Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In Memoriam: Louise Hudson

Finally this month, a personal note. Three years ago I met a vivacious, uplifting young lady of 33, who entered my life and made it better in so many ways. We became friends and slowly I discovered that she had a brain tumor. We met regularly once a week over the past three years , and I'm going miss her and our meetings. She died last Saturday night at the age of 36 after a long and courageous struggle and my world is a poorer place because of that. Rest in peace, Lou lou, the pain is finally over. When I play my guitar I know you'll be right there with me.

Cameron Pierce - Double Edged

Hear The Track Here

It was kind of apt that Fear 2 Stop and Cameron Pierce should end up back to back in my playlist this month, although musically they have nothing whatsoever in common. What they have in common is of being around what seems like forever. I first met Cameron Pierce then known as Latmat when I reviewed the excellent (and eerie) Beatles-alike The Road Is Long (I Need You) (November 2003) and - like Fear 2 Stop - has consistently come up with tracks that are worthwhile on a regular basis. I just had a quick skim through past reviews and counted at least four must haves and I know for a fact that Latmat scored a few too.

OK, I think I've made myself clear now, I like this guy and I like his music which IMHO has grown and matured tremendously over the years. Nowhere is that maturity and experience more noticeable than in the overall sound and feel of this track; here is a musician who has (almost, just a whisker away) perfected his way of projecting himself to best advantage - and it shows. Don't let that splashy piano into fool you for second, this is not a simple track, or one to be taken lightly either.

Cameron established early on that he was a good songwriter and that side of his music has come on in leaps and bounds; the detail and diversity of sounds and feels/textures on Double Edged show that so well - although it will need many plays to get to the root of it. Like a lot of his tracks, the initial impression is good, but that always but always deepens as you get to know the music and its twists and turns. So, if you like intelligent indie, with a definite pop rock feel, then Double Edged is the ticket to aural nirvana. Personally, I could have done with more vocal in the mix, but that's just me being a nerdy nitpicker so what else is new.

Highly Recommended Indie pop rock

Fear 2 Stop - Afterglow demo

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Is this really the end for Madames et Monsieurs Billy Castillo, Raymond Proseus and Dana Castillo, who are jointly responsible for the entity known as Fear 2 Stop? For those who don't really care whether it is the end or not (and who the **** are Fear 2 Stop anyway?), then you are a little lacking in the Soundclick history department or - conversely - you have a life. I first noticed them on Soundclick in late 2003 although I didn't actually get to review them until Science Friction (January 2004) and I finished the review by saying 'An artist who I am definitely going to hear from further methinks'. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for, nor I suspect, did Fear 2 Stop. At this point they have released hundreds of tracks of their very personal brand of electronic/analog experimental, and I feel like I have reviewed every single one. Their demise will feel a bit like the passing of an era. Well, yes, a very NOISY era, I'll grant that, but interesting and challenging in equal measure.

Now stop, otherwise I'll start puddling up ;)

Speaking of interesting and challenging (always accurate words when applied to listen to this Houston based threesome), Afterglow delivers exactly what I have come to expect from this band - and then some. Apparently this is just a demo version and the real thing is going to appear on their upcoming album (probably a swan song) and I personally can't wait to hear this finished. Matter of fact, if this was presented to me as yer typical Fear 2 Stop track, I'd have said yeah, but still would have added 'and then some' See, funny thing about F2S, and one that has always niggled at me, when they are on they are ON, when they are not it doesn't have anything like the same power.

More than once Fear 2 Stop has managed to get me to bend my critical knee to them, acknowledging this fact with much praise. See, I am quite a johnny-come-lately fan of experimental electronica, although like many of my generation I grew up hearing what used to be called ' avant-garde'. Pioneering musicians like Throbbing Gristle had a lot to do with my initial experience and some of Afterglow reminds me of that. Mostly, however, it puts me in mind of a bunch of 1980's electro-pop musicians being dragged back to the era of acid, dosed up and then forced to come up with a tune. We'll see when the album version comes out but IMHO this one of the strongest Fear 2 Stop tracks I have heard in a while.

Highly Recommended Experimental electronica.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Twisted Angel - Sippin' On Venom

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Got to love that title eh? but why is it that we always realise that AFTER we've tied one on? One of life's enduring mysteries. Twisted Angel, in case ya didn't know, is an interesting artist from Canada, not that Canada isn't wall to wall with interesting artists, it's just that they ALL seem to be on Soundclick. I've reviewed about a half a dozen of this musicians tracks and they have always proved to be worthwhile listens, if not anything that's going to set the world on fire. Mind you, the interesting thing is what kind of music he does, veering from goth rock, through rap and hip hop and even a touch of punk n grunge, Twisted Angel definitely mixes it up more than most.

Sippin' on Venom is a track from The Dirty Bazement mixtape which you can download for free from Twizzie's Myspazz page, and contains the immortal line 'sippin on this Hennessy,and such helps me see'. The only thing it ever made me see is woozily but there again I have a known defect, alchohol does me in for days after a binge (Ed: that's when he has a beer the wuss) Still, each to their own. Music this time is from the mighty Shadowville Productions one of the very best Soundclick beat factories. I've probably heard most of their output one way or another and they have never delivered anything less than excellent music tracks.

Twizzie fills in as many gaps as he can, and doing a fine job of of it too. What is particularly noticeable is the ease with which he syncs up to the track - not an easy track let me tell you - and, of course, his words and rap. I noticed that another familiar rapper is involved with this project too, so maybe I'll go and have a listen to the rapper known as E.J.A.Y and Twisted Angel mixing it up. A pretty potent combination in my books. So, while Sippin' On Venom isn't as adventurous as some of Twizzie's previous tracks, its right in the hip hop pocket, showing the the whole mixtape would be worth downloading.

Excellent indie hip hop. Highly Recommended.

Papa Baloo - Must Be In Love

Hear The Track Here

What constitutes 'bass slappin, funky beats, original freshness and trippy guitar'? Well Papa Baloo if you go by the keywords on their Soundclick page but I'm not sure all that goes with what I know of Papa Baloo, at least judging from the two tracks I have reviewed already. Mind you, I apparently spent the whole of one review spouting about drugs but anyone who knows me knows I likes a good rant. While I would go along with the trippy guitar comment, the rest meh... The impression I have gathered so far is a decent, straight ahead rock bent but - to be honest - nothing that I found adventurous or interesting outside the box it started in. The last track I reviewed was Keep It dDown (July 2009) and I wrote 'It doesn't therefore say anything new to me, but I guess I am not the one this is aimed at'

My first impression of Must Be In Love reinforced that Rolling Stones feeling that came across most on Keep It dDown; a certain sloppiness that the Stones perfected if you know what I mean. However, as I discovered with prior Papa Baloo tracks, continued plays often paid off and it definitely does with Must Be In Love which, over time, emerges as quite a clever rock piece with some excellent, if shambolic, rock riffing. Certainly, forgiven its flaws, this is a very good rock song and one I think would benefit immensely from a slightly less - how do I put this - over the top vocal performance.

That wasn't the least of the problems, the sound overall is pretty awful, sound levels between different elements were jagged and - all told - it takes work to coax out what is good about it. As I say its a good song, delivered with a sing-sneer that was pioneered by punk musicians, although the vocal is either popping out of the mix or buried in it. Thinking about it, I suspect this has more to do rootswise with punk than rock, it has that sort of rough and ready charm. So, technical problems notwithstanding, this is a pretty good track that may grow on you in time.

Recommended proto-punk.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thomas J Marchant - The Feather demo

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Oh God, is it that time already? The weather is uncertain, the economy is (excuse my French) fuqued, England is losing at football but you can always bank on Thomas J Marchant time, comes round every month regular as clockwork. Such dedication is not without its pitfalls however and Thomas has just suffered the curse of the exploding computer (one we are all familiar with) so consequently he's back at square one again. Not sure how much material he lost but I for one hope it wasn't too much because these monthly treats are most welcome - even at their most basic. Like, for example, The Feather.

Not so much a demo as a live stand up and sing folkie thingie.

OMG!! Did I just say the F word??? Well, in my world, folk can cover a HUGE amount of ground and it can certainly cover a highly convincing singer/songwriter like Thomas J Marchant, not for nothing was he my Artist Of The Year 2008. As much as I like the increasingly dense sounds he has been getting in tracks like It's A Hard Life (That We Are Living) (April 2010) and the awesome Keeping Up Appearances (also April 2010 as it happens), what really seals the deal every single time is the song the music is delivering. Ever since he turned his hand from electronica to a more natural form, Thomas hasn't put a foot wrong and The Feather (despite its lo-fi, very rough folkie side) shows exactly why.

Its not easy trying to get peoples attention when its just you and a guitar and it takes a special skill to make them sit up and listen, Thomas has done that time after time because of the quality of his songs. Even something as simple and basic as The Feather carries far more power than some musclebound, floor-shaking breakbeat simply because it speaks to us directly. Right into the centre of our brains. I was lucky to grow up with music that spoke directly to me and yes, affected my life and I thank God every day for that blessing. There aren't many songwriters that do that these days but Thomas is definitely one in my books. Try it and see and have the lyrics in front of you when you do.

Highly Recommended Folk song ??

Ska Rapples - Drop Dead Beautiful

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I'm surprised to see this is only the second Ska Rapples track I've reviewed, seems like so many more. Either that or the Canadian musician known to all and sundry as Road Apples has been appearing before my eyes a lot more lately. Mind you, I have reviewed him in a plethora of disguises before (Cry Of Hounds, Sad Hill Cemetery etc) so maybe that's it. Wind Divine (February 2010) was my first brush with the Ska Rapples identity and it were bloody great, a wonderful mix of reggae and ska and pop that got a well deserved must have from me. Given its composition though, all the main food groups as it were, it's a dead cert someone like me would love it. My immediate impression of Drop Dead Beautiful wasn't so positive.

There again, being a persistent bastard pays off, and the more I listened to this track, the more I became used to its raw, wide open rock sound and that - I suspect - is why I was wrong-footed in the initial plays. After the glory of Wind Divine, I think I was expecting more of the same, and this track is rock through and through, despite its Indie listing. Actually, thinking about it more, this is the kind of music I expect from Road Apples and I guess Wind Divine was the odd man out. Whichever way it works, it's OK by me. Road Apples has proved time and time again that he is a musician to be taken seriously.

Professionalism will out in this game and it shines out of this track like a beacon; from the painstaking attention to sonic detail (the ultra wide guitars, subtle stabs of blue sound) to the technical polishing needed to bring out the very best in this track. So? Does it work? I should coco although as I say, be best to give it a few plays for it to work its magic on you and it would help if you like rock with a classic bent. If you doubt the veracity of that, this track has four comments so far. The commenters are extremely well known guitarists in their own right and all of them are unstinting in their praise - as they should be.

High class Classic Rock. Highly Recommended.

Max-Motion - Jugganaut

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Max-Motion is a brand new name to me from Soundclick but look behind the name and you'll find another English SG (Ed: eeek God no!!) This time in the guise of Steve Gibson (Ed: close, so close) so 1) he's English, 2) he's a Steve ergo he must be a very nice guy. Aaaaahh, and then the fly starts buzzing around and you notice these words 'Dance music is my genre ' Aarrrggghh indeed. Not one for the old four-to-the-floor unless I'm out there banging around with my Zimmer Frame - today's must have fashion accessory for really old farts. Even though I don't particularly like the genre, I do know what I like to hear from it and it's that, as usual, that will tell the tale.

Now whether Jugganaut has something to do with dance music, I don't know but where I come from the term is 'juggernaut' and means something almost unstoppable. OK, it's dance so that would be a good thing. Relentless rhythms I am more than a little into, so long as its not all that sun-kissed, lets-all-love-Ibiza slop. So what is Jugganaut then? Well, thankfully it avoided the sunburn, sounding as if it were a track being pumped out of some dark, dingy techno basement club, so I guess the four to the floor and the irritating pssst psssst psssst of the hi hat would suit that crowd.

Despite the fact that there is a lot going on, not really noticeable until you have heard it a few times, I kinda liked the insistent synth sequences and its those that register over the long run. Sounds a lot like the kind of toys that have Roland stamped all over them but is probably much more likely to be some variation of Rebirth - or even Reason, so if you like electronica dance music then I guess this may very well float your boats. More to the point, Max-Motion has another 33 tracks on his page so obviously he's been a busy boy and I hope there is something more my style - I live in hope.

Recommended dance electronica nonetheless.

Bodiesmusic - Shaking Hands

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Yeah but whose body? Anybody? More to the point, can bodies also sing the blues? Stick tight, these and other important questions await your eyeballs. So Jon Partelow? (Ed: eh? eh? how did he get in here?) Jon Partelow has a body (at least I presume so) and the last we saw of it, it was performing with the excellent - but sadly deceased - Can't Stop The Daggers. Time proved that you could indeed stop them, and more is the pity because they were - in my delusional world anyway - one of the brighter sparks in the unsigned scene and one that had so much potential it was stupid.

Ahhh, c'est la vie.

Jon Partelow and I have crossed paths many times since I first met him on Table Fate (January 2006) as the solo (and magnificent) HELLbus. It was obvious from that first track that Jon was a man of many talents and chief among them was a particular style and sensitivity when crafting his involving pop music style. Big ******** words eh? Well, I know Jon can back them up so nrrr. So, we've established that Bodiesmusic is the new Partelow vehicle and guess what, CSTD's Emily Shahlick is another main mover behind the project so on paper, it should prove worthwhile listening...and then your ears are blown off.

Absence, the old saying goes, makes the heart grow fonder and that proves to be the case here sure enough. I'm surprised how much I missed this direct, uncluttered but utterly listenable musician and songwriter and I wish him and Emily the best of luck. Not that they need it. To my ears, Shaking Hands, merely simplifies what CSTD was all about: the song. That's about all you'll get with Shaking Hands, although its accompanied by some spirited acoustic guitar playing and some very tasty vocal licks. Sometimes, to be honest, its a bit too spirited if you know what I mean but hey I am not complaining. Class song, if a bit demo-ish.

Highly Recommended Alternative Indie.

Ron Gragg - Traveller At The Broken Gait

Hear The Track Here

I'm amazed at the number of Ron Gragg reviews I seem to have done but, to his eternal credit, he takes a licking and he keeps on ticking - an admirable trait for an internet based musician. Skin the thickness of rhino horn. After all, why should we care what people think of what we do, it isn't why we do it, is it? Take Ron, for example, a musician I am obviously familiar with. Like any guitarist fully bitten, Ron collects the instruments and the sounds as he goes along, refining and honing what they are doing until it's good enough to place before their audience. That's me and you. And what do I do, after all that effort? Piss and moan about this or the other all to no avail because Ron wouldn't change a note anyway.

It is what it is. Another admirable trait.

As a lifelong acoustic guitarist myself, I am bound to like others of that brotherhood and in that respect, Ron Gragg has been one of the better finds in this area, and not because he specialises in Christian Rock either. Surprising then that the reviews I have given have been overwhelmingly critical or at the very least negative. Looked at properly, I think most of the blame for that has to be the fate of internet musicians who work according to what they have to work with, and that obviously isn't fair to the musician struggling under those restraints.

I think I've only mentioned performance from this musician in a positive light, and Traveller At The Broken Gait only shows clearer how inventive he can be. Love some of the progressions in this, the kind of guitar track that you know would be fun to play, to get right. Nothing like the buzz you get when something you've been working on for months in bits and pieces finally appears as a fully finished track. All the more so if it happens to be an instrumental. For sure, Traveler At The Broken Gait isn't going to storm any barricades and why should it. As Ron says in the song comments 'This is just a whimsical Instrumental' to which I can only say aye!!

Dark Arts - Neva Nawtee -yeah it's a big one =D

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I print the title exactly because I sure as hell am not going to type that a million times, thank God for cut and paste eh? Dark Arts is the new(ish) name for Shane Simpson's (previously of Solidsounds) electronica project, and I've already reviewed a couple of his tracks under this name and quite liked what I heard, even though dance is his main area. I've never been that fond of dance electronica at the best of times so anybody is going to struggle to get my attention and I guess Dark Arts has had to do that more often then not. Looking back over the reviews, it certainly seemed like he got away lightly and maybe I was having a mellow moment...

Yeah, as if...

So lets get the bad stuff out of the way right now. This track is home produced in every way so if such things as lo-fi bother you, best look away now. Personally, it never bothers me unless its really blatant and guess what Neva Nawtee is? Rude? Well, yes of course it's rude but in a funny way and besides I was talking about home production not home (indoor anyway) sports. Not that there is much wrong with it other than a roughly cobbled together sound, it's actually quite a good track and certainly something a little adventurous, at least vocally.

Let me introduce you to a modern day musical villan, its called Autotune and I hates it. There, I said it. It's a main feature of this track, although to give it credit, not used to overshadow everything. It's used more as an effect right throughout the vocal, which I suspect needs it because its delivered in a kind of talking whisper and keeping pitch when doing that is a pig. I say adventurous because the vocal isn't what you would expect, sounds like Dark Arts just having some imaginative fun and not really caring too much about the nicer points. On that level it works, as does the detail of the track, which belies it's homespun feel. Not, to my mind going to be hugely popular because of these things but nice try.

Interesting but flawed.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Reflexion X - God Vs Satan

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Musicians eh? (shakes head) Never too shy about subject matter, Reflexion X takes it right to the edge and pitches the Big Kahuna's themselves into the fray and I for one sincerely hope that he doesn't end up with a lightning bolt up his butt for his efforts. I'm sure that His Eternal Whatsname and The Mad, Bad Bugger won't be too pleased to be dragged into this insane musical world of ours AND they'll end up frying our butts in a collective fit of pique that none of the tracks written about them have a 'good enough beat and a rockin' rhythm (man)' This, from God's mouth to your eyeball so be warned about dabbling in things best left alone.

(Ed: Ooops, hold on.....*hauls off and smacks Gilmore upside the head*)

WHA?? Oh, hey, what happened?? Sooo, Reflexion X, few tracks down the line now and all of them getting very good ratings from me. You would have thought that a track that houses a couple of immortal, all encompassing beings, that it should have a bit of majesty about it and - surprisingly enough - God Vs Satan delivers that in a really rock solid sound, and a neat little song into the bargain. I don't know whether I've been as impressed before at the way one of his tracks is put together but this one really stands out for the production alone. If the meaty core of the track were human it would definitely be male and would wear a wifebeater (the item of clothing, not the drunken thug).

Its also one of those tracks that the more you listen, the more it hooks you in. First things is that beat, then you start to register the instrumental sounds (excellent I might add), then the vocal, then the full song becomes clear and at its most potent. Most musicians would have given up at that point with a rosy glow, go out and get ****faced and start something new tomorrow. Aaaahhh, but THEN you start to notice all the little details this track is studded with and then you know that this is a very special combination indeed. Class arrangement, great song with interesting lyrics and vocal style and spot on performance and production? Why it can only mean.....

MUST HAVE electronica.

Big Wheel - Like This Feat Damian Lee

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Big Wheel (long may he roll on) specialises in things that end with age. Everything in the Wheel's universe ends with age, and not numerically either. Chillage, noddage, grooveage and - my own favourite - doobage are the main food groups here. Although I should stress that the doobie comment probably applies more to me than to The Round One because, well, I served me hippie apprenticeship innit? AFAIK, Big Wheel was probably a very, very little wheel at the time, and maybe even a spoke in his fathers eye. So, (he says, sucking mightily on said doobage) its a good job that Big Wheel is a bit slicker than yours truly and probably prefers a white wine because that would definitely go better with his musical style. Slick, sophisticated and always interesting, even if he has been on a bit of a mellow tip for a good while now.

Guess that's where the noddage comes in.

Damian Lee, damned if that name doesn't ring some bells but I have no idea why. Anyway, if I did this review Wheel stylee he describes Like This as 'some rasta dude, then a fit bird and stuff' and this, my friends is woefully, woefully inadequate. See Big Wheel is, to use an industry term, a smartarse. A musical clever clogs. Regardless of what kind of music it is, it is going to be well put together and - should it happen to be female - could well be described as (ahem) 'a fit bird'. Wheelie says that he and Reg (aka Damian Lee) cobbled this together in about four hours but you'd be amazed at what can happen in four hours - especially if you know what you are doing. The one consistent quality that has always applied to Big Wheel is that his music has space and depth of interest.

Like This is, at heart, a hefty chunk of set-in-its-own-parkland house, interspersed with vocal contributions from the aforementioned fit bird and Rasta dude (is that Damian?, or a store bought sample?) and its the usual faultless slice of dancy material Big Wheel has often dabbled in. 'I hope they play it in Ibiza' the Round One opines, and I think they definitely SHOULD play it in Ibiza and every other place on Earth where a really decent dance track is clasped to ones bosom. Tell ya what, played this on a mega system and it is ******* awesome, and I don't even particularly like house, but I do like a quality groove and this is it.

Housey housey, jiggy jiggy. Slick as **** off a shovel. Highly Recommended.

Gabriel Sabadi - Beauty On The Beach

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As always, Gabriel Sabadi isn't one to ever work alone, this time he's roped in Gary Powers and - just for good measure - my old mate Ked Dieter who obligingly supplies the lead licks on this track. Gabe crows that this whole track came together in the space of a day and don't the rest of us just hate it when that happens. Unless you have been living in a parallel universe you will have read one or the other of my reviews of this US musician (and all his friends of course) and know that I actually very much like his brand of rock - so long as he sticks to this side of the prog rock thingie.

I'm probably REALLY going to get into trouble for this, but I think somewhere along the line I have compared Gabe's eventual sound with Yes (maybe it was with the GSM collaboration) and I find myself having to do it again. God, this sounds like early Yes, there I've said it. Now as much as I rail against the whole prog rock thing what really soured me on the whole thing were the American prog rock bands because I have no problem in admitting that I was as smitten by the early works of Yes, King Crimson, Jethro Tull et al (say around 1970-72). By the time I toured with Kansas and Styx in 1976 it was overblown, pretentious to an alarming degree and really, really, really dull and lifeless. Can't say the same about any of Gabriel's tracks and God only knows that I want to find fault.

See, that the problem with this reviewing malarky, especially when you are dealing with experienced and professional musicians (Gabe would probably disagree with that comment but I meant every word) is that whatever the genre, it will be immensely listenable. That is why I will always have time for tracks from this quarter - even though it is identifiably prog rock. It would seem there is prog rock and then there is prog rock, know what I mean? About the only negative thing I can say about it is that I thought the stunningly good vocals could have been much higher in the mix without losing any of the overall impact.

Prog rock, but not as we hate it Jim. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Andrew K Rock - Blacklight

Hear The Track Here

I think this is the first time ever where I was able to review two (very different) musicians who both happen to come from Russia. OK, no big surprise, Russia is a huge country covering at least seven time zones so there's got to be a few musicians there. More to the point, Russians have music embedded in their souls, its in the air and the water along with their cultural roots and I for one always have time for Russian musicians of all stripes. Andrew K Rock, as you may have gathered, is the electronic end of the field, whereas Andrey Mishchenko who I reviewed a couple of days ago is a classical pianist at heart. Takes all kinds, I say. Sooo, Man In Trouble (February 2010) was my introduction to what Andrew K Rock is all about and the title kinda/sorta described what was happening in the track. As I wrote at the time 'lots of ideas, not much action' and I suggested that he listen to the competition.

Presumably he's done that eh?

Well, not much I suspect, at least judging by what Blacklight has to offer which - to be honest - isn't much more than Man In Trouble had to offer. A track made up of too many ideas and changes of tempo, wrapped around a pedestrian beat. A track that would be familiar to anyone who started out their musical life on programs like Ejay and MAgix in all their glory. There is no doubting that - at least soundwise - most tracks made with these programs is going to sound reasonable, after all the whole point of 'instant music' programs and that you need to know nothing whatsoever about production or mixing. And, some would argue, know nothing about music either but I disagree. To get anything even remotely useful out of these programs you would need to know basic music elements; notes, chords etc..

Most people I know move out of this entry level stuff fairly rapidly and start experimenting with some of the audio big boys; Cubase, Logic, Abelton, Reason and Fruity Studio and that is were things get interesting. Personally, I think Andrew needs to look at this area because, frankly, this just shows that he can fit things together but it doesn't have a lot in the way of actual musical coherence, or focus for that matter. It's billed as Dance and the beats are of the genre but, as I say, fairly basic with patterns you will have heard more than a few times in the past. Mind you, I again find myself thinking that if I were 21 (as Andrew is) I'd be well chuffed at coming up with something like this.

Plenty of room and time to grow then?

Superbron - Let Me In (To Help You Out)

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I first came across Netherlands musician Superbron when I reviewed Time Flies When You're Having Funk (May 2007) which - imho - didn't and wasn't. Didn't fly and wasn't funk that is. Or at least not what I would call the funk anyway. Since then he's thrown more than a few tracks at me and one - All The Rivers Flow Into The Sea - I've been asked to review twice. The original back in January 2008 and a MUCH better revamped, renewed version in October 2009, which shows that - like most of us - Superbron continues to improve his art and what better way to see that than in those two very different versions. So, consequently, I am expecting big things from him this time, and I know that's going to raise a groan from him because he's probably thinking I am a very hard man to please.

Not really, just a question of taste I guess.

My major problem comes between the distinctly Euro-centric pop or (an even worse crime in my books) the same cultural tinge but this time with prog rock. See what I mean about taste? For absolutely definite Superbron is doing nothing wrong whatsoever, whether from a instrumental or production standpoint. In fact, Superbron is a very competent all rounder indeed, as I have pointed out many times - in amongst my craven apologies for not liking his tracks. Let Me In (To Help You Out) is a tribute song written in memory of the late Richard Wright (1943-2008), keyboardist and founder member of Pink Floyd and Floyd flavoured prog rock I can definitely stand so lets away...

As it stands, if this track had come to me without any of the back story I would have accused him of copying the Pink Floyd so it just shows he really can't win :) Got to hand it to the guy, he has indeed nailed that Pink Floyd languid feel and the instrumentation is exactly what you would expect. Vocally and lyrically too this fairly reeks of the band circa Dark Side Of The Moon, vocals full of the most intense longing and yearning - aye, stuff to tear your heart out. As a long time Pink Floyd fan, I admit that I do prefer their earlier work but Superbron has done an absolutely first rate job of both remembering a great and influential musician, and of making a very worthy tribute.

Highly Recommended Pink Floyd memorial track.

Andrey Mishchenko - Little Sadness

Hear The Track Here

I will readily confess that classical music generally isn't my field at all. Good job too because there aren't that many good classical musicians around on my part of the internet. Thousands and thousands of earache merchants though. I'm sure though that there are a great many classical musicians on the net but most of the people I know masquerade their classical pretensions with a cloak of 'film music' Wait! Film music??!! Isn't that the bastard offshoot of classical? The one I am duty bound to consign to the death of a thousand cuts as soon as I see it? Mmmmm. I first met Andrey when I reviewed his (really) classical piano piece September 29 (Window to the Fall) (May 2010), it scraped under my critical radar because it was a) a piano piece (and I do like them) and b) it was played with some passion.

Tell you what though, Little Sadness had me scratching my head for the first few plays. Couldn't figure out for the life of me what it was exactly that I was listening to (besides the central piano theme). There is, for example, the sound of footsteps which I thought was Andrey forgetting to chop that bit out of the final mix but soon realised that it supposed to be part of the piece itself. He did mention in his review request that there was a 'small story around this music otherwise it is not obvious why it is titled "Little sadness" but i don't have translation to English yet' so until that appears I just don't know.

The heart of the track, though, is the piano again which is - I guess - Andrey's prime instrument and very good he appears to be with it too, in a classical sense. He is also, to my ears, the quintessential Russian classical pianist, huge flourishes, lots of tinkly high end work and drama you could cut with a knife. As for understanding the piece in context of what is supposed to be going on with the ambient sounds being used will have to wait until that English translation. However, as a piece of semi-classical music, Andrey shows he knows his instrument. The music, however, will remain a bit confusing for everyone until it is explained exactly why the intro is so disjointed.

Black Chamber - Braille Teeth

Hear The Track Here

At this stage of the game, with around five or six of this musicians tracks under my review belt, I should have a pretty good grip of what I am dealing with. Yeah, in the real world maybe but this is the seamy underbelly of the internet where all manner of experimental musician spawn their various creations and Canada's Black Chamber fits right on in there with the rest of the aural madmen (usually). I'm sure there are female experimental artists but you know what? I don't think I've ever reviewed one. So, your task, should you choose to accept it, is to find me a female experimental artist. Now be off with you right sharpish while we deal with Black Chamber's dental problems.

Here is a short compilation of some of the things I have ascribed to this excellent musician: musical acid trip, odd. Decidedly odd, Weird at heart. All of which are true which makes, I suppose, Black Chamber somewhat difficult to get into. Actually not. One of the reasons Black Chamber has made such an impact on me - in a very crowded field - is that all his tracks are quite accessible, even the more raucous, unbalanced (in a mental way) varieties. Black Chamber himself describes Braille Teeth as being 'quiet chaos' and that's an accurate description of this remarkably easy track - AND its only two and a bit minutes long!

There is a distinct whiff of New Age/Ambient about it, and that usually has me legging it down the road but not in this case. In fact, whenever this came around in the cycle I found other things in it to gawp at. Seems simple but there's a lot of space and light in this track which gives it a wonderful depth not normally associated with the experimental genre. Actually, I see that it is billed as Other Alternative (whatever that might mean) and that's as may be but its still got its tentacles firmly embedded in Black Chambers experimental roots.

Real chill out. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kevin Miller - Blood On Sandy River

Hear The Track Here

As a young boy growing up in a very austere 1950's Britain, I sought solace in an imaginary world, suitably supplied by my local flea pit (Ed: local cinema) and an unending supply of rugged, plain speaking frontiersmen and pioneers as portrayed by Hollywood. All complete bollocks of course, but it isn't something you notice much when the smell of gunsmoke is in your nose and mouth and the whirr of deadly Injun arrows surrounds and encircles you behind the wagons. Clean cut, wholesome heroes like Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and yes John Wayne in all his guises completely enthralled me, as music and pop groups would enthrall me in the coming Beatles decade. So consequently between the ages of 5 and 12 I spent most of my time riding a lonesome trail, fighting baddies, blood crazed indians and any other terror that might threaten a small boys existence. What can I tell you, it was a VERY innocent time, and one I look back on with fondness when I consider how my own children have to grow up with.

Speaking of children, Kevin's last track for review was One Big Happy Family (May 2010), where he dragged his entire family into making the track, and very good it was too, as have been all the tracks I have heard from him. While this kind of country flavoured rock is not going to be every bodies style, I certainly appreciate it, especially when done well. Blood On Sandy River covers a subject that exploded the whole Wild West myth and one my generation discovered with the book Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, a seminal book in my own understanding of the American West myth. Essentially written from the native Indian perspective, the book traces endless betrayals, broken promises and needless death that typified the American government's stance on Indian rights. A tough subject then to make a central theme of a music track.

This song though centres on the Sand Creek Massacre another depressingly familiar tale of bloody murder. As I have said many times lately, I have a great fondness for the musical form known as Americana and if any track fully qualified that tag it would be this one. As befits the sombreness of the subject matter, the instrumentation is exactly right, carrying the song along on a bed of strings (acoustic guitars, mandolins etc) that evoke America with every note. The song is also sung from the native Indian point of view and is IMHO all the better for it, and its obviously a subject Kevin Miller has studied much to his eternal credit. Moreover, what finally comes out of this whole thing is a highly enjoyable moral fable that is as intriguing as it is toe tappingly catchy.

MUST HAVE Americana

Farrell Jackson - Your Hat's On Way Too Tight

Hear The Track Here

Since I first met him over at Mixposure, American rock musician Farrell Jackson, has become a bit of a fixture of my own rock listening, chiefly through constant plays on Mix Radio which I admit I am addicted to. You can bet whenever I am online doing something, Mixposure radio is going to be on in the background - the whole world of rock in 22 minutes even! Not that I am insinuating that Your Hat's On Way Too Tight is some bloated prog rock nightmare, I think even the hardened veterans of Mixposure will know that this could prove deadly in my hands. Although several of his collaborative efforts have bordered into such territory, in his own tracks he is unashamedly old school rock all the way.

He's snagged at least two Must Haves from me, one for Last Day (September 2009) and one for the Jackson Hart collaboration Gypsy Princess (October 2009) both which would whet your appetite for this track. A track that is, given his previous output, could even be described as light and fluffy. Mind you, when you get into the song's subject matter (basically don't worry, be happy with a much stronger beat) it becomes obvious that, yet again, Farrell seems to have the right blend of seriousness (the lyrics and tone of the song) and playfulness (the instrumental elements that make up the track). Coming across initially as a kind of 1960's rock pop, and a pop country number, Your Hat's On Way Too Tight didn't strike me as being as strong as some of his tunes, but for sure he's captured a nice, easy feel to go along with,

In a very rare show of agreement, I found myself nodding when reading comments on the song, and that's not something I get to do too often. Mostly my views are wildly at variance to the majority of views posted under songs. Not this time though, because my first thought when making this tracks acquaintance seems to be the same as everybody else - how much like a Grateful Dead track this is. Same bright sunny outlook, that's for sure, and a beat that's made for ease and comfortable listening. The sort of track you should be playing driving off road somewhere in the land of Big Sky. Moreover, it's not just those American influences here though, I hear shades of early Beatles too...or maybe that's just the meds kicking in...

Class kinda country rock.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ron Vogel - Human

Hear The Track Here

Little does Ron Vogel know it but this month he has had a lucky escape from the Ire of Gilmore. See, no matter how many times (or how many ways) I state that I will not review from audio streams, downloadable files only stuff, I just can't seem to get people to understand that. Ron has been a bit bad in that respect lately (probably totally innocently) but it does get to me. So, there I was all for ignoring his stream link and then I noticed how well this particular track was doing in the 20th CC compo and I know that the CC crew (Ed: Critics Corner posters) can be a right hard faced bunch when it comes to the vote so a track pretty much HAS to stand out for it to score. Last time I looked, this was scoring big, big. Curiosity piqued - and suitably chagrined for my parsimonious attitude - I went over to have a listen and discovered that it was downloadable and if I wasn't such a lazy bastard in the first place I wouldn't have ever twisted myself in this knot.

I know, I know...TMI.

As it happens, I am glad I did and I can see exactly why the hardest critics on the CC forum were won over. Human is a wonderful dash of cold water to the face - as it were, My first reaction to it was a protracted wooooaaahhh and anyone who knows me knows that this is my staggered sound. I don't want to get into the habit of quoting myself but it's maybe relevant in this respect. When I reviewed Anthem (May 2010) I wrote ' he can write a very decent song indeed but not one I have yet found cause to rave about but - if this track is anything to go by - I think it's just a question of time' and if that isn't seeing into the future I don't know what is. So next week, I'll be discussing what you will be having for breakfast.

On a more serious note (Ed: as ******* if) I think it's this tracks freshness and immediacy that has garnered so many friends. For sure, I went investigating with a certain amount of forewarning but I think my initial reaction to this would have been the same whether I had preconceptions about it or not. Human is that kind of track. Basically rock at root, Human bounds out of the starting gate and just keeps improving with every listen. The backing/counterpoint vocals in this are a bit special too, although somewhat excited and slightly strained upon further listening. However, that is mere sniping because, when all is said and done, Human is a great song with a splendid arrangement that deserves more attention.

Highly Recommended rock.

Ian Dadon - Agoraphobiac (The Straw Man)

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In my last review of Isreali musician Ian Dadon - Youtopia (April 2010) I finished by saying 'his continued improvement on the technical side, show that Ian Dadon is someone worth keeping track of'. Now that's quite something when out of the three tracks of his I've reviewed, all have been in some way flawed - usually technically though it has to be said. Certainly as a songwriter and vocalist, the man has a powerful vision and that is principally why he has kept me onside (sorry, too much football around). We all have to work with what we have technically, but I would like to hear a powerful, nuanced production to go with the song and the vocals which generally do deliver on other levels.

I don't think any of the tracks I have heard have done justice to his voice, that's for sure.

This is really noticeable on Agoraphobiac (The Straw Man) because it's quite adventurous vocally. Now you know I like musicians who don't stick to the tried and true but it's also true that sometimes experimentation works and sometimes it just falls flat on its face. Thankfully Agoraphobiac (The Straw Man) is composed mainly of things that work and its definitely the most complex work I have heard from this artist. Yeah, yeah, blah blah but did I LIKE it? Actually, I came away doing exactly that, even though there would be some things I would have liked to be better. Taken as a piece, this is very strong. As for the subject matter, don't ask because I don't have a clue.

Staring with one of those whooshing sounds familiar to all factory sounds, the track soon develops a large set of rock testicles and starts hammering down the highway with some very credible guitar licks. I have to admit it took me a while to get used the vocal style on this, but there is no doubting that Ian is having the time of his life singing it and its that quality that finally convinced me. Structurally too, it takes some chances, but the progressions he is using are bloody marvellous (to use a technical term). The builds and energy of this track will certainly bring it more attention than any previous outing. Finally, I have to say I am getting a bit of kick to finally say to Ian...

Highly Recommended Avant Rock.

Ben Markham - Dreamscape

Hear The Track Here

Track Seven, so we are informed, of Ben Markham's Treacherous Intrigue album, all ten of which are available on Ben's Soundclick page but don't panic, I am not about to review the entire album - been doing way too much of that this month already. So, Ben Markham? Who he? Well, obviously new to Soundclick and a one man band, so what else is new? Strangely enough, he only cites two influences: Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix but is filed under Progressive Rock which, as we know from that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs translates into English as the most dreaded genre of all - prog rock. Mind you, there are a few quite amazing prog rock musicians around at the moment and none of them carry the baggage that the original genre carried - at least for me. What I hear is excellent musicians who don't need to stroke their egos because that isn't what its about. Its about playing to as good a standard as you can - just for the kick of it.

From an achingly familiar opening chord, and the attendant guitar style, it is immediately obvious that Floyd are the main roots of this track both in terms of sound and structure. While its a bit too noodly for my tastes (but as befits the style) what you hear is certainly - for the most part - worthwhile, especially if you like a bit of the Floyd taste with everything. As Ben explains in the song comments, it's meant to be a bit dreamy because it signifies a dream sequence (in the layout of the album, which tells a story). Now maybe this is a track that works better in an album because of that connection but to me sounded like a standard instrumental, with its redeeming factor being that Pink Floyd feel.

Now with anyone else, I think I would be taking this musician to task about fluffed lead lines, hesitant changes and an overall workmanlike quality. Nice try, as it were, but you'll need to up your game a bit sonically and performance wise to keep up with the scenes big dogs. So what makes Ben Markham so different that he isn't being chewed out about these things? Well, put it like this, if I was fifteen and I made this track I would be blissfully happy and content with it. Its only when you get to be an old, crotchety ba...(Ed: no swearing in front of minors Gilmore!!) that things like precision, timing and drama become so all important. As it is, there is plenty of time to learn and develop and Ben Markham certainly has the right set of tools to help him on his way.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Pretendo Box - Who I Am, Who You Know

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Why are you all sliding away from here, stop being silly buggers and stand still will you? I know what's bothering you, so lets get that out of the way first and foremost. The Pretendo Box is the latest incarnation of many a Soundclick's Critics Corner reviewers bete noire - the musician known as Patrick Lew. In my time I have dished the dirt a good few times, although I will say in my own defence is that I never trash unless seriously driven to it. Patrick, during the time I have known him, not only drove me - and many other reviewers - that far but went further until we all gaped into the pit of madness itself. Could this be?, we asked ourselves, is it true that maybe Patrick is right and almost everyone else is wrong?

Well, I guess that would depend on your point of view.

Patrick does not, IM(very humble)O, make what the rest of the world would call music but you know what? It doesn't matter. I have been through this experience many times, the last time with a musician called Station For Imitation who I ragged on for years and years with much the same effect. He ignored every brickbat that was thrown his way and continued doing exactly what HE wanted and the rest of us could go to a very hot place. That musician changed his name and you might know him better as Thomas J Marchant, IMHO one of Soundclick's major talents and an unique stylist. I'm not saying that Patrick is going to turn up as Thomas any time soon, what I am saying is that here is a musician searching for an identity, and that can only be a good thing.

Mind you, you will definitely not be using those words to describe Who I Am, Who You Know which, to my ears anyway, is pure Patrick Lew in full spate as only he can render it. At least he can take some satisfaction from the fact that absolutely no-one sounds like this, which I guess may count as a bit of a bonus. The track is billed as Alternative Pop Punk but I can't hear any of those things in it, except maybe the sloppiness and couldn't-give-a-toss attitude of punk. The funny thing is that Patrick does KNOW how to play the guitar, although the singing is highly debatable. Moreover he has been playing for at least TEN years but you wouldn't know it from this so what exactly is his story? I can only surmise that he actually wants to sound this disorganised, this sloppy and yes, this bad. I can only shrug my shoulders and move along there, nothing to see....

Artificial Wonders - 3 Bottles

Hear The Track Here

Just when I had got used to Artificial Wonders brand of game soundtrack, the man goes and changes the game on me. Everyone who knows me knows that I have a particularly strong dislike for the whole soundtrack thing but never more vituperous than when faced with games soundtracks. I like them in the games of course, who wouldn't? Some are awesome and definitely achieve their objective, to dramatise THE GAME. Set alone on its own, games sound tracks are mainly just another instrumental except for very rare exceptions (so what ever happened to Sound Radius anyway?) Having said that, Artificial Wonders hasn't fared to badly at all. To be sure I have been lukewarm a couple of times but there is no doubting the man's sincerity.

So, apparently having taken some months off to reconsider his musical output, he lit upon the novel idea of making industrial music. As it happens, this is one of my favourite modern sounds, I just love industrial drum sounds. It's actually a song about the AHDD/ADHD drug Ritalin which IMHO has harmed countless American youngsters more than it's helped - as Artificial Wonders obviously learned for himself, the hard way. Sounds then, to me anyway, like a life changing experience and so it should be, music has had that power in my own life so I can only share this musicians wonder at the process. There again, then the man went and remixed it and remixed it and remixed it and remixed it and... Mmmmm. So, the version I have is seven and presumably the last and maybe all that remixing had a point because 3 Bottles, although a bit untidy in arrangement is a solid, nay hefty chunk of industrial mayhem.

Definitely not an easy listen though because although all of the sounds are authentically industrial, the final feel and tone of the track is definitely experimental electronica in every respect. Yes, there IS a song there, but you would be hard pressed to identify it as such. That doesn't matter so much because what comes over here is the feeling that Ritalin can induce in you, that edgy, unidentifiable, fear of everything - the kind of music that perches you on the edge of your seat and suspends you there until its done. So to get the whole story, I suggest you have the lyrics before you when tackling this track and only go and listen to it if you like industrial experimental done at full throttle. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Edgy and bizarre tale with a resonant moral. Recommended for the honesty for sure.

Satellite 3 - Apathy

Hear The Track Here

Satellite 3 appear to be a brand spanking new addition to Soundclick and are, as you would expect I suppose, a three piece Alternative band from the US. None of which, I suggest, we hold against them. At least not yet. Apathy is, apparently, the first song Justin Storie, Joey Saha and Aaron Cook wrote together so I guess the band is fairly new too. There's not a lot of information about them and only two tracks on the webpage, this and Ghost, so there's not a lot beside the music to hang a hook on. Mind you, I am partial to a bit of Alternative (even shoe gaze) and from the first play of Apathy I got the impression I was in for lots of both and consequent plays only reinforced that opinion.

Having lived through years and years of miserable rock (think Manchester bands) and their general pissing and moaning at all aspects of life, I can't say I am a big fan of knowing everything the songwriter is feeling, unless - that is - he or she finds a structure to put the whole thing across properly. The sad truth is that a great many of us 'internet musicians' just don't have the kit for that, so we make do with what we have, and that appears to be the case here. There is a distinct lo-fi, home produced sound about Apathy that I found initially off-putting but I've been there before more than a few times and know that - in this case - first impressions don't always count.

Two things made this track for me. The first is that I was expecting the usual jangly guitars that seem to infest this genre and find that Apathy is driven by a piano riff that is incredibly catchy. Although the vocals start out kinda nervous and hesitant, they do finally take off around the first chorus and don't slip below a certain level for the rest of the song. On that basis alone, Satellite 3 would be worth checking out from time to time, at least for this reviewer because I do see some real potential here. 'fraid the rest of you will have to make up your own minds by having a listen for yourselves. Best not to do it if you are having a bad day though, eh?

Recommended Alternative.

Ralph Atkinson - Standing In The English Rain

Hear The Track Here

You would think, wouldn't you, that musicians are clever folk and, I guess, in some ways they are. However, lets see how clever this is. Imagine this scenario: you are a songwriter who wishes to get his music better known so you give your latest track called (for example) Standing In The English Rain to a reviewer who just happens to be English and knows all about being pelted on the brain by small calibre water bullets. After all, said reviewer has had a lifetime's experience of this effect which is why, I think, I am so crotchety about the subject. I have been known to moan a bit about the English condition in my time and there is nothing that lights the blue touch paper faster than rain. So, now that we've established the cleverness of this concept, let's hear it in action. But wait, running water always makes me need the little boys room so you go ahead...

Standing In The English Rain was 'created for the May Coconut Blues Club British Challenge' whatever that is, so I suspect that it was something that had a deadline attached to it. There again, there a great many musicians who enjoy this form, I did it myself for a great many years. Entering challenges, competitions and collaborations increases your musical experience to an unbelievable extent and - to add spice to the mix - is the greatest fun while its happening. So sitting through what appears to be our FIFTH summer in a row that has more rain in it than sun, how do I, a native Englishman with water be-spattered brains, think of this track? But wait, running water always makes me need the little boys room so you go ahead...

It's a good job that Ralph, a Canadian musician, has already established a reasonable track record with me or I might have sliced and diced this with no sign of remorse. As it is, it's struggle is that it's a pure and simple instrumental track that is, supposedly, classical rock a la Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, King Crimson but - for my money - is nothing like as muscular at those ground breakers. Don't get me wrong, its a very pleasant instrumental with some very nice touches, especially notable are the horns and bass but at the end of the day it is yet another instrumental in an ever deepening pool of instrumentals and its not sufficiently catchy enough to really get singled out. It does, however, kinda captures that rainy day feeling and that might be why I feel the way I do about it.

Recommended Classical rock (ie NOT classic rock!)

Danika Holmes - Lock Me In Tonight

Hear The Track Here

As crazed as this review list was at Soundclick is duplicated this month by requests from the Rebel Riffs blog which, over the past year or so, has actively contributed to the amazing amount of music I get to plough through. Up from the blog now, via the good word from Cyber PR, is Midwestern singer/songwriter Danika Holmes. Funnily enough, when I was over at her site the other day, I think I slobbered more over her guitars than her (she is very good looking) so I guess I really must be getting old huh? Aaaawwww poor me. So, like many of us, it would appear that music played a central part in saving her life and right there she has a fan in me. Anyone who can say that about music and actually mean that is a friend of mine. Moreover, again as I discovered at her site, she claims to be of the Americana persuasion and regular readers will know I am going to approve of that.

Big fan of Americana here.

Except that Lock Me In Tonight isn't Americana, at least not by my definition. What it is is country tinged pop music, aimed squarely at the American market from both the tone and style of the song, and the glossy sleekness of the accompanying video which you can see here. Having worked in the American music business on the ground, I learned one thing real quick. if you don't approach the thing wholly professionally you don't stand a chance. On that score, Danika has - to use a phrase - all her ducks in her row, and as good and entertaining as the video is, it's the song that counts in these quarters and no problem on that either. Lock Me In Tonight is a prime slice of American country rock that deserves all the attention it should get. I watched the video more than once or twice (from a professional view of course, not perving. No sir) and noticed that Danika has a more than passing resemblance to Dana Delany (China Beach anyone). OK so I was perving, shoot me...

As I say, as much as I do love a bit of terrific eye candy, what really counts is the music and - given time - Lock Me In Tonight comes on in gangbusting style. I admit that I had to listen to it a lot more than other tracks because - to be honest - it was a little too slick for my own personal tastes. However, when all is said and done, what counts more with me than anything else is conviction and style and that is what finally got me into the track. It's a track off her new album Second Chances which you can hear at her Reverbnation site. I listened to a couple of tracks and it sounds very good to me, particularly Second Chances itself and - an immediate fave with me - Pockets Full Of Gold. That is what I call Americana, in every way. A thing of beauty.

Commercial, sure. Highly Recommended country rock.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

333maxwell - Island

Hear The Track Here

Some people complain that I spend too much time speaking about other things in reviews, but these I find interesting as an offshoot to the music. Or, much more often, these thoughts are triggered by the music. I admit therefore that I do love a back story about tracks, even though I am absolutely rubbish at making my own back stories. Avalanche's Mike Foster is - by far - the best back story provider I know but truth to tell, I think Chas Holman (aka 333maxwell) could probably give him a good run for his money. He's always got a lot to say about the tracks he makes, and the almost inhuman speed at which he makes the damn things and I find that helpful in assimilating his music, it has more resonance. As if, judging by past examples, 333maxwell's superlative collection of 'little ditties' could actually handle any more resonance. Although he'll blush to his follicles about this, he is far and away, one of the finest musicians around.

'The whole production (of Island) took me probably 2 hours from scratch to mp3 and it shows.. it's in horrible shape' Chas says in the song comments. Mind you, he always says that and the rest of us scratch our heads in puzzlement because of it. Not for nothing does this man have a string of Must Haves miles long. Featuring the joys of Resonator guitars and (bless) a 1960 Baritone Ukelele, Island is a track Chas wrote on the day that seminal Hawaiian musician Don Ho died. Given all that, you would expect it to have a Hawaiian flavour and indeed it does, mainly from the ukelele although the dobro does add some to that feel too. On the face of it, given that I pretty much disliked most Hawaiian music, I shouldn't have liked this as much as I actually ended up doing.

Despite what Chas says, the track sounds pretty decent, albeit full of ambient sound (intentional or otherwise) and a tad on the sloppy side but that doesn't detract from the relaxed, lazy feel these instruments bring to this kinda cute little song. The real surprise here for me is the vocal. I have compared Chas Holman vocally to Paul MacCartney a great many times and I am sure he is heartily sick of it, but he's not going to believe who I've come up with this time - even I don't. First time I heard this I was walking down the street and I had to stop and listen, the creepy feeling increasing with each line. Fuck me, says I to no-one in particular, the King is dead, Long live the King. It's a well known fact that Americans don't do royalty and yet they do have a king, and it sounds like Chas roped him in to help out on this. Don't believe me? Test it.

Highly Recommended Hawaiian-tinged track with special royal guest.

Bright Midnight - The Fringe

Hear The Track Here

Like many people with a fascination with words, I am a voracious reader. I read anything, bus tickets, 3 day old newspapers, instructions from Ikea you name it, I'll scan it. The other day, for example, I happened to be reading a piece in one of the newspapers I devour each day that Green Day has come out with their own version of Guitar Hero which I applaud. Not because it's Green Day, but because at least it gives people a lot more exposure to music they wouldn't maybe have heard before. Imagine a Grunge Guitar Hero, a punk Rock Band, Soul Vocal Hero - the list is endless. Anyway, by way of apology for dragging Green Day into this conversation - I don't like them that much - the reason I bring all this up is because not only is that not only do these programs feature reasonable commercial music, Rock Band also features unsigned musicians who can get tracks on there.

Step forward Dallas's own Bright Midnight who, at the time of this review, has at least ten tracks on there. See, easy when you know how. Hillis Emanuelson, Austin Merrill and Andrew Hourani make up Bright Midnight and very prolific they are too. Since I first reviewed them with Floating Feather (Sleepy Mood) (July 2009) they have been a regular visitor to my Soundclick review list. So out of the thirteen tracks on the page, I have so far reviewed ten and this one makes eleven. The range of reviews has been fairly consistent because a) Bright Midnight are a rock band at heart, b) they write very good songs but they don't always IMHO deliver the killer punch that maybe they should be doing. As yet, I haven't had a track I could get behind solidly from this quarter but I suspect it's only a question of time.

The Fringe owes much to Joy Division/New Order and if that sounds good to you, it should give you the buzz you need. In that way, Bright Midnight have always come up trumps, whenever they lean towards a genre, they usually nail it pretty well. For the plank spankers amongst us, this track is fekkin DRENCHED in guitars although - to give them credit - the bass player and drummer fight manfully to hold their corner and mostly succeed. While the band trumpet that this is a 'song for everyone' I'm sure they will be a few who question that statement. There again, there always are. If, however, a rough sounding cross between New Order and The Doors sounds like it might be fun, then dive in and maybe Bright Midnight will set up camp in your head too. Not, to my mind, as strong as some of this band's tracks.

Recommended punky rock

Musicarian - Dweller of No Mans Land

Hear The Track Here

Musicarian, for those who have no clue about this sort of thing, is a well known name to Soundclickers being a jazz rock guitarist from Pakistan - a place not noted for guitarists and certainly not western leaning ones like Salman Anwar (aka Musiciarian). Actually, I probably shouldn't say that because I have no clue whether Pakistan is full of wannabe Eric Clapton's, or in Musiciarian case George Benson's but I somehow doubt it. On a question of utmost seriousness for a second, one of the most frightening things - for me anyway - about radical Taliban based Islam is that music is absolutely forbidden. I suspect being a musician in Pakistan is very, very different to being a musician in any other place on Earth. OK, back to our usual programming....

I first met Musicarian on Soundclick many years ago and he has popped up on a fairly regular basis ever since, pouring out his own brand of soft jazz rock over a series of tracks, some of which I have liked enormously, and some I have been lukewarm about. Not because of any shortcomings in Musiciarian's guitar playing or indeed in the production thereof, both are usually of a very high level indeed. Nope, what gets me is the same that always gets me when faced with music like this, I just plain don't take to it. Blame it all on Kenny G, I usually do. That man has a lot to answer for, doing down a perfectly good genre simply to make a good few million bucks and look stupid doing it.

Woooahhh, is my bias showing much???

Having said all that, Musicarian has still managed to snag a few Must Haves from me, the last one being with his Densyl collaboration on Hope Is All About (March 2010). Dweller of No Mans Land takes us into much rockier territory than normal and I personally liked it much better for it. I would, however, because I am a soft jazz rock philistine but I do love a good guitarist in full flow and on that score, Salman has never let me down. I can't stand a guitarist who noodles, if you know what I mean, and Salman is a bit too good to fall into that trap, his leads are fluid, vibrant and right on the money. However, when all is said and done, it is another guitar instrumental in a veritable sea of said tracks and I suspect it may not do as well as some of this musicians tracks.

Recommended rock, nonetheless.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

JCH (UK) - Painting By Numbers LP

Hear The Track Here

I don't know about you guys but every time I look at this artists name I see JPC (NZ) and that is not only a totally different artist but also the other side of the world. Still, I've always been a bit dic...dix....dicklex.....I have a problem with certain letters, especially one with brackets. JCH is not in fact a new name. Well, it IS of course, but maybe regular readers will be hearing bells from the title of this album. They know they've heard that title before but they just can't place it. Well, JCH in this case stands for James Crosbie Hancox, a Liverpudlian musician who has given us some very tasty tracks over the past year or so. You may also know that I have reviewed a few of the tracks on this album, but I am assured that they have changed since I last did this.

MmmmmmOK, let's see....

The premise of Painting With Numbers is that each track is made up of one chord, throughout the whole song. Sounds weird I know but it works surprisingly well although the production on several of the tracks I've reviewed often got in the way of the song. It actually takes a deal of skill to work like this though, so kudos to JCH for getting it right. Cradle To The Grave is the first track (and not one I've reviewed before) and a fine example to start with. Listening through to this excellent song, its hard to understand that all of this emotion comes from one chord. There again, I would imagine Joe Punter couldn't give a stuff how many chords a track contained, just whether or not it did the trick, and believe me Cradle To The Grave does that. Edge Junkie (September 2009) sounds a lot meatier than I remember, and that only helps to push across yet another excellent song.

By this stage, it will be obvious that - first and foremost - James is a songwriter, and a very good one at that. Put it like this, none of the tracks on this album suffer by being made up of one chord each, and are often quite different from track to track. Inbetweener (another track I hadn't heard before) shows just how good this musician can be and is arguably one of his best songs - and I've only heard this a few times by my standards. When I reviewed It's Just A Game (October 2009) I mentioned that the track lacked excitement and I don't feel that anymore. It's the perfect follow on from Inbetweener. I could go and number all the other tracks (did I say there were seven of them?) but I'd only be repeating myself. Truth is, taken as a whole like this, with those beefed up earlier tracks makes the whole project work so much better. All of the tracks are a free download on the webpage and I'd definitely recommend downloading the whole album and listen to it that way.

MUST HAVE alternative with a unique musical twist.

Jared Lekites - Electric Car Ballet

Hear The Track Here

Although you will find Jared Lekites on Soundclick, you will not find this track. You may remember me reviewing Love That Lasts (February 2010) which, as it happens, is also a track from the Looking For Diamonds EP which contains The Electric Car Ballet into the bargain. Two of the tracks are on Soundclick along with a more than passable version of Neil Young's Harvest - should you like that kind of thing. Strangely enough, this review request came through the blog so I'm a bit confused, does Jared not know about the Soundclick forums too? Still. although I liked Jared's pop rock style (think folky Beatles), Love That Lasts wasn't something I got overly excited about.

But there is always the next one eh?

I made much of that Beatles feel in my review of Love That Lasts and if that was heavily influenced then parts of Electric Car Ballet are an almost steal. One of the joys of listening to this track, at least for me - a die hard, life long fan of the Fab Four - was the amount of Beatles licks I was able to extract from this one track. Where Lennon was the main muse on Love That Lasts, Georgie Boy is the main influence on Electric Car Ballet and that's OK by me too. But, Gilmore, you add peevishly, isn't that just a case of copying? Weeeeeellllllll, kinda/sorta...

Of course it is because there are very identifiable sections in this track that have both the tone and style of the original, and in fact I went looking through my own Beatles collection to find out where one of the main guitar licks comes from. It Won't Be Long is the source, a track from With The Beatles, the second album and one of my own favourites. Where this track scores for me is in keeping that Beatle-ish feel, and of course the endless 'spot the source' games and although Jared is obviously highly influenced by the band, it doesn't detract from the quality or style that he brings to the party. If you like the Beatles, you will either love or hate this.

Recommended Beatles-influenced pop rock.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Charlie A - Turrican - bath remix

Hear The Track Here

Pffftt, young kids these days, what do they know? My 10 year old boys get in a right snit if something doesn't happen in their online world within the allotted two seconds they give it, how would they have coped with the internet in it's formative phase? When I first started taking it seriously, things were very different. I would have laughed in your face if you had told me 10 years ago that virtual worlds would become the norm, for most people. All I ever wanted to do was make music with it, and in the beginning this was extremely difficult. So if you want to blame someone for my unrelenting Old Codger diatribe, look no further than the o so innocent features of one Charlie Armour (for it was he). I started off by making MOD music files, tracks that were often used in computer games so - consequently - the file size had to be small. Small being UNDER 640k. 640k!!! Wtf could you get these days for 640k? I, and my fellow mod composers, made these tracks in a variety of software and Charlie has used both an Amiga 500 AND the venerable Protracker to come up with his version of the Turrican theme.

Now if anyone else had approached me with this, I'd have beat them to death with their own plinky sticks (Ed: Little felt hammers to make plinky sounds). Yes, yes, I know it would be impossible to beat someone to death with a felt hammer but just think of the anger you could vent in the attempt. So, we're all in very 1990's mode here at review central - hence the Old Codger routine - because both Turrican and the way Charlie made it brings back huge waves of sentiment about those early, stumbling days where we all learned much more than we needed to know to make our music. These days I don't know of any online internet musician who doesn't wear several dozen hats - usually at the same time - but in those days it was difficult to get information, let alone know how to apply it. So, knowing EXACTLY what Charlie would have to do to make this track helped me enormously in bringing it all back in vivid sound and colour.

Except not.

I've known Charlie A for a good while and one thing I could never complain about was his sonic fidelity. So how was he to pull this off? Obviously sample quality has improved immensely since those early days and Charlie, bless him takes full advantage of that because Turrican shows that a great tune is a great tune whether a full blown mega expense production or made on a meager (Amiga...geddit! geddit!) eight channel Mod tracker. Aaaahh, heady days, and now - thanks to Charlie A - you can get a whiff of them too.

Highly Recommended nostalgia

Charlie Betts - Whatever It Takes LP

Hear The Track Here

Seem to be getting quite a few requests from the Bandcamp site, so obviously this is a site doing something right. Charlie Betts, a folk rock musician has set up over there and approached me for a review and being a fellow brit, who am I to say nay? OK, the folk rock bit takes a bit of getting over because, IMHO, this is a very difficult genre to master because, contrary to popular opinion it is not supposed to support a legion of whingers, whiners and moaners. When its done properly, folk rock is uplifting as any other musical form, maybe more so because its just some geezer with a guitar and a way with a tune. Whatever It Takes is an eleven track compilation that is available to all at an unbeatable 'name your price' tag.

Yeah, but.....

To answer the elephant in the room, yes it IS worth it even more so if you actually like folk rock in all its various guises. One thing I should make clear is that although this may be billed as a geezer (Hi Charlie!) and a guitar, Charlie's music is much, much more than that. I was two tracks into the album before I realised how much I was enjoying the experience and track two Four Walls is a definite Must Have if an odd blend of Bob Dylan and Soundclick's very own Thomas J Marchant sounds like a good deal. While I am not sure of the provenance of the music (other musicians, studio? home produced? wot?), my questioning it must give you a big clue. Once you get used to the sound and style Charlie employs, the quality of sound and performance shows that either he has very good assistance, or he's got it all nailed down himself.

Either way, as a whole, Whatever It Takes will be worth both the listen and yes the paid download, because here's a very country influenced folkie who also happens to be a more than decent songwriter. While Whatever It Takes had some highs and lows on a track by track basis, taken as a whole this is a very satisfying album and one I'll be hanging on too. I hope that Charlie spreads his internet wings because this is a musician who deserves to be heard by a much wider audience than Bandcamp can provide on its own. On the strength of this excellent set, almost any of the major sites around would be happy to have a musician of this calibre hanging around. There are some note worthy tracks on here, and funnily enough they are not what I would have automatically chosen, just ones that finally wore in. Give Love Down Blues a few plays for example because this is an awesome song, in a equally stirring setting. So a couple of tentative Must Have's isn't that bad is it? (Note to Charlie, check out other sites!!)

Go, listen. Highly Recommended UK folk country thingie...