Thursday, April 30, 2009

CPA ARPS - Gulf Shores

Hear The Track Here

A few years ago I got suckere...err......I mean I tried out a software program that promised ANYONE could be making music in about ten minutes. Oooh, I thought, you rotten bastards. Just when I had spent almost fifty years trying to make music properly up comes a computer program that instantly unmanned me. Puffing mightily, outrage spewing out into the ether, I checked out the software noting - a warning I now know by hindsight - that Brian Eno had some association with it. Koan, the software was called but I don't think I've ever laughed so much in all my life once I'd played with it for ten minutes. Play music in ten minutes, sure, but what kind of music? The kind only wolves, wildebeest, and flat bottomed cranes can hear.

Koan? Sure just drop out the A and you'll understand...

So why am I biting so hard on the leather this early in the proceedings? 'Midi composed and produced using Chordware Progression Assistant 9.3' it says on the track comments and that should give you a clue? Yes, but Gilmore, all prejudice aside what kind of music is it? Whelp, try this from the Chordware site 'ChordwarePA is both a chord / scale program and a loop-based music creation program'. Mmmm sounds suspiciously like Band In a whatsname to me. So, my ire isn't raised because of the way the music is made, it rarely is. What really gets me is what it sounds like.

And that, sadly, is where it all falls apart.

See, musically this is flabby. Some generally opposing sounds set on endless loop and - to my ears - only occasionally hitting any kind of groove. Much more damaging, IMHO is the overall tameness/lameness of the sounds being used, and that is where the Koan reference came in because this is exactly why I hated that piece of software. OK, it may enable you to produce a noise but then,,,, drrrrrr. Poking my nose in a little further I noticed that the artist known as CPA ARPS and the mover and shaker of the Chordware site are one and the same so, on that level, got to be a nice job. His own music maker no less.

Just need a lot more structure is all, and puhleeze some realistic sounds.

Prospect Music - Foreverland (Short Mix)

Hear The Track Here

'I tried to cut down the repetitive parts, since I know about your lack of tolerance for trance' .DJProspect says when presenting this track to us. Not an easy task, I would think, given that repetition is an essential part of the genre. Besides which, even I'm not that much of an egoist to imagine that someone would tailor something for my taste, it would still be the same irritating trance wouldn't it? Except maybe less of it. No, let's climb out of this verbal thicket, and get back to the pestilence of the age... Ooops, I'm sorry, did I equate trance with something far, far worse? Well, now ya know how I feel.

Beware the scorch marks I say.

Having said that both Aquatopia (Enhanced Trance Redux) (December 2008) and Tears Of The Moon (January 2009) did fairly well by me considering. Not something I would personally go hunting for but if I were, either track would have filled the need. Foreverland (at five minutes plus this is the short mix?) does much the same trick and there - I suspect - I'll always fail to understand the lure of this kind of material. On a purely technical level, ProspectMusic puts the track across very well; a good clear mix, decent arrangement and some welly (Ed: energy he means) behind the proceedings.

Having heard more than my fair share of (lets be honest) really rubbish trance, it is nice to hear someone who has a bit of a touch for the melodic about the whole four-to-the-floor-fiasco farce. See, thats the thing, while I freely admit that I don't like the genre in any normal fashion I can listen to a track like Foreverland and find a great many things to like in it. All of which makes me think that people who like trance will get a lot more enjoyment out of this than someone like me who's head is so obviously up his own ass. btw, I liked the faster sections most, the floaty inner section didn't work at all for me. Aiiiiiiiii...

Recommended Trance even....

Superbron - Time Traveller

Hear The Track Here

Looking back, it's been a while since I heard a track from Superbron, a Dutch musician who probably rues the day he first submitted any music to me. We'd had a period between 2007 and 2008 where we had crossed swords about this track or that one. We had a 'that's OK, that one isn't' routine going there that was making me giddy. Not, I suspect, a lot to do with what Superbron was or was not doing but rather a question of personal taste. Certainly I had things to say about production and presentation but I don't think I've ever doubted his musical skill. Soooo, anyway, up he pops a whole year between Still Wondering Why (March 2008) and Time Traveller.

Yeah, but does the music travel too??

Surprisingly well actually, especially if you like guitars. There are lots and lots of guitars in Time Traveller and you'll certainly have time to work them all out too because - as we all know - time travel takes time. (Ed: eh? Don't come again!) I don't know whether its an element of the times we live in, or just something in the air but there are an amazing amount of musicians drawing from the same well as Carlos Santana and surprise, surprise Superbron has morphed into one too.

If I were being brutally honest, there are some minor niggles but obviously Superbron hasn't been idle in that year off because the change in sound, tone and attack of his tracks has sharpened - a lot. All good news for sure, and if you are in the market for a kinda/sorta rock guitar thing placed between Pink Floyd and His Carlos'ness, then look no further than this. Can't say I was swept up in a cloud with this track but it sure makes a difference to have an upbeat ending for a change.

Recommended rock odyssey.

Cinnibar - Visit With A Vision

Hear The Track Here

Although the name Cinnabar might be a tad unknown to you, the names associated with it shouldn't be. Visit With A Vision is a three way collaborative effort between Gary Judge, Matt Tyson and Mokee Dugway. I first made the acquaintance of Mokee Dugway at the end of last year but his Twelve (So long to city song) (March 2009) - again with Matt Tyson - was a blinding track making a major impact with me. Actually, I don't really dish out a whole lot of Must Haves over the course of a month and it always takes a special track (in some way) to make the grade but Twelve aced it and then some. A classic piece of rock music.

And so, with a little tweak, is this one.

The little tweak being, in this case, some operatic samples I definitely recognise and love their use in this track. T'ain't what it appears though when judged by the intro, as impressive as it is. The core of Visit With A Vision is rock but done in such a positive, fresh and original way it will take your breath away, more so after soaking up that epic opening section. What I saw in Matt and Mokee's previous work is only amplified here with its exposure to that nice classical influence - courtesy I guess of Gary Judge? I don't know, hard to tell with a song of this complexity.

That is, of course, its saving grace. You hear a piece of music like this and you realise the fine line between making something count or having it come across as false. Not a note of Visit With A Vision is wasted effort, everything exactly where it should be to make a piece as ambitious as this - and have it work a treat. Waddling in at a portly seven minutes this is not going to be a drive by lets have a look see; this is a track that demands your attention - and its as original as it gets. All told this is an absolutely wonderful merge of styles and again shows these are musicians worth keeping an eye on.

MUST HAVE blend of classical and rock.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Twisted Angel - Some Kind Of Monster

Hear The Track Here

Twisted Angel (or (Twisted) AnGeL to be precise) is a new name to me on Soundclick. Not, as you might have imagined some socket-eyed Goth goblin but a hiphop artist from Calgary, Canada. Not a town noted for its rappers, that's for sure. The more I dug, the more intrigued I became, although only 21 Twisted Angel has apparently been on Soundclick since 2003 and yet doesn't have much on his webpage - 22 songs in total. Not that this makes any difference, I guess, if you already know about this rapper but if not, now's your chance.

Personally I really appreciate rappers who take their time and make sure they have their lyrics online as well as their tracks. Although I can fish out most of the sense of rap tracks, reading them helps to establish a faster link to the flow and pace of the track. Some Kind Of Monster is produced by someone called Kid Kutz so whether the music came from Twisted Angel or not is a mystery. Going to have to presume that the rap is definitely him. The music is pretty basic, revolving around a harpsichord figure but with a nice bottom-y beat that punches the rap down your ears. It takes a while but that simpleness becomes quite catchy, surprisingly enough.

From where I sit, I think that Some Kind Of Monster is a great idea that doesn't quite work in the way it was intended. I think I definitely see where Twisted is heading with it but the execution of it leaves something to be desired. While it has the correct swagger and bravado to pull the rhythmic side of the track together, the vocals do fail and sometimes wincingly so. Twisted is a reasonable rapper but when he stretches out even the slightest bit, his voice goes markedly out of tune. Shame though, because the rest of it definitely makes its case; good song, good back story and some nicely judged hookery.

Recommended indie hiphop

The Dead Company - Oxygen Ft Larry Ludwick

Hear The Track Here

Out of all the artists I have come across over my years on the internet, there are very few who have left lasting impressions. They either had to be really, really good or have some other attribute to recommend them to me for the long term. Scary is the attribute I usually associate with The Dead Company and that's probably the reason why they still stick in my mind. Seriously, a lot of their early tracks are quite some of the most sombre, intense yet strangely beautiful experiences I have had over the last ten years. Not, however, something to play before Grannie and the kids though and - over the years - The Dead Company and changed and morphed more times than Noddy.

Noddy? Who he?

Oxygen isn't at all what I expected from Messrs Bushaway and Luckwick and - I freely admit - it did make me murmur wtf more than once or twice. There again, that is also something I have been doing ever since I first encountered them. Ditching his usual Mad Electronic Scientist white coat, Jon Bushaway this time gets all rootsy by throwing some beats at ya...ohh yeah. Mind you, you couldn't dance to it, unless you were a student who - as we know - can dance to anything so long as it didn't involve rhythm, grace or style.

As you can see, I am studiously ignoring the elephant in the room by doing anything other than reviewing the damn track....

See, its a big, big elephant and I'm still trying to get my mind around it. Essentially this is a track built on drumtracks, a modicum of instruments and not much else. To be sure, the drums are tasty, as are some of the tricks used, but hey drums is drums. A lot of the weight then has to be taken by the vocals; step forward the Man, Larry Ludwick who stands exposed before us as never before. Yes, I know it was bad enough before, but calm down dear, let me finish. Larry takes the part, in the song, of your neighbourhood oxygen dealer whose final words are ' when it has all gone, nobody lives'. Even after continued listening I'm still in two minds about this track, I think because it is a marked departure from what went before, and I already admitted that bias. And, in true scary fashion, I now have the words 'nobody lives' reverberating through my brain. Err, think.

Seriously experimental experimental, if you know what I mean. Handle with care.

Stain(ed) Art - The Bottom Line

Hear The Track Here

I've lost count of the number of times I have had the 'yeah but hiphop is shit' conversation, and I've no idea whatsoever why people should take this blanket approach. Like all music genres it has its good and bad, a bit like people really, and a lot of it is down to personal taste. I know some people that absolutely love the genre but also adamantly refuse to listen to the harder gangsta rappers because all the violence and swearing puts them off. Personally I have a preference for UK hiphop, artists like Stain for example. Like a lot of UK rappers, Stain uses the genre to its best effect - storytelling.

He has been clearing out his closet because The Bottom Line uses Mobb Deep's Shook Ones as the backing track. It was made about 3 or 4 years ago on another site where 'everyone on the site had to pick a well known instrumental to rap over'. Part of the From A to B (A Brief History) album, its an interesting piece to see just how far Stain has come since that time. Obviously there isn't a lot you can say about the track itself, its a well known track; albeit a lot rougher in this version, although this is something Stain does every once in a while. Jes' messing with our heads.

It's a Northern thing ;)

The track does show that Stain's own style (especially lyrically) has come a long way. Either the way the rap is performed or the beats themselves but - for me anyway - the whole thing was redolent of The Blonde One (Ed: I think he means Eminem but it could well be Madonna...). Once I got used to that it was evident that this was Stain alright. That flat, machine gun delivery and the accent gave it away but - above all - it was lyrically pure Stain; albeit one in battle mode. On that level, I guess The Bottom Line worked a treat because it should did on me, as rough as it is. Mind you, this is not a track to base an understanding of where he is now, better look for the Forcefield Kids for that...

Stain spitting large! Interesting look back. Recommended for fans for sure.

Fortune - Lives Can Change Direction

Hear The Track Here

It doesn't seem that long that Fortune surprised the beejeebers out of me (and a few others too) when they turned up on my review list with All Sold Out (December 2008), the first of a string of Must Have tracks from this Boston MA band. What surprised me most was the complete professionalism all round; presentation, performance, production - everything just right. It shouldn't have done, of course, because Fortune is an actual real-life band and have obviously been seriously working in their musical pecs and abs, all for the benefit of our earholes. Right now I think Soundclick's denizens should thank their lucky stars there are such stellar bands as this, showing that there is life in the rock beast yet.

and free downloadable tracks at that...

To my ears there is a distinct difference between US rock and (say) UK rock, especially in the execution and delivery. There is a polish to a lot of American rock that would never fly this side of the pond - at least amongst musicians - and Lives Can Change Direction is a perfect example of it. Certainly it owes more to Bon Jovi (and its poppy acoustic rock version) than to any number of endless Kerrrang bands (Ed: its the riff, stupid!) so if that kind of rock floats your boats, go grab now and be done with this review, I do understand, ya see, that this kind of music isn't for anybody. For me I have to say what is not to like?

The one thing you can guarantee about a track from this band is that it will probably be one of the best listens you are likely to hear - whatever your feelings about the genre. For my money, although I loved everything about it - as usual - it did sound a tad too commercial for my own tastes, a distinction that became more evident the more I played it. It also has that kinda ballad-y thing happening and that's always a no-no for me. Bloody faultless in every other degree though, almost five minutes of highly professional acoustic pop that puts the right perspective on whether unsigned bands are any good or not.

Damn straight. Highly Recommended unplugged rock.

Musicarian - Naey Din

Hear The Track Here

Harking back to the first time I met Pakistan's super shredder Musicarian in 2004 put me in mind of all the incredible musicians that were around on this site then. Those were the days...sigh.... Anyway Salman Anwer (aka Musicarian) like a lot of the Indian musicians that have surfaced on Soundclick generally specialises in Western rock music, and very good he is too. He has made work that is highly redolent of the culture he comes from, of course, but always with that alarmingly good Western rock sense. Certainly he had some very good ratings over the years, both as an accomplished guitarist and as a songwriter. Take a listen to the excellent Friendship knows no East or West (March 2009) for a classic example of why I hold this guy in such high regard.

The reason I say this is because IMHO Naey Din is not really representative of what he is really capable of. Being a dyed-in-the-wool acolyte of world music I am almost duty bound to like this Urdu language song, and being the worlds foremost rock animal (at least in my own mind) I absolutely love what this guy does with the guitar. Naey Din is 'a motivational Song in Urdu language for the youth' according to Salman. 'Whether you understand the language or not, the guitars would hopefully work for you' he adds, to which I can only nod my head in assent. The guitars do indeed work for me, as does a lot of the other instrumentation. What doesn't work so well is the song and the vocals.

Not that Salman is doing any caterwauling (God forbid) on this song, or even that the vocal was recorded on the cheapest mic known to humankind, but it feels like its aimed at his own countryman rather than the rest of us. Not that this is a bad thing, and I get the feeling that there are going to be plenty of people who are going to love this to bits - especially the Rock God sections. Just that, for me, besides the musical pyrotechnics, the song and lyrics paled somewhat. Having lived with the song, I can see that this is my own personal taste on trial here because I couldn't see anything technically wrong with this almost prog rock arrangement and production. Im hanging on to it anyway because Musicarian has proved me wrong a time or two.

Highly Recommended Urdu song, complete with Rock (guitar) God.

Blipstar - Love Song

Hear The Track Here

Another new name to me, this time courtesy of POPspace, Blipstar is a fellow Englishman who has made himself very visible on that site, giving him a number 1 with Love Song. See, promotion and/or shooting your mouth off in public DO work ;) God bless the dartboard theory I say. He's got sixteen tracks up on his POP page so obviously this is not a newcomer to making music, unless he makes them in ten minutes apeice. Don't laugh, it happens. You can't tell either from his page what kind of music motivates him because each track is in a different genre.

Which is increasingly familiar these days.

What we've got in the meantime is Love Song, which is an Ambient track. Uh Oh. Regular readers will be only too well aware of my feelings towards this genre of which POP seems to have a surfeit of these days. Considering how I rant and rail against the genre (and New Age btw because they are close cousins) it's quite amazing how many tracks I do find that meet some of my requirements for listening to music I have no taste for. First, and most important, is that the track should contain mucho melodies and that it never, ever overdoes the old plinky things (Ed: he means things are plucked, hit or otherwise abused) that festoon every track in the genre.

Blipstar gets by because he only uses one such plinky figure and seeing as its carrying the bulk of the weight, I guess it would have to be termed essential. Stretching out over a princely five and three quarter minutes, Love Song doesn't seem as long and that's always a good thing in my books. Musically and technically this is a very good track indeed, plenty of those melodies I was jabbering about and the production is as sharp as a pin. It's a great shame the genre leaves me cold but, even so, I can recognise a class piece of work when I hear it.

Highly Recommended New Age/Ambient

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cam's Even Song - Take Me Down

Hear The Track Here

A track now from Soundclick's very own Mr Music. Serious, I don't know anyone - at all - who doesn't like Cam's Even Song but I'm sure there are millions of people out there who SHOULD be hearing him. Cam's Even Song (one Cameron Bastedo sole prop.) has been a firm favourite in my household for years, his awesome songwriting skills in evidence at every turn. See, not only can this boy turn out killer tunes at the drop of a hat, he's biblically prodigious too. Out of the 222 tracks now nestled on his webpage, I don't think you would find a bad 'un amongst them, and a great many that ensured him the dubious honour of being named my Artist Of The Year 2006, as well as God knows how many Must Have's and Tracks Of The Year I have given him in the five or six years we have known each other.

The kind of musician you just want so much to hate...but can't because you KNOW he really is that good.

Like most Cam Fans, it's his songwriting prowess that really does it for me. Here is a guy who can take just about any subject matter under the sun and turn it into a song. Not just any song mind, a rip-roaring, everybody-got-to-feel-good anthem of life no less. If you think I'm joking or my usual flowery self, go have a listen. The other thing that does it for me is Cam's musical style, a cross between the Beatles, Bob Dylan and other Classic artists which fits his songwriting style like a glove. Sounding suspiciously like hippie-era Marc Bolan while blowing a distinctly Dylanesque gob iron (Ed: Harmonica), Take Me Down - like all of Cam's tracks - demand that you give it more than one listen for it to work its magic on you.

Initially, I admit, I laboured under the impression that this wasn't as immediate (or intense) an experience as usual but I have made that mistake with Cam before. These days I know that I have to give the track however long it needs to imprint itself into my memory, the end result is always worthwhile. This proved to be the case with Take Me Down which, although lightweight in sound and feel, proved to be deeper than it looked. As ever one of the delights of a new Can track is the lyrical quality, this is a songwriter who knows how to make the words sit up and beg. Probably this is going to be a track for Cam fans to savour - it being a tad quirky in the vocal department for most peoples tastes - but you never know, Cam's Even Song can convert on many levels.

Highly Recommended whimsical Folk Rock.

Gangbangsters - 6:17AM

Hear The Track Here

Third time round for California based rapper Gangbangsters. Shoelaces (September 2008) was a decent enough track marred substantially by the low end production. In Decent Company (January 2009) fared much better in that department and showed properly what Shoelaces only hinted at. From these two tracks it is obvious that Gangbangsters are not your average, run-of-the-mill rapper - at least not musically. What Shoelaces failed to show and In Decent Company showed only too well is a very clever mashup of styles that shouldn't work together but surprisingly they do. The electronica that underpins the rap and shows that wherever this musician is coming from, it isn't the standard place for R&B/rappers.

All well and good then eh?

Now that I am getting used to the roughness of this artists sounds, I have to admit it works well for me and 6:17am is only going to show that - if you can past the obvious lo-fi approach - this is an artist who at least tries to be different. Listed under Electronica: Experimental Sounds, 6:17am also shows that despite that initial impression of yer standard hiphop artist, Gnagbangsters is no slouch at explerimental electronica. Of all the three tracks I have heard I have always wondered whether this rough, almost industrial sound is actually the way it is supposed to sound or whether lack of equipment is to blame.

Listening to the detail in 6:17am I found myself again in two minds, is it intentional or not? The track easily shows the amount of work Gangbangsters put into it and for sure there are parts of the track that work splendidly; the bass and drums work well although I could have done with hearing more of both. It's full of little production tricks too, little teasers like flanged filtering, a kinda juddery rhythmic pulse (around 2:10) that is a terrific sound on its own. Having spent some time listening to this, I again see tremendous potential here. The arrangement flows wonderfully and the end section stomps along ferociously having been set up by the (previously almost hidden) build that you don't notice until you really know the track. So, the question need answering; intentional or not? Enquiring minds want to know.

Electronica diamond in the rough. Highly Recommended blend of styles.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Minimack - Live My Life

Hear The Track Here

I first encountered producer/rapper Minimack when I reviewed Please Stop The Struggle (September 2008) a joint effort with his Mom, both of which made an impression on me. Since then Minimack has become a steady presence on the Soundclick forums, particularly Critics Corner where his idea of a monthly competition has become a standard feature. He's been taking some time out lately though as he is getting a studio together, but still manages to get the tracks out the door as Live My Life testifies. Posted in January this year so probably not anything out of the presumed studio but nonetheless this is a Soundclick rapper I do have time for.

Although he has worked with some of the known Soundclick beat factories, beats (and presumably music) in this case supplied by the oddly named Yaungbloods, which is definitely a new name to me. As it goes, the music track is pretty decent, especially on the lower end where it counts; there is a lovely loping bassline that floats over the top of the song as well as underpinning it. To be honest, I am not really a fan of tinkly stuff. Bells and tinkly pianos are like chalk on a blackboard to me and they have to actually be part of the fabric of the track to work properly and thankfully Live My Life just manages to pull it off.

Live My Life is 'a song about hustlin in different manners' and as such carries the obligatory Parental Advisory, although I personally couldn't hear anything to take offense about - and I have the vocabulary of a seasoned sailor. Minimack doesn't really have what I would call a typical rap voice but - in some ways - I think that stands in his favour, as does the commercial orientation he comes up with this track. I could have done with a tad more energy from the vocals in the extremely catchy chorus but it nonetheless put the idea across well. There is a lightness about the track that is probably one of its more endearing traits so give it some to settle in your brain and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Recommended rap.

Groyse Metsie - Hey

Hear The Track Here

Now that's the sort of band name you are not likely to forget, is it?. I didn't, because I remember that their last track Mein Shtetala (September 2008) got a Must Have rating from me and a mention in my Tracks Of The Year 2008. Mind you, considering that Groyse Metsie (or is it A Groyse Metsie?) is a Jewish band who play truly world music, then it's a given that I am going to like it. Even though the lyrics were in Hebrew it still managed to capture my attention more than a few times then and since. I don't play it often any more but I do still play it and in my books that makes a good track. Groyse Metsie specialise in a Jewish musical tradition known as Klezmer.

Like most national musical traditions it isn't something that you just pick up in say the same manner as rock or pop. Like Asian music, true Jewish music has a long and proud history, stretching back into Biblical times and takes a great degree of skill to do properly. The kind of training that classical musicians go through is no less true for this particular music. I have been to a few Jewish weddings in my life and this is one invitation I would never turn down. For me one of the highlights of these events is the heady, almost spiritual rush of the music, and of course the sheer joy of life from the people performing it.

It was one of the main reasons I gave their previous track such a high rating and that quality is here in shedloads. Hey is exactly what you would expect if someone said to you 'oh this is Jewish music'; torrents of massive riffage, lots of 'oi' and 'heys' and enough raw energy to light up a medium sized town. Give it more time though, and you get a second underlying impression. You notice, for example, that the bulk of the instrumentation is modern (except for a very tasty violin and maybe mandolins or zithers). What surprised me most was the almost ska/bluebeat rhythm that scoots your butt along so fast you will finally come to know the true meaning of skid marks. Hey is an enormous slice of fun, above all and that is the quality that will endear it to most people who actually hear it. A track you absolutely can't resist.

MUST HAVE world music.

Pidgeman - Without You

Hear The Track Here

At this point in time, I have reviewed getting on for a dozen Pidgeman tracks and discovered that this rock based musician is generally worth listening to. Personally I still think he is capable of much, much more but his catalog of tracks on Mp3 Unsigned (and Soundclick) will show a very competent musician and songwriter, sometimes let down by the equipment he is working with. A common complaint I know, but one that holds some importance IMHO. Nonetheless, if you like good old fashioned guitar rock with a touch of alternative thrown in for good luck, then Craig Matthews (aka Pidgeman) and you should strike up an acquaintance.

In a manly kind of way of course ;)

One of my main problems with this artist has always been something that he doesn't have a lot of experience in and I guess that isn't fair, but it counts. Pidgeman is a musician who really needs a producer to bring out both his music and his arrangements. Don't get me wrong, all the parts are there; he's a very good songwriter, decent guitarist and manages to fill his tracks with all the right noises - as the merest drive by listen to Without You would show. With its sub-Sharona riff and lovely dovey lyrics, you can really see that Pidgeman definitely knows his stuff - as I've said loads and loads of times.

So why then, is there always this question hanging around whenever I listen to him? It's in the overall sound and arrangement for me, and always has been. I have no problem with his lyrics, this man writes some incredibly catchy hooks. His voice hasn't always worked for me but I think I'd put that down to production as well, but the overall sound always has a demo feel (which it probably is, thinking about it) but I know the the added production knowledge would really allow this musician to come into his own. There again, as always, I seem to be in the minority because all the comments posted about this track are very positive indeed and maybe I just hear something that isn't all that relevant - but it is to me. Curmudgeon suit aside, this is a breezy pop rock number despite all I've said.

Highly Recommended pop rock.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fear 2 Stop - Herbal Coffee

Hear The Track Here

When I first started reviewing on Soundclick, I was probably a nicer man than I am now. Six years ago when I first started reviewing Houston, TX based three piece Fear 2 Stop I used to refer to their music as 'awkward'. This generally applied when the music consisted of dissonance, electronica jiggerpokery and experimental sounds up the wazoo. However, seeing as Soundclick introduced me to the whole gamut of what 'truly weird music' can mean, these days I'm nowhere near as tactful. Call a spade a spade me. So, in the new spirit of things Fear 2 Stop are one of those bands who specialise in WTF? music. So proud are they about this that they have even tattooed it onto their obviously much offended cat (for proof of this perfidious act, see the pic of the song).

Cruelty to animals AND ears. A right twofer...

Surprisingly enough I have a lot of time for fear 2 Stop because they have proved - beyond all shadow of a doubt - that they will do it their way and the rest of us can go hang. I like that attitude, even though some of their tracks leave me more than a tad baffled. Over the years I have grown extremely used to their approach, and the experience has taught the band how to meld the sound to fit their own peculiar vision. About a year or so ago now, I started to notice an increasing effectiveness in their production standards which actually helped (enormously) to put their idiosyncratic style over, and its bought into play on Herbal Coffee to great effect.

The track itself is pretty much what you would expect from Fear 2 Stop, solid bass and drums underpinning the seemingly chaotic and random sounds happening above it. More surprising is that Herbal Coffee actually sounds much more normal a track than any F2S track over the last year, it even has melody and - dare I say it? - an understated funk feel that is something I never expected to write about this band. Its a given that the many people that, like me, have become fans of this band over the years will like this track because it does embody exactly what Fear 2 Stop are all about. If this is a new name to you, its probably best to warn you that they are somewhat of an acquired taste. Herbal, yes, but it ain't coffee...

Highly Recommended zippy Electronica.

The Peach Tree - Mind Soul Dark Light

Hear The Track Here

I think it would be fair to say that my involvement with Australia's The Peach Tree has had its moments; leaving me baffled and/or amazed at every turn. Put it like this, he has given me as many tracks I like as he has given me tracks that just didn't cut it at all. Can't fault the man for keeping on trying though and - if he's one thing - his output is pretty prodigious. Mind Soul Dark Light is a track from the Fabric album, of which I think this is the first track I have heard. So here's the thing. The track is billed as Pop and yet is over nine minutes long. It's actually much more goth rock than anything else, and pretty good goth rock at that so why not go with that? However, I noticed while I was downloading the track that it had 136 listens and 132 downloads so whatever I say seems pretty irrelevant. See, in my books, anyone who takes the time to download your tracks is a true fan of what you do, and that means more than any review.

So, nine minutes long eh?

It's actually not the trek it seems because - as I say - the dark, foreboding nature of the track, and its instrumentation is very goth flavoured and it happens to be an area of music I have a lot of time for. The Peach Tree makes a damn good job of it too, veering from an almost spoken vocal to a sub-Rammstein basso profundo that works a treat. Like a lot of this artists tracks, Mind Soul Dark Light is really just an extended song and in this case it (just) does the trick - and probably more because I like the style than because of any excitement inherent in the track.

The reason I love the goth music scene so much is because the Devil definitely has the best tunes. Despite all the doom and gloom, blood and gore that the genre is steeped in (and this track is no exception lyrically) a large amount of these kinds of track have a stark, austere and sombre beauty that really draws me. The intro of this track kinda suggested that but didn't actually deliver much in the way of beauty because the subdued intro was is soon overwhelmed by quite a neat bit of guitar shredding that then leads into the song proper. More power to TPT because his vocals - if a little lo-fi - fit the track perfectly and is a much more coherent track than some of his previous efforts. There again, at nine minutes plus, it does demand that you spend time getting to know it and, in most ways, I'm glad I did.

Adventurous melding of styles. Recommended.

Peelington - We Will Survive

Hear The Track Here

A standard musicians saying; less is more. Another; You can't beat three chords. The latter is how Peelington describes We Will Survive and I have to say I agree with him completely - providing they are the right three chords. I met Peelington when I reviewed Broken (March 2009) and I wasn't exactly effusive about the experience. Decidedly underwhelmed even. The work on it, and the song itself weren't that bad, but the lack of coherence in the arrangement left lots to be desired - as did the fairly basic demo feel to the recording. Of course, we can't all have the best kit - and very few of us do - but even so in this internet age, decent production tools are ten a penny.

Three words; free VST plugins...

The problem, as I see it, is that lack of production nous severely limits the impact of Peelington's tracks and - unfortunately - We Will Survive suffers from the same dilemma. The song, the music and the energy are right on the money and - in some ways - can't be faulted but that's where the good stuff ends. Judging by the comments though, I am in the minority because most people seem to like the track. 'I love punk' Peelie states, and I can see that because We Will Survive has tons of that raw-edged rock sound so beloved of spikeheads everywhere. On of the biggest problems, for me anyway, is that the track concentrated too much on that jingly jangly side of the guitars rather than the meat and potatoes of the backline.

Consequently most of the propulsion in the track is squandered, overwhelmed by the guitars and vocals. Even then those selfsame vocals also get somewhat lost in the mix too and IMHO that is one of the highlights of the track, The most grievous fault, at least as far as I am concerned, is the lack of mid to low range sounds that are absolutely essential for putting across the kind of skull breaking sound punk initially specialised in. If more attention had been spent putting together a solid, meaty backline (Ed: music speak for bass and drums) then - for sure - the track would have found a lot more favour with me. Nonetheless, I am well prepared to be in the minority here and say that it's probably best, in this case, that you make up your own mind.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kevin Miller - Midnight Boy

Hear The Track Here

My first brush with US based folk musician Kevin Miller was with the excellent Light A Candle (February 2009) an excellent, upbeat track and considering my usual bah humbug about feelgood tracks even I felt it good enough to highly recommend it. One of the main drawbacks of a lot of acoustic based musicians is the difficulty of recording simple things like guitars and voices. What may sound great in the bedroom/bathroom/smoke filled club/subway/street corner may not travel successfully into the digital world, and often doesn't. Outside of the quality of the song, Kevin's work on getting everything to sound right made a big impression on me, and I gather I am not the only one.

Midnight Boy is a song about (and I quote) 'a cowboy [who] loses his horse in the high country, and has to say goodbye' Yep, I saw exact same question-mark shaped WTF too when I read that but hey, it takes all kinds right?. Kevin explains further 'I've spent a lot of time in tall, mountain country. When a packer's horse goes down, he's faced with the heartbreak of leaving his best friend behind' Musically, I have to say that without knowing the story this music wouldn't have the same impact which is why I spoke about it here, instead of my usual space consuming rubbish. Americana is fast becoming one of my flavours of the month and I have to say that Kevin's work in this field is exemplary.

Most of us write directly out of our own experiences, and Americana is the true taste of that. In this case of Kevin though, it's a much rougher, harder landscape than most Eastern seaboard based musicians, with its echoes of hard men and even harder country. Obviously then the whole piece has a wild west feel about it even though the instrumentation (acoustic guitar and mandolin) could come from anywhere. Ultimately, I doff my hat to the guy, he's managed to write and perform an excellent modern folk song in the traditional manner. And yes, if you must know, I did cry in the end. It was SOOOO sad. Poor, poor horsey...

Highly Recommended Folk song about the great outdoors.

Michael Vincent Fusco - The Angry Block

Hear The Track Here

A new name to me, Michael Vincent Fusco has only been on Soundclick for a while but has managed to ferret away seventy eight tracks on his Soundclick page. Like a great many internet musicians, Michael got into music through the much ridiculed Ejay music software and sample sets. Personally I've never understood the enmity engendered by such 'instant music' programs, they actually bought a tremendous amount of new blood into the party. Besides which once people learned the limitations of Ejay (and there were several) they soon gravitated to more grown up software - at least the serious ones, the ones who had got the bug big time. As did Michael Vincent apparently...

He made the wise choice of upgrading to Fruity Studio, my own personal favourite.

'Super Nintendo styled drum and bass track. How cool is that!?' he asks in the song comments. Well normally right now I'd be going off on one, bewailing my hatred of all things soundtrack and/or game music, but don't let the Nintendo reference throw you as it did me at the beginning. The Angry Block is a solid piece of electronica in the time honoured fashion, the Nintendo sounds used are of extremely good audio quality - which suggests Michael made them himself. If that's the case, then a big nod of respect to the man because he has nailed the classic Nintendo sound without losing any of the warmth and spark of (do forgive me for saying this...) real music.

While The Angry Block is somewhat repetitive, there is still enough meat on its bones to take you through the just over four minutes of its length without breaking a sweat. Moreover if you are one of those weird human beings who actually likes the sound that console games specialise in, then this is going to go down extremely well. Chances are that you won't have heard game music this good, with a musical production to match. There is a sense of intense exhilaration from certain sections of the track that would definitely fit in the right game, even though I don't think that was the musicians intention. I think he just wanted to make a good piece of instrumental music and I personally think he's done a fine job indeed.

Neat game-like electronica. Highly Recommended if you like this stuff.

Cameron Pierce - Hostage

Hear The Track Here

Cameron Pierce, yet another Canadian musician makes 'accessible pop rock with great hooks' as he defines it. I heartily agree but would go further. When I first came across him in November 2003, he was a rough and ready songwriter in the Beatles mode and for a good few years after that kept me constantly supplied with feel good pop rock of a high order. However, over the last year or so Cameron has really begun to stretch his wings, moving into areas that surprised a lot of people- and doing it most successfully too. Gaining him a couple of very tasty recommendations from me along the way. Seriously, if you like a really good singer songwriter then check this guy out.

Dragging myself back from the past, Hostage seems to be a very recent track, uploaded last month. Always nice to see a new Cameron Pierce track anyway but the latest batch have really caught my interest. When I reviewed The End of the Galaxy (If My Baby is Out There) (January 2009) I commented about cam's increasing arrangement strengths and Hostage just builds on that. I think it fair to say that earlier tracks by this artist were derivative to a degree but over the past year or so I believe Cameron has developed his own voice and style to such an extent that he has - as it were - come into his own.

Hostage is more rock rock than pop rock IMHO, and that is a very good thing.

Like almost every other human being the first twenty seconds of a track either seals the deal or not. Sure I take my time and spend lots of time dissecting music but more often than not, its that first impression that counts. Let me prove this. Listen to the first twenty (nay ten!) seconds of this track and see if that doesn't lead to listening to the whole thing. Hostage is the kind of track where everything starts solid and responsive and then just gets steadily better so that by the middle of the song, you are totally involved. Considering that everything you hear on this track is from the brain and fingers of one man, this is an absolutely dynamite track.

Highly Recommended Rock song and MUST HAVE for fans.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sandro Cuzzetto - More Than Me

Hear The Track Here

I don't know what they put in the water in Kamloops, Canada but I want to go there and have some. I've heard a great many very talented musicians from that small city (population of 80,000 or so) and all of them interesting and diverse. One of the leading lights of Soundclick, Cam's Even Song resides in that fair city - as does Sandro Cuzzetto. Sandro, like Cam, is a Christian musician who is not afraid to bring his faith into the musical arena and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. More Than Me is even billed as Christian rock but personally I don't let labels like that worry me and - I hope - neither do you.

Music is music right? The international language.

The first thing to be said about More Than Me is that, regardless of the song, Sandro knows how to make the most of what he has. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it isn't so. Like a great many of us, Sandro makes everything at home and - as so often - it does give a kind of 'demo' quality to a track no matter how hard you try. As always I try to get past that, trying to focus on the song itself but sometimes - as is the case here - the overall production does get in the way of complete enjoyment. Where More Than Me scored for me was lyrically. Its a shame that intelligent, pointed lyrics are a rarity these days and the lyrics of More Than Me hark back to a time when lyrics were every bit as important as the music they rested on.

The real problem with the track was that I found it quite lightweight, in terms of production and musical vision. Try as I might I couldn't really get as close to this track as I could to the lyrics, but that may be just be me being crotchety. The guitar feels light weight, and contrasts with the vocals which are pitched quite high, even though Sandro has a really good voice the production doesn't really bring its true sound out. Moreover, you can't really hear the backing vocals at all and that's a real shame because I think they are very important in putting the chorus across. Nonetheless, More Than Me is a very decent song and - should you like rock with a decent message (for a change), this will definitely fill a hole in your collection.

Recommended rock with a message.

David Pendragon and Tribe World Ensemble - Solid Rock

Hear The Track Here

Absolutely beyond all shadow of a doubt one of the best finds for me over the past year or so has been David Pendragon and Tribe World Ensemble. A huge internet project that takes in over 25 musicians from all over the world and one you might think is so unwieldy it couldn't possibly EVER work. Work it does though, and in that work is some of the most magical musical moments this reviewer has experienced in a long, long while. They gave me two Tracks Of The Year 2008 with Downloading Life (November 2008) and Lay Down Your Guns (March 2008) and the last track I reviewed of theirs - Sacred River (January 2009) is a gobsmacking eleven minute slice of world music that is the aural equivalent of Dreamtime

Also, as if you hadn't known it, a Must Have.

Originally, this track made the top 10 in Australia in 1984 by Shane Howard, David Pendragon was there when the original was recorded and obviously he never forgot it because here is his version of it. This is also David's way of showing that when you do a cover version, you'd better do it right. Can't get much more right than putting it out as a paid download with royalties going to the original artist either so kudos to David on all counts. Course it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing but remember who we are talking about here. David Pendragon is a world class producer and musician, regardless of what you might think of the genres he works in, the quality of this artist always but always shines through.

I have to admit that the overtly Australian feel of the track was a bit off-putting which I guess is a bit rich coming from me, but the more I played it the more I recognised that David had gone out of his way to retain the feel of the original - which btw I have never heard. Regardless, a good song is a good song wherever it happened to be born, and Solid Rock is a wonderfully Eighties recreation that obviously David poured love and devotion into. Listen, for example, at how packed-to-the-rafters the instrumentation and arrangement are - a hallmark of the period among rock musicians. Not sure of the actual line up on this track but everyone involved should feel a warm, warm glow in their souls.

Authentic Aussie Rock. Highly Recommended.

Ashkari - Crazy

Hear The Track Here

'We used to be known on here as "Envy' Ashkari writes on their MP3 Unsigned page. I was there downloading this track and immediately that comment started alarm bells ringing. There are only two reasons for this, I have found; because the band gave a track that blew my ears off or because I gave them a hard time and that's why its sticking in my head. Usually it's the latter and such proves to be the case this time. In fact, I reviewed three of Envy's tracks during 2006 and quite liked what they were doing (it being straight forward rock) but to be honest it wasn't anything special. Ashkari is the new monnicker then, and Crazy is filed under Industrial so who knows....

Judging by the impression this made on my earholes during the first few plays, I REALLY have to question that listing. What Crazy is - more than just about anything else - is hard, sweaty, dry ice soaked rock in the grand manner. On that score, I was as happy as a dog with two tails. As I've pointed out n dozen times (Ed: ad nauseum, Gilmore, ad nauseum) I am a rock animal through and through and almost come in my pants when a great rock track kicks my head in. Crazy is, if anything, a great heavy rock track with some great steamhammer guitars that leave no quarter standing; exactly the kind of track to max out the volume to 11 and get out the full length mirror and the air guitar...

Not me, you understand. I have a real guitar.

Now I know that time can put meat on an artists bones but f*** me sideways, the rate that this band has come on is stunning. Not all is love and roses though because the mix on the track isn't right; the drums are almost buried in the mix and the guitars are compressed to within an inch of their lives. Doesn't matter though because the engine of this particular track is a fully fledged, twenty foot tall fire breathing monster (Rockzilla anyone?) that will rattle every cell in your body if you get close to it. I love it so much I've been sleeping with it (Ed: way, way, way TMI). I'm a fan of Nickleback, Tool, and a myriad German hard rock bands and Ashkari have captured that rock zeitgiest perfectly. Awesome and I'm definitely hanging onto this but hope the mix will be fixed so I can give it a...

MUST HAVE (oops!). Masterful rock.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Can't Stop The Daggers - Go Down Song

Hear The Track Here

There are some Soundclick artists who truly make me smile. Even more so when they insist that their track is just a 'rough mix' and then the thing craps all over everybody elses work from a very great height. Doncha just hate it when that happens? Well, actually no, I rather enjoy it - even though such competence makes me want to vomit (like any other sane musician). Over the past year or so, Can't Stop The Daggers have been the culprits more often than not, and if it isn't them its their equally sublime first cousin, Azoora. Don't ask me why I keep lumping these two bands together because they are quite different. The reason is, I think, that they both have an incredible lineup of musicians and they write some of the best indie pop songs you or I are likely to hear right now.

Can't Stop The Daggers are a extremely clever amalgm of everything you have ever heard; half the fun in hearing their tracks is picking out the myriad influences. In the case of Go Down Song the first reference is New Order and the second U2 and that's not a bad start by anyones reckoning. This is the last track to be completed for their upcoming album, an event much anticipated in the Gilmore houshold let me tell ya. The tune started off with a bassline from Emily Schalick which is were the New Order influence comes in. Personally I love this kind of bass playing and indeed have my own version coming up - isn't it funny how ideas pop up in waves?

The U2 connection comes about because of the vocal, pure Bono.

T'ain't though, just li'l ol' Jon Partelow singing his heart out and - take it from me - he sounds bloody wonderful. Knowing that the track was 'recorded pretty dry, just my living room has 38 ft ceiling' and pretty much live to boot, I can see where tweaking this will bring out even more nuance and tone, as if that were actually possible. From the bare bones, this is going to grow into a killer track so remember that you read it here first. I freely admit that I am massively biased in favour of this AZ based band but that shouldn't put you off hearing (even in this unfinished form) just how good alternative music can sound when handled properly. Imagine being deliriously happy singing along with a lyric that goes ' we just get older' and you are almost there. Damn, I can't wait for this album, come on you guys get with it!!

MUST HAVE indie alternative. C-L-A-S-S.

Larry Ludwick - On The Night Train

Hear The Track Here

An oldie this time from Larry Ludwick (old in this case being a year exactly, according to the upload date). Larry has had a string of highly recommendeds from me over the past year or so, and in a range of genres. Officially Larry is an electronica artist but like most labels doesn't even begin to cover what this musician is capable of. I've heard Jazz, blues, country, plain weird and everything in between from this artist and if their is one thing I like it's an eclectic taste. On The Night Train is billed as mellow electronica which, on the face of it, doesn't sound this exciting because I don't do mellow too well.

In fact, I don't do mellow at all.

Mind you, the last time Larry ventured into this area with the distinctly New Age-y Somnia (February 2009) I found myself liking it despite my usual curled lip at the genre. Larry seems to have a pretty deft touch when it comes to putting enough into a track to keep you interested - sometimes despite your best efforts - and varies the routine enough to make you nod your head in appreciation once or twice. Although On The Night Train has a bit more propulsion (no pun intended, of course) than Somnia (Ed: it would though, wouldn't it?) it does share some of the same new age tendencies. There again, this musicians stated influences are Brian Eno, Kitaro and Enya should give you enough warning if you are - like me - allergic to all things OMMMM.

As a piece of music, On The Night Train stands up real well, whatever you might feel about the style the track is couched in. Larry's touch with melodic sequences is what kept me listening, the same as Somnia, and shows that he takes time and trouble to make sure arrangement and production are up to the usual high standard. It is a given that you would like the style to really appreciate the track, and I found that varied each time I heard it. very much a mood piece, I thought. Some days I'd love it's simple but effective style, some days I'd hate it for its very smugness. There again, those were my philistine days - of which I seem to have more than most normal human beings.

Highly Recommended mellow Electronica (despite my grumpiness).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Waiting For Helen - Round and Round

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Waiting For Helen are a five piece band from New Jersey (Jerry DeCarlo, Helen Harak, Tony Mazza, Pete Salomone and Joe Van Winkle) and if Tony Mazza's name is ringing more bells than most it's because I have reviewed him under a few different guises of late. Waiting For Helen is his main band though and so far I have reviewed three of their tracks (I think) and been pleasantly surprised at all of them. To be sure, there hasn't been a track that has knocked me on my ass yet but judging by the quality of work from this band that may only be a question of time. They are a real working band, I am a consummate rock animal, how could it fail?

Waiting For Helen are obviously qualified musicians so the only thing to really judge them on is the strength of their material and - so far - they haven't come up with anything that I would consider to be outstanding. Now that doesn't mean that their tracks are bad, far from it. Songwise, however, I have yet to hear them do something that I felt stretched them. Mind you, Round and Round is a damn fine track; more especially if you have a taste for the rock scene just as it was morphing from out and out pop into something with much more bite. All under the influence of some hefty drug taking by an entire generation...

For me, the most satisfying part of Round and Round is that it could have come from Jefferson Airplane circa 1967, its almost eerie how well Waiting For Helen have captured that moment. The combination of retro guitar sounds and the vocal interplay between Tony Mazza and Helen Harak is wonderful to hear and the more I played it the more I thought that. I have a suspicion that I will be hanging on to this track simply because of that evocation of the past, although - as I say - the song has a lot to recommend it to. So while it's not the jaw dropper that I am waiting for from this band, this is a bloody fine example of what they do.

Evocative musical throwback. Highly Recommended Psychedelic Rock

Andy Stokes - Existence

Hear The Track Here

Considering that, of all the genres, techno is my main hate figure, Andy Stokes got away pretty lightly when I reviewed the very first track from him. Dance Floor Confusion (February 2009) escaped the Gilmore scalpel by dint of the fact that the track was more dance than techno, at least in my opinion. It worked very well through a big sound system and that's the main thing with music of this type; listening to this with headphones while you are sitting on your butt is the same as going to bed with your socks on. Pointless. Which is exactly what I feel most about the techno genre, it's all been done ya see. Having said that, MP3 Unsigned always has a population of techno heads and I have found some artists there worth checking out.

I do have a sneaking regard for the time honoured 303 bass sound and Existence has a great example of it, and some lovely 303 filtering to add to the mix and that always pleases me. Despite some comments about the kick sound on the track I had no problem with it; it cuts where it needs to and lays back where it doesn't although I do agree that the track could have done with some percussive variation now and again. See, one the of the main culprits for my dislike of the genre is the absolute sameness of the drums.

Four to the floor kick, a tsk tsk from the hi hats and that's pretty much your lot and when you have a track stretching out to almost six minutes, the drums can 'plod' to the max. It helps to festoon this basic structure with lots of pretty (and not so pretty) electronica geegaws and that - for me anyway - is where Andy Stokes comes into his own. Having lived with this track for a while I find its actually a blend of trance and techno and, in this case it works a treat, and I wouldn't say that about most. The other main musical gripe I have (aside from techno) is trance and considering this is both, Andy should feel chuffed to escape the knives yet again. But I'll be waiting for the next one bucky....

Recommended blend of trance and techno.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Rascal Theorist - The Understanding

Hear The Track Here

Not quite sure whats going on here but apparently The Rascal Theorist isn't/shouldn't be such a new name to us. The review request came through Muse Machine's byte19 so maybe TRT is yet another name they intend to work under. In case you don't know who Muse Machine are, they are a bunch of guys out of Chicago who have made some excellent tracks (and more than a few friends) even though they have only been on Soundclick for a while. My feeling also is that previous tracks were just testing the water, as it were, and The Understanding is the real deal. My first impression of the track certainly convinced me on that score. Normally I just load the review tracks up on my Ipod and let them spool out constantly and whenever this track came on, my ears perked right up.

As they do.

The Understanding is a sharp slice of R&B/Pop that screams for radio play, sounding like some of the best R&B tracks of the past. For sure the instrumental owes a lot to Stevie Wonder, certainly in the tone if not the execution. It's obviously a keyboard track featuring piano, organ and synth bass but its very simplicity and structure fits the lush, very confident vocal style. At first, I wasn't sure about the beginning of the track but once it got into it's stride (around the first chorus) it became obvious that a lot of time, effort and love went into the making of this track.

Nowhere is this more evident than in both the vocal performance and the production thereof. If you need to see just how to sing, record and mix vocals this is a track that could teach you. Everything, right on the money. Funnily enough, the backing vocals became - with time - one of the major hooks of the track and that in itself is unusual. Whichever way you look at it, The Understanding is a very classy track and - if you like R&B flavoured pop - is a shoo-in for your collection. It's also, by way of a diversion, pretty sharp lyrically too, so do take a look at them when listening, it helps.

Highly Recommended R&B pop

Pilesar - Ballad of the Possum Eatin' Monster

Hear The Track Here

Soundclick's very own weirdo, musical idiot savant and all points south, Pilesar has kept me amused and entertained for as long as he has baffled and confused me; not an easy feat let me tell you. Last month it was Snort Thruster (Live) (March 2009), a playful, percussive LIVE experience that more than nods in the direction of Bobby McFerrin (although with the obvious Pilesar twist). Whatever you might think about Pilesar's oevre (Ed: it definitely doesn't mean droppings, oh no...), he is a genuine master of surprise. Actually for all his musical lunacy, I find Pilesar to be one of the most innovative, refreshing and stylistic of musicians it has ever been my pleasure to meet. There again, I'm more than half mad that doesn't say much.

From the CD Island of Crooked Houses, Ballad Of The Possum Eatin' Monster delves way back into the past to come up with an arguably effective country blues (the country being Louisiana or at least the Deep South). The P word himself steps up to the mic for this, so take a bow Pilesar who - it is now revealed - is in fact a bullfrog. Every single time this track played it reminded me of some artist buried deep in my memory but even now I can't put my finger on it. Certainly its American, and probably from the 1970's so if anyone comes up with it, it might help me to sleep better at nights.

Now obviously anything that Pilesar sets his hand to is going to end up - how can I put this tactfully? - somewhat warped. So although Ballad Of The Possum Eatin' Monster is a very authentic sounding piece, there's still that Pilesar aural fuckry that keeps things slightly off kilter. Pilesar is joined in this track by Logan Rainard on bass and Nikc Miller on guitar and backing vocals and its obvious that they had a lot of fun putting this bad boy down. That sense of irreverence is what - for me - sets this song apart. Certainly its one of the most accessible of Pilesar tracks EVER. After all, who could resist a chorus that goes 'He smell like sh*** and he rot like a log, He live like a troll and he die like a dog' See, now that's class....

MUST HAVE blues with a sense of the strange as only Pilesar can do it.

Stealthspectre's Experimental Insanity - Darkness Falls

Hear The Track Here

Despite my great and rapidly advancing age there are still many things I like about todays modern music scene and one of them is 'so-called' Goth music. From the heaviest of metal to the alternative, I find the goth genre has much to offer musically so I got to admit to some joy in my life when I reviewed Stealthspectre's Haunted Realm of The Undead (Vox version) (March 2009). Not only is this artist goth influenced but he's also pretty good at it. Haunted Realm sounded pretty much like its title; unsettling, dark and with a sombre beauty that is the hallmark of the genre. My only problem with it was the sound quality of the vocals, they just didn't punch through as much as they ought to - and that's a small quibble in the scheme of things because the musical quality was spot on.

The thing I suspected when reviewing Haunted Realm is borne out with Darkness Falls. Here is an artist under limitation of the technical side. Musically and lyrically Stealthspectre knows exactly what he's about because Darkness Falls is a killer song, whether you like the dark side of music or not. Moreover, it seems churlish to the extreme to be talking about this set against the neatness of the song but - for my money - the impact of the track is blunted by the compression of the music and vocals. Had this track have a production quality in common with the overall songwriting ability there is no doubt in my mind that this track would have got a Must Have from me. Which also goes to show that, sooner or later, here is an artist that is going to come up with one.

Hand on my heart, I swear that the first influence that sprang to mind when first getting acquainted with the track was none other than Marianne Faithful - and I mean that as a compliment btw. Strange then because I'm absolutely certain that Stealthspectre is a bloke, a geezer, a man and Marianne (despite her vocals) is all woman. Nope, its the tone of the vocal that does it, and it fits this song like a glove, IMHO Stealthspectre couldn't have sung it any better, it's certainly the highspot of the track for me. Sure, its a voice that you have to warm to but the song itself will help with that. The quibbles about production notwithstanding I am definitely going to hanging on to this track and that should tell you something. There is only one comment on this song at present and it says 'this song ownz!!!!' and that I completely agree with.
Great song and a whisker away from a must have. Highly Recommended dark alternative.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tim Turner - Same Old Wrong (ft Jim-n-Lisa)

Hear The Track Here

Regardless of how far I may stray into other musical areas, I will always revert back to rock when I am in need of some serious pick up. Of course the problem is that while you can find some very classy rock around, it is actually quite rare to hear something that is both classy rock and appealing to a wider audience. I've never known Tim Turner to put a foot wrong in this respect, he is an excellent musician with warmth and heart in his playing and writing but that isn't really the thing that sets him apart. Nope, that honour goes to the people Tim chooses to work with to make his musical dreams reality.

Take, for example, Same Old Wrong. Not content with writing a world class blues rock track, and playing solid guitar and vocals with it, Tim then ropes in the justly famed Jim-n-Lisa to add some of the finer finishing touches. Those touches being clarinet and slide guitar from Jim Miller and backing vocals from Lisa. All of this was finally mixed down by both Tim and Jim and - knowing both of them - it would have been a long, involved process. When it comes to making my own music I can be absolutely finicky to a fault and I know for a fact Jim Miller suffers from the same phobia, which means that when its right, it's REALLY right.

And Same Old Wrong is REALLY, REALLY right.

I always expect world class performance from these guys as a matter of course but even I have to raise my cap to them for this superlative - and very relaxing - stroll through the blues. Drawing from influences as diverse as Eric Clapton and New Orleans jazz blues themes, Same Old Wrong is one of those infuriating tracks that - try as I might - I can find nothing whatsoever I would want to change about it. It's been a good long while since I have heard from either Jim-n-Lisa or indeed Tim Turner but this more than makes up for the wait. One thing is for sure, Jim-n-Lisa have lost none of their considerable chops since I last encountered them in the musical flesh. Tell you what, go have a listen and hear one of the best tracks you are likely to hear this year - online or off it.

World class musicians. First rate rock blues song. MUST HAVE on all counts.

333maxwell - Rush Limbaugh (an American folk song_

Hear The Track Here

Ever since I first came across Chas Holman (aka 333maxwell) there has been no faulting his ability to genre hop with the best of them. "Oh", he says blithely, "haven't given you a folk rock track yet so there you go", thrusting some noxious American twat at me as if I were likely to touch Rush Limbaugh. In case your name is *^$&*%$£$*()((*-per and you are from the planet ^**£^£*£, Rush Limbaugh is an American 'shock-jock' - an unofficial but highly effective political commentator. Put it like this, the man has a way with words whether you approve of his stance or not and I personally do not - in any way. I can, however, see the American fascination with figures such as Limbaugh who is only saying what many believe to be true - no matter how far fetched it may seem.

Even, I might add, to the planet ^**£^£*£.

I think it would be true to say that 333maxwell and Rush Limbaugh wouldn't strike up a friendship at a party. The song's chorus starts with the line 'theres a special place for you, hells too cold for what you do' which pretty much sums up the feelings here. Musically, the folk rock tag fits like a glove. Sounding a lot like Mr Zimmerman (Ed: that'll be Bob Dylan to you) in the verses and George Harrison in the oddy pitched chorus, Chas has a surprisingly confident voice that delivers the nasty to Rush Limbaugh with great and obvious relish. Of course, there isn't a lot to it; guitar, gob-iron (Ed: harmonica) and vocals and that's yer lot.

However, I'm a big fan of less is more and in this case (and certain other lo-fi artists) the song and delivery is more than worth putting up with the odd fluff here and there. Try as I might though, I couldn't seem to get close to the chorus and - to be honest - I was almost about to give up on it when it finally clicked for me. What finally did it was the realisation of what a terrific little folk song this is, harking back to the time when writing highly topical - and thought provoking - lyrics was the norm rather than the rarity it is these days. At least as far as the RW music business goes. Probably the best vocal yet from this excellent songwriter and I'm sorry about the crack about the chorus, but it is weird isn't it? Max bites Rush exclusive! Film at 11 or here if you can't wait.

Highly Recommended Folk Rock song. MUST HAVE for me.

Ne:o - Illoj CD

Hear The Track Here

Like most internet musicians I have no time whatsoever for the ins and outs of the real world music business, too much crap and thousands of assholes will generally do that I find. I do, however, after almost fourteen years of watching it, see that the internet is indeed offering an alternative - for free. Yeah burt, you may piss and moan, free music is rubbish right? No, it isn't, far from it. Of late the idea of the moment is in 'netlabels' such as the excellent 23 seconds, Pilesar's Chameleon Dish Archive, Cybergrind and about a thousand more. All of which offer top class music free to download. As indeed does Aaahh Records whose Pop Grenade album by Keyboard Rebel (December 2008) introduced me to the label and made enough of an impact for me not to ignore their press releases...

Do you have any idea how many mailings lists I'm on??? Sheesh

Christian from Aaahh wrote that Ne:o (a five piece band from Dresden, Germany) make 'fiddly pop music' and are 'trying to wear away the boundaries between electro and electronic guitars' which is more than enough information to pique my interest. Illoj is a nine track affair and all the titles are in German so I have no idea what its all about but Je Laenger kicks off the proceedings in rocking style with an incredible mix of styles and sounds that sounds surprisingly fresh and original even to a palate as jaded as mine. I am a big, big fan of original German electronica and just as big a fan of the current crop of German heavy metal bands, and both influences can be heard on Inn - a very odd little track indeed. AM though really seals that whole 'wtf is this?' argument. Running at over seven minutes this wonderfully nuanced track ambles along in its own groove, showing an incredible amount of musical dexterity. Musically the sound is similar to Canterbury bands of the early '70's such as Soft Machine or (especially) Caravan.

T'ain't really pop music though.

Hand on my heart, I couldn't even begin to tell you what kind of music it is because I have no idea. It's impressive that's for sure. Grasping the production and range of the musicians is itself a sobering moment but would that be enough? Damn straight. The tracks may all be virtually instrumental but you won't have heard anything like this lately - and definitely not of this quality. Each track is a feast for any music lover, it's hard to pull out one that is particularly standout because they all are and that is a rare thing indeed. My only qualm is that with music so free ranging and sophisticated as this, it would be easy to overlook and put down as some kind of jazzy thing. For sure it has jazz overtones to it, with this kind of virtuosity its unavoidable but it's roots are firmly in rock and pop. As the last two or three tracks on the album show, although with major embellishments. Definitely a release I'm going to picking the bones off for the rest of this year.

Original, refreshing and very, very different. MUST HAVE musical feast.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Jennifer Pearl - Even If

Hear The Track Here

In the annals of Soundclick's forum life few ladies have stirred the blood of the pond life that infests said forums than Jennifer Pearl. In the few short months she has been on Soundclick she has become everybody's darling (well, all the men anyway) and that's usually before anyone has heard a lick of her music. Part of the reason for that is because she is very good looking and partly because - at least on the forums - she can be a right mouthy bitch (Ed: Damn it, Gilmore, you can't SAY that!!!) That forthrightness is one of the reasons I first started taking notice of her, and the excellent reviews she was doing for the Critics Corner forum. It wasn't until I reviewed When Will I Let You Go (February 2009) before I finally heard what she had to offer. Put it like this, I have just been listening to the re-released Carole King classic Tapestry - in between reviews as it were - and Jennifer's material and style would fit right in there.

OK, so it's a bit rich to compare someone like Jennifer to one of the 20th Century's leading musical lights (Carole King is probably more famous for her songs than her own style of singing them) but hey, they both write songs and sing them beautifully. Joined in this track by none other than soundtrack maestro Charlie A, Even If promises much. If you are familiar with Charlie's beautifully rendered compositions then the musical side of the track will hold no surprises; lush strings (tastefully used) a evocative and well paced piano figure and enough themes to fill seven other tracks. Admittedly I can be a bit of a philistine when it comes to soundtracks and such but Charlie A has rarely put a foot wrong in all the time I have known him.
Inspired by the track itself, Jennifer immediately set about making it into a love song - as you do. As well as being a bit sniffy about soundtracks I can't generally abide ballads either, which is unfortunate because Even If is actually a combination of both. As I say, Charlie gets by because he knows what he's about and Jennifer slides this ballad down my hearing tracts because she sings it like an angel. The amount of people who have said that Jennifer has a terrific voice is already overwhelming but once this gets more attention I think it will get ever more so. As much as I liked When Will I Let You Go, it just doesn't show how much power and emotion Jennifer can bring to bear with the right material - and boy is this the right material. The way her voice soars and twists on the words 'We're bound, Like vines we're wound. We're tied by the angels' cries' sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. Actually, on second thoughts, that comparison to Carole King isn't that rich at all and Even If is the proof.

Brrrrr. MUST HAVE (sheesh) ballad. KILLER vocals.

Carol Douglas - A Two Grand Wager

Hear The Track Here

Little did I know that when I first met Carol Douglas (then known as Bolton Song Bank) when reviewing Melancholy Country Blues (August 2004) that she would prove to be one of the most interesting songwriters Soundclick has thrown up. I use the term songwriter because Carol purely writes songs, then inveigles other people to breathe life into them. Its in the roll call of musicians she has collaborated with that is - besides the excellent songs - the mainstay of Carol's unique approach. With names like Nad Sylvan (When The Tide Rolled In), Maria Daines (Varog Varog!), Sahib (Money From The Satisfied Man) and Evan Paul Kozaris (Snowflake in a Flame) all should tell you she isn't one to mess about. For A Two Grand Wager Carol has teamed up with Australia's own Brian Ralston who is maybe more better known to us as SelfTort, no slouch in the songwriting department there either.

So, a match made in musical heaven? I should coco.

A Two Grand Wager is incredibly apt in these troubled financial times and is based on another financial fiasco, this time from the year 1836 when you could, apparently just go and get your own gold at the Bank of England. For more information on that, click me. From the get go it was obvious that Carol is a songwriters songwriter (if you know what I mean) and its a signal of her skill that so many talented musicians literally queue up to work with her. Even the merest glance at the lyrics of this track should show you that she has perfected her art, the pace and structure of the piece evident even by simply reading it.

The actual track is an incredibly detailed, richly textured mindmeld of folk and prog rock that sounds odd in black and white but works a treat in the flesh (as it were). If you are familiar with SelfTort's own work you will already know that this is a musician to be reckoned with and has much in common with my other favourite Aussie, David Pendragon. His work is always immaculately presented and performed with consummate skill. Although the musical lineup of the track is pretty basic, for sure what those instruments are up to is anything but basic. Considering the subject matter, and the lyrical flow for this track to work it could only have gone one way and that is what SelfTort obviously recognised and built on. It's quite a wordy piece and it took some time for the lyrics to properly settle in my brain but the music had me from note one.

Excellent traditional - but highly original - folk rock. Highly Recommended.