Saturday, February 28, 2009

Alchemystic - Destiny's Fire Feat JoeK

Hear The Track Here

Finally, at last!! After months and months of trying, Alchemystic came up with a track!! The only problem is that I have no idea where you, ol most loyal of eyeballs, can possibly lay your ears to it. No doubt the Alky One will be along at some point to explain this state of affairs but in the meantime, let me give you some pointers. Soundclick regulars will already be well aware of Alchemystic's particular style of electronica; a style that has won him many fans and lots of good reviews (from me even) and I am always open to listening to something from him. Even more so when he teams up with Joe K (not a bulbous gent fond of beer) who turns out to be female; either that or those pants are waaaaaayyy too tight.

Nah, definitely a girl....

The one thing I have come to expect from Alchemystic over the years is as close to production perfection as its possible to be in this computer age. He's always had a handy talent for picking interesting sounds, then making them do unusual things and its been a long while since I reviewed Gold and Jade (June 2008) so I had forgotten what kind of impression his tracks make. Mind you, the first time I heard Destiny's Fire, I had to look to make sure it was Alchemystic's track; partly - I must add - because of that intruiging, beguiling vocal. I know I've heard song structures from Alchemystic before, and some bloody classic ones at that but - as a complete peice - Destiny's Fire is awesome.

The jewel in the crown, of course is Joe K's excellent vocal (not sure whether she is responsible for the lyrics either) which obviously grabs centre stage as soon as it appears. Mind you, it's up against the big boys in the music which is full bodied and baying for blood from the starting gun. Other than the odd sound right at the very beginning (which I love btw, but some people may think its a technical glitch) I could find absolutely nothing wrong with this excellent song and much that was so, so right. Definitely one of the best tracks I have heard this year already, hardly been off my ears since I started reviewing it and that should tell you something. OK Alchemystic, you did good, now go and do some more for us....k?

MUST HAVE Electronica.

Mike-K - Jazzy Blues Feat Kephas

Hear The Track Here

Now I know for a fact that Mike Kohlgraf is one of the keenest rock animals I have ever known and its a constant surprise to me how his own music is about as far away from rock as you could get. Well yeah, Gilmore, it's jazzy blues innit?? Drrrr. Personally I think the elasticity of such terms is becoming moot anyway because the only thing that really counts at the end of the day is whether you (the listener) liked it or not. Considerably more jazzy than blues and considerably more Latin than American blues at that, Jazzy Blues is - nonetheless - a great listen and an audio treat.

I've noticed with plank spankers (Ed: guitarists) that they often reflect well of each other, and nowhere is this more so than in the Kephas/Mike-K collaborative efforts. As good as the guitar parts are in this, I am completely in the dark about whether this is Mike AND Kephas; Kephas on his own or even Mike on his own and Kephas making the coffee and fetching the pizza. What I am much more interested in is something that has nothing to do with guitars whatsoever - all of which is bound to please them no end. Oh well, yet another Saturday Night Rocks with the insults whistling past my ears is in sight.....sigh.....

See, I'm a sax maniac. I love sax, the more the better. In fact, I like to have different saxes all at the same time, but that's a story for another time. Mike has settled on one sax and she's a beauty. God knows whether this is sequenced, played live or what but this track features great sax all around - so much so that it took me several plays to get past it to concentrate on the rest of the track. Top marks for the sax guys, lets do it again. The track itself is (as it says) a jazzy blues instrumental with some lovely fluid playing and a rhythm sense second to none.

Ay caramaba (whatever that means) Highly Recommended blues...

Letitia Lindeque - Thank You

Hear The Track Here

I first came across the deliciously named Letitia Lindeque on another site recently and its nice to finally welcome her to Soundclick where, I notice, she's already made her prescence felt on some of the forums - good on ya. Letitia is a singer from Pretoria, South Africa citing Katie Melua, Norah Jones et al as influences and although I like these artists, I don't particularly like their style. It isn't something that I would rush out and clasp to my bosom, if you know what I mean. Being a right moody whatsname myself, the last thing I need is to listen to moody women yapping on about their lost loves or whatever it is they do. There again, I am an absolute sucker for a good female voice and that is what primarily made me listen (drive by style) at the time. When this track came up for review this month, I thought this would be an ideal time to dig a little deeper.

S'OK, I'm over all the sexist comments now...

As well as moody women (Ed: Oi, you said!!) I'm not not down for lyrical soppiness and or semi-show tunes (or in this case Adult Contemporary) either but one or two of these has slid my way over the years. As Adult Contemporary goes, Thank You is a wonderful example of what Letitia is capable of; it has a strong production, great vocals (although the mix could have been kinder to it) and thankfully straightforward lyrics. The song is essentially a thank you note from Letitia to her partner for all he is and does for her. Everybody go ahhhhh. Sweet, isn't it? Well it certainly shows that Letitia is capable of writing and carrying a tune and that's a real good start - even if I can't stand the genre it's in.

My first exposure to Letitia was actually from the video on her main Soundclick page and gave me a completely different picture than Thank You would have done. The bulk of her tracks on the page are definitely pop oriented, almost 1980's electro-pop in places although a track like These Days shows that she can tackle country with equal ease - its a lovely tune btw, I'd advise a listen to it. The tracks that most struck me though were I Hear The Sound (the video) and Talk To Me both excellent examples of electronic rock that show she has something to offer. Enough genres there to make at least one track palatable for even the most jaded of palates.

Highly Recommended SSM (Singer, songwriter, musician) lol.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Artificial Wonders - The Warmachine Part 3 Redux

Hear The Track Here

Whenever I come across a new name - to me anyway - I always feel duty bound to find out as much as I can about them. Part nosy old bastard and part because I think it helps to know what you are dealing with. Although Artificial Wonders is new to Soundclick, he (it is a one man band) has been making music since 2007 apparently and had the good sense to do it with Fruity Studio too. While I was stumbling around the undergrowth I noticed that AW cited Denny Schneidemesser as one of his influences (and indeed is one of his Soundclick friends). If that name is ringing bells it's because Denny has appeared in these reviews before although its been a while since I've last heard of him. Denny's specialty is soundtrack music (as is Artificial Wonders) and - as you know - this isn't one of the most fruitful of genres for me but Denny surprised me enough to sit up and take notice....

So who knows...?

Sorry, call me a philistine but soundtrack music should have a visual side, right? Yes, only if the music itself doesn't supply the images, or at least that's been my experience. Before I was exposed to the breadth of material of this nature on Soundclick, I wouldn't even deign to be in the same room as it, let alone sully my ears with it. Some of the class musicians Soundclick have harboured over the years have shown time, time after time, that this music can be done properly - Denny, Sound Radius and Charlie A are just three of this type of musician I have time for. Yes, if I were totally, brutally honest I would much rather be watching a movie with this music IN it but failing that, the movie has to be in the the music for me to want to hear more of it. Errr, if you know what I mean..... lol

On the musical side, I don't think Artificial Wonders has much to worry about, The Warmachine Part 3 Redux is exactly what you would expect, except for the fall off the cliff right at the very end. 'Very end' in this case being no more than a minute, twenty down the line. Kinda difficult to build up any meaningful mind pictures in that timescale but if you imagine an up-scale Civilization score this would fit the bill. Extremely abrupt ending of course, and its length is no more than a demo of what a whole score would sound like, and that is something I'd be keen to hear. This is just an appetiser, yes??

Short, to the point but interesting game soundtrack.

Avalanche - Will There Be A Tomorrow

Hear The Track Here

Imagine, if you will, having this track squashed up against the murky hellspawn created by Pilesar and you couldn't get much further apart which is why, to my ears anyway, I welcomed this track with open arms every time it's turn came up on the Ipod. I'm a dagnabit rock creature anyway but once let loose from the audio vortex that is Pilesar and into the bright, sunlight uplands of good old rock and roll I am as if reborn. Just kidding about Pilesar, you understand, he knows what I really think. Besides, this is Avalanches review and if I don't get on with it, I'll catch an earful from Mike Foster and that will never do. I've reviewed this track a-fore in its original release but this is a brand spanking new version with - damn, I'm soooo excited - a mix done by one of my favourite producers - David Pendragon.

I've been wittering on about the amount of class Classic rock bands we see right now, but there is no doubt that Avalanche have a very special place - for me and a great many others. Will There Be A Tomorrow always had that reach-for-the-11-button feel about it, going from influences such as Deep Purple, AD/DC and even The Who, yer complete guide to everything rock all in one neat package. That's always been one of the trademarks of Avalanche; their ability to get EXACTLY the right sound and feel for the genre. Mind you, playing together for thirty odd years will always do that.

I have a tremendous respect for the skills of Mike Foster and Mark Easton, both excellent and what they do as musicians and producers but - as the old saying goes - a fresh pair of ears can work wonders. In a way, I wish I had kept the original, and it's not on the web page so I can't compare the versions other than levels of excitement and - to my ears anyway - this sounds a LOT punchier and immediate than the original. I think I remember that I liked the track a lot and I guess one of the reasons I ended up not keeping it is because it didn't have the same zing to it that, say, The Road Less Travelled. David seems to have corrected this, while at the same time keeping that essential Avalanche feel and stereo picture. AFAIK, David is up to more of his tricks with other tracks but by God, this is a great starting place.

Classic Avalanche. As the man says: Avalanche rocks! MUST HAVE.

Pilesar - Stolen Food Tastes Better

Hear The Track Here

Pilesar is, without doubt, one of the most well known experimental artists on Soundclick down to his prodigious output and his musical style, a style that could only come from the mind of Pilesar. My first encounter with this musician was when I reviewed Just A Turtle (September 2004), a far distant cry from the aural mayhem I usually associate with this artist. I don't know, maybe he was softening me up because the next track Acka Fracka (October 2004) was so fekkin out there I'm still making my way back four years later. Since those heady days, Pilesar has gone through many changes; of music, of collaborators and of mood but there is still an undeniable core of chaos in almost everything he gets up too. In fact, the only sanity he has shown is in setting up the excellent Chameleon Dish Archive label, home of of the hits (kinda/sorta...)

But hey, whats a bit of musical madness between friends...

Been a while, though since we saw some Prime Pure Pilesar Product, and Stolen Food Tastes Better sidles up to you, opens it's shabby, dirt encrusted overcoat and displays it wares. Ewww, maybe, we'd better get off that image. It's a fact, take it from one who knows, Stolen Food does indeed taste better. When I was a lad, I did my share of stealing apples from a nearby orchard and giving myself intense bellyache and a willingness to try it again, and again, and again... Mmmm, maybe we should scoot away rapidly from that image too.

My gosh, what am I on tonight?

As you could have guess, I'm flailing around in these verbal thickets because I am f***** if I can describe the track - which if you know Pilesar in its more exotic form is an impossible task. A track from his upcoming Pilesars Ugly Children, Stolen Food Tastes Better is Dr Sonic's oo-what-does-this-do? foray into my favourite of Pilesar Pumping Places; moody wtf electronica. When this guy get to twiddling knobs (Ed: errr watch it, Gilmore) your brain needs to go into freecycle. Funnily enough, I am reminded strongly of the rhythmic, throbbing electronica from the much missed Burp, especially in the use of noise to propel the track. For sure, this is going to be an acquired taste and its a strong musical stomach that could keep it down.

Me, I love this stuff. Highly Recommended electronic wtf.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Confusion Said - Move On

Hear The Track Here

Being an inveterate rock animal I like to get around (Ed: and stay around obviously...sigh) and hear what's happening in that particular genre. Over the years there have been many bands who have satisfied my rock needs; vocalist (NOT a screecher), guitar(s) for the shredding of, and hooks as big as houses, and I'm happy to say that although some things change - the rock never does. Steve Calapp, Steve Dominguez and Josh Bechere are Confusion Said and if they are a new name to you, there certainly aren't to me. Steve Calapp I have known now in a couple of outfits and he's always shown me that he is a rock vocalist to his fingertips, EXACTLY the kind of sound and fury you need upfront.

Its the band that's been coming across more and more though, over the space of the last two tracks I've reviewed - both Must Haves btw. For me, the essence of trapping a Classic rock track in all its glory is tightness and tension and that only comes from playing together in lots of different circumstances. Being a rock trio doesn't seem to harm what Confusion Said come up with, there is enough wall of sound there to justly earn the rock tag so don't let the laid back intro fool you for a second.

The other attribute that makes a Classic Rock track is the balance between instrumental ability and a catchy, well performed song - something for example like the band Free pioneered back in the day. The obvious reason I mention Free is because it was the constant reference for me while listening to the track. As always with this band, its difficult not to like what they do, especially if you like Classic rock because they deliver all the main food groups. Tell you what, with bands like this, Avalanche and Fortune around right now, its starting to make me feel like a glutton - but I don't care. RAAAAWWWWKKKKK.

MUST HAVE Classic Rock.

Charlie A - Baby Crazy

Hear The Track Here

My introduction to Charlie Armour (aka Charlie A) came through a track called Beebee Bubba (July 2006), a track that still gets an occasional airing in the Gilmore household. Beebee Bubba showed me that Charlie not only was a talented and inventive musician but he had a small ace in the hole - one year old niece Lauren. She supplied the vocal track to Charlie's music and its charm and LOL silliness won the man a few friends right off the bat. Of course, since then he has blotted his copybook endlessly by throwing out track after track of intelligent, worthwhile film scores (and believe me I don't get to say that often enough) but hey, he is very good at it.

Baby Crazy (as you may have gathered) also features the dulcet, joyous tones that so infected Beebee Bubba, so welcome back Lauren who - I would imagine - is getting to be a big girl by now. Almost old enough to understand that nice old Uncle Charlie is having the time of his life throwing her voice into all sorts of weird places all in the name of art. You just wait until she finds out. Of course, for the rest of us, we are treated to another slice of Charlie-world in the form of an electronica ramble through the jungle.

On the surface of it, Baby Crazy seems like a simple track, and first time round you may even miss it altogether, Like a lot of Charlie A tracks, Baby Crazy scrapes in at two minutes so listening to it is a breeze. Maybe too much so. I like what Charlie does so I am bound to find things to like about this track - not the least of it being the use of that vocal sample. However, being objective I can see that this probably wouldn't strike some people as either funny or clever but hey, I think their life is the poorer for it. What's two minutes of fun out of a life of endless struggle, right?

Excellent experimental electronica. Recommended.

Minimack - My Heart Pours Out

Hear The Track Here

Having just been floored with hiphop rapper Whitman Speck, you would have thought any other hiphop artist would struggle to keep up but hey, here's Minimack with a very decent effort indeed. Shouldn't be that surprising I guess because he, like Whitman Speck, has scored at least one Must have from me and some serious compliments on other tracks. Considering this is hiphop, a genre where I am known to be hard on wannabes, and indie hiphop at that, it is in the rudest of health and the best of hands. Normally, I have to admit, I am usually disappointed in most hiphop I hear these days so this has been a bit of a special month for rap.

One of the real problems with indie hiphop I find is the difficulty in marrying up all the parts; music, beats and rap to make it into something more. Let's be honest, most of the hiphop you hear is formulaic, mysogynistic and sometimes just plain awful - and that's just the commercial stuff. When you get down to the indie level its a given that roughness is going to play a part which is why picking the right beat is so important. My Heart Pours Out is a good case in point, beats and music by RapItFly Beats and A Sean for the hook(?), its to Miniack's credit that it comes out sounding confident and strong.

My Heart Pours Out is, like a couple of his other tracks, about a particular 'chick' and this - I guess - is the aural equivalent of a Dear John letter to her. Step out sister, you are history. Now normally, such sentiments would put me right off - being a wizened old crone not fit for barking at - but the combination of music and (as the man says) the hook kept me listening well past its presumed sell by date. This is one of those tracks where the more you listen to it, the more it will grow on you. It's a given - of course - that you should have an appreciation of hiphop but this is surprisingly commercial and would please anyone who appreciates a good song.

Highly Recommended hiphop (and a keeper for me)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cam's Even Song - Perfect Love

Hear The Track Here

My enormous bias towards the works of Cam Bastedo is well known and based on a good many years spent listening to his highly individual style. When I first met him on Soundclick it took me a while to catch on. Like a great many people at the time, I kinda discounted him as a Christian singer/songwriter but spending some time taking in his particular musical viewpoint I was slowly but surely won over. Since then his progress has been eye-watering to us mere mortals - the man is a hit factory (once you get used to him) and most of his tracks scored highly with me and just about every other reviewer I know. The beating heart of what Cam does lies with his innate sense of what makes a song tick, register instantly and forever stay in your mind. Pop, but with a particular Cam slant.

I've always enjoyed Cam most (surprisingly enough) when he is putting the message across; his Biblical songs are nothing short of perfection and his overtly Christian songs are so catchy the lyrics slide in without notice. Cam's musical style veers between Bob Dylan (Nashville Skyline/Blood On The Tracks version) and the Beatles (particularly George Harrison) which is a great combination of influences anyway but when you put quality content and astounding lyrical ability into the mix, it transcends those references and becomes Cam's very own unique voice. Speaking of voices, we all know that Cam can do things with his vocals he has shown us often enough, Perfect Love features not one, but two Cam voices.

Yay indeed.

Cam says that this song 'grew out of a bassline and a desire to get back to singing about what really matters' and I see that one a couple of levels. Yes, Perfect Love is a prayer and comes across in the same way as say George Harrison's My Sweet Lord might do. A hugely egregious comparison I know but I do hear that in the track, or at least an echo of it. In all other respects, musically and technically, this is pure Cam; clear, clean production; understated, effective backing and right on the money vocal performance. The juxtapositon of the two vocals is awesomely effective in every way. I've said it a million times but I cannot let this one by - Cam is one heck of a songwriter. We should all wish to have this kind of experience come our way every once in a while. EVERY time would be something miraculous but there again, this is Cam's Even Song and I put nothing past the man.

Perfect Love. Perfect Score. MUST HAVE

Whitman Speck - Dead Or Alive

Hear The Track Here

(Ed: If sexual content and/or mass profanity offend you, read no further. The following is disgusting even to me)

Considering the amount of hiphop reviews I churn through over the space of a year, surprisingly little of it manages to stick to my hard drive. This, mind, is one of my favourite genres so surely I should have more in the way of Must Have's? Well, its probably more my fault that the hiphop artists who submit work to me. See because it is a special genre for me I tend to be very hard on critiquing it; a track has to be a bit more than special for me to want to take it home with me. One of the tracks that DID go home with me last years was the excellent Suburban Hell (September 2008) from Whitman Speck of which I wrote ' judging by this track, Whitman Speck is just asking to have his whole collection hoovered up for future reference'

And here we are with another :)

Whitman Speck is - by any definition - a hardcore rapper; his lyrics are biting, often extremely violent and peppered with cusswords which is why almost every one of his tracks comes with a Parental Advisory label. Hardcore, from Whitman's point of view, really means that nothing - and I mean N-OT-H-I-N-G - is left out, so if extreme sexual references and profanity from the opening word makes you nervous then you are a f****** wuss and should read no further. While I am NOT a fan of the current misogynistic worldview towards women, there are times when I can see it's appeal. See, the one thing that this rapper taught me with Suburban Hell is that he knows EXACTLY what he is doing. A more extreme, but certainly as fluid and musically interesting, version of Rap Soul Brother #1 - Eminem. A completely unfair reference though because Whitman Speck is from the UK and has a different delivery and slant.

I'm a grown up, I don't need anyone to tell me that some areas of rap are well, dodgy. Whitman doesn't care because Dead Or Alive is a 'funny song about necrophilia'. Actually its about having sex with every woman he could lay his hands on, regardless of her mortal state. Yep, the testosterone is flowing, and the images are startling and often LOL funny. If this track didn't have some musical validity believe me I'd be shredding this into itty bitty little strips. The musical side of the track is solid, immaculate, wall to wall, get-up-and-dance perfection that is so commercial it shits money. Ahhh, but there again I don't think a chorus that goes 'I'll **** your mother, your sister, your daughter, your neice, I **** your grandmothers corpse once it caught a disease, I'll *** your cousin, your auntie, your wife, I'll *** any bitch whether she is dead or alive' is going to be passable for teen consumption any time soon. Oh. btw, I ******* LOVE this.

MUST HAVE rap (Strong though, very, very strong)

The Peach Tree - Hold On

Hear The Track Here

Ever since I first encountered Australia's The Peach Tree about a year or so ago, he has kept me both amused and irritated in equal measure. If I hadn't had a few tracks exposure to what this musician is actually capable of, I would have probably dismissed Hold On as disorganised demo material and left it at that. Would have meant a damn short review though, so thank God for small mercies eh? Nonetheless, one of the accusations I leveled at this musician a time or two is lack of attention to musics basic rules, OK if you are experimenting electronically (just) but a big no no when tackling more mainstream genres.

So let me get this out of the way at the start, The Peach Tree is not a drummer.

While that factor considerably drags the track towards the disorganised, demo feel - and may be hard to get over for some people - this is a track with some depth. Like a lot of this musicians work, it pays to look a bit deeper. Essentially what Hold On is, is an idea (or even two). For me, its those ideas that save this track from death by a thousand cuts. Hold On is a song, not something I expected from this quarter and a pretty good one at that. The first part of the track is a slow, almost reggae/britpop thing (if you can imagine that) before its definitely staggers into the main part of the song, a considerably rockier affair.

In some ways, I think this track would have been better served by having a basic, simple kick/snare drum pattern because the disjointed (and out of time) efforts from toms and hi-hat definitely detract from where the song should be. This is particularly noticeable in the heavy metal-ish section around four minutes in where the hit hats are and toms do exactly what they are supposed to (almost). I came away from the track wishing that it would settle on where it actually wanted to go and at almost six and three quarter minutes could have definitely lost a bit of weight and not suffered for it. Strange mix of styles, rough as a bears butt but it has something...

I didn't want to bite it at least.

Essence - Big Bands Chicago Blues

Hear The Track Here

You see before you a changed character. Believe it or not, I do scrub up well when I have a mind to it and, well...I'm a bit ashamed to say this but reading back through past Essence reviews I may have been a So, I have decided that respect among artists is much more important than looks and I will not besmirch this review with any of my usual 'tawdry tat to impress women' spiel. S'all about the music now, I am gender-blind. The past couple of Essence tracks have been collaborations with Dan Michaelson, and Big Bands Chicago Blues is a collaboration with another musician; Paul Elet. Essence, to her eternal credit, has worked assiduously to widen her musical range over the past year or so and that is a good thing to see; a willingness to take on something new. (Ed: wow, he really means it)

However, it's a long stretch from her usual dance/dnb roots to big band blues and I have to admit, prior to hearing the track, I had some doubt about it. Not that Essence isn't a good singer, she is. Tackling the blues though - in any form - is a very difficult thing to do justice too. Basically, the musical side of the track is yer Big Band blues workout a la Glenn Miller (being the obvious reference) rendered so well I would have raved about it without Essence doing anything with it. There is an old saying 'it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing' and this track S-W-I-N-G-S; from the clean clear production to the brass arrangements to the backline; perfection. (Ed: I don't believe this, he IS behaving...)

Seems like Essence would have her work cut out sure enough and she takes a step backwards into the early girl groups (think Andrews Sisters) to mine the vocal style and by gum she pulls it off. From the cheeky introduction to the absolutely right on the money boogie woogie feel she gives to it, Big Bands Chicago Blues becomes something much, much more than a great swing track. Everything would in fact have been perfect but the more I listened to the track, the more I became aware of the slight variations in timing between the vocals and the track. It doesn't detract that much from the impact, and to be honest most people probably wouldn't notice it but to me, it mars an otherwise dynamite track.

Highly Recommended big band blues. A **** hair away from MUST HAVE (Ed: DOH!!!)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fortune - When The Time Is Right

Hear The Track Here

Right at the ass end (Ed: do you HAVE to be so vulgar?) of 2008, Fortune's All Sold Out (December 2008) closed out the year with a bang. Classic classic rock, if you know what I mean, or at least the American version that spawned bands such as Boston, Kansas and many other states no doubt, and don't even get me started on Blue Oyster Cult... Considering that back-in-the-day I had massive overexposure to a great many of these bands due to touring with some of them, it comes as no surprise that I have an abiding, vehement and viseral dislike of the musical style. Some things get through that barrier and - as I say - Fortune sailed though with great success, gathering a Must Have from me in the process. First time I had come across them too, no bad going at all.

As I mentioned in my last review, Fortune (or as they are known on Soundclick) are a live band gigging out of Boston and all points everywhere and if there is one rock band (besides Avalanche) I would pay to see, this would be one of them. As I've said ad nauseum I am a consummate rock animal and if you think you know what that means, here's a little test for you. Listen to the first 10 seconds of When The Time Is Right, if you then CANNNOT - under any circumstances - rip your ears away from this classic track then welcome to the club. With shades of Boston (in arrangement and presentation) and even Yes (in vocal complexity) When The Time Is Right is a shoo-in for another must have...

Or is it?

The main criteria I always apply to my choices for Must Have status is that the track should be as close to perfect as it can be. When The Time Is Right (and Fortune) go some way past that. Now I am well prepared to believe that there are a great many people to whom big hair rock is anathema, which is why there are so many others to choose from, so off you go if this review hasn't inspired you to check out one of THE most classy of Soundclick rock bands this reviewer has ever heard. Seriously, try as hard as I could, I could find absolutely nothing wrong and so much right with this track it's almost criminal - at least for other musicians. Wanna feel sick at your own puny efforts, have a listen to a masterclass on how to deliver on every level. If you live in Massachusetts, go and see this band whatever you do...

MUST HAVE Classic rock.

Kevin Miller - Light A Candle

Hear The Track Here

Although it may seem that I love just about all good music, there are certain styles and genres that draw me more than most and one of those - surprisingly enough - is good ol' country music. Not the manufactured, rhinestone and bouffants that infest and pollute Nashvile but REAL country, or Americana depending on which way you look at it. Ever since I was exposed to Flatt and Scruggs/Foggy Mountain Boys early in my childhood I have been fascinated by pickers, pluckers and gob iron wielders of all descriptions. Certainly it led to a lifelong fascination with bluegrass because I know such music is soooooo beyond me I can only dream. The reason I'm gobbing off like this is because Kevin Miller (a new name to me) claims to have the same love and respect for such music.

Well yeeeeaaahhh then and lets go!

'In times like these, we all need to stick together. Do something good for someone today' Kevin says in the song comments and I guess this is his way of making something good happen for you and me. I've already stated my bias here so I guess it will come as no surprise when I say that I really like this track, even though its fresh faced enthusiam is a bit hard to take. There again, I am English and we are well known miserable pessimists about most everything so this is no biggie. Light A Candle is billed as Acoustic: Folk and I'd say that was an accurate description although it is helped by some excellent banjo playing that - as always - lightens the mood even further.

More to the point, Light A Candle sounds great; crystal clear production help everything to shine and - lets face it - home production doesn't always do what it says on the tin. One of the harder mixing disciplines to get right is recording acoustic instruments and Kevin has done a wonderful job and obviously is a guy who knows what he is doing. So why, o why is there only one track on his page? As soon as I started to listen to Light A Candle I wanted to hear more, more more! Alas, the cupboard was bare :( Still, I've still got one of the most cheerful, upbeat songs I have heard this year on my playlist, and that's no bad thing - even for a grumpy old Englishman.

Highly Recommended Acoustic. A tonic for these troubled times, I'm off to light a candle.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bakers At Dawn - As Is CD

Hear The Track Here

For older members of Soundclick there was a period around 2003/4 that most of us now see as a kind of Golden Age (probably more a dirty yellow really but hey...). The forums were stuffed to the brim with readable, coherent threads and the music was - beyond all shadow of a doubt - groundbreaking in so many ways. Names like Maria Daines and Paul Killington, Jim-n-Lisa, Nad Sylvan, Bonamici, dcallen, Freqencee and many many others were regular daily visitors to the forums and the site and the place - as they say - was jumping. Like all good things though, it had to come to an end and it did and IMHO Soundclick has been much the poorer for its passing. We lost some fine, fine artists along the way - or they went in search of better pastures. One of those musicians I have though of often since then and wondered where the devil he was, is a musician who used to be known as the Big Ship. For my money, Big Ship's releases were a bit of event, although I have to admit I had severe misgivings at the beginning.

We are talking 'lo-fi' here....

I reviewed Pilesar's Care last month and was surprised to see Marcus Sjoland (aka the Big Ship) back in action again, and a most pleasant collaboration it was too. It brought back all the reasons why I liked this idiosyncratic songwriter in the first place. God bless Pilesar, I say because his excellent Chameleon Dish Archive has just released Marcus's new project (Bakers At Dawn) As Is CD as a free download - yep all nine tracks. For all the Syd Barrett (and other lo-fi songwriters) references I have made in the past, that is only the starting point for understanding why this musician tickles my pleasure centres. Listen, for example, for the textures and tones that permeate Better And All, the first track, and you'll see what I mean. The references tumble out of the track like falling rain, each one as valid as the next, he is an artist that draws from just about everywhere. The one thing that is immediately obvious is there isn't anyone who quite does it like Marcus and as I Always Know I'm Right slides past your ears is an indication of how much he has matured in his style since I last heard from him.

Always the master of the simple, Crash and Crater, leaps out of the speakers like an excited puppy eager to show you its tricks, and considering its probably one of the most reduced tracks you are ever likely to be it has a great and enduring charm. Given that CDA has also just released the latest Thomas J/The Antennaheadz EP, there are bound to be some references to the similarity between these two lo-fi songwriters and they would be fair comment. Except that Marcus has been pursuing this style a lot longer than Thomas and I think even he would own up to having Marcus as a musical inspiration. Whatever you do though, don't go delving into this CD expecting state of the art, its just the state of Marcus's art and that is more than good enough for me. Although a lot of the tracks hit me the right way, there a couple that didn't do that much, but when I have all these tracks to chose from, I cannot help but be happy. Excellent lo-fi songwriter with an enviable reputation.

MUST HAVE (for free!!)

Winter Circle - Streetlight Flicker

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Chris Bishop's (POPspace's big Daddy) pick for this month is a new name to me, Winter Circle is - as far as I can gather - a two peice Pop band from Oklahoma USA. Regular readers already know that Mr Bishop has a wicked pair of ears and can spot a good tune within seconds, so it's become almost impossible not to enthuse about the variety and depth of his choices. If I was going by their POP webpage, I'm not so sure I would have carried on to actually listen to the music. See, like most people, I want to be cajoled and cossetted by information about what I need (nay MUST) hear. Yeah but most musicians online couldn't give a toss about marketing and presentation right? Surely, when all is said and done, its up to the music to sell itself - to speak to you directly as it were.

Well, yes. Up to a point.

Truth is, if I hadn't spent the last week or so getting to know this excellent - if American tinged - pop rock track, I probably would have passed on it if I were just browsing for something new. That would be a shame because, for all its American flavour, is a slice of feel good pop that has commercial slapped all over its face. I am gullible here on two points: I do love a good pop song and I absolutely love it when a songwriter knows exactly how to put together a catchy, impressive song and Streetlight Flicker goes a long, long way towards filling my basic needs.

In tone and tenor, it harks back to classic American pop-rock artists and in particular the much underrated Cars although the song itself reminded me of The Knack's My Sharona more than anything that the Cars ever did. See, pop! Winter Circle only have two tracks on their page - this being one of them - so it's also a bit difficult getting a grip on what they are about but judging from this example, here is a band that knows what it wants to achieve and sets out to do it. Although I can appreciate the work and attention to detail that went into the making of this track, from its excellent arrangement, performance and top notch production, I found it didn't really touch me where I live - if you know what I mean. Absolutely jaw dropping that's for sure if you are a musician and/or songwriter but not a track that would knock my socks off. Having said that, I reckon it would be a fair bet that this band would have one of those hanging around too. An excellent introduction to a new pop rock name.

Highly Recommended Pop Rock song.

Andy Stokes - Dance Floor Confusion

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Aceeed!! Damn, those were the days huh? Like many of us, I went through a dance phase, going out almost every night and dancing my socks off - usually more off my face than on it if you get my drift. I was getting a little long in the tooth when the rave scene exploded although I did, generally, get into the musical side of it. However, that was a long time ago now and music has moved on a pace, on the internet more than anywhere else. It was on the net - on another site long ago - that I really started to experience what came to be known as electronic trance and techno and, as I've said many times - that experience ruined me for this music forever. So much so that tehno tracks have to be REALLY justifiable for me to get behind it.

Rebirth and its clones has a lot to answer for IMHO, not least for the ease of which it can seduce the unwary into believing they can actually make music worth listening to. Good techno has to start with a) a great squelchy bassline and; b) a counterpoint sequence that doesn't give up EVER. Both of those elements are present in Dance Floor Confusion and they are about as relentless as any I've heard so it's a given that you would have to like analog sounds (beeps, buzzes and whirrs to you) to really get where this track is. Obviously this is a track played best on a BIG system, and one of the failings I couldn't get over was the absence of the really low bottom end - for me a prerequisite for the genre. Yep, I know it's a technical thingie but I have bass bins that need regular workouts and this just didn't cut it for them. There is a general overall thinness of sound overall but it's particularly noticeable down in the old boots section.

Like all of its breed, Dance Floor Confusion is repetitious to a fault and sometimes that can be a bad thing. Nonetheless, Andy piles change after change on top of the excellent intro - which is basically the whole track - until your head is spinning faster than your head is nodding. All a bit disorienting, but in the best way imaginable. As I say, I don't really have a lot of time for this kind of material but I can recognise when someone has put a lot of thought and effort to make the track more than just a cute and/or simplistic electronica workout. If you like music that just builds and builds and builds, all in the time honoured techno way, then Andy Stokes may well be the guy to be checking out.

Recommended techno.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

K. Sparks - Hip Hop

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A track request from my blog now and an absolutely new name to me, K Sparks is a (and I quote) 'hiphop/rap/jazz' artist from New York City who has nonetheless racked up some 1.3m views over at Myspazz; a not inconsiderable achievement. There again, the guy also has over 40,000 'friends' over there so that would account for some activity I reckon. When you go to his page the first track to play is aptly titled All That Jazz and shows that the jazz tag is deserved, and I have to say I am glad for that. I've always had an ear for certain kinds of jazz and I get really bent out of shape about the number of modern artists who use the tag to prop up something that is most certainly nothing like the jazz I know and love. On that score, I'd recommend you listen to that track too while you are checking this excellent rapper out.

Its immediately obvious that K Sparks has some professional help in his tracks, either from seasoned musicians or a producer as such. Further reading of his page will show that quickly enough, as well as the fact that several people contribute to this extremely commercial sound, and that's never a bad thing. Of course it means nothing unless you have the musical chops (or even lyrical visions) to make the whole thing work and if All That Jazz is any kind of example, this is a musical entity with massive production, performance and lyrical skills to bring to the party.

There is no doubt that I have a problem with a lot of commercially oriented hiphop/rap and that is usually down to the awful, unending banality of most of the current 'stars' of the scene. There is only such much you can write about amassing riches and bitches after all, and even less scope is the increasingly tired macho bullshit from the 'rougher' end of the genre. K.Sparks, then, is like a breath of fresh air for jaded palates such as mine, being both commercially viable AND doing it without crossing any of my major no-no lines. Just goes to show that you don't have to be sensationalist to BE sensational. If you have become tired of hiphop K. Sparks may well change that, at least as far as the commercial end of it goes.

Highly Recommended, very smooth hiphop.

Unread Pages - Walk On Caramel

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When I reviewed Unread Pages' Ghost Faces (September 2008) I wrote 'It also shows a rare intelligence at work, and one I will definitely be keeping an eye on in the future' so I have no excuse whatsoever for not following that up - except that there is only so much time in a day. As it happened, this was also the first Unread Pages track I had ever heard and it made an excellent impression on me, not least because of it's excellent vocal work. Going through the tracks on his Soundclick page gives you the impression that here is a musician who isn't one for boundaries in what he does; as eclectic as they come, as Ghost Faces so amply showed. So, here we are some almost six months on and this time we are dealing with Electronica:IDM - a genre I have often found worthwhile before.

'Just messing around with two chords and glitchy percussion' he states in the song comments and I have to say that's probably as fair a description as it gets. Consequently to really get much out of this track you'd probably have to be a gearhead (Soundclick has more than its share so no problem there) and definitely into dance forms of electronica. There is a strain of experimental oddity running through the track too that may well put some people off long before they get to the end of this five minute long track.

As a self proclaimed gearhead I can definitely appreciate some of the routines Unread Pages has brought to bear on this otherwise excellent slice of electronica; some of the licks are really good for example. Is this, we ask ourselves, enough for it to appeal to a wider audience though? I guess Unread Pages, like most of us, don't really care about that side of it but it is a valid point; why else do we do this other than to get heard, and by as many people as possible? In that respect, Walk On Caramel probably wouldn't have the kind of reputation making legs as - say - Ghost Faces but its still a nice peice of weirdo electronica nonetheless.

Recommended IDM.

Largo - My Head 2

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Minimack (currently fronting for Largo) and I have been batting emails backwards and forwards for a couple of months now trying to arrange a long standing review for him and sidekick Largo. Accordingly he sent me this track through email this month and it is NOT the version of My Head that is currently on his page, so God knows where you will be able to hear this new version. You could, I suppose always email Minimack and ask I guess. Anyway, readers without short term memory loss will recollect that I have reviewed My Head (May 2008) and absolutely loved it; a classic rock song produced with a fine balance between power and clarity - a necessary feature because of its lyrical content.

Obviously I had to go back to the original version (it still lives on my harddrive) and there is actually a very noticeable difference between the two versions; for a start it's lost a lot of the original crunchy rock sound that is such a big feature with it. It's also lost the thunderstorm I found so charming in the original, and that maybe because I mentioned how similar it was to the Riders Of The Storm Doors track, or maybe I am just letting my ego run away with itself again. As you know, I am prone to such minor personality defects. The main problem with continued tinkering with an already completed track, I have found to my own horror, is that you can often lose sight of what made the original so appealing - even more so when said track got a Must Have rating from me, and that is definitely my ego holding sway here.

The thunderstorm, and the overtly rock atmosphere, has been replaced by slower pace and a nice tinkly piano picking its way between the main rock action. As such, I can't really say how much more this adds to the already gorgeous original, but I do notice it alters the emphasis considerably. Without doubt, the main appeal of the track - the song itself - is consistent though both versions and rightly so because it is a blisteringly good song, if that had changed you would have been listening to a very unhappy bunny right now. I've never had to rescind a Must Have before and thankfully I won't have to this time. What we have here now is a much more up-to-date, almost Alternative rendition that is cleaner, better produced and infinitely more commercial than the original.

MUST HAVE - again. (Ed: but this doesn't count as two, Largo :P )

The Antennaheadz - Superhero (WIP)

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Please note the WIP in the title, it means Work In Progress and - believe me - Superhero does sound rough as old boots, at least in terms of conventional 'finished' product - even from one as relaxed about it as Thomas J (aka The Antennaheadz). Its funny that this track should be back to back in the review list with Fear 2 Stop because - at one time many years ago - both of these artists were the bane of my existence. Thomas for his Station For Imitation electronica thing and F2S because they were (and are) all out there on their own. Thomas has always been a musician at heart though, for all his dabbling in the arcane arts of experimental electronica and this has borne the most incredible fruit over the past couple of years where he seems to have found his own niche.

As well as delivering a string of classic tracks, a dynamite Chameleon Dish Archives EP and winning my very own Artist Of The Year 2008 award, Thomas should be sitting back and quaffing the fine champagne of success. Welp, not much chance of that because - as the old saying goes - the man is on a roll, and what a roll it is. For all his retro tendencies of late, Superhero doesn't so much seem to be coming from his usual 1950's/60's goldmine but sounds like something that would have felt right at home in the UK music scene of the 1980's. For my money, one of the unsung heroes of that time was Lloyd Cole and The Commotions, a Scots band who never forgot that the song is the important thing. You can be assured that I am using this reference as a massive compliment to what The Antennaheadz are doing on Superhero.

So yes, its rough, definitely unfinished but oh by God it's a great listen. Every time I hear a new track from this source I marvel at how confident and mature as a vocalist Thomas is now, and on this track he is sounding absolutely superb. So, whatever you do, don't change the vocal ;) There is a massive hiss in the track that you will have to get over to get into the track proper but I definitely recommend that you give it chance to work its magic on you. With a certain amount of arrangement tightening and a real good mix, I have no doubt that Superhero could be one of the Antennaheadz finer peices. There again, I am massively biased towards this artist and I admit it freely and I understand that if you don't like it you obviously have ears of stone and a heart made of the same material.

Unfinished masterpeice. Great song though. MUST HAVE for the song.

Fear 2 Stop - Running

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Main Fear 2 Stop motormouth Billy Castillo is an excellent self-publicist and can usually be relied on to give you chapter and verse about what he and the rest of Fear 2 Stop (wife Dana and friend Raymond) are up to. He can't do that this time because Running is pretty much all Dana Castillo, with a bit of mix help from Billy. See, it's what I've always said about this band, it doesn't really matter who is at the creative wheel, two things will be immediately clear; no-one quite sounds like them and that they are (all three of them) deeply, deeply disturbed musical individuals.

Still, that's why we love 'em eh? (Ed: It is?)

I remembered reviewing a Dana-only track some while ago and I checked it out while reviewing Running. Boomerang (September 2008) was the beast and to my surprise I found it very listenable - that being a very elastic term when dealing with experimentalists like Fear 2 Stop. Although they don't seem to cleave to any particular musical rules, there is always an underlying thread tying things together and - from the sounds of it - that thread may well be coming from Dana. Oh, don't get me wrong, Running is every bit is nutty as any of their other work, and every bit as obtuse too when you are trying to get to the numb of it, yet nonetheless tends to work its peculiar spell on this reviewer.

There again, being the man with tin ears often leads to that result. Running (or Fear 2 Stop for that matter) is something best approached cautiously, unless you are a fan of the wilder fringes of analog dissonance and dischordia. Speaking personally I seem to have developed a F2S immunity over the years I have known them which does cause it's own problems. See, I've heard this band when they are good and when that happens, it is an awesome experience. Although Running has lots of life in it, in a weird look-at-me-I'm-an-alien way, it also borders on the edge of chaotic and that may well be too much for some people. Again though, another track that fans will like and I guess that is good enough right now.

Recommended Experimental electronica

Stain(ed) Art - For Your Own Safety (Rude Corps remix)

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Stain, a UK based hiphop rapper, has long been a regular flavour in my house, mainly because I actually do like UK hiphop for its particular flavour, but also because he's always one for a well turned phrase. Like a lot of Northern English artists, he carries his roots in his voice so I can imagine what kind of effect this would have on someone weaned on the American riches and bitches litany. One of the hallmarks of this particular rapper is to be at once witty, involving but above all to be literate. Yep, please note my emphasis. I don't have anything against (what is it called now?) Ebonics but for a genre that is steeped in literal allusions; some of the best rappers are also some of the most fluid wordsmiths around. And when rap is the name of the game, words are some 50% of the action...

Nice to see that he's joined on this track by a well known bitch dolly hog going by the name Rude Corps, an electronica artist I've also reviewed from time to time with great results. Both of these artists have a elevated sense of the political that comes across in their individual works so it should come as no surprise whatsoever that they found time to work together. Put it like this, the first lines in the song are 'This is my party political broadcast, This is my vote winner' and goes on to excoriate the present state of the UK political scene and its absolute fixation on getting its entire population digitised; bound and captive.

Well, fuck that eh?

England has always had a fascination with raw, rough and ready music - punk being the obvious example and that is where Rude Corps sets up the musical action. It's pretty much wall-to-wall, slam your face in it and spit on your neighbour territory and - like most REAL good punk - doesn't need any kind of flashy rock god posturing, merely slam out the chords as fast as you can, as hard as you can. The real treat though, as always, is the lyrical content and in this Stain has excelled himself. Its intense, and extremely wordy so I do advise that you check out the lyrics too while listening to it. Nonetheless, if you really can't be bothered, this will still deliver the same kick up the ass whether you understand the words or not.

Splenetic outpouring of anger. Very impressive and MUST HAVE for Stain/Rude Corps fans.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Muse Machine - Behind Closed Eyes Soundtrack

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The Muse Machine, first introduced to us in some indecipherable alien language (Ed: he means LeO IcON9 ByTE19) have come on like gangbusters ever since they first appeared on the Soundclick forums a few months ago. Don't run away with the impression that these five guys are in any way newbies though, they have been making music together for twenty years and that will automatically lead to a certain amount of tightness and coherence in their music. My last review of them was of two tracks: What You Mean To Me and As She Leaves (December 2008) and now they seem to have that figure fixed in their collective heads because here they come asking for another double header.

Some people don't know when they are well off... ;)

There is, fortunately, a very good reason for this being a kinda/sorta two-fer too. Both Moment of Clarity and Open Your Eyes - Edge Of Despair are short tracks and both are being used in the short film Behind Closed Eyes, although there is nothing whatsoever to point you to the actual film itself so we'll have to take their word for it. Moment Of Clarity is literally that, fifty seconds worth of musical clarity. If you went to the bands page and immediately thought 'aaah bunch of rappers', then join the club. Not only are The Muse Machine light years away from the urban scene of Chicago (where they are based), Moment Of Clarity will show you in less than a minute that it doesn't matter.

It may only be shorter than most raps, but it says a lot more, albeit musically. Essentially though, Moment Of Clarity is nothing more than an excellent build making you instantly want to hear what should come next. Once you play Open Your Eyes etc it becomes clear that Moment and it are intricately connected, separated by a mere key change. Open Your Eyes - Edge Of Despair takes the build, adds in some explosive detuned kicks, a nice light piano line and not a lot else. What comes out the other end is dark, brooding and instantly rendered me a nervous wreck, glancing over my shoulder any second. God knows what Behind Closed Eyes is about but whatever it is, I guess they mean it.

Excellently put together film soundtrack. Highly Recommended.

Damion ICE Kyng - Go Remix

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Second time round for Bronx, NYC based rapper Damion ICE Kyng, regular readers may remember me reviewing da Finisher (December 2008) which, although good in content was definitely not so in presentation. It's a sure bet that people new to Soundclick will experience the joys of the hiphop scene long before they discover all the other genres and, I must admit, it does worry me somewhat about the impression that newbies may be getting of Soundclick. On the other hand a lot of those self same newbies are coming here BECAUSE of the large hiphop scene and they seem to like pretty much everything they hear - or at least it would seem by some of the comments left on these tracks. Bit different for us old bastards though, who tend to be a lot rougher on the hiphop crowd, and not always because of the musical style which I personally love.

Nope, im my books it's all about presentation.

Thankfully, Go Remix has a lot more meat on its bones than the previous track and a lot of the production problems I noticed on that are not present on this track. 'Da remix King on the beat' is about the only clue you get to where the music came from, and using the term music is really stretching the point. Matter of fact, Go Remix is nearly all beats with the occasional plink or plonk thrown on top to make it more interesting. Personally I am a great fan of this kind of style from its roots in Jamaican 'dancehall' to its increasing using by main stream American rappers; as such the music arrangement is sparse, to the point and does nothing whatsoever except act as a bed for the rap. All well and good then.

Indeed it is and stretching out to just over three minutes it gives me a lot more to grip onto than Da Finisher and definitely shows that the glimmer of talent I saw on Finisher is in full flow on the Go Remix. Like most rappers, Damion isn't one to actually publish his raps so you will have to pick the sense of it out as you go along. Even after listening to it more than a dozen times I am still trying to figure out what its all about. Nonetheless in terms of the staples of hiphop; good, varied beats, an intelligent musical line and a rap that actually sits in the track correctly, Go Remix is as good as any other indie hiphop around on Soundclick and certainly more interesting than most because of that reliance on the beats to put the message across.

Recommended indie hiphop.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Frankfurt Dialog Company - One Day

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Winners of Soundclick's Critics Corner forum's competition for January is none other than Frankfurt Dialog Company, an artist I have come across only once before but it was a special treat - earning them a Must Have right off the bat. Handy, that. FDC (based in Frankfurt Germany in case you hadn't guessed) showed me with Do or Die (A summer song) (August 2008) that here were musicians who knew what they were about and knew exactly how to get to it too. Musically, lyrically and vocally Do Or Die hit every single button in my brains pleasure sectors and kept on pressing them for the rest of the year. Its now an established resident on my hard drive so it was absolutely no surprise to me that they won this peer-awarded competition. No faking the real thing, I say.

Nope, the real surprise is that its an out and out blues track.

Frankfurt Dialog's usual complement of Andreas and Silke is augmented by Stan Lightnin´George' Bolton on lead vocals, Lee Velasquez on bass, Carlos Carranza on guitar and Helfried Wildenhain on piano and what a stunner of a track they all came up with. Authentic to a fault, One Day is a slice of electric blues that screams out quality work in every single way. Even after the shock that Do Or Die's production values showed me I was unprepared for just how good it could get. The production and arrangement is absolutely rock solid, giving the track the 'bottom' a track like this demands and deserves. It's to Andreas' eternal credit that this came out with the kind of production that will scorch yer damn ears off - and you'll love every single minute of it.

Could all come to nothing though if the musical performance doesn't much the ridiculously high standard being set but I have to say ALL of the performers come off wonderfully. Great vocals (Stan), great backing vocals (Silke?), fekkin awesome geetar spanking from Carlos and Andreas, dexterous, flowing playing (and some great thumbed bass) from Lee and - as if all this weren't enough - a beautifully realised piano sound and playing; complete with barrel house feel in every note. It isn't often that I come across a track I wouldn't (in some degree) change if I had my druthers, but not this one; never this one. As perfect as it can get and as commercially viable as you are EVER likely to hear online or off, all of these musicians should take a well deserved bow and bask in their glory.

Wonderful electric blues. MUST HAVE.

AvMo - Rocking De Fro (In the Good Old Days)

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Out of all the musical genres, I can be amazingly cantankerous in most of them if I don't hear what I expect to hear. Nowhere is this more so than in a genre that I work in, and to even narrow that down further one I love above and beyond most other genres put together. My first experience of reggae was back when bluebeat was the name of the game and the record was 'My Boy Lollipop' by Millie and was released on the fledgling Island record label. For anyone born in this time in the UK, this song is permanently welded into our brains, despite its 'twee' sound - then and now. What it did though, with me anyway, was to spark an interest in the Jamaican music scene that has grown over the years with the genre, it has long been a major element in my own musical life having played it, recorded and produced it and even managed a little section of it. What I demand from the genre, more than anything else, is authenticity. Don't give me all that bollocks about 'can white men sing the blues' (or in this case reggae) either because that's just ridiculous and not even worthy of comment.

So, why o why, does AvMo (of all people) take such a risk?

See, Morris (for it is he) and I haven't seen eye to eye much about the music I have heard from him so far. Nothing greatly wrong with them, just not as ear catching as I would expect, but my standards are higher then most I guess. The reason I prefaced this review with a thumbnail sketch of my own feelings about the genre is because I should make my enormous bias clear. The most cringe-worthy moments I have heard musically have often come from people who come up with their idea of a reggae tune, a very, very difficult balancing act indeed. I've lost faith in many a bunch of gnarled rockers because they automatically assumed they could tame such a beast. What came out the other side was, of course, completely painful, utterly disposable (except for a laugh along the lines of 'can white men sing..') and not much good for anything.

OMG! AvMo, come back man....

See, the fact is that there IS a tradition of a kind of rock version of reggae; and its that which ultimately saves this track for me. Whereas I have been known to physically attack someone for defiling such a generous and warm music, I can (just about) stomach a rock reggae that is either a) tongue in cheek (so we all get the joke) or; b) it is put together and performed with a certain energy and style. On both those points AvMo (just about) manages to clamber over the barbed wire I usually install on these occasions. To be sure, the vocal delivery and lyrical content are about as po-faced as it gets - not exactly the kind of song you could sing without sniggering. Much more to the point, a lot of the actual sounds Mo brings into the picture are right on the money - the plonky, retro organ sound in particular. Great rock guitar solo too, I might add. So, reggae it most definitely ain't (as least not by my narrow, bigoted version of it) but it is funny, as well as being lightweight enough not to lose any sleep over.

Recommended LOL rock reggae. 'In de good ol' days...' lyric....Priceless.

Pidgeman - The Man That I Could Be

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Craig Matthews (aka Pidgeman) has been a regular on these pages for the last year or so and is actually quite a prodigious musician, out of the wodge of tracks I have reviewed he has done well in terms of keeping my critical beast at bay. It helps considerably that most of the tracks this UK based musician writes are good, old fashioned rock tunes and I am amazingly biased that way. The Man That I Could Be is a new track where Craig comes up with the eternal question 'Why is it that women always seem to want to change men?' and if anyone ever comes up with the answer to that it would surely be the End of All Things. 'If they are not happy', Craig posits further, 'surely it'd be easier to find someone else?' Well, indeed it would be then that would mean that the woman in question is no longer giving YOU grief and that, my friends, is what this is all about.

Yep, I am so proud of my 'Dyed in the wool misogynist' badge...

I am amazed at the amount of times I am out of sync with people's comments about tracks, especially over at MP3 Unsigned, and nowhere more so than on this track. Pidgeman, in my experience, is an excellent songwriter, arranger and producer and can be relied on to pretty much always deliver a song that is worth listening to. On that score, The Man That I Could Be is a great song, catchy in the right places with a witty and topical lyric. Where it often falls over is in the finer details. I'm sure Craig is heartily sick of people like me carping on about his vocals and, if the truth be known, these tracks are only kinda/sorta demos anyway, right? The snag is that when people like me get asked to review them, it always becomes a major issue.

As much as I liked the song, for my money the track fails in a couple of key areas. Firstly, of course, is the vocals. I've heard Pidgeman tracks where he does nail the vocals but this isn't one of them and in fact combined with the excruiating backing vocals becomes a major distraction. Secondly, there is a certain drag in the track that I just can't ignore - and that's because I do expect more from this musician because I have heard him do it. Now maybe that's because the whole track needs to tighten up, and maybe introduce a slightly faster pace, or maybe the arrangement needs to be rethought. There is an identifiable 'ploddiness' (Ed: oh God, is that even a word, let alone a technical term) to the track that IMO makes it drag more than is good for a pop song. Nonetheless, if those things are addressed, this is going to be an excellent slice of Brit Pop al a Squeeze (the original, original Britpop).

Great song, not so hot delivery. Recommended for the song.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jennifer Pearl - When Will I Let You Go

Hear The Track Here

Older residents of the asylum we call Soundclick are well used to the amount of 'phases' this site goes through, especially in forum activity and right now Critics Corner is undergoing a rapid - and very welcome - expansion to its activities. For months and months it tottered along on what looked like decidely dead legs and then - within a couple of months - the amount of credible, committed and useful reviewers shot through the roof. Being one of the longest serving prisoners of the good ship Soundclick, I can remember long periods where it seemed like only Cam and I stuck our fingers in the dykes. In case you hadn't guessed yet, Jennifer Pearl, is one of those new reviewers and - I admit - I looked forward to hearing this track more than most for that reason. You can tell a lot about people from the way they look at a tune and then describe their feelings and I liked what Jennifer had to say from the get-go.

But would it, my harsher side grated, transfer as well to her own music?

Jennifer describes herself as 'really just a singer/songwriter with a laptop, GarageBand, and a crappy mic' and I'd say she does indeed fit that bill. Having spent 10 years of my life recording and documenting various strains of American music, I instantly recognised where Jennifer was coming from and moreover, that she had the chops to do it too. I can't put my hand on my heart and swear that this is the best thing since the last best thing but there is no doubt that Jennifer has a lot to offer, musically and vocally. It is going to help if you like the more balladic side of music, and appreciate nuanced female vocals but when all is said and done the only thing that really counts is the song.

When Will I Let You Go is a terrific song, even the stripped down version Jennifer has no choice but to offer (and btw the mic isn't THAT crappy, I've heard a lot worse). Where I see this really doing well is if someone collaborated with her to really bring out the orchestral side of this track which Jennifer just touches on, it would be a killer tune and no mistake. As it is, its a fine track. In fact, its very simplicity even helped me to get over my normal feelings when faced with a ballad. As you know, I'd rather kick one in the nuts than listen to one but if I had to then Jennifer has first dibs. Much more to the point I have an abiding love of the female voice and Jennifer's has a stature and maturity to it that sends shivers down my spine, regardless of how basic the sound is. It helps, of course, that she also has the most intoxicating eyes on Soundclick EVER but that's yet another story... Beautiful piano-led vocal ballad - and I don't get to say that very often.

Highly Recommended.

333maxwell - Bluedoo

Hear The Track Here

I love the BBC (Ed: and this has what to do with maxwell?). Seriously, they have by far the best music programs on the planet, all of which, unfortunately cannot be accessed by anyone not living in the UK. Over the past week or so I have been watching a series called Folk America about the roots of country music in all its forms - blues of course being a major part of it. I've always been into the blues, right from the very first time I heard it. It's plain, to the point style made sure of that. Its quite astounding just how close blues and the music we call folk is, there is a direct line from the early blues pioneers to the early folk legends such as Woody Guthrie. The reason I am pointing this out right now is because 333maxwell has a very intruiging graphic on his page right now showing both of those influences. Nice job guy!! Big thumbs up..

Aaaah, but what about the bloooz?

It took some doing to get into Max's last foray into the genre - Willow Weeping (January 2009) - primarily because it seemed to me to be a bit haphazard, not something I would have expected from this usually precise musician. As always though, plenty plays reduced the opening disappointment and I ended up liking the damn thing anyway. Not so sure the same thing will happen with Bluedoo, but I don't think that has anything much to do with Maxwell as the style the track is couched in. This is 5AM, eyes like pissholes on the snow, slow blues (and I mean S-L-O-W) with a neat turn of phrase that finally wins this old grumpy old git over (yet again). Its a bit worrying though, because this is another instance where my perception of the musician and the reality clonk heads.

First off, I think that I would have preferred this track but have been more electric, this is music that should be heard through a booze haze; the brass just doesn't seem to fit at all. While I really like the odd almost waltz-like time it saunters home to, the lyrical content seems to demand a much harder, fuck everybody sound because - believe me folks - this guy (when in his cups) can bitch and moan with the best of them. So even though I ended up liking the track because it IS a 333maxwell track and I do like his style, I can't say this is a track for me. Truth is the music is spot on, it just needs a bullfrog (with a BAD attitude) to really put across the venom needed to stun a blues audience. Mind you, last time I checked he had been remixing this right up to the last second so he's probably come up with a few million other versions by now, knowing this guy.

Recommended Blues nonetheless...

Larry Ludwick - Somnia

Hear The Track Here

(Ed: What again?) Despite my editors carping, I have a solid reason (and I don't mean coinage) for slicin' and dicin' yet another Larry Ludwick track this month, having started it off with his intense collaboration with The Dead Company. That was a collab and this is the man innit? and believe me, there is whole world of difference between what Larry does for Larry and what Larry does for well...anyone who asks him really. OK, who just shouted slut? Go stand in the corner with the rest of the clowns! Soooooo, being a life-long insomniac, a track about the joys of sleep and dreaming is going to go down a treat, considering that neither of them feature heavily in my life.

Billed as minimal electronica - not an area I would automatically associate with this US musician - Somnia showed me very quickly that this could easily pass as new age. Whether it would do as well chartwise is another story, having been a #1 already. Nonetheless, it IS new age by every marker I would call, it's full of sweeps and plucky and floaty clouds of musical pinkness and - if you could sleep - it would probably waft you to the Land of Nod before you could stop yawning. And therein, my little cherubs, lies the grain of sand in this particular eyeball.

You KNOW (Ed: beyond all shadow of a doubt) that New Age music (regardless of what it is called on Soundclick) is by far and away my least favourite genre. Sorry, but there it is, can't stand the stuff. Mind you, as a peice of that despond, Somnia carries some pretty hefty credentials as well as the obligatory sack of fairy dust. It is exactly the kind of track you would put on when your goal is that elusive county of Bedfordshire. It starts off as it means to go on so its best not to expect too much in the way of fireworks, merely an increasing urge to close your eyes, take a deep breath and............

(Ed: Gilmore!!! Gilmore!!! Damn, it worked!!) Highly Recommended New Age.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

LeeVel - All My Plumbers Gigs

Hear The Track Here

A new name to me, bass player LeeVel tends to frolic in the Smooth Jazz area of the musical spectrum and - as you know - this is not a genre I particularly like. Lee Velasquez (aka LeeVel drrrr) is from Kansas and appears to make pretty much everything you hear, and that everything encompasses a considerable degree of expertise - especially production and arrangement. Not a bad start at all then, considering the mountain of predjudice (on my part) that this track would have to climb to win me over and - as I expected - the style this music is couched in soon had me eyeing the Stop button. Still, I've heard a damn sight worse MOR material masquerading as smooth jazz and at least LeeVel nailed the genre correctly.

Digging deeper, Lee seems to have been on Soundclick for at least a couple of years so I am a bit surprised that I haven't come across him before, although the smooth jazz tag would have certainly made me think twice about a casual listen. The more I played All My Plumbers Gigs (see song comments for explanation) the more I began to realise that I actually liked what I was hearing. Sure, it is all so clean you could eat your dinner off it, and the licks and rhythms were exactly what you would expect, the overall abiding impression was that - as much as I disliked the genre - this track had a lot of things in its favour.

As you would expect, being a bass player, that instrument takes up centre stage but not - to my surprise - to the detriment of any of the other instruments involved; that takes skill and a sharp pair of ears. Being a jazz track, the lick is the thing and although I might have sounded like I was damning with faint praise earlier don't make that assumption. A lot of the solos on this track make perfect sense and some even sent the odd chill down the old backbone and believe me that doesn't happen often with music of this type. The skill or production and performance would inspire me to dig a little deeper into this musicians output, and for me that says it all.

Highly Recommended Smooth Jazz. (Ed: eh? Did I read that right?)

The Dead Company - Afternoon Show Ft Larry Ludwick

Hear The Track Here

Well yes Doctor, as it happens I know exactly when I became infected by this dark, almost sepulchral, morbid, yet strangely beautiful experience. It was way back in the early part of 2003 when I was working in the wilds of Ejay, techno to the left of me and techno to the right, when I was quite literally blown away by a peice of music called Buildings Part1,2,3 and all points to infinity. The track, like a lot of Dead Company tracks, was made from a) a storm; b)radio fades and c) what sounds like an ocean swishing around your ears. Sounds horrific and yet it had a majesty, a quiet brilliance that made it stand out above everything else I'd heard up until that point. Mind you, this was on the old Ejay site, so ANYTHING would be different. The Dead Company, however, took that difference into a whole other dimension. At the time I wrote 'There is no doubt in my mind that The Dead Company are far and away the most INTERESTING music coming out of this site right now'

And now they are on Soundclick. Be afraid, be very afraid...

Head honcho and Main Man is one Jon Bushaway who could only be English; he's too weird for anything else. When I first met TDC they were a trio but on this track Jon is aided by Soundclick (and the CC forum) stalwart Larry Ludwick - a most unlikely combination when looked at face on. Larry only supplies the vocal on Afternoon Show, and for someone who is used to Sean Boyle's very distinct and unusual style, my initial impression wasn't that posiive. Mind you, the more I played the track, the more it started to register just how apt Larry's vocal delivery is. He has a poet's intonation and that really helps to push across the seemingly obscure lyrics. Jon has always been an awesome lyricist; his images are of a class you are not likely to see to often.

Mind you, you would need to be a bit of a mope to really enjoy them and being a hard, increasingly bitter cynic I absolutely wolfed this little treat down again and again. As I've made clear, I have been a very long term fan of this unique musician and his amazing detailed, yet simple soundcapes. Not so much songs as tone poems in every sense of the word. The way TDC string together disparate themes lend the majesty and power that permeates all TDC tracks and Afternoon Show is a classic example of what they do best, amply backed up with some considerable skill by Mister Ludwick. So, taking into account my enormous bias and my long standing like of this artist, it would be best to understand that I LOVE the wilder fringes of what can be done. Nonetheless, Afternoon Show is much, much tamer than some TDC tracks, the ones who scare you half to death....

Another dimension. MUST HAVE for TDC fans. Highly Recommended tone poem.

Corrientes - Underlying Truth CD

Hear The Track Here

In a perfect world someone like me would have enough time to review complete CD's but, unfortunately, this is not a perfect world even though this Corrientes CD is some 10 tracks long. That is about 9 tracks too many so I am concentrating on track 1, Thinking Back. Or at least, that was the plan and like most plans came unstuck within the first couple of plays. If Thinking Back is an indication of what this CD has to offer it would be a criminal waste not to cast my ears over the entire thing. Corrientes is both a singer/songwriter and a live gigging band based in NYC, Ivette Corrientes being the lady in question but I have no clue what the band consists of. Thinking Back is a great introduction to this Latin artist; smooth, sophisticated and intensely rhythmic - exactly what I like most.

On this one CD you have a myriad influences from Pop through Rock, Reggae and Electronica and even a couple of Ethnic tracks so bound ro be something for everyone, especially if you like slick, well executed songs. This Old Town and You Know are the next couple of tracks and fall squarely into Rock, although smoother than I particularly care for, especially You Know which is a bit too mushy for my own taste. El genio certainly picks the CD right up again, it being a great blend of latin/caribbean rhythms, that trickles into your ears like molten sugar. Mind you, I am a sucker for music of this type so its no surprise that it rapidly became one of my favourites. Layers is the next track up and is a fairly standard (ie less than hard) reggae pop affair, but like El genio has some wonderful vocal moments dotted throughout the track.

Little Bits Of Energy is a pop track that starts off sounding a bit tame - at least to my ears. Continued plays didn't help to dispel the feeling that this is probably one of the weakest tracks on this excellent CD, but I am sure I will many who would argue differently. As Close As You Think is a slice of dreamy DnB (if you can imagine that) and IMHO is one of the better tracks from this set; it could easily be lifted from the CD and played as a single and get radio play - at least in certain markets. It also sets off Ivette's distinctive vocal more than any other track on the CD. La orilla del mar is, as you can imagine, another sultry slab of latina rhythms and definitely shows that - whatever else goes on - Corrientes are MUCH more relaxed when playing this kind of material - it has a blinding chorus too. A Child In Your Eyes is much like Little Bits Of Energy and even Underlying Truth (a rock track) definitely suffers somewhat when contrasted again the Latin tracks. Again though, I am incredibly biased towards that kind of music anyway. After spending some time with this CD, I see no reason why this band shouldn't be proud of what they have achieved. After all, can't please all the people all the time, can you?

Excellent introduction to this Latin band. Highly Recommended (especially the Spanish language tracks!)