Jim Miller, Maria Daines, Christopher Martin Hansen dot his page and if those names mean less than nothing to you where the **** have you been for the past five years, certainly not on Soundclick obviously.

All musicians love new toys be they physical or virtual, and Mike is no exception. His recent purchase of the latest Band In A Box is the latest toy in his arsenal and he's obviously been inspired because there has been a veritable flood of tracks since he got it. First and foremost Mike is a guitarist, as is evident from the arrangement and style, but he also a deft producer and you won't find a hair out of place on most of his tracks. You would have to like the smoother side of music, which I personally don't, but there is no doubt that makes very accessible 'easy listening' tracks.

Aided this time by Mixposure's RWK (a very fluid and proficient plank spanker) the end result of the venture is - surprisingly - similar to a past track from Mike with Kephas taking over the lead guitar duties. I'm not sure whether that is because of the guitar tone he is using or the construction of the track itself, which kinda demands these short, effective guitar runs. So if you like guitar instrumentals AND you like easy listening you are quids in with this particular track. Personally, as Mike knows only too well, I'm not a fan of the style but I do recognise quality when I hear it and that is one thing that is always true of Mike's work.

Highly Recommended guitar instrumental.

Unread Pages - Ghost Faces

Hear The Track Here

Although it looks like Unread Pages have been around on Soundclick since 2006, this is the first I have come across this Sydney, Australia based artist. So let me state right off the bat that I have a liking for Antipodean musicians, especially of the rock variety, because they do tend to be as adventurous musically as us whiny Poms. Yep, biased much? Unread Pages veers between yer standard instumentation and electronica and Ghost Faces falls squarely into the gaps between the two genre. 'Sort of like Bjork meets the Cistercian monks' Unread Pages says on the song comments and I see the monkish connection right enough, but the Elvish One still escapes me.

As I was downloading the track I noticed that UP (a one man band obviously) was also interested in cosmology and quantum mechanics which definitely endeared him to me because its an area I have great fascination with. However, getting my head out of the clouds, music is what this about and Ghost Faces is a very smart peice of music indeed. The musical track is effective, clear and slightly jazzy in feel, rolling the track forward rather than propelling it. There is a synth sequence that repeats throughout the track that adds to the feeling too, and for my money, is one of the highlights of the track.

The main highlight has to be those monkish (elvish whatever) vocals, and the fact that it isn't the monkish voices you may expect from my description of the music. Most of us would expect the time honoured Monk samples that are everywhere - thanks to their proliferation, it has modernised a very old sound. Nope, in this case, Unread Pages supplies his own vocals, pitching them in such a way that the sound and quality is definitely wearing a rough brown cassock. It also shows a rare intelligence at work, and one I will definitely be keeping an eye on in the future.

Excellent song, very eclectic sound. Highly Recommended.

The Realest - Drowning Beat

Hear The Track Here

As I've said before, by far the largest musical genre on Soundclick (and probably the world) is hip hop and its assorted sub-genres. One of the largest sectors of the genre, and a cottage industry in its own right, are the endless beat factores who make beats for other artists to license for use. It has to be said that not all beat factories are alike, and in fact having reviewed a good many of them one way or another I certainly have my own favourites - which also happen to the top beat factories. The reason they are the top is because they are extremely good at what they do.  Sinima Beats is a beat factory I have become more and more aware of this year, simply because their beats are always interesting and covers a lot of ground.

Wherever possible I try to listen to the original track but I really don't have the time to go through all 395 tracks on their site, so that one bit the dust pretty quick. Drowning Beat is a bit more standard hiphop than most of their tracks, but still has their classy blend of excellent rhythms and orchestral scoring. Although I like them when they are more on the cutting edge, the musical track here will blow most other factories away - listen to the sound quality and its obvious that these guys know what's what. Where the plot usually fails is when the rapper (in this case The Realest) comes to put their own stamp on the affair.

It is to The Realest's eternal credit that not only has he not stepped over (Ed: musical speak, he means obscured...) the original track and, in fact, has even added more power to it. Part of that has to be attributed to the man's light touch with the rap, not too much but just enough which is important with the slower forms of hiphop. Much more so, at least in my opinion, credit should go to the lyrical content and flow. Drowning Beat is effectively a very strong anti-drug song that condemns the whole ethos that seemingly pervade the genre like a virus. It is very refreshing to hear a rap artist laying down lines that lament the effect drugs - and its endemic corruption from both 'gangsters' and police - has on the community he lives. 'Crack cocaine got my hood drowning, crooked police got my hood drowning, n**** with guns got my hood drowning' is probably one of the best hiphop choruses I have heard this year and is a message that so deserves to be heard - but that isn't the reason I give this such a high rating. The reason I love this track is because - even though its a semi ballad - it's technically perfect. I certainly don't get to say that about hiphop very often.

MUST HAVE message. MUST HAVE track. Superb.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Antennaheadz - Game Of Love

Hear The Track Here

Poor ol' Thomas J (aka The Antennaheadz) must think I have some kind of blank spot as far as he is concerned. For the past three months, for some mysterious reason, I seem to have misplaced his entry into the review schedule and he has had to remind me. Sorry, Thomas, I'm old, what can I tell you? What's really ironic is that I have known the guy since my earliest reviewing days on Soundclick and I would happily have done that trick with some of the tracks he released under his Station For Imitation personna. I certainly wouldn't want to do that with any Antennaheadz tracks (or should that be trackz) because that personna has become one of my all time favourites on this site. Listen anyone who can go from the weirdest electronica on the planet to pop troubadour without so much as a blink is alright by me.

The fact is that, somewhere along the way, Thomas got religion and had the revelation that the song is the thing and he hasn't looked back since. Not all of the tracks have blown my socks off but certainly the majority of them have delivered a classic song, wrapped in a distinctly retro, lo-fi arrangement and production. If you think you know exactly what I am saying I say you know nothing, go listen to the track and you'll see why you couldn't possibly know what I am saying. Anyone who doesn't know about this highly idiosyncratic artist couldn't have any idea what they were in for, but Game Of Love is a wonderful place to start catching up.

One small caveat, Game Of Love is an exact, almost eerily precise recreation of the sound that pervaded the mid to late 1950's in America, especially amongst guitar groups. As usual, though, Thomas has brought a song to the party as well and his laconic, almost languid vocal slouches the track forward wonderfully. Hand on heart I can't really say I actually like this, but there again I lived through the period mentioned and once is enough. Mind you, I am utterly lost in admiration at how close to perfect Thomas has made this, even down to the trademark squeaking wtf-is-that sound that were also a staple of the period even if this is noticeably electronic in nature. Be careful though because this is obviously not going to appeal to everyone, but as a nod of respect to a lost age, this is just brilliant.

MUST HAVE; stunningly exact recreation of rock history.

Largo - Let It Rain

Hear The Track Here

David Katsikas alias Largo is an American musician I have reviewed a few times and liked very much what he has been doing, although my first listen to Let It Rain wasn't exactly complimentary.  More to do with my intense dislike for rock ballads which this instantly put me in mind of, than anything Largo was doing wrong. He is, in fact, a very competent musician whose rock treatments - although distinctly American in sound - have always entertained me if not totally won me over. His last two tracks, for example, both recieved a Must Have rating from me because of the quality and presentation of the songs.

A musicians musician.

Now don't be asking me where you can hear this li'l beauty because I'm farged if if I know. I downloaded it when the list was first closed at the beginning of the month and he may well have said where it can be obtained but I just can't be bothered to root all that out - so you'll have to do it instead. About time you did something useful to earn your keep, I say. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, the phantom track. Now doubt that Largo will be along to leave an URL of some kind, but in the meantime would you want to hear it?

As I say, I have in-built intolerance for rock ballads so I'm probably not the best person to ask. However, from a purely technical point of view, this track is well up the usual standards I have come to expect from this artist. Coming in at just under three minutes though, Let it Rain isn't going to be a hard listen whatever you may think about the genre. Largo is one Soundlick musician who can be relied on to make a listenable, entertaining track and Let It Rain is certainly that. Having lived with this track for a while, I have to admit that I did get to like it, despite my predjudice. It is, dare I say it, an excellent rock ballad.

Get your lighters at the ready. Highly Recommended Rock ballad.

Groyse Metsie - Mein Shtetala

Hear The Track Here

Last track up from Popspace this month is head honcho Chris Bishop's personal pick. If you follow these reviews, you will already know that this man has an incredible pair of ears - all his picks have been very, very tasty.  Now if you are thinking that I have developed a bad case of dicks...dix...dikx.. that spelling problem some people have, I havent.  Neither has the cat walked accross my keyboard. (Educational Ed: the term Gilmore is mangling is Dyslexia, a serious learning disability which should not be joked about. I'll spank him later) As our less parochial readers will have suspected, Groyse Metsie is an Isreali musician playing Jewish music he refers to as 'klezmer' along with more modern western instruments and electronica.

Sounds effective enough long before you put the needle on the record (as it were) but that is usually the case with Chris Bishop's picks anyway so nothing new there. Being a diehard World music fan I admit I was seriously looking forward to hearing this track, and it didn't let me down but there again I never expected it to. Similar, but in the vaguest way, to the way stringed instruments are treated in the Greek tradition, the musical style was instantly familiar although I suspect that people who don't really get this whole World music thing would be scratching their heads in bewilderment - and not just because the song is sung entirely in Hebrew either.

I am a very keen fan of the world music genre and I admit to some surprise that Mein Shtetala is billed as Freestyle whereas it's definitely world music through and through. Just something that may confuse listeners even more, but with the short attention span prevalent on the internet, every little helps when you are trying to attract an audience. People do tend to be swayed by labels after all, and in the case of Mein Shtetala that would be a real shame. Even though I understand not one word of Hebrew, I could have cared less. The clarity of the mix and the style of music more than made up for it, although after a while I felt the bass was a bit under-represented. That only becomes evident after you've heard it a few times and I've almost worn this bad boy out...

MUST HAVE World music. Traditional Hebrew song brought bang up to date.

Stella Polaris Project - Die For You

Hear The Track Here

Whenever Ricky Mancini slams a track into my review list, am torn in two different directions; flight or fight. In his MD-1 Project personna, his music is often abrasive, disconcerting and hard to get close to. There again in his collaborative effort with Melinda Mohn - the aforementioned Stella Polaris Project - his testosterone levels are somewhat lessened by, presumably, her calming presence. There again, knowing these two, she could well be a worse provocateur than him. Having said all that, I have found a space in my likes for both of these remarkably different styles, and I gues that says something about their quality of work.

Where Ricky Mancini has improved beyond recognition is in his arrangement and production skills, the sound and mix of all his tracks are a lesson in hard edged glitch styleee. So although Die For you isn't exactly a relaxing peice of music, there is more than enough going on in it to satisfy even an old technical curmudgeon like yours truly. The jewel in this particular music track (for me anyway) is the bassline which is absolutely fekkin relentless and - played loud - it will probably lift the roof of your house of when it gets going. Highly reminiscent of reggae bass sounds, but hey that might be the reason I like it so much.

I have reviewed 4 tracks from Stella Polaris so far, all of which have got Must Haves from me, and that is rare for any artist. A lot of that has to do with the highly unique way Mr Mancini puts the track together, but I have a lot of time for Melinda Mohn who is equally as effective as a vocalist with her own sound and style. As much as I enjoyed Die For You, for my money it doesn't carry the impact of the past four tracks; as brilliant as it is musically and vocally. I don't think it is as accessible as their earlier tracks, but again, that won't worry them and even though I don't feel I can give this my top rating, the one I'm giving it will probably be enough for most people anyway.

Highly Recommended IDM with a wicked bass and arrangement.

Monday, September 22, 2008

RAF21 - Nuptial Danse

Hear The Track Here

Nothing whatsoever to do with handlebar moustaches and choruses of 'wot! wot! wot!' and 'wizard prong' whatever the fekk that means. Nope, this RAF has never taken to the skies, at least I know of. RAF21 is the resplendent nick/bandname of Raf Beaudon who I have reviewed the princely sum of two reviews so far - in as many years. Now, you might be thinking that Raf isn't as prolific as some on Soundclick and that may well be true but not everyone wants to hog my review lists all the time. (Ed: Now what does he mean by that?). I Have a Dream (December 2006) was a nice blend of electronica and classical that, although flawed, worked well as a peice of music. Asian Life (July 2007) was a lot better - in an easy listening kind of way - and was a very good peice of World music.

Meantime, a year and a bit later...

If I were just cruising around Soundclick (as I sometimes do just for the heck of it) and I came across the following comment: 'The carefree lovers dance naively in the middle of an endless afternoon. The music dazes the hearts in a ceaseless ritual. Nothing exists besides this moment' you got to ask yourself, would I listen to it?. Well, in this case I have to but, honestly, I wouldn't have done by that description. Might have done because it's Classical listing though and - from past experience - I know that this French musician has a real good ear. That truth is borne out within the first minute of this light (in more ways than one) peice of classically inclined music.

It's a light, airy peice anyway and weighing in at less than two minutes it's not going to given anyone aural indigestion and if you like the style, this has much to offer. Personally, I love to play around with classical themes in my own music and I would have been proud to come up with this, so I hope Raf feels pleased with it. It also doesn't have any of the sound problems that dogged earlier RAF21 tracks, but there again - given the content - aural fidelity wouldn't be much of a problem. Instrument resonance and tone would though and that is where Raf scores big time.

Excellent classical peice. Most Highly Recommended if you like the genre.

Fluidity - Possession and Exorcism

Hear The Track Here

Another Soundclick artist who has carved out a nice little niche for himself is New Zealand's John Paul Carroll (aka Fluidity) principally because there is no one who quite sounds like him. I've known this musician now for a good many years and I've watched him grow and develop into the well rounded artist who has delivered track after track of solid, rock based songs. Of course not all of those songs (notice I use the workd song and not track, JP is first and foremost and excellent songwriter) have set me - or you, I guess - alight but plenty of them have set me to smoulder and dish out Highly Recommended's as if they were smarties.

He is also a very efficient and detailed lyricist and - at this moment in time - Possession and Exorcism has to be right up there with the best of his work. Full of images such as 'eating dirt as like its a banquet' and 'the walls are lonely must be why they are closing in'; Possession and Exorcism makes for a weighty track from that aspect. Not something unusual for this artist though. What is unusual, and something I am still getting used to after endless plays of this track, is that it sounds very odd at first. Sure I am used to it now, but the way the arrangement works (particularly in the sounds used) it just didn't sound like something JP would have produced.

Mind you, the more you play it, the more that odd, almost lo-fi intro makes sense to you. The later, more rocky sections are pure Fluidity through and through but the intro is something else. That intro takes up half of this six minute track and is my favourite part of the track. Almost any Fluidity track will deliver the rock thrills and spills of the later section, but you'll only find this intro on this track. I'm absolutely certain that diehard Fluidity fans (I am one of many) will absolutely love this track, and who knows it may very well apply to a more general rock audience too. Whatever, if Fluidity is an new name to you, catch up with this excellent NZ based rock songwriter with intelligence (there's a thing) as a matter of urgency.

Highly Recommended Rock song. MUST HAVE for fans.

Fear 2 Stop - Boomerang

Hear The Track Here

Regular readers will know of Experimental artists, Fear 2 Stop and be very, very familiar with their idiosyncratic music, and be even more familiar with motormouth frontman Billy Castillo. Because almost everything that comes from this band has Billys dabs (Ed: fingerprints) all over it, as indeed does Boomerang with one major difference. Because Billy is so prolific and yes high profile we tend to forget that Fear 2 Stop is actually a three peice outfit; Billy, wife Dana and friend Raymond Proseus.

OK, brace yourselves...

Boomerang is the work, this time, of Dana Castillo, coming from an idea from Raymond. Billy supplied the bass and mixed and recorded the track and that is the total sum of his involvement. 'Dana gets funky..' the song comment goes and I'd say yeah, but only in a Fear 2 Stop stylee. To be sure I found Boomerang more rhythmic and yeah more melodic than some of F2S's previous output but just because it's the missis (Ed: Mrs Billy) plonking away, doesn't mean to say that all the weirdness has gone out of the window. One thing I have learned about this band....they are all as bad as each other.

Don't be any doubt, though, that the music is bad because it isn't and hasn't been for a long time now. Sure they were rough right at the beginning, but their output over the past couple of years has been very rewarding. Of course, you should have a taste for the wilder aural landscapes around, but I personally found Boomerang eminently listenable - again with the caveat that this is a Fear 2 Stop track and no one does it quite like them. Stylistically it's a bit of an electronic ramble but interesting for all that.

Excellent experimental electronica (with a beat!) Recommended.

Ron Gragg - A Roll Of The Dice (A Frenchmans Wager)

Hear The Track Here

My first encounter with Christian Rock artist Ron Gragg was collaborating with other Christian Rockers on Cam's Even Song's Praise The Name Of The Lord (January 2007). Considering the amount of vocalists on that track, it's no wonder that Ron's part was small - and obviously not enough to grab hold of. A couple of his own tracks rectified that, but also showed up a couple of home recording pitfalls which is a shame because Ron is obviously an accomplished musician.

Mind you, he covered that problem handily with Nothing But The Blood (August 2008), his reworking of a hymn first written in 1876, which was sonically much improved. Wherever possible, once the review process is complete, I usually look at the comments other people have written about the track just to see how my reviews stacks up against person to person appreciation. In a surprisingly large number, my review is often at variance with the majority of the comments; sometimes hugely so, sometimes not so much.

So, although I can agree with the majority opinion on this that it is technically a good track, it does fall down somewhat from an aural standpoint. I am quite willing to admit that I am a bit of an audiophile and I definitely lean towards having the sound fully back the music, but hey, we don't all have that kind of kit. So, for me the track itself felt thin, no real depth to it, even down at the crucial (well for rock anyway) bass and drums level. A good bluesy track reminiscent of something Clapton would do, but it needs a lot more meat on its bones.

Recommended rock, for all that.

333maxwell - Post War Dreaming

Hear The Track Here

Chas Holman (aka 333maxwell) is a bit of a jazz freak, as indeed am I. In the (counts fingers) four reviews I have written about this Zimbabwe based musician, he has continued to interest and intrigue me but not delivering the knockout blow until I reviewed Carousel (August 2008) a Beatle influenced track that got a well deserved Must Have from me. Of course, its a rare artist who can keep up that kind of pace but 333maxwell has more than shown that he certainly has the knowledge and capacity to be that good.

Billed quite accurately as Lounge Jazz, Post War Dreaming has a nice understated feel that grabbed me from the start, but I do like this kind of material. Where IMHO it doesn't work is when you concentrate more on the actual notes being played and let the instruments take care of themselves. What I mean by that is that the tone and texture of the instruments are equally as important, especially to get the right kind of atmosphere - an essential ingedient being audio fidelity.

Being a perfectionist, Chas even thows in some old vynil cylinder noise because that was state of the art back in the day (of Jazz, that is). Continuing in that vein, the clarinet sound on this breezy, extremely accurate rendition of the post-war musical period is to die for and my own favourite. Now obviously you should have a taste for jazz (and particularly the 1940s/'50s period) to get the most out of this, but almost anyone will appreciate its style and its laid back approach. So accurate he's even got a Wout Steenhuis on slide guitar, and that's a hard trick to pull off.

Top class musical throwback. MUST HAVE jazz.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wreckless Music Ejay - Shine ft Shaky Shake

Hear The Track Here

Nothing whatsoever, as I discovered, to do with the musical software, Wreckless Music Ejay is an American hiphop artist who I have reviewed a couple of times in the past. Kinda liked So Focused (Stand Up) (June 2008) and I still have it on my hard drive - even if I haven't played it in a while. It says something that it's still there, believe me. I am a compuslive pruner; a head here, and arm there, I have no mercy. Only the very best tracks survive the onslaught and it shows that Wreckless tracks have the legs to last a while. Hip hop is also one of the genres I am most harsh about getting right, and depends on the next track....

...because that's what its all about ;)

The lo-fi way that Wreckless works with works best when he's sharp and to the point as So Focused showed and I'm glad to see that it's also a major part of Shine. What is also apparent is that the musical backing track is taking no prisoners either and - as weird as this sounds - sound like something Barclay James Harvest would have come up with back in the day. Put that against vitriolic urban rap and believe me the effect is strangely familiar.

Catchy, instantly rememberable choruses seem to be a usual feature of Wreckless Music Ejay tracks and Shine is no exception; it has a great one. Mind you it has to because otherwise that backing track would snatch it all away, so keen is it to get your attention. What you should do, above all, is to give this track the time to work its way into your head because it is an excellent rap - and I don't get to say that very often.

Excellent Indie hiphop. Highly Recommended.

Charlie Armour - Final Fantasy

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1-2, 1-2, is this thing on? Hello! Hellooooooo!! Ah....yes. Now that I have your attention I want to make something quite clear. I do actually like some aspects of Final Fantasy (I through 294 and counting...) but unfortunately they tend to be of the more pruient variety and not something I should be discussing in a public forum. What I don't like - in any form or fashion - are the endless copyist musical variety that seemingly plague my existence like musical midges. I have quite an agressive approach to swatting those, let me tell you. So, who should be the culprit this month?

Quelle horror!! Surely not, squire!!

Now as you know, I am not one to give aid and succour (wtf IS succour anyway?) to any soundtracky types, as a great many have discovered. Charlie Armour, on the other hand, has become a frequent guest in my review list over the past year and, despite my general loathing for the genre, has delivered many excellent peices of work that are just haunting tunes - and soundtracks be damned. The other reason is purely selfish, because our Charlie is famous AND has music in a film and I am nothing if not a rabidly ambitious social climber.

S'handy to know someone famous.

Where Charlie has miraculously avoided my sting is in his own particular music style; mainly piano based but easily wanders into other things. I have heard hundreds of these kinds of tracks over the years and the one thing that always singles out this artists work is simple; he is a man of taste. The way he puts the music together and the usually spotless mix it resides in show singular talent. See, if anyone can inject emotion into this kind of music, Charlie Armour can and this track shows that beautifully.

Class act, that Charlie. Highly Recommended soundtracky thing.

Geiger 167 - Lovesick Fool Remix

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Here's another MP3 Unsigned artist I could have sworn I had reviewed before but apparently not. It just goes to show when you are cruising forums just how much a good name sticks in the mind I guess. Although Lovesick Fool has been available for well over a year, in the process it has undergone some extensive remixing and remodelling. Playing the part of Sorcerers Apprentice is guitarist Joseph Rodrigeuz, who is fast becoming the busiest session musician on that site. Not a bad thing at all, because in collab or in his own right, Joseph's work always has that extra polish and energy.

Like many of us, Geiger 167, came back to music recently after a long break. Considering that he's only been releasiing music on the internet since mid-2007, he's got a fair few tracks on his page ranging from Techno, Electronica and Pop. As it happens Lovesick Fool is a blend of electronica and pop that is strongly influenced by 1980's electro-pop and - in particular - the legendary Vince Clark. Into this excellent mixture, Joseph Rodriguez drips funky links to sweeten the taste and it all works surprisingly well.

Took me a couple of plays to really start appreciating it though, and I'm still not sure why. After all, it is one of the hallmarks of this particular style, that instant hook. Geiger 167 describes himself as a 'singer/songwriter from the north east of the UK' and that is following in a fine tradition. I couldn't see any of the vocal problems hinted at in the early comments on this song so I presume the remix worked that out because I wasn't able to pick any holes in this. At the end of the day, however, it's the song that counts and Lovesick Fool is a terrific song with a nod to pop history. Just my cup of tea, old chap.

Excellent 80's flavoured electro-pop. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Torch Junkies - Mercedes Cadillac

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Bing fekkin Bong!! That's the sound I heard when I first noticed this track in the review list. Not, as you might imagine a horde of rabid, foaming at the mouth Avon ladies (hey, these are tough times), but those regular bells that mean you should be remembering something. I could have sworn (and in fact did, copiously and often) that I had done a review of a previous Torch Junkies track. Now, the unfortunate part of this story is that I only get the rabid Avon Lady sound when I have dished someone a bit harshly. So, I had a rummage and finally came up with a scruffy bit of paper (Ed: he means his blog, no one uses paper any more do they?) with a review of Immobilized By Love (October 2007) upon it. Re-reading that review it was obvious that I was dealing with competent musicians and a production team of monkeys.

Of course, not literally. But close to it.

There are four musicians (I think) and one drum machine in the band, and they are influenced by 1)The Rolling Stones and 2) English pub-rockers. Aaaahh, now you begin to get the picture... Stands to reason then that there is likely to be a certain looseness about the performance but - unlike its predecessor - Mercedes Caddilac manages to restrain that element enough to give a much better picture of what the band actually does. Have to say that the initial plays weren't exactly promising as there were (again) some fairly glaring production problems.

Doesn't stop the song coming through, a kinda pop rock affair that seriously flirts with country from time to time. When I read that the band made this on an 8 track recorder, those same production problems become much more understood. Despite some regular clipping on the main sound level, and some difference between the different elements of the song it's still a very decent rock song. Not going to set the world on fire, that's for sure, but if you like easy going, distinctly pub rock then this will certainly go down well with the next pint.

Workmanlike pub rock sound. Probably wonderful with some neck oil.

Pilesar - Sorry

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This from the man who most of all needs to offer abject apologies to several thousand earholes for the aural and psychic damage inflicted upon them. Uh oh, must be Pilesar time!. Yep, everybodies favourite musical anarchist is loose yet again, but this time offering something very, very special. Yeah, yeah, I know that pretty much every Pilesar track has that extra something but in this case, it's a human something - as opposed to a loony tunes something. A few years ago, when Soundclick's forums were firing on all cylinders, all our lives were made substantially better with a string of lo-tech, high charm tracks from an entity called the Big Ship. Marcus Sjoland was the man responsible for that, and I have missed Big Ship tracks ever since.

So its a very welcome re-appearance indeed.

Sorry is the very first collaborative effort between Marcus and Pilesar and a stranger combination you couldn't have wished for. If you had told me that something like this was on the cards, I would have told you to score me a bag of what you'd been smoking. Suffice to say, it is the track I have been most looking forward to this month. Those who have no idea why Big Ship was so popular should be put right by this track easily. A cross between Johnathan Richman and Syd Barrett would come up with this kind of track and the world would be better for it, and that has always been Marcus's trademark sound.

Essentially Pilesar wrote the lyrics, Marcus then added vocals and acoustic guitar (as you would expect) and Pilesar put it in the washer for a final spin and an appointment with Pilesar's own special brand of wtf. This is work in progress and within the first few plays it's obvious this could be much, much more. My bias here is enormous because I am a big fan of Pilesar and I have missed hearing Big Ship - as I have stated many times in the past - so you should take the requisite amount of salt. Although still at that formative stage, when Sorry grows up it is going to be a killer track; the chorus on this (although not quite finished) is knockout. Very interesting combination and I can't wait to hear this bad boy finished.

Collaborative heaven. MUST HAVE Alternative.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Audio Riot (SF) - The Rules Of Your Sin (Demo)

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San Francisco based Patrick Lew has been hanging around on Soundclick since 2005, so despite his obvious youth he obviously committed to what he is doing. Along the way causing many reviewers (including yours truly) to wish that they could be committed too - although not in the same way. Patrick is the brain (?) behind Pretendo Game Project and of course the infamous original Audio Riot.  Regular readers are still reeling from that one. When I reviewed Fobby Asian Girl (August 2007) it went down in history as one of the worst reviews I have ever given to any track. As if once wasn't enough, Patrick put a new version of it up in April of this year and my comment on that review pretty much sums it up 'What happens on this track? Everything fights everything else, the music, the instruments, the arrangement..' As I mentioned before, different strokes for different folks, if this is what Patrick wants to do with his life, who am I to say he is wrong about it?

Besides, anyone who wears a Motorhead Tshirt is OK by me ;)

So you really must understand that Audio Riot (SF) is probably going to be a very personal taste; especially musically because Patrick seems to have his own rules about what fits and what doesn't. More to the point, he doesn't seem to take anything onboard that me and other reviewers have said about how can improve his tracks, and again that's OK. Maybe he wants a collection of the worst reviews ever written for some obscure purpose. Essentially the track comprises of one electric guitar and Patrick's vocals and is every bit about as much of a demo as you can ever get. Bare bones doesn't even begin to cover it and for a track that stretches out to over five minutes it's sorely in need of some meat on its bones.

To the rest of the world, music is very structured; written as as time and tone. Pretty much ALL music (including some of the wilder reaches of the experimental scene) works to that centuries old, tried and true system. Instruments have to be in tune with each other, and that includes any vocals going over the top, and timing ensures that whatever flourishes and/or drama that you add to the peice builds correctly to achieve an emotional/intellectual response from the listener. Well, not on Planet Lew they don't. So don't expect anything in the way of structure, tone integrity or even tunefullness. The vocals won't quite work with whats being played on the guitar and the segues from section to section are yawning chasms of indecison and uncertainty.

Can you hear me Major Tom? Can you hear me Major Tom?

Whitman Speck - Suburban Hell

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So I've been grooving away to the kick ass hard core hiphop that is at the heart of Suburban Hell thinking what a great example of the genre it is. If you like hard core rapping with plenty of audio tricks, a blindingly tight rap and more swearwords than you can shake a stick at, this is the track to mug. Definitely one of the better examples of the genre I have heard this week, a concise punchy rhythm and a confident, swaggering, in-your-face-f*ck-off-and-die rapper at the steering wheel. All the time I had been playing it for review purposes, I was aware of it's slant towards serial killers (the name Whitman Speck is made up of the surnames of two such serial killers) and I automatically put that down to the American scene's high regard for such people.

When I started to write this review and actually saw this artist webpage, I couldn't believe what my eyes were telling me. Not only is Whitman Speck half Turkish and half English, he's a geezer in my own backyard. Yep, Whitman Speck is a Londoner innit? From the land of 'norf' and 'sarf', Whitman Speck brings such authority and conviction to his performance that I never once questioned my automatic assumption that this artist was an American; rapping about American experiences. Of course, the UK has its own serial killers, mad dogs and general ne'er do wells, and I should have twigged that with the Harold Shipman reference. It's to Whitman's eternal credit that nothing like that ever crossed my mind.

One of my own favourite hip hop periods was when outfits like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul were top dog and it's De La Soul that the backing track owes the biggest favours to and that may have helped to sway my opinion further. Without doubt, however, the focal point here is the rap and the musical arrangment that sparks it up and marches it away. The rapper says that 'everyone compares him to Eminem' and it ticks him off'. To be sure, the lazy, immediate reference would indeed be ol' Blondie but if you knew anything about hiphop there are many other references that fit better. No matter, judging by this track, Whitman Speck is just asking to have his whole collection hoovered up for future reference.


Avalanche Ft Stephanie Krokaw - Oxygen

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If Soundclick had a house rock band, Avalanche would be it. Regular readers will already know that they are the real McCoy, a meat and potatoes out and out rock band of the best kind. I have lots of their tracks on my own hard drive and I know many others who do too. I know rock isn't going to be to everyone's taste but if you have even the slightest reverence for the past thirty years of rock, you'll recognise the depth and quality of Avalanche in a heartbeat. Their secret is that they have been going for all of those thirty years and played their part in the chequered history; even the breifest perusal of their homepage will give you more than enough information to back up that claim.

So normally you are going to feel well stomped on by this bunch of geezers, but there has been one occassion where the band laid back somewhat. That was with the track Deeply (August 2007), a song written by Stephanie Krokaw who also put down the vocals for it. It's a wonderful track and I must admit I hoped that we would be hearing more from Stephanie as a songwriter and as a vocalist. I didn't suepect that it would be a year before I heard another track but hey, I am not really complaining. Although 'dollar short' and 'day late' ring around my head like irritating flies, once I starting actually listening the the track all my whines and moans fade away like a summer storm.

The main ingredient in that transformation - for me anyway - is in the tone and style of Stephanie's vocal. Yep, you would be right in saying that I do have a thing for good female vocals, but even I know quality when I hear it. Mind you, working with a band like Avalanche kinda demands it. Oxygen is a rock ballad, in the time honoured American mode, and not something I would normally covet. if it wasn't this combination, I probably wouldn't bother. Stephanie has a wonderful rough burr on her voice and it shows up as clear as crystal on Oxygen. There again, the term crystal could be applied to this entire track, that's how good it sounds. The one fly in the ointment (Ed: what is the thing with flies all of a sudden?) is a personal choice. I would have liked a lot more reverb and rounding of Stephanie's vocals, to my ears her vocal sounds very dry. There again, look at what she's competing against ;)

Top class rock ballad. Highly Recommended.

The Peach Tree - Reflection

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There are times when I really hate being a reviewer and wish I'd never started doing it. Not because of the endless acres of tracks that I get thrown at me, as you may have thought, but because it means that - when necessary - you may have to say and do things that just aren't pleasant. Such has been the case with all five of the tracks I have reviewed from The Peach Tree so far. I know I get asked for reviews but it doesn't soften the blows any for the artist regardless and yes, I feel that too. I have found, however, that the ones that persist despite my endless carping and moaning (and probably other reviewers too) are the artists that become an established part of the scene. Take, for example, Soundclick's Thomas J, or even Fear 2 Stop. I dished them seven ways from Sunday for some considerable time and yet now they are among the most refreshing and challenging artists on that site. I have no illusions whatsoever about my part in their rise, because that isn't the point I'm trying to get to. What counts is to take a licking and keep on ticking and in that respect TPT has it sussed.

Try, try and try again even...

So here we all are again and Reflection is this month's Peach Tree offering. I was a bit surprised to discover that the track billed as Psychedelic Rock because everything I have heard from this source so far has been electronica all the way. The intro certainly lived up to the Psychedelic Rock hype, as did later sections, but there are a considerable amount of those same electronica elements that dot his previous tracks. Where it differs from his other tracks, and in a good way too, is the sound. Clear as a bell, despite some of the sounds being intentionally dirty to start with, Reflection shows that The Peach Tree has cleared at least one of the hurdles I seem to erected for him. Fact is, if it were based on the sound alone, I'd think I'd be more than positive.

Unfortunately it doesn't work that way. While Reflection has much more to offer than any of the previous tracks from this source, it still has its flaws. None, however, really that noticeable to John Q Public and his wife so I don't think Peach Tree should lose too much sleep over the following comments. Arrangement on Reflection is one of the flaws; it seems to have been made up of disparate parts not that convincingly sewn together and there are still some clashes in the performance that jar. Nonetheless, as I say, that'll be me being a whinging Pom again and nothing to worry you guys about.

Psychedelic Rock with a centre of electronica. Worth a listen.

Tedd-Z - Spazza Drummer

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A veteran of the online music scene (ie someone who has been doing this for more than four years) will have already learned several things that make them stand out from the crowd. They will have learned how to make and keep contact with their audience and are able to take their audience along with them; and they will have learned the second - and probably more important lesson - how to make music that sounds like them, and them only. It's what they call in adspeak 'having an USP' or unique selling point.

Tedd-Z's USP is that he is fekkin mad.

Not technically tonto, of course, because then he probably wouldn't even be online, and couldn't type anyway because his arms would be tied in a cute white outfit but certainly a musical lunatic. I know for a fact, and from personal experience, that he has been making his tortured little odes for four years and he claims to have been doing it for many years before that. All of which is blindingly obvious when you put on a Tedd-Z track. One thing I have noticed over the past couple of years is the leap this electronica artist has made in presentation and production. The last couple of tracks I reviewed (one of them a Must Have) has shown that Tedd-Z has become a very muscular rhythm producer and, as you can imagine, Spazza Drumma fits right in there with the best of them.

Essentially a mix of drums and bass and gabbb-ish elements, Spazza Drumma is a typical Tedd-Z outing; relentless, engrossing (sometimes not in a nice way) but always entertaining. I can't say that this track is on the same level as Senseless Logic (March 2008) but it is certainly an excellent electronica workout. For me though, being a fan as it were, I felt that this didn't really do as much as the sound suggested and it started to pall after a while. I think that has much to do with the linear, straight ahead style of the track itself. As much as there were some good audio trickery in there, it maybe could have done with more. Still, play it loud because it will certainly make you sweat...

Excellent DnB track (kinda/sorta). Highly Recommended shot of rhythm.

AvMo - Learn To Live

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AvMo is a new name to me, but maybe not to you because I know he has been around a while, and even I can't hear everything. Morris Avrashi (aka AvMo) is a Canadian classic rock artist (Ed: seems to be an awful lot of them) who seems to be on many sites (never a bad thing). I got this review request from POPspace but I know he posts in Soundclick's forums and has a Soundclick page. I am always partial to classic rock in most forms but when I saw (while downloading the track) that AvMo cites 70's rock and Styx as an influence, I have to say my hopes plumetted. Not my kind of rock at all, probably because of prolonged exposure to both Styx and Kansas back in the day.

OK, who said, 'feck me, that's old'? That's not nice.....or legal :P

There is a riff used in this track that I know for a fact that I've a million times before, one of those riffs that bugs you until you get where it originated from. So thanks a lot for that AvMo, guaranteed to keep me awake for nights and nights on end. Mind you, I'd already identified several other nods to 60's and 70's rock from Cream, to the aformentioned Styx and even some ZZ Top so it's a ready made heaven for fans of the genre and the time.

Where it falls down, in my opinion, is in some of the instrument sounds, particularly the opening phrase. It's also got a bit of a rough mix that makes it sound 'boomy' on most things I've played it on. It has to be said that you should really be a fan of the genre to get something out of this track but nonetheless shows that this is a rock musician I'm going to be checking out further, even if this track doesn't actually float my boats.

Workmanlike classic rock with TONS of musical references. Recommended for that.

Dan Michaelson - Looking Upward

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Essence is a very talented lady from MP3 Unsigned who I have reviewed once or twice, notably on Towers Are Gone (July 2008) a marked departure from her usual style, and her first (I think) collaboration with Dan Michaelson, an American keyboard player and songwriter. He supplied the music and she supplied the vocals and lyrics and - despite it being in a genre I don't normally care for - I found the combination worked a treat. As well as being talented, Essence is a blond bombshell and you know I am partial to that kind of temptation so when she put Dan down in his own right this month, how could I refuse?

What whipped? No idea what you are talking about mate....

As I already said, I am not much a of fan of piano peices, but when they are done well they are always worth a listen. Loking Upward's first surprise that it didn't really feature piano at all. Amazing how one track can give you a false impression, isn't it? Dan is, of course, much wider than piano peices and - although I guess everything comes from his synths - the sounds he is pumping out are excellently rendered especially the central soprano sax (I think) lines/ Actually, I used the word pumping there and that is the one thing this track does not do. It sort of oozes into your listening flaps...

Not sure whether Dan Michaelson set out to write a sublime, almost mystical peice but I'd say it certainly reached that target and then some. Personally I found Looking Upward a very uplifting, cleansing listen, and I would guess that the bulk of people would get much the same reaction from it. I cannot stand Kenny G, in any form, but surprisingly Looking Upward reminds me very strongly of his work. To then get a favourable reaction from me is nothing short of miraculous, so that should clue you in to this tasty peice of ultimate chillout. Dan says that this started out as an experiment and that somewhere along the way James Oakwood (another MP3 Unsigned regular) had some input, the track redone and remixed. Its an experiment that worked exceptionally well.

Excellent, uplifting soundscape. Highly Recommended if you like the style.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cam's Even Song - Seeing Darkness

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It's been almost two years since Cameron Bastedo (aka Cam's Even Song) won my acclaimed - by me anyway - Artist Of The Year award. If you don't think that amounts to much, let me tell you that Nad Sylvan, Jim-n-Lisa and Maria Daines and Paul Killington were previous winners, so its not peanuts ya know? Cam shows absolutely no sign whatsoever of resting on such tawdry laurels, as the string of Must Haves he has enjoyed since then testifies. Like any good musician, Cam's work just keeps getting better and better, and vocally the man is definitely on the rise. The last couple of tracks (and this one incidentally) have shown a new vocal maturity that I find immensely satisfying, but I am a long term, die hard Cam fan.

If you've been on Soundclick for about five minutes and don't know this artist, you should know why Cam is held in such high regard amongst all manner of SC denizens. His music, purely and simply, makes you feel good. Really, really good on ocassion, and Seeing Darkness is one of them. Cam's music and voice carry a lightness to them that infects everything he does, and when he comes up with the right song the result is an instant grin moment. The first time around, I knew this track was going to be a corker and - as usual - the more you played it, the more you played it If you know what I mean. Cam hasn't just raised the bar on his vocals, he's done it with arrangement and production tricks.

The chorus on this track is shiver inducing, especially if you are a fan but this is a track that could melt even the hardest heart. Propellled by a lovely acoustic guitar sound Seeing Darkness is a pop powerhouse and catchy as hell, as you will discover if you even give it a glancing listen. The real magic, for this reveiwer anyway, has always been in Cam's very prodigious songwriting skills. In all the years I have known him, and through countless tracks (he has some 211 tracks on ONE of his Soundclick sites) I have never known him to put a foot wrong as far as the song goes. He is lyrical, funny, biting but always immensely entertaining. Seeing Darkness is a song about how our perceptions change as we grow older and look back at things once deemed important. Yep, Cam's on the loose again and I am soooooo glad.

MUST HAVE rock pop song.

Gangbangsters - Shoelaces

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The largest genre on Soundclick, and probably the hardest to crack (ie you would have to beat some other one million tracks to get a number one) is the hiphop genre. Of course, its about the same on any other site on the planet, but on Soundclick the scale is enormous. So, it's a given then that the scene has a lot of wannabes, and not a whole lot of should-bes - take it from one who knows. There again, as we've found out over the years, this site does have some excellent exponents of the art and whenever I come across a new name - in this case California based Gangbangsters - I always hope I'm gonna get a nice surprise.

It's a half glass of water thing, ya know?

To be honest, my first impression of the track wasn't very good at all. It had a rough, shambolic sound to it that really got my hackles up and the roughest mix I have heard in a long while. At this point, this would probably be one of my shortest reviews ever, but despite my misgivings I carried on playing it and playing it and guess what? If you put aside the obviously home made sound, the roughness of the mix and the weediness of the sound, whats happening on this track is different enough to overcome it's aural problems. Again, having listened to this n dozen times, as the rap says 'I don't know what it is I'm singing about' but it doesn't really matter because it the whole track that makes the mark.

The musical track is an odd blend of Germanic electronica (think Kraftwerk), huge, fuzzy basslines and a propulsion system that cannot be denied, provided you give it the time and the brainroom. Finally, I discover I am in two minds about this track; either the artist IS making this in very limited circumstances (ie no kit) or it is purposely made to sound exactly like this. Either way it does work and work a treat; not as dense and strident as some homie raps and given the different musical approach this is a good introduction to a new Soundclick rapper.

Very rough (maybe intentionally) rap hip hop. Recommended for its energy though.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Larry Ludwick - Cold Heart Mountain

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I know that Larry is away right now on vacation so he probably won't see this for a while. Mind you, the man needed the break. As someone who contributes some splendidly accurate, and very well written reviews to Soundlcick's Critics Corner, Larry has gathered a lot of attention. It shouldn't ever be forgotten though that every reviewer on Soundclick is there for the same reason, we all need the oxygen of publicity in whatever form. It's amazing how quickly you become known as a reviewer as opposed to a musician, and that can often cause problems. Also, like a lot of good reviewers, Larry brings his own years of experience to the table and that experience is shown to great effect on the tracks he has online.

So far he has given me some smooth jazz (Nod's Ascent to Dave - July 2008) and an excellent rock waltz (Weary Waltz for Reuben - August 2008) and now comes up with the folkie goods on Cold Heart Mountain. If you went crosseyed at the very mention of the F word (Ed: he means folk, not the other F word), let me say one thing in its favour. Acoustic Folk is always based on the song, whether traditional or otherwise and getting it right is never as easy at it sounds. But surely, you splutter, it's just some hairy geezer with a beard down to his knees caterwauling about his fated love or somesuch? Not so, varmit. Folk, especially traditional folk as this track unashamedly is, harks back to a simpler, gentler sound that is uniquely American. Even so, I can hear just an echo of traditional English country music in there too, and that is very much the element that won me over to this track.

Larry, AFAIK, is not a hairy geezer and I wouldn't care if he was. So long as he can write and perform to this level I wouldn't care if he claimed to be Santa Claus. Cold Heart Mountain, as you can imagine, is replete with the kind of images you would expect, huge lakes, dense forests and all manner of supernatural happenings. Larry is that rare thing, a singer who can actually vocalise ALL the words clearly (yeah there's a thing) so you won't need recourse to the lyrics unless you need to. Just sit back, relax and let this gently flowing track take you off on a small vacation of your own...

Excellent production, less IS more. Highly Recommended Folk (yes folk aiight!!)

Yoyoman - Aerobatics 2

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It would stand to reason that in amongst the hundreds of thousands of internet based musicians that some of them, a select few, would want to go deeper into their particular field more than say the Gallagher brothers. I don't make a habit of searching out these kinds of artists but I do seem to know quite a few of them, and wherever possible bring them to your attention. Probably, as you so rightly point out, to annoy you but that's neither here nor there is it? I first met Yoyoman, a Belgian electronic musician back in 2005 and have reviewed more than a couple of his little 'specialties'. So what, you may be wondering, is this guys niche? Much more to the point, will it be messy and smell slightly of leather?

Yes, on both counts but not the way you think...

Yoyoman specialises in Aviation music. Which is not to say that he takes whacking great jumbo jets to make an acceptable middle C but that he writes music that is acceptable to your average prop-head (ie pilots, real world or virtual take your pick) Inspired, as indeed was I and a million others, into taking flight with MS's Flight Simulator, Yoyoman has also been writing the soundtrack. It's a good job that Yoyoman has always been a fairly restrained musician and has never, to my knowledge, gone too far into geekdom, or indeed extraneous sound effects. Aerobatics 2 is exactly the kind of thing that should accompany these films you see of such ariel ballets (my own favourite being the UK's Red Arrows).

Oooops, sorry, my geek was showing there...

I often approach this artists tracks with some trepidation because of this particualr specialisation but my fears are usually unfounded, his music is eminently listenable. I think, on balance, that this track is certainly one of the best I have heard from this musician both in terms of content and sound - exactly what I would have wanted from a track such as this - and then some. See, underneath all the flash-bang is a perfectly gorgeous tune that spreads itself through your head like aural honey and one I have no hestitation in recommending at all. Lovely interlude whether you are flying or not.

Highly Recommended semi-soundtrack that actually does what it should.

Pidgeman - (No More) Happy Endings

Hear The Track Here

I was, am and always will be a big fan of rock music, from the Beatles and beyond rock has always been a constant in my own life. Which, as it happens, is pretty good news for artists like MP3 Unigned's Pidgeman considering that rock seems to be his meat and potatoes too. Consequently we haven't had a lot ofg trouble seeing musical eye to eye and some of his tracks have indeed been standout, particularly the last couple of tracks I've reviewed; Babylon is Doomed (August 2008) and Gotta Find My Way (June 2008) both excellent collaborations with other MP3 Unsigned artists.

So that's my own bias out of the way at the start, just so ya know.

(No More) Happy Endings is also a collab, this time with Truj (aka Tommy Moonan), a name I know from the forums but new to me musically. Tommy is responsible for the music, Pidgeman for lyrics and vocals. It's immediate impression is certainly meaty enough even for the most rabid of rock animals and worthy of Pidgeman's exhortion to play LOUD. Certainly my neighbours have become increasingly familiar with this lttle ode over the past few days. Big kudos then to Truj because this is a solid, chunky almost West Coast flavoured track that really supports the vocal.

The real prize in most of Pidgeman's tracks is that, first and foremost, he is a songwriter and such devotion shows on a track such as this. (No More) Happy Endings is exactly what you would expect from the classic rock genre, big guitars, wailing vocals and a chorus anyone can sing. As such then it's going to go down a treat with people like me and that's exactly what this has done; after all this is a very competent peice of rock in every way. Not everyone is as enamoured of the genre though, but what do they know eh?

Highly Recommended classic rock.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Oji / Ascension Team - Collective Conscious Project CD

Hear The Track Here

Every once in a while my review blog will inspire someone to holler at me for a review and this month is no exception, this time from Californian Oji. Don't know anything about this guy prior to him getting in touch but he was kind enough to send me a link to download the whole of the Collective Conscious Project, a seven track CD (I guess). Where you can get that, click on the link above and ask, but you'll also find most of the tracks playing on the page anyway. Oji seems to be responsible for most everything you hear although there is someone featured (I guess on backing vocals) but I can't make out the name from the CD cover. When I first heard Collective Conscious (Track 1) I definitely felt the ghosts of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart walking in the track. Now whether that is because Oji and the original masters of lunacy came from the San Francisco area, or whether it's because this style fits Oji like no other.

There is no doubt in my mind that Oji is something apart, almost unclassifiable.

That's because he grabs huge chunks of musical culture out of the ether and stitches them together with the strangest bunch of songs you are likely to hear this side of nirvana buddy. While the title track sets the tone for the CD ( a very strange but charming tone at that) LovevolveLivEvil (Track 2) merely cements the feeling that this is not Kansas anymore Toto. Espiona'ge (Track 3) is one of the main highlights for this reviewer, a very classy sound, a mind-boggling arrangement and some lovely performances. Before I go any further, you may be under the impression that this may be 'difficult' music, but I think it would probably boil down to whether you like Oji's very idiosyncratic (sung/spoken) vocal style. Judged from a purely technical level, Oji could wipe the floor with most artists I have reviewed but I am enormously biased because I do admire musicians who push the envelope and develop something that is specially theirs - usually one and the same thing.

Oji does that with such dash and skill, once you get the taste you'll be hooked. Hellz7even (Track 4) shares all of the traits of the preceeding tracks, clever arrangements, but comes with a surprisingly sassy poppy sound, and another of my favourites from the CD. It reminds me strongly of the very earliest Prince records, at least in terms of ideas and sheer style. Goddess Here (Track 5) strays into funk jazz but not in a manner you have probably heard before. Probably one of the stranger tracks on the CD but one I got comfortable with given enough time. Although I haven't had much time to concentrate on the lyrics, it's obvious that the ideas poured into the music and production is mirrored lyrically and Answer Your Calling (Track 6) pours yet more of this magical mixture into your ears (and I could have sworn I heard Bootsy in there somewhere). Lifetime Supply (Track 7) closes the CD and brings all of the influences I have mentioned so far and stirs in just about every genre there is into the mix (including a snatch that sounds suspiciously like Smoke on The Water) and damn me if it doesn't work a treat. Odd? Yep, I'll grant you that. But I'd also add words like brilliant and f******* genius and madman into the bargain and utterly, completely and finally original to the core.

MUST HAVE. So unique it's jaw dropping.

HELLbus - Or Do I?

Hear The Track Here

Well, well, look at what we have here. Is this a corpse I see before me? For those who automatically assumed that now Can't Stop The Daggers had become Soundclick's darlings, HELLbus had died a death, think again. The common link, of course, being Jon Partelow. HELLbus is the first persona I encountered in early 2006 with an absolute string of scorching hot tracks, all of which still adorn my hard drive. The fact is that I admire Jon Partelow as a musician and songwriter and I am not ashamed to say so, this is a gifted musician who deserves to be recognised by a much larger audience and - CSTD willing - that will be rectified. So, I looked forward to a bit of solo masterb.....(??) eek! er I mean work with the oddly named Ordoi. Yep I think I covered up that small faux pas quite well. Only to fail completely by not recognising the real title of the track. Right throughout the review process, I constantly referred to it as that, it wasn't until I started to write this review that I actually noticed that it was English.

Anyway, no matter. The meds have kicked in now.

Or Do I is pretty much a live demo, as is a lot of the work I am getting from this artists lately. Not that I am complaining because this guys demos make other peoples track quake. Trust me on this, I'm a reviewer (Ed: eh? wtf?) What always saves this artist is his unerring skill as a songwriter and that is pretty much what you get. Assisted by Matt Rickard is on accoustic guitar, HELLbus supplies the rest with an excellent piano line that carries the full weight of the track. If you think that - at this stage - my nose couldn't get much browner, I'd say that before you start hurling insults in my direction go and listen to the track itself. Or indeed anything by the aforementioned Can't Stop The Daggers and HELLbus himself.

Or Do I has everything I would expect from a track, enough light and shade and subtle nuances to keep even me occupied as long as its playing. It's the outro that slays me though, every time. Obviously don't expect too much in the way of lavish arrangement though because there is only so much you can do with piano, guitar and vocals. HELLbus gives everything equal weight and that helps to put the song across in its best light. This is certainly something I would like to hear given the treatment (ie recorded properly) or failing that, become a CSTD track. There again, HELLbus may well be a dead 'un but not judging by this....

Excellent (if basic) song. Highly Recommended.

Buzrk - Threatening Level

Hear The Track Here

This is what, the sixth track or so I have reviewed from this USA based hiphop rapper, and I've become only too aware of what he is capable of. Out of those tracks only one was really good enough (IMveryHO obviously) for me to feel I could recommend it. The Emissary (March 2008) gave me a glimpse of how good this rapper could be given the right material, and given that he is recording the rap is a very basic, unadorned way. I feel that has been the overridding negative factor in all of the tracks I have reviewed and - wherever possible - I try to take that into account. After all, we all have to work within our limitations.

Buzrk has always been a bit of a wordy rapper and again, this has weighed against him in the past and unfortunately Threatening Level tends to be a bit crowded too. Like a lot of Soundclick rappers, Buzrk either gets his beats and musical backing from the endless 'beat producers' that infest the place, or in collaboration with other artists such as Silentwave Ent. This one comes from Sinima Beats (pronounced cinema) and sounds like it too. Put it like this, I did a mental double take when I first started to hear the track because the intro certainly didn't sound anything like this artist has worked with before.

Right at its heart, this track has a meaty drum and bassline that propels the string-drenched along but also points out the odd cuttoff right at the end of that sound (at least the first time it occurs). Nonetheless, its a different enough backing that should get it some attention. Buzrk, as always, does what he does and - now I've heard him enough - I can see that each track is stretching him more and more. My problem with this track was that the rap became a little too uniform for my tastes, it really didn't get into the groove set by the bass and drums and after a while that became a problem. Nonetheless, Buzrk is an artist that has recognition on Soundclick and this is an interesting hiphop track, despite my moans and grumbles.

Recommended hiphop/rap.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Minimack - Please Stop The Struggle

Hear The Track Here

The reason I am starting the month with two tracks not on the list is because they are actually holdovers from last month, its coincidental that they are both hip hop/rap. Again listening to two rap tracks to back, I am amazed out how different the feel is from artist to artist even though they almost use the same musical palette - and a pretty spare one at that. Mind you, that is the sound of hip hop today; spare, stripped down to its underwear music that does one thing well: supporting the rap.

I have to say that both Minimack and Brothaz Grimm acquit themselves extremely was as rappers and lyricists, which is ultimately what the genre is really about. Minimack is a producer/rapper and obviously ropes in whoever he can to help out with the musical chores. In this case, his mum. Yep Mommy Minimack appears on this excellently turned out hip hop track and I'm here to tell you that the lady has a very good set of lungs. Yep, she's a belter. Her contributions really lift the track at the right points.

Yeah, sure there is the usual home recorded boominess on the vocals, but hey it does work. As indeed does the whole track, with much praise for the odd little start/stops that I could have done with more of. Please Stop The Struggle is a very decent hip hop track that I think many people will take too, despite that slight home produced flavour. In terms of vocal delivery and authority, and an interesting arrangement, Please Stop The Struggle has much going for it in a very, very crowded market. It's certainly professional enough for it to stand out somewhat.

Recommended rap and track.

Brothaz Grimm - Eyes Of The Mask

Hear The Track Here

When I was a lad (Ed: a great many years ago) there were two kinds of music; good and bad. Well that's not strictly true. There was Mom and Dads music and then there was your music. These days there are so many genre labels on everything it's hard to know wtf to listen too. Now, I found a new one. Coined, I suspect by the four peice Canton OH based hip hop outfit Brothaz Grimm who describe themselves as 'horrorcore', Explained to me as gritty, inner city, real life scenarios. Actually I have heard a track in this genre a while back from Miami's LMS and that was an experience I will never forget.

So, the question (for me anyway) is can Brothaz Grimm make me poop me pants the way LMS did?

I like hip hop. There, I've said it. I find it a vibrant, exciting genre albeit with the usual amount of wannabees. Soundclick's hip hop audience is of a far great magnitude than any other genre and it takes something a bit special to impress. Whatever Brothaz Grimm call the area they work in, there is no doubt that there aren't many hh artists who would dare to be as different, and it works a treat. Best not go into expecting musical beauty, it's a stark, spare arrangement with the main riff being carried by one electric guitar line, augmented by a piano playing the same line every once in a while.

Well it should be sharp and brutal sounding right? The point, as always, is the rap and this is one outfit that gets this reviewers thanks for posting their lyrics online, and believe me reading those lyrics will definitely enhance the whole experience. The raps in this case being carried out by E-Dub and Dego in that order and if you are thinking that I am overdoing the omg factor let me show you the first two stanzas of the rap 'silent night, deadly night, thats when i be stalkin, like a hit man,got my mask, then i grab the dynamite'. With endless chopping, slicing, bashing and mincing (and we are talking about people here, not music) the lyrics obviously carry a well deserved Parental Advisory. Nonetheless, this is an excellent rap and a very taut, frightening track. So, dare you take on hardcore rap horror?.

Different and Highly Recommended (unless you are squeamish)