Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ralph Atkinson - Bambigalia

Hear The Track Here

Ralph Atkinson gets to be tail end charlie this month, this being the last track in the review bag, a very lively review bag at that. Bambigalia is, according to Ralph, '"tootsie-rootsy" - a blend of dixieland and country blues' and, thanks to my detailed and painstaking research it's also a tree. The reason I did that isn't because I'm feeling warm hearted towards you, o online eyeballs, but because I wanted to be sure I wasn't telling my mother to do something unpleasant with herself. After all, I struggle with English most of the time, so Italian would be waayyy out of my reach, capisci? None of which has anything to do with the "tootsie-rootsy" blend of dixieland and country blues we are promised so let's get to it.

Bambigalia is probably more blues than anything else, but as always Ralph Atkinson stamps his own particular brand of authenticity on it. The very first track I ever reviewed from this musician has this kind of period details that make modern forays into the genre all the more interesting. One musician who's toes Ralph is stepping on here is my old friend 333maxwell who also specialises in this kind of true mood music, although it has to be said that Chas (333maxwell) and Ralph have very different styles. Looking back over the reviews I've done since Building A Time Machine (October 2009) it seems clear that when Ralph gets his blues hat on he scores big time with me.

I do indeed like the blues, especially when its done in this 1940/50's semi jazz style. For me it only goes two ways, raw or smooth and Bambigalia tends to the smooth, its only the detail and obvious commitment of the musician to getting the piece right that saves it from the slings of outraged Gilmore. I've often stated publicly that I don't do smooth, or middle of the road but there are obvious exceptions and this proved to be one of them. While I am not always knocked out by his other tracks, this one definitely hit the spot for me, probably because I love this setting so much. Again, to give credit where credit is due, Ralph gives one of his best, well laid back vocals and it fits the song like a glove.

Highly Recommended for sitting under the Bambigalia tree in the sunshine.

Christopher Martin Hansen - Sweetwater

Hear The Track Here

'That ******* Gilmore, he likes everybody' is a comment I have become very familiar with over the years. Maybe that's my unbounding enthusiasm for music in general where - to me anyway - music is either good or bad, regardless of how its made or what genre it is. Actually, in my world, no music is actually bad, just sloppily executed or performed. I've reviewed HUGE numbers of tracks over the years I've been on the net, and I've found surprisingly few truly awful artists, and an astounding number of really top notch musicians - and this from someone who was in the real world music business for a great many years, so I've known/know a few. Ask me a slightly different question, like which musicians do I LOVE and the answer would be totally different. For sure my favourite musicians have been ones I have grown with over many years, and one of the very, very few to always raise my spirits is acoustic guitarist extraordinaire Christopher Martin Hansen or CMH as he's known in the trade.

The word rare always crops up in any conversation anywhere concerning this man's prodigious guitar skills, and always any track will quickly point out why. However, I obviously understand that some people just don't like all that tinkly acoustic stuff, and that's fine. There again, whenever I've played CMH to anyone who would be interested I always ended up picking their jaws up off the floor too. Obviously this is not a pastime to be engaged in with large numbers of people, although I saw Leo Kottke do exactly that at a solo concert in London around 1976 so I know what it looks like. I mention Leo Kottke as a reference only, point of fact these are distinctly different guitarists with different sounds and textures. After a brief period of wandering in the cyber wilderness, CMH returned back to life this year with two incredible tracks; Passage (April 2010) and 80 Days (June 2010), both of which are from his latest album Once Upon A String...

That album, which also features Sweetwater, is shaping up to be one of the strongest albums this year and I hope I'm going to get my own copy (hint, hint). Sweetwater is, to my ears, much prettier than either of the previous tracks, but when you use the word beauty to describe tracks like this.... Damn, they are ALL drop-dead-gorgeous and as a guitarist I am my usual awestruck self and maybe one of the reasons I so like CMH's work is because I can appreciate what he takes to pull this stuff off convincingly, the style and panache is all Chris's own. As many of you are aware I'm not a big fan of guitar instrumentals, but there is one area where that doesn't hold true at all. Commercial musicians like Rodrigo y Gabriela and unsigned musicians like Christopher Martin Hansen make guitar instrumentals that are truly worthy of the name, playing of an incredibly high order.

MUST HAVE guitar masterpiece.

Henry Zhang - Wavelengths

Hear The Track Here

If there is one thing that gladdens the chilly little boulder I laughingly call a heart, it's the sight of new blood. Yummy, dinnertime! Say hello to the UK's Henry Zhang, an 19 year old musician who - apparently - has been playing guitar for two years and piano for four, he's into alternative rock and that's about all the information I can scrape together. Funnily enough, he's been on Soundclick since 2005 but I've never encountered him and having Rey Varela and Wray is a telling sign because both of these excellent musicians moved on after Soundclick's kinda/sorta Golden Age, and haven't been seen since although I know they are both still active. Anyhow, maybe all those years he was learning how to please us eh?

Only one way to tell...

Although I guess its structure is based in rock, Wavelengths is actually an acoustic track; a geezer, his guitar and voice and no, it might sound like a folkie but t'ain't so ya varmints. Kinda reminds me a tad of Thomas J Marchant (at least in approach) but that may be the fault of the extremely lo-fi recording. I say a guy and his voice but, unless I'm mistaken, there is an element of vocal double tracking or electronic jiggery-pokery and - to be honest - it doesn't actually sound that good. Mind you, it's obvious that Henry is incredibly short staffed in the production department, and that may well tell against him in this super-duper, glitzy electronic world of ours where anyone can mix like the masters.

One the other hand, if I was looking at this as a purely 'song demo' thing, then that would be a different story. If I were nineteen again, not that I would wish it on my worst enemy (Ed: why are you looking at me like that?), and a, no doubt spotty, composer of this song, I'd be happy enough no matter what anyone said. After all, being young means that you have lots of time to learn and judging by the song and its content, all Henry Zhang really needs to do is up his production game (spotting tuning/timing errors as well as making it sound good). I'd suggest he listen to said Thomas J Marchant as an example of the competition he faces, and Henry, Thomas was my Artist Of The Year 2008 but it wasn't always so. He sounded a lot like you when he started acoustically.

Uneven, but interesting song.

Friday, July 30, 2010

JCH (UK) - Shooter

Hear The Track Here

Or, as the locals would have it, shoo'AH. JCH (UK) is the new numberplate of James Crosbie Hancox'zzzzzz musical ve-hicle and he wants to tell you all about his shoo'aah, and I don't know whether to advise you to a) get comfy or b) run as fast as you can. Mind you, James Crosbie Hancox (as was) definitely supplied some very tasty musical treats, showing him as a very good songwriter with some excellent ideas to go with them. That was shown most notably - if'n you remember - the Painting By Numbers project. Over the course of time I reviewed a number of these tracks but the first actual review of the Painting By Numbers LP (June 2010) was under the JCH (UK) monnicker. Heey, whaddueye know? I know that Painting By Numbers is a very worthwhile download and is liable to show its face again and again on my playlists. One because it's a collection of very good songs and two, said collection of very good songs were delivered in the one chord. Yep, that's right. One chord, one song. You wouldn't believe it would work, but I heartily recommend you listen for yourself.

In the meantime, we have a shoo'ahh to deal with.

'A song about shooting your partner in their sleep' JCH informs us, adding ' because they are not what they promised to be'. That clicking sound you hear is my blink. Sorry about that but I'm amazed. In all my whole long life, a life of many partnership type stresses, I've never ONCE dreamed about shooting my partner - or anybody else for that matter. Now ******* them, that's a different story but I'm here to tell you that 'sex thought every six seconds' theory is way too long. However, lets dig our way out of this sudden puerile slime and soldier on. James (for it is he) explains that 'this is just how a bad relationship can make you feel' and he in no way endorses such things, and it's saying something that he chose it as the subject of a song.

There again, reading on, 'this is an old band song that I wanted to record properly, the song is around 20 years old' and - to be brutally honest - it sounds like it. In sound, style and arrangement that is exactly what I would have thought if I had heard it unaware of any of these facts. Mind you, given the musical heritage he is heir too (he's from Liverpool) and the not inconsiderable part he has played in it (in a previous offline life), he is putting it out there to exorcise a ghost. I've got tracks like that too. Stuff you may have done years and years ago that still sounds relevant today. And then there's the added buzz of being able to scratch an irritating itch into oblivion and make the track the thing it should have been all along. If that is the case, then JCH has managed that very well indeed. For sure, I've heard better, but I'll bet not much older.

Interesting history #101. Recommended Alternative.

Rude Corps - Faster

Hear The Track Here

Aaah the Dolly Pig Hog thing...errr...the Citizen Pig Dolly....err... Rude Corps. Seems like a while since we last heard anything from this corner of Soundclick in a while, hold a second while I get one of my minions to track it down.... A Little Bird Told Me (March 2010) was classic Rude Corps, exactly what I would expect but that is because I've heard a lot of his material and soaked in the style and I think I understand him better than say, our American cousins (or indeed our anywhere else cousins). Growing up in England, you suck politics in with every breath. Moreover, the further north you go, the more radical will be the thinking and if there is a divide in English society it is the North/South divide. Nonetheless, there has always been a particular kind of English voice; loud, opinionated (although not always right), extremely articulate and literate but - most importantly - one not afraid to state what they perceive to be the truth. I have great admiration for that spirit, and that clearly informs my liking for the Dollybird (Ed: he is referring to Rude Corps of course). Mind you, the music generally manages to hold up its end well enough too.

So, Faster? Whodat??

To illustrate my point above, we have Faster. THE most political of musical genres of modern times has got to be punk, with its shades of nilhism and anarchy, even though it was perpetrated on the public by a master theatrical talent and showman - above all else. Still, it struck a very deep chord in English youth culture and still does today. It's that genre that Rude Corps has harnessed to the Faster task. To say that I was overwhelmed by my first taste of Faster is to completely understate the effect. Punk it may be but its got more in common with The Stranglers pop slanted variety than the outright rock of the Sex Pistols. It might steam along like its ass is on fire, churning out all three chords, but it is nuanced. You wouldn't think that a steaming, yet rigid, backbone and a spoken word song would work together, but this does and in a totally unexpected way.

As with all Rude Corps tracks, you do well to pay attention to the backstory and - whatever you do - read the lyrics. Mind you, you'll probably have to with Faster because Rude Corps does emote with a bit of an accent, not that I give a **** but some people might go eh? eh? (Ed: eh? eh?). I like the fact that Rude Corps sings in his own natural voice and accent, for me it adds more to the ideas and musical vision he's putting across. Not that Faster needs any help, it'll brand itself into your brain quickly enough with its driving bassline and relentless lyrics. I've always liked Rude Corps in this mode - think Stain(ed) Art with muscles - and I'd hazard a guess that this was one of his best tracks ever, and I've heard a few. Soundwise too, this carries a gravity I've not heard from this quarter before, everything punches at exactly the right weight, if you know what I mean. Tell you what, the first minute or so it like getting hammered into the wall and I like that... (Ed: he does, I've seen it. Nasty.) Besides, anyone who can come up with the line 'The only meaning in life is to strike sparks in the darkness' is alright by me.

Rude Corps in full flood. MUST HAVE political punk.

Big Wheel - Jelly with Damian Lee

Hear The Track Here

After a brief hiatus it looks like the Big Round One is on a roll again, and that is a good thing. Ever since he first started in 2006, Big Wheel has delivered some of the best, slickest and pleasing electronica - usually with a dance slant, and you know how I feel about them - this reviewer has heard. At least on an unsigned level. The last time we encountered the master of 'chillage, danceage, noddage and groovage' was Like This (June 2010), a track that also featured Damian Lee and - for a house tune - was very good indeed and I don't hold much love the genre. I do however like Big Wheel's style and praised the beejeebers out of that. Hard to find a Big Wheel track that I didn't like...but there is always a first time.

Now, let me see..... Mmmmmm

Jelly is yet another House outing, which didn't calm me much, at least not until I'd actually heard it. Amazing how my preconceptions mug me at every opportunity, you'd think I'd never fed them. One thing that has become a hallmark of this UK musician is that is music is c-l-e-a-n, mixing by scrubbing brush and a nice bar of Lifebouy no doubt. So what does this strapping, shiny, nauseatingly healthy track want the rest of us human slugs to do? 'Keep moving. Relax Your body. Relax your soul' it says (studiously avoiding any mention whatsover of any fishy substances, products or species) and that's probably a good thing, so don't ask....k? The only problem with this whole 'relax your body, relax your soul' refrain is that's it's very difficult to relax when you are experiencing some serious bottom prodding (Ed: wtf??? WTF???). Yes, folks, music that reaches the parts other music cannae reach Captain, seriously kick ass - in a dance way of course.

The great weight of my age is the decider here because I know full well that Big Wheel's music has never been intended for the likes of me, and from a technical aspect, he's rarely put a foot wrong IMHO. Suffice to say that he hasn't done on Jelly either. It might last six minutes and change but I'd swear on a stack of bilbles it weren't no taller than three. Big confession for me here, I get the heebies from the classic Rhodes sound. Yep, the sound that sends chills down any self respecting R&B fan and it makes ol' Gilmore gabble, but certainly not gobble. We English don't do that. Errr, keep, keep the song exhorts at every opportunity even when you know one more bounce may be your last - also not the ideal relaxant. What impresses me most about Big Wheel (Ed: when all the jokes stop that is) is the dedication he brings to the process, it makes his tracks a delight to listen to, whatever your preference.

Big Round One in da House। R-e-l-a-x. Highly Recommended House.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Twisted Angel - Half Full

Hear The Track Here

Positive Vibes mang! No chit mang!! Ooops, sorry, carried away with the moment. Give me a second to gather my thoughts (looks well shifty) ...ahem. Hi, the reason for the vocal ejaculations that spatter the beginning of the sentence is because Twizzie is on a positive vibe, and I was essentially saying 'oh hurrah old chap' but in language he would understand (Ed: (falls over laughing). As ******* if, Gilmore!!) tell ya what, let's start again. Twisted Angel, in case you didn't know, is a hip hop musician with a twist, and a pretty neat twist at that. First of all, as I mis-stated in a previous Gangbangsters review, Twisted Angel is from Canada but his sound could well come from LA, home to said Gangbangsters. The reason I mention these two side by side is because they have many stylistic elements in common.

I've been through a large slice of genres with both artists, even though hip hop is the one that predominates. Twisted Angel has had a fair share of praise from me because of that willingness to be different, it makes an upcoming review all the more nail biting though... Tell you what, there is one sound that gives me nightmares to this day, and it's a main feature of Half Full so its a real good job the track gets past it. The sound is a so-so brass sound that was first heard way back in the early days of computer music. I found it grating and totally unrealistic then, and the same holds true today. That insignificant little fact aside, once again, Twisted Angel has come up with the (different) goods. First off, arrangement and style.

OK, I understand that this is a so-called 'bedroom' sound, but that isn't ever the point when taking in indie musicians; it's a case of what they do with it. In this case, Half Full is everything I want from hip hop with a wider definition than the USA model. For a start, Twisted Angel puts a bit more attention on the song itself, and given the slightly uneven sound and the massively abrupt ending (on both the downloadable and playable varieties) there is a lot to like about this track, especially if you already have a taste for this musician. T'ain't going to set the world on fire, but it's going to make it enjoyable while waiting for the one I know he's going to deliver at some point. This is a musician I have high hopes for this year. (Ed: Run away, Twizzie, run away now...)

Excellent indie hip hop with a twist. Highly Recommended.

Ron Gragg - Hangin' Loose

Hear The Track Here

Since my first review of American acoustic musician Ron Gragg with Bang Bang (July 2008) I have ploughed my way through a great deal of his material, not always with nice things to say admittedly, but Ron Gragg is not a musician to take umbrage at negative things said about his music. Like a lot of (as it were) self made musicians, Ron's main audience is deep in his soul and that's good enough for me because that quality comes through on every track. Despite, I might add, some considerable difficulty in getting it all down and sounding right. The key word here is acoustic. Acoustic anything is a mighty sob to record and even more sob-ish when it comes to the final mixing. Getting a decent sound is good enough though and in that respect I don't think I've ever heard a bad sounding Ron Gragg track.

Telll ya what, at first I thought Ron had swallowed the Rolling Stones songbook because the intro had more than a shade of Honky Tonk Woman about it. Wait a minute! Wait a minute!! Didn't I just say that Ron was an acoustic musician? Yep, but not, it would appear, on Hangin' Loose - which does exactly what it says. Hand on heart, if Ron has ever given me a rock track before, I swear I can't remember it and I sure as *** would remember this bad boy. Couple of points though, it is a guitar instrumental delivered in a fairly standard rock arrangement so there are going to be several million people this isn't going to appeal to, but hey what do they know about the heady promise of rock?

As a consummate rock animal (and guitarist) it's obvious that a track like this is going to find favour, and indeed it will appeal to people already aware of Ron's musicianship and songwriting ability. As far as reaching wider ears, I'd say that was a different story. Ron Gragg is one of those musicians whose music is suffused with their passion and commitment and you can't help but admire that, but somehow his music has never set me on fire. I'm sure the man has it in him to do that, and I await the day. While I liked Hangin' Loose as said rock animal and guitarist, it certainly wasn't enough to hold my attention for long, although it was a pleasant surprise to hear Ron rocking out like a good 'un.

Recommended classic rock instrumental.

Thomas J Marchant - Lifeboat

Hear The Track Here

Don't know about the rest of you guys but I am getting very tired of pea brained spammers cluttering up the works in just about every forum worth a light on Soundclick, which is probably why it appears to die the occasional death. It's either that who someone whining that they don't know how to 'get hits' on Soundclick and elsewhere. The obvious answer to pea brained spammers is a short rope and a long drop but what to do about 'what do I do?' After all, it's something we've all uttered in our time, its probably a bit harsh to lynch them for it. Spammers have it coming, after all. Well, I'd say a classic way to find out is do some research on well known (but unsigned, of course) artists you like, and you'd be surprised at their stories. Ultimately though the same word applies to making good music and to then promoting said music. The word is persistence. Take Thomas J, as a really good example of what to do. He started off in one genre, moved to another that suited him better, and hasn't looked back since. Like any one of us though, scratch a little deeper and you'll see that Thomas got there the hard way, under a lot of flak from the critical peanut gallery.

None of which phased him in the slightest, and that's the real test of longevity.

My first encounter with him was Frown there, Smile here (February 2004) going under the bandname Station For Imitation and the distance travelled in that time has been nothing less than startling. While it's true that he hasn't racked up a Must Have since It's A Hard Life (That We Are Living) (April 2010), even his lesser tracks are miles above any competition. The main reason being that, quite simply, absolutely no-one else sounds like this, and for sure no one else writes songs like this guy. His brand of modern/retro lo-fi is particularly appealing to me because Thomas's inspiration of late seems to have come from the late 1950's to early 1960's which obviously would appeal to the many baby boomers around.

As many of you know I am a big, big fan of all things reggae, and Lifeboat has some of the very elements that make reggae so listenable - at least for me. Oi!! Gilmore!!, you shout loudly, how can that possibly be? Thomas is a white English geezer, full of Elvis and Bob Dylan. Well, yes, that's is true and Bob Dylan is certainly one of the inspirations here. The main one is the rhythm though, and it's this that gives me the reggae connection. See, I've seen some of the greats of the genre playing a simple reggae riff on an old beat up guitar, singing or talking along and it is fekkin incredible. This is the quality that Thomas has draped around this track. It does lose that appeal as the track goes on and more and more gets added, but damn it draws you in and I guess that's enough. As I say, I consider Thomas to be one of the finer talents on Soundclick and about as unique as they come.

Highly Recommended blend of styles. MUST HAVE for TJM fans.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reflexion X - Mary Mo

Hear The Track Here

Gotta love all these 'tags' and word cloud things eh? What?? Like the one David Cameron presented to Barak Obama on his recent visit? Or like Wordle which, btw, is an amazing site all on its own. The reason I lug this conversational crippler into the review is that I always check people's word cloud tags on Soundclick and I was struck by how normal it seemed to do that. Obviously the onset of galloping insanity on my part, so lets desist with it. It was kinda fortunate that this was paired up with Karma Police UK this month because - in some ways - these are similar musicians. Both are electronica to the max and both have finesse and style by the bagload. In point of fact, the last Reflexion X track I reviewed - God Vs Satan (June 2010) - got a very well deserved Must Have and usually after them I tend to expect more. Sad, but true.

Right from the outset, Mary Mo works at your resistance, and that is a sign of its power. Normally, whenever the term euro was applied to a track, it was an even bet that I wouldn't really like it. That is partly cultural (being a perfidious Englishman) and partly a matter of taste. I grew up on a steady diet of the nightmare that is the Eurovision Song Contest and I think it soured my view of the genre for generations to come. Funnily enough, there really IS a euro sound, and very identifiable it is too. I can quite honestly say, with no word of mendacity, that if all Euro sounded like Mary Mo, then I might be a tad more lenient towards the genre.

There is a strain of music in whose ghostly strands you can still hear the brass pom pom pom pom metre that is an essential European sound, and it is at the heart of the modern music they call Euro and - to me - I think this is the most interesting and entertaining I've ever heard it sound. Much of the credit for that has to go down to the remarkable production Reflexion X is capable of, there are a couple of moments in this track that you may well play over and over again, I know I did. Just for the joy of hearing them. Of particular note is the flanged/phased/stunned wandering guitar lead that quite literally stopped me in my tracks. While it doesn't have the drama of God Vs Satan, it's still an incredibly strong track and shows that Reflexion X is on a roll.

Highly Recommended Euro Electronica

Karma Police (UK) - Reckoner (Karma Mix)/Crystallized

Hear The Track Here

I haven't done a two-fer for a while so hey, why not now? Especially seeing as it's from (ahem) a known source. Yep, me and that. So, I hereby promise on my word as a whatsname not to mention 2004 at all, I say this because I have covered pages and pages about why I never heard anything more recent from this musician. He obviously took me at my word and is now chucking them at me as fast as his two hands can work so, I thought I'd treat him to a bashing for two tracks instead of one. Nice deal, huh? So, Reckoner is an OFFICIAL (that means business) Radiohead approved remix from Neil Alderson (aka Karma Police) and then along came - in his opinion - a better track so he thought he'd substitute one for another. As ******* if. Doesn't he know about a Gilmore Peeved?? Peeved mind, most of all, by the modern habit of yeah but no but yeah but maybe. Still, in this instance, at least the music would be worth listening to and the chief reason why I am doing both - or not, depending on when I stop gabbing.

Was that a stop? Yes, I think so.

Truth is, I never liked Radiohead and, for the sake of convenience, I've brought along my own nails and cross so I can be suitably chastened for my apparent blasphemy but there it is. I never 'got' Radiohead. There again, I'm a certified old fart and its unlikely that I will ever get anything ever again so probably best not to pick that sore. Let's all pick on Neil instead! Past reviews showed that Karma Police knew what they were about in that year we are not mentioning, and time has only improved the blend and style and where it shows most on Reckoner is the production that Neil brings to it; a lovely full sound anyone would be proud of. Damn fine tune too, even if it is by a band I never really got otherwise. Working in the blind like this is difficult because I don't know how much Neil added or took away from this, so I glommed a quick squint at a convenient OFFICIAL track - purely in the interests of research - and damn me if the boy didn't do admirably well. I can well understand why Radiohead are so relaxed about having this out there too.

So, the burning question is. is Crystallized better than the Reckoner remix? is it worth the ribbing I've given him? Is anything? Only time will tell. Crystallized is exactly the kind of track I would have expected from this musician; very slick, smart electronica with a built in melody maker. For me, as modern as it sounds, it's still showing it's relevance to the early MOD music scene (which was full of tracks like this) and - going even further back - to its 1980's electropop roots. Karma Police (UK) has been at this long enough now to be able to deliver in pretty much all areas and he does, this is about as tight and compact a piece of electronica as you are likely to hear anywhere and considerably better than most in the way it is presented and performed. So, final score? Both tracks are worthy of a listen, Reckoner because it even explains Radiohead to me and Crystallized (despite its American spelling) because it's a lovely piece of work.

Highly Recommended electronica craftsman.

18out - Indican Girl (Asha Veda)

Hear The Track Here

Another new name this month, this time from Soundclick, is Vancouver (WA not Canada) based 180out and no, I have no idea what the bandname means so don't ask. 180out is a duo, the very lovely Elizabeth Harrington Smith (who has an even yummier guitar, and that just about tell you where my head is really at) and Brady Booth and they make (gulp) Adult Contemporary. What is it about certain genres that always raise my hackles on sight? It's not fair because there are some (albeit very few) adult contemporary musicians I do like, and I even manage to like the odd show tune or two. But there is something about those words 'adult contemporary' and 'Middle of the road' (which was its antecedent) that always but always sends a chill down my spine. Tell you what, right around now, Beth and Brady are probably wondering wtf they have let themselves in for so let's press on....

I'm on record for loving female vocalists (not biblically of course). There is something about a female voice that does it for me, and the very best of those voices can often be found in this much abused genre, Certainly most of the really great female vocalists I have come across have come from here or (a slightly lesser evil) from singing ballads. So, prerequisite for me is a convincing voice and if the track doesn't stray into said ballad territory, we can probably avoid bloodshed. Well, the good news is that it is this close (holds finger and thumb microns apart) and that's just enough. In other words, Indican Girl (Asha Veda), isn't anything like as bad as some I've heard, and definitely shows Beth can sing and play. And therein lies a problem. As a musician myself, I know how you can get carried away in the sheer RUSH of the thing (Ed: making music, he means) but I have also learned over the years about another skill necessary to hone our art. I call it reach, the music that you can reach without showing any signs of strain.

Simplicity, as always, is the key and less is always more. I really liked the sentiment of the song (it's about Asha and Veda, half Indian, half American) and, in some ways, the song itself although - hand on heart - it isn't my kind of thing. I also liked the way the vocals are arranged and performed although - to my ears - it was all a bit too excitable, but that comes with time. For a home recording this is definitely good enough, as indeed is the song itself but, I'm afraid, it won't turn heads. Where it falls down most is in the backing itself which seems to plod along, aided and abetted by a string note that just dragged down the whole song. I think 180out have the nous, and maybe even the song(s) but where this song is lacking most is in tightness (both of playing and production) and in context and texture (some people call it light and shade or drama and emotion). It's a tall order for sure but hey, what's a life without a challenge :)

Recommended for the sheer cuteness of it all nonetheless.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Azoora - Tension EP

Hear The Track Here

Don't know about the rest of you guys, but I for one am glad to see this coming up for review. In the year that saw the demise of the illustrious Can't Stop The Daggers, it's heartening to see that - albeit after a years absence - London based Alternative/pop band Azoora are still in there pitching away. Azoora are in literally a handful of artists who have made a really big impression on me over the years. Although I do tend to get enthused about individual tracks, there are very few musicians who have kept me along for the whole ride, Azoora have been right up there because every single one of their very idiosyncratic EP's has been a Must Have for me and for many of you too, I guess. I first came across this UK band in 2006 when I reviewed (separately) each of the tracks that would make up their first EP, Tall Tales and found them the answer to my dreams, if not to yours. Over the years they have released five of these EP's, all of which are available for FREE at the 23 seconds website, and I guarantee that you will not hear any finer indie music anywhere than this. try it and see.

Tension follows the tradition set down in earlier EPs where there are three original tracks and three remixes/remasters, often by collaborators such as Rude Corps, Can't Stop The Daggers etc. Azoora are a four piece band consisting of Paul Loader (songwriter, vocals, acoustic guitar), John Purcell (producer, composer, multi-instrumentalist), Ben Cochrane (drums) and Trudi Lawrence (backing vocals) and one of the joys of Azoora tracks are the blend of Paul and Trudi's vocals and the masterful way Paul and John have at putting it all together. Some of my favourite tracks over the past few years have come from this combination, Azoora EP's get consistently played in my house and Tension is definitely going to join them. Mind you, that isn't what I first thought when The King flowed past my ears. Not what I expected at all, considerably more adventurous than previous Azoora tracks and, consequently, it takes a little more time to settle in. One of the very best things about previous Azoora tracks has been their instant likability, and I don't think the same is true of Tension, which to me seemed to take much, much longer to establish itself in my brain.

Not that anything has changed, the tracks still sound as professional as it gets, the arrangements are as complex as anything they have attempted in the past but the music seems to have grown up considerably, going into areas I wouldn't normally have expected from this band. Still, that's a good thing, right? As far as I can tell, after scouring the whole EP as thoroughly as I can, Azoora are pretty much sticking to the format they feel most at home with, but that edge of experimentation brings a whole new side of the band to the fore. Take, for example, my favourite from this EP. Predetermined. It's a slower number, which has always been my favourite Paul Loader style, but with so much packed into the track its going to take years to suss it all out. For me, as a long term, die hard Azoora fan, this has come as a most pleasant, if slightly puzzling, surprise but one I am sure I will grow into. One thing is beyond doubt in my mind, Azoora are still one of the brighter lights on the indie scene, what we see on Tension is them growing and evolving at a ridiculous pace. To older Azoora fans though, let me say that this will come as a bit different but - as always - best to give it the workout it deserves and you'll see why it's worthwhile.

Best in Class. Highly Recommended UK Indie.

DJ Jezza - A Dragons Tear

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DJ Jezza is a new name to me from Mixposure and, I suspect, new to Mixposure too. Still, we all have to start somewhere eh? Apparently he has been making music since 1999 and is still only 22 years old and - as one wag said - I have shoes older than that. All of which doesn't stop him from exercising a bit of carpe diem and getting his very own Mix Radio show on Fridays at 12pm PST (thats 8pm GMT for us Europeans) and - given that he is from the UK - I can imagine his show is probably one of the most eclectic on Mix Radio. Shame on me for not having to the time to tune in yet, but I surely will and so should you. Don't know how you folks feel about it but I think internet radio stations like Mix Radio (that features LIVE DJs) is definitely one of the better movements to come out of the indie scene yet and if you haven't discovered this great resource yet, then shame on you. More so, I might add, if you are a musician looking for places to showcase your music.

Electronica is the area this particular DJ frolics in and I don't know about you, but after eleven years of making music I would expect something a cut above most newcomers. DJ Jezza doesn't let the side down anyway, big sighs of relief all round, and in fact - considering that its dance based electronica - is quite listenable. As much as I have an abiding hatred to the ol' four-to-the-floor so long as it isn't completely beat driven and/or soppy with sunshine as are so many so-called Ibiza copyists, I can take it. Jezza tends to the more electronic side of the genre, making all his music in my own favourite DAW of choice; Fruity Studio.

Hand on heart, I couldn't swear I'd go back to listen to this track but that is purely a personal taste. For sure, if you like electronic dance music then DJ Jezza is definitely a musician you need to be checking out simply because he makes a change from the high density of Ibiza techno that infests this particular market. He takes some very interesting turns with his melody playing and I think it was that that finally won me over, but I have to say in my own defence that I really don't get into this kind of material, and I don't think it is aimed at me in the first place. Put it like this, the man has over a hundred and fifty downloads so far and that - in my books - says a lot. It takes time and a willingness to listen to generate an audience and the truest sign of that audience isn't in plays (anyone can get air play), its in the act of someone downloading your track into their life.

Highly Recommended Electronica (from the guitar shop hee hee).

Cameron Pierce - Polychrome

Hear The Track Here

Another long term favourite in the Gilmore household is Canadian Indie pop rocker Cameron Pierce. This is a Soundclick artist I seem to have forever, my life being peppered with Latmat (his first bandname) and Cameron Pierce tracks. It helps that he works in my most favoured of musical genres; pop rock with the emphasis on a good (if not great) song. It has to be said that I am a sucker for a good songwriter and Cameron has proved time and again that it is one of his main strengths. He's snagged quite a few Must Haves from me over the years, but his work tends to vary from track to track, sometimes it takes a track a while to work its way into my brain. He's also one of those musicians who puts all his energies into making music, as opposed to the usual bigging yourself up on forums that passes for promotion in some places, and that - I feel - means that he doesn't get across to as many people as I think he deserves. Certainly he makes the kind of music that pretty much appeals to most human beings on Earth.

Probably a couple of aliens too, come to that.

One of the more useful aspects of being a regular-as-clockwork reviewer is watching the development of musicians like Cameron, who first appeared as a pretty decent singer/songwriter with a nice line in pop. Since then, he has expanded into two major areas that are absolutely vital to longevity in this game: production and performance. One of his first comments was that he didn't think that he was that good a singer and that isn't something he can say these days, at least not believably. Polychrome features the man on all vocals (and there are a few parts going on in here) and the acapella section will show us dedicated fans that the man is right on top of his game, the vocals are bloody stunning.

Time after time in reviews I have mentioned Cameron's pace of learning and nowhere is this more in evidence on Polychrome than on the spotless production and the complexity (but still familiar) of the arrangement. For sure the vocal arrangement should be singled out for special praise but without the solidity and mass of the backing track wouldn't carry the same impact. It should be apparent to all and sundry that I have enormous bias towards this musician, but believe me he comes by it honestly. The one thing you can ensure with ANY Cameron Pierce track is that it will sound professional, listenable and yes, even likable - even if the whole pop rock thing turns you cold. Polychrome is, in my very humble opinion, one of the commercial tracks Cameron has ever come up with and shows that Bryan Adams doesn't have the market covered with this kind of material AND he's a fellow Canadian.

Highly Recommended pop rock and a MUST HAVE for fans.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Smoke It 'n' Die - The Last Pop Song

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The Last Pop Song is apparently a track from Smoke It n Die's new album Joyful in Defiance and anyone who knows the musician called Howard Billington will nod at the description. So, Howard Billington? Smoke It n Die? Who he? Who dat? Who dey? (Ed: stop!!!). There are very few artists around who always seem to light a fire under me, and our Howie was in there, feet under the table, cup of tea in hand before I could blink. A large part of that appeal is the sheer charm of the man (speaking musically here, not biblically) and the quality and style of his songwriting. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of musicians who have made that kind of impression on me, and each one of them bring something very special to the party.

If music were a drug, Howard Billington would be illegal.

Howard Billington is a gifted and talented songwriter who is slowly but surely forging a very distinctive - and hugely commercial - sound and look. Considering that I only met the guy in January of this year, and that I have only reviewed two Smoke It n Die tracks so far, his imprint is set in my brain. A measure of that is that both SInD tracks I have reviewed go solid Must Haves from me, and in all respects too. In a sea of clones Howard and the rest of Smoke It n Die stand out in much the same way as their bright, colourful image and musical style attract the eyeballs. I like Howard when he's giving it the verbals, whether as a rap or a song, and his lyrics are always the perfect fit.

The 800lb pregnant 'but' in the last sentence I think probably just comes down to personal taste. As I say, I like SInD in every guise (in The Last Pop Song, an energetic, English B-52's) but I don't feel this is anything like as strong a song as Wondering If (May 2010) or By Morning (June 2010) and I sure as hell wore it out finding this out. To me the tracks across a bit light, so to check this out I did what I always do with this artist - track down the corresponding video (they do make good, home made videos) and as good as it was, it only served to point out the weaknesses and looseness of performance. Having said all that, anyone with half an ear will hear it and go 'wooooaaahhhh' in that staggered way that something this raucous could sound so good. I've heard, I believe, just how good this band can be, and this just doesn't hit the same highs but hey, it towers above the competition (Ed: Howard Billington brooks no competition!!)

Highly Recommended punky pop.

Gangbangsters - Letzgetfuctup

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If you experienced a moment of confusion the first time you encountered LA based Gangbangsters, then join the club. I did and now, six tracks down and counting, I'm probably just as confused but not - I might add - unhappy about it. See, the thing is I like to be challenged, like any intelligent person, and I like to be challenged musically more than anything else. Gangbangsters certainly supplied that. Let me see now, we have kinda/sorta hip hop/rap, electronica, punk, classic rock with a garage edge, oh and a slab of goth rock along the way. Notched up a couple of notables too, 6.17AM (April 2009) is the one that immediately springs to mind. The only gremlin in the works is literally that, gremlins in the works.

I've spent almost the whole of my life working with sound, live and recorded and it never fails to surprise me how much those accursed gremlins get everywhere - no matter how good or bad you are at what you do. Democratic, though, I guess. Gremlins, the Great Leveller. Ryan Wixted's (aka Gangbangsters) gremlins are mainly associated with overall sound and delivery, what the man does with those limitations I've never had a quibble with. I actually like the style and twist that he brings to the process reminding me, in a different way of course, of fellow Californian Twisted Angel. Letzgetfuctup (mmm, wonder what that could be about) says it loud and proud and again shows a different side of this musician.

One of the seminal rock influences for me was my first live experience of the MC5 in their heyday, the power and attitude they pumped out took absolutely no prisoners and I've been a big fan of high energy rock bands ever since. I mention MC5 in particular because (being a lazy git) it was the first thing this track reminded me of. Essentially the gist of it is this; light off a couple of bars to get going and then power down like there is no tomorrow. It helps, of course, if you have a song sandwiched between the licks and this is one of the mainstays of why Gangbangsters remain interesting for me, the songs are always very decent indeed. Even though this song (not going to write that title again ha ha!) is only one and a half minutes long and goes like a rat up a drainpipe, leaves a lasting impression, a longing to know.....

ROCK. In all it's glory. MUST HAVE.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Speak Words Speak - Church Of The Lost Frequencies

Hear The Track Here

Larry Ludwick is my kind of musician, takes a licking and keeps right on ticking. Larry has suffered considerable hearing problems lately (surely any musicians worst nightmare) as we've been hearing through the forums and - I hope - these reviews. Like anyone faced with a challenging and difficult situation, Larry faced it square on and even came up with a new vehicle with which to do it. Ladles and germs, lets hear it for Speak Words Speak, a side project where 'spoken narrative and poetic vocalizations' are the norm and experimental music is the engine that powers all. I think if you were to ask Larry directly how much exposure to The Dead Company had changed his style and attitude towards what he does, even he would agree they opened doors.

All of which makes me happy because The Dead Company have long been one of my most weirdest tastes and - as you know - I have probably cornered the market in collecting weirdos of all shape and description. The reason I'm banging on the Dead Company drum so early in the proceedings is because Larry and TDC founder Jon Bushaway (Ed: Him!! Again!!) both excel in compiling the strangest, most haunting electronic music you are likely to hear. I've reviewed a couple of Larry's solo electronica tracks before and very much liked what he was doing but Church Of The Lost Frequencies is - to my ears anyway - much more of a soundscape than anything i think I've heard from him before. Which is probably where I am getting the DC connection from so I'll drop that by the wayside right here and we'll continue on up the aisle (Ed: eh???).

Essentially a play on choral samples, and other orchestral goodies, sliced open by a razor sharp electronic piano sound, Church Of The Lost Frequencies gets well down and gooey right from the start and although it definitely earns its Experimental sounds tag, it is still surprisingly accessible. 'Something out of my experience recently with the loss of certain frequencies' is what Larry writes in the song comments but as the basis for (I hope) a spoken word topping this is plenty good enough. Mind you, key words: Chorale and Experimental. Not first choices for a lot of people. Must admit though, on a personal level, I was impressed by this and I don't make the Dead Company connection lightly.

Dense, and intense choral fest. Recommended Experimental.

Acoustic Phases - We Are The Key

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Acoustic Phases is a new name to me from Mixposure, where I picked up this review, and is the bandname for US based acoustic (drrr) musician Scott Rode. Now, as always when downloading tracks I skim over the artists website where I found the first major plus point in Scott's favour. The man, it has to be said, has taste. Hold on a minute, let me put my gearhead hat on. A year or so ago I managed to snag the best acoustic guitar I have ever owned, thanks to a friend of mine who sadly passed away recently. I am the proud and very smug owner of a Takemine EG520S, one of the wide bodied variety and it is a remarkable guitar for its (quite low) price. Scott, lucky so and so, own two of these beauties; the better version of mine and a classical model. All of which contribute to his music which, he informs us, he has been honing and refining for years. There's a familiar tale eh? These days I only play acoustically to please myself, having become much more adept at recorded sound, but my own origins are in this field and I know what works. Suffice to say that armed with all this extra baggage I waited forlornly for the track to come up in the review schedule.

So, now you know. I can be every bit as much of a guitar geek as any one of the Mixposure crowd and I wear my chatroom barfly uniform with some considerable pride. Scott brings the classical to the fore with We Are The Key, a fairly basic folk track when all is said and done. I admit that I have a very high bar when judging material of this kind, both through my own experience and - more importantly - my wide knowledge of what Scott's peers are up to. My taste in acoustic music of this type has admittedly been coloured by just how many good guitarists/singers/songwriters there are out there. Just the merest scan of (say) the last four years of my roundup review (The Stevies) will give you a mind-numbingly good selection of them, and I'm here to tell you that bar is set impossibly high. So, I guess. you can only judge songs on what they are. What We Are The Key contributes to the argument certainly isn't bad, just not as good as some of its competitors.

It sounds like I am damning here with faint praise, but I'm not. If there were nothing to scale this against other than its appeal and likeability then this would count as a decent track, and a reasonable song - if a little dry in both content and delivery. Certainly if you are of that mindset, the lyrical content being about the events predicted for 2012, you would find something much more interesting than me. I assume Scott recorded this straight to webcam and that there is a video lurking somewhere that may shed some more light on the track. I definitely think a track benefits from having a visual element attached to it, especially when this kind of material is played. It hasn't done Kappa Danielson and Kristi Starr any harm and they do exactly this kind of stuff. Mind you, they are also a bit on the gorgeous side and I'm sure that Scott Rode is a very nice man and all that... All of which is way, way way too much personal information for this page....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shorthand Phonetics - 34 Minutes With Hide and Tubasa Album

Hear The Track Here

I bet there are a few very surprised regulars reading this review thinking that it can't possibly be the SAME Shorthand Phonetics, but worry not, it is indeed. Shorthand Phonetics, when I first met them way back in 2004, were a five piece band from Jakarta, Indonesia who specialised in the most garage band sound they could get - much to this reviewers consternation because - when you got through all the noise - they were actually fairly decent. Ababil Ashari was the main mover and shaker and he still is - and btw the only surviving member of the band. Not that the others died mind, just moved away, doing other things. In fact the last few reviews I have done of this outfit it has all been Ababil, songwriting, recording and performing. Now over the years I have become accustomed to the way Shorthand Phonetics tracks sound and I am aware that some people just don't 'get' it at all. That's OK, not everyone will, as Ababil has no doubt found out.

Ababil is the master of song titles, as you are about to find out. Musically, SP have always veered towards the raucous, and usually to the good, so I expected that from note one, track one and I noticed a marked difference in tone and style. First off, ...Cause Asian Vampires Are The Most Vicious Of All Vampires is a punchy sucker, slamming out of the gate at a thousand knots a second and can actually hear everything! I say this with some surprise because it was always the one thing that dogged all of the earlier tracks. OK, it isn't exactly studio quality but its light years away from the original sound. Because of that audio clarity - and despite this being an instrumental - it makes me appreciate just how far Ababil has come as a musician. It also makes me take mental note that I should maybe pass this on to Patrick Lew, who I think would find this very interesting. All Too Platonic 2:Electric Boogaloo may ring some bells amongst veteran SP fans because it was also the title of probably the original band's most well known track. 'A serious band in the making' is what I wrote when I reviewed All Too Platonic (April 2005) and 'Loud, proud and energetic' is how I described that track. Unfortunately the clarity and professionalism of the first track is lost but the songs comes though the lo-fi very well - provided you like punky pop.

Shorthand Phonetics musical playground has always veered between straightforward pop and a spiky, punk extremely verbal approach. One thing you could never accuse Ababil of is lack of verbals. As much as his song titles are problematic (this CD features a track called 'You can regret the past and you can be depressed about the present; But you don't know anything about the future and fuck! (...)...That's exciting'), his songs are thickets of prose set to slabs of sound. Doesn't sound like much when stated baldly like that but Shorthand Phonetics have always punched above their weight right from the start, especially in catchy phrases. As I say though, definitely not for sound purists, this 10 track project will only serve to give your woofers and tweeters a good kicking, and definitely not for those who like their music to work in time honoured ways. So here we are, some six years later and on album number five (this one) so where do Shorthand Phonetics stand in the modern world? Best thing I have heard from them so far, is what I say. All that time is finally paying off. Please Ababil, update your Soundclick site so they can hear this!

MUST HAVE for fans, Highly Recommended fresh (if lo fi) punky pop for others.

Charlie A - Ikari Sands - new version

Hear The Track Here

Pssssst. See that guy over there? The cheeky looking one with the big grin. He's the guy who wrote a banga called Read The Rules, apparently. I say apparently because, if you had visited Soundclick's Critics Corner forum lately, you would see that it is the sole topic of conversation. I have no ******* idea what a banga is and I'm not sure if I could take the truth anyway, but I do know that said banga did get a MUST HAVE AWESOME STREET CRED HIT CHOON from some dozy assed reviewer on there when it was first released. (Ed: he means him, he loved it and so do I. And so does MY editor) Truth is, the master of that killer tune with awesome lyrics is also known as Charlie Armour, a known purveyor of (takes a deep breath) film soundtracks, new age and ambient. All of my main hate figures in one little bitty South London package, I would have to hate this guy, right? Wrong. Fact is, if anyone else had thrust a track at me containing any of the three named ingredients, I'd have spat in their eye.

Or on their knee depending on how tall they were.

However, I digress (Ed: there's a surprise) Our Charlie is a bit of a dab hand at said musical projects and has indeed managed to actually get music into films. There are examples on his various pages for you to glom on to, just to rub salt into the wound. See, that's what I like most about Charlie. He understands that music for films should BE in films as opposed to being on Soundclick. Careful though Chas, revolutions have been started with less eh? Much more to the point is that most film soundtracks I hear on the net are not really that, certainly they do not carry their own tensions and drama that really good film soundtracks have.

There are very, very few of these people I would give houseroom to. Charlie A is one of those few by dint of proving, time after time, that he knows exactly what he's doing; each note, each phrase, each section has to have meaning, light and shade. Even the smallest of his pieces (and he has a fair collection of those) contains those elements. To prove my point, have a listen to Ikara Sands and tell me that the music doesn't justify the title perfectly. I'm still flicking off bits of exotic desert flora and fauna as I type this and I've been clean of it for at least a day. As I made clear at the beginning of this review, this kind of music just isn't for me but if I had to listen to it, I rather listen to Charlie A than a great many others. Remember this is the guy who wrote Read The Rules. He a badass.

Highly Recommended Soundtrack

Fear 2 Stop - The Journey Home

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I was reading somewhere the other day that some people found the internet cold and intimidating and, given its unfathomable size, I can see why that might be so. Even back in the day (early 1990's) as small as the internet was then, it was still intimidating to a new user. This was back before the Web as such existed mind and the thought of having strings of 'friends' online would have been laughable. It didn't take me long to find friends/like minded people though and I got wholly involved in the whole MOD music scene that predated MP3 music. Over the years I've found that communities exist on the net very well indeed, and some very large ones at that. Soundclick being the most recent example. These are people and musicians I see every day so you get to follow their individual ups and downs as much as you would in real life, and yes, care as much too. Having said that, one of my oldest friends and reviewees (can't believe I wrote that sheesh), Houston based Fear 2 Stop haven't been having the best of times lately, which saddens me, but the tracks nonetheless keep rolling in....

Music can do that. It helps. Enormously.

The Journey Home is, in mainman Billy Castillo's words 'a more 'organic' sound'. Well seeing as this is Fear 2 Stop we are talking about, we'd probably have to take that in a 'oh yeah' manner because the one thing that I don't think I've ever heard from this band is organic. Mechanic maybe. See, F2S patrol the wilder side of town where men are screaming abbdabs and the women eat their partners (Ed: OK Gilmore, lay off the sauce); in other words they are an 'experimental' band. To my certain knowledge they've been experimenting for at least six years so you'd think they'd have that trick down, wouldn't you? Well actually, in their own way, they have, although if you are new to this band you would probably be hard pressed to see their appeal, we all did initially. Then, something clicks and you are off...

'Based around a cool synth harpsichord by Dana (Castillo)' with Billy on his usual production 'n' bag of tricks is, at least to my ears, exactly what I expect from their long period of gestation. One of their early specialties was making music to irritate dogs with (it caused death by a thousand cuts for a while) but then they started to integrate their sounds with a notably odd, but right, rhythmic style, smartened up the overall sound and mix and suddenly it made sense. Not complete sense, I'll grant you, but Fear 2 Stop have never been - as it were - pretty to look at and are most definitely one of the most acquired tastes on Soundclick. Their brand of experimental electronica has long worn an appreciative groove in my brain - and many other Soundclick regulars - but its a long haul... Oh, btw, there is the merest whiff of doggie irritant about this track so best not to play it around Fido unless you need some cute designer teethmarks in your butt.

Vintage Fear 2 Stop. Recommended Experimental mayhem.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dark Arts - Depths Of Space

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Although this is only my fourth encounter with UK based Electronica artist Dark Arts, the man behind the name - one Shane Simpson - was also known as Solidsounds and I reviewed a fair number of those tracks too. So what have we learned from the tracks so far? I ended my review of Neva Nawtee (June 2010) with the words 'Interesting but flawed' and I think that can apply to pretty much all the tracks I have heard from this Sheffield based musician. Like many of us, he struggles with what he has to make music, and that's never easy but I always try and take those kinds of problems in my stride and concentrate on what the music does. The only problem is that it doesn't seem to do much, at least not so far.

Shane is, I suspect, trying to find things that suit him and therefore should be given room to get there.Within reason. I have often vented my spleen through these words on the subject of the 'trance' genre so lets not get into that here but just point out that Depths Of Space is indeed of that genre. OK, so the ONE requisite I require from this genre is that it is listenable, not merely an exercise in how long you can run with one riff and a skeletal beat. True to the genre Depths Of Space throws in lots of sequences, filters and breakdowns to pepper the rhythmic bass and drum accompaniment, and I guess if you like the genre, then this will be of use to you.

If, of course, all dance music makes you want to go out and howl at the moon, avoid this like the plague because it has all the elements you most dislike. One of my biggest turnoffs in this area has been the 'Ibiza' effect where everyone makes these essentially pointless, float-y, summery things that have the shelf life of a mayfly. Anyone who knows anything about ephemeroptera will know this is an incredibly short time indeed. Mind you, Dark Arts does do a very, very decent trance which, while touching all the bases, didn't bore me anything like as much as the above mentioned variety. Having said that, as much as it didn't really trouble me overmuch reviewing it, I'm not sure I'll be making any follow up visits but that is a personal thing.

Recommended trance that doesn't send you into one.

Neil Benton - Mill girl ballerina

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A new name to me from Mixposure, Neil Benton is an English self acclaimed folk musician and I have to say that makes a change. Probably one of the most denigrated genre's ever, folk always seems to be something many people don't care for. Personally, I've always found room for it, at least the kind of music I would consider to be folk anyway. See, to me folk isn't just about some guy (or some girl) with a guitar. It's about storytelling. Its about passing down information through song and dance which has long been a feature of traditional music (or rather English traditional music), the music that was played around maypoles and the like came from the folk and a true folk musician would understand that. Sure, it's all well and good if they are a dazzling musician and/or have a good voice but when all is said and done, I expect a story to be told.

Neil is obviously an old hand at this game because he tells us in the song comments this is a song about his granny, whose life he only learned about after her passing. As he says 'It's funny how sometimes you find out the most interesting things about people you know well only after they have gone' and I'd echo that and take it a little further and say that its best not to take anyone at face value, there is always a story to be told. Not one, I suspect, as grand and sweeping on the world stage as with Neil's gran, but one worthy of attention anyway. Truth is, as said gran may very well say, if you wrote it in a book no one would believe it.

Coming from England gives you a very particular folk slant, as indeed it does for say Scots, Irish or Welsh, but one I readily identify with having taken in huge quantities of folk traditions as a young man and Neil does an absolutely splendid job of upholding those fine traditions. He delivers the story in a clear, natural way so that nothing is lost in the telling and accompanies the tale with a very competent finger picking structure that does exactly what it is supposed to do, accentuate the song. Its obvious that Neil recorded this pretty much live in one of the rooms of his house, which is also a very folk thing to do, so best not to expect anything too fancy. I know that this has to be the case because I can't see why Neil would add seagulls to the track, especially since they don't seem to do anything other than sound like seagulls.

Excellent folk (in the true tradition) Highly Recommended.

Cartas à Julie-Marie - Cartas à Julie-Marie CD

Hear The Track Here

Although I call myself a world musician, and I use elements of many different countries in my own work, I have to shamefully admit that there is one area of world music I don't really care for and that is Latin music. Actually, it's probably much more like commercial Latin music but let that ride for now. Cartas à Julie-Marie contacted me through the review blog a while back and I have been trying to get some room to hear this CD so my apologies to the band for taking forever to get this review done. Cartas à Julie-Marie are a three piece from Brazil consisting of Alex Frechette on piano and vocals, Andrea Amado on drums and Peter Strauss on guitar. So, being my usual lets-jump-to-the-easiest-conclusion automatically assumed that I would be hearing (makes quote sign) Latin music and yes, For sure the language is latin BUT the grooves and moves that Cartas à Julie-Marie display on this 12 track CD show that there is much, much more them than the sound of really irritating brass.

The CD seems to have some kind of theme but not knowing a word of any foreign language other than cursing, I am at a loss to explain. Tell you what though, their website is very, very slick and will doubt explain the whole concept and it's worth checking out in its own right. Best band site I've seen in a while I think. Yeah, yeah but what about the music? Well track one, La prelude, well give you a Latin feel but not as you would expect. As the title implies it's short, forty seconds, and leads into the first full track La decouverte, a loose jazzy song that - to my ears anyway - had a touch of experimental about it, and even a little blues thrown into the bargain. It shows that Alex, Andrea and Peter know what they are about and is one of those tracks that you really have to hear for a while before it finally makes sense. La Risque literally springs out of the gate and pelts as fast as the band can spur it and is definitely one of those tracks that have people whooping along - provided they had the same turn of speed. Excellent stomper.

What comes across most about this CD is how varied and eclectic the instrumentation, one of those musical projects that - should you wait long enough - that seems to use every sound known to man, and all of it done in a very tasteful manner. Funnily enough, all my mumbling about irritating brass earlier on and La monde does indeed feature a variety of this but the arrangement it is encased in doesn't allow it much room to be anything but rhythmic. Alex Frechette's piano work is really the main instrument, it carries almost every tune but that is - in no way - to denigrate the sterling efforts of Andrea's rock solid drumming (not an easy task with this kind of material) or Peter Strauss's telling guitar work. Although I like the freshness and vitality the band bring to their music, I'm pretty sure there are going to be many more who will appreciate it's mix of styles and blends. Overall, more jazzy than almost anything else, anyone who likes to hear something markedly different from the indie norm will find much here to delight in.

Recommended blend of jazz and other flavas ;)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kevin Miller - Big Glass Pig

Hear The Track Here

The four tracks I have already reviewed from this US acoustic folk musician has shown that Kevin Miller made a mark incredibly quickly - at least with this reviewer. From the lump in the throat Light A Candle (February 2009) to the lump in the heart and soul of Blood On Sandy River (June 2010), Kevin has displayed a really listenable, interesting and fresh - yes fresh - take on a lot of important subjects. See, that's what it's really about for me, and I suspect, many others. I don't just make music to make music - although I obviously do. I make music to make a statement and the same is true of Kevin Miller. It helps enormously that I happen to really love the genre I call Americana but actually goes under many guises, including the much maligned 'folk' tag.

Kevin's instruments are a Martin guitar, a Collings mandolin, harmonicas and - on one notable occasion - his wife and kids. But that's another story...

Kevin Miller is a traditional player, and it perfectly fits his songs and his style and Big Glass Pig just convinces me that Americana is alive and well and living in Washington state. Should you think that I'm off in my usual hyperbolic fashion, go and note how many comments (and what kind) this track has. The lyrics, the style and the easy grace that exemplifies Kevin's grasp of this material is a feature of every one of his tracks and is, at least in my eyes, the main reason why so many divergent people like and respect this musician.

Someone cracks wise about him being Mr Guthrie (after the great Woody Guthrie) and I see the sense in that, certainly they both have the same roots, feet planted firmly in the land. Kevin Miller is the kind of artist who used to get a yearly workout at the Newport Festival when it was in its folk heyday, and nowadays can only be found right here on Soundclick. I obviously understand that there are many, many people who don't like the whole traditional country thing but I've always loved bluegrass and true American country music and Big Glass Pig is right on the money in every sense.

Highly Recommended Americana

Rustik - Awkward Glow

Hear The Track Here

An intense surge of paranioa rushed through me when I downloaded this track because the name Rustik rang severe bells with me and that's usually because of two things: the music was bad and I had to say so OR the music was good and I yadda yadda yadda. Luckily, and with the wonders of my filing system I tracked down Backpack (March 2010) and re-read the review - just in case. Towards the end I wrote that he was a 'real indie alternative to the artists I have mentioned' having gone off one on about the current lack of heart and soul in hip hop and R&B artists. For the life of me I can't remember the song that well, but I did like what I heard (but obviously not so much as to keep it). There again, this is an area of music that doesn't really give me too many keepers (talking about the slow, love and roses crap you hear so much).

Funnily enough I really like Eminem's new album and recognise that the man has raised the bar again, blending rap and song in a masterful way; I'm Not Afraid is a monster. Awkward Glow, although I am in no way saying that Rustik is an Eminem copyist, has much of the same qualities but - obviously - it has its rough edges, some of them more noticeable than others. Vocally, and this is also a big part of the song structure, suffers with slight pitch problems but not enough I would think to put anyone off, especially if you were used to a steady diet of unsigned urban music of all descriptions.

Awkward Glow is a good song, with a very decent rap; all set in a solid, workmanlike production which, although home produced, doesn't sound half bad at all. I've was off the Ipod when reviewing this and listening through the air (Ed: through speakers obviously, not even Gilmore is THAT clever) and I have to say it sounds way better that way than wearing headphones. Rustik definitely knows his stuff, and he's a strong lyricist ('spitting tunes to the key of lunacy sharp' for example), constructing songs that are both listenable AND danceable. Where I feel there is room for improvement is in final delivery, the polish that turns a really good track that launches it into another world altogether. So, this close, ya know? (holds finger and thumb slightly apart). Next time? I live in great hopes.

Highly Recommended New School hip hop.

The Rascal Theorist - Alright

Hear The Track Here

If you haven't been around for a while you may not know about Chicago based Muse Machine, or their even more elaborate predecessor LeO IcON9 ByTE19. Essentially a working group, it was obvious from the beginning to most Soundclick regulars that this was a band stuffed with talent. Since then Linwood Riley, Roscoe Foster, Ikhan and the rest have been making waves in at least two guises; Linwood Riley and his DC Comics fixated music and videos and the seamless, commercial product pumped out by Roscoe Foster aka The Rascal Theorist. One of my favourite tracks of all time is TRT's New Frequency (May 2009). It still gets played constantly in my house and is one of the most 'up' tunes I have heard in years.

As always though, you are only as good as your last track and when that was End Of Story (March 2010), a very clever rock track no less, it's going to be hard to follow and shows that the New Frequency album is going to be this years Must Have album. All twelve New Frequency tracks are online, some for listening, some for buying and I heartily recommend you check them out one way or another. Alright is also from the album and features Roscoe (lead/backing vocals and piano), Bobb e Voxx (Backing vocals - natch), Ikhan on bass and the enigmatic DT on the honkers (Ed: Brass instruments) and is - according to them - a 'Old School Funk Groove' Well, alrighty then, lets see... Mmmmm. Depends where exactly you went to school, I guess. If you were looking down on Chicago and happened to move your eyes due East for a stretch you would come across the place where THIS old school came from - Philadelphia.

That's certainly where the style and grace this track carries so well was learned and Roscoe and the boys do their usual bang up job on it. For me personally, it just reinforces my view on this particular songwriter who seems to skip from genre to genre with ease - and always with nearly impeccable production and performance. When I contrast this track with the overwhelming bulk of urban R&B on Soundclick, there is absolutely no doubt that The Rascal Theorist is way ahead of the game in every respect. As much as the songs he writes are little gems, without the family of musicians around him, I doubt that they would carry the impact they currently do. Take Alright for example, I was a bit thrown by the odd tuning in the verses at first, but by God it grows on you like Topsy. Remember you read it hear first: Album of The Year: New Frequency.

MUST HAVE nod to Philly.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kiria - One CD

Hear The Track Here

Being a qualified OB (Ed: Old Bastard) I'm pretty stuck in my ways and its very rare for me to step out of my wrinkly comfort zone but every once in a while something inspires me. Take this blog for example. I've been writing it for over four years and whadda ya get for it? Pages and pages and pages of this kind of inane drivel. Only once have I ever featured a video on here, and only once have I featured such a modern device as a piccie. Both, I guess it doesn't need to be said, are from good looking women but that's probably just me trying to get my DOB badge (Ed: Dirty Old etc). The reason I featured Kiria (she was the piccie) was because she is a) a good singer and songwriter and b) she has a great image. Or at least that's my reason, officially anyway, for saying (an a furtive DOB kind of way) this is what she looks like. I'd be putting a picture of her up here again except I can't be arsed, just follow the link and you'll see what I mean. (Ed: Gilmore!! You ******* sexist!! Isn't this supposed to be about the music, get with it man!!!)

When I reviewed her very first single - Radio (October 2008) - I was most impressed with the energy and drive the whole band had (Ed: see how easy this is once you get past the eye candy) and am a bit surprised that it's taken so long to get an album out. Still, I'm just happy to get one (thank you Alison from Koochie Koo) and it has had a severe mauling since it dropped into the letterbox of my bijou hovel. OK, I'm biased because, in effect, Kiria is a local band - literally - and they play the kind of music I actually go and see. It doesn't hinder matters that they have outstanding eye candy but ultimately the kind of audience these local (London) bands play to are some of the hardest in the world to please, and that's where the music matters. By the time you roll onto the CD version of Radio (track three as it happens), it's obvious that Kiria has some serious songs on offer, all encased in an incredibly live and vibrant mix. Radio, btw sounds even better to me now that it did when I wrote the original review and gave it a Must Have.

Musically Kiria (a full band consisting of Kiria (vocals/guitar), Steve Rooney (drums), Evil Eden (bass), Jessie May (violin) and Tony Morrisson (lead guitar) ) get a lot of influence from punk and high energy rock, as well as pop so pretty much all twelve tracks on this CD zip by as if their asses are on fire (with one exception) and even now after almost two weeks of hearing this shiny little beauty I'm still finding bits I missed. Great tracks and good songs? Damn, where do I start? Radio, obviously is a highpoint but so is Make Up, the track immediately after it. Mirror Of You could give Lily Allen a run for her money and IMHO show that this band would go down great in a festival, but I could easily say the same about every other track on this CD. Massively, overwhelmingly commercial as hell and I'm loving it. I'm aware that I am fatally biased in this review but when I look at the current UK commercial market, and listen to this CD I get a really severe disconnect. Wtf, does she have to do? REALLY have 'Live Sex on Stage' (Ed: that's track twelve btw, not Gilmore going off on one.)

Get the right attitude. MUST HAVE.