Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wreckless Music (Ejay) - Think 2010

Hear The Track Here

'I think about things that drive me out my brain/ the things I think about drive a normal person insane' raps Wrekless Music Ejay and if that doesn't tell you that - in fact - we all think alike, nothing will. So, with that little mind*** rattling around your brain, lets get on because Think 2010 is the last track out of the bag this month and I'm knackered. Over the space of a couple of years and a half dozen or so tracks, Wreckless has made his presence felt around Soundclick at least, and certainly with this reviewer. His tracks of 2008 and 2009 were quite remarkable with Old Times (October 2008) and Words Kill (August 2009) being the total standouts. He also got a Must Have for Tie My Hands (March 2010) under his e j hooker is my name bandname (I know but think deeply, it'll make sense)

I have a lot of time these days for Soundclick hip hop because, for my money, it has some truly talented people in it. People who want to make music to communicate rather than procreate or appropriate (you'll have to think a lot deeper for that one). Musically, Wreckless has generally stayed pretty close to the hip hop standard but that is one of his strengths, he knows what he is good at and that's rapping so although the beats better be hot, they do play a very distinct backseat to the main event. Verbal pyrotechnics of a very high standard and when Wreckless raps that 'I promised I wouldn't curse in this verse' you'd better believe that's exactly what is coming.

The main reason I am such a big fan of Soundclick rappers in particular is that, mostly, the profanity is pointed and cogent. Oh sure there are some that pepper every song with as much profanity as they can muster but that doesn't do much for me. As a counterpoint Wreckless swears but once in this entire multi-million word assault and it is such heartfelt and meaningful profanity we can all relate to it. Lyrical flow, vocal dexterity and an insane ability to ride the beat marks out a good hip hop musician in my books and Wreckless Music has proved that point time and time again.

Excellent stuff and Highly Recommended.

XoC - 1786 in Canada feat Rappy McRapperson

Hear The Track Here

Welcome Dan Brown fans and codeheads everywhere, you are going to have a ball with this Soundclick artist, the title of the song and the identity of the featured rapper-person-thing. For my part, I went back to a previous review and found 'XoC standing for 'eXaggeration Of Chris' apparently' spiderscrawled there. So yes, we have encountered this musician before and yes, it wasn't that bad an experience reviewing Abuse Remix(Childhood) 1st Draft (September 2009) which was 'intelligent, coherent rap with a story to tell' and you know I am always up for that. Don't know what it is with this guys titles (damn almost wrote titties there, must control...must control..) but his music and rap were good enough for a highly recommended.

1786 blah blah is apparently hip hop nerdcore which derivation certainly had me scratching my head (Ed: better than thinking about ti...NO) but whats in a name anyway. Besides, having listened to this extraordinary track a million times, it's absolutely impossible to describe just what it is other than inspired genius. It's basically the story of how French pioneers discovered Canada, except filtered through a Monty Python Anything Goes filter to make it absolutely laugh out loud funny. It's hip hop rap in it's style that's for sure, but that's merely skimming the surface of this wonderfully thought out track.

For example, it really does tell a story, all done with the best possible taste (not) and with various audio cues, all set to a beat that has distinct dancehall (as in Jamaica mon) overtones as well as the inherent pomposity that is oh-so French. In short, this is a little audio miracle. A wonderfully entertaining, very fresh take on a very jaded genre that it would be criminal for you to pass it by without one listen. Damn this has so brightened my days lately, and I REALLY don't say that often enough about hip hop. There again, this isn't hip hop is it? At least not as we know it Jim...(Ed: who the **** is this Jim you keep referring to? Does he have ti...)

MUST HAVE Gallic tomfoolery

US English - Used Future EP2

Hear The Track Here

Aaah, US English! Not the mothertongue of this reviewer. Americans talk differently to wot I do (Ed: face it Gilmore, everybody talks differently to you, they are sane) For example, I say tam-ah'ahh and they say tomAto (but probably spell it potatoe). Dammit, they even have a different keyboard to they can throw in loads of $$$$$ when they talk, eventually - as it happens - emptying your wallet. This is, after all, the land of Apple, Microsoft and other land barons. US English, however in this particular context is a American duo, Brea and James McAnally and is the last review out of the bag this month from the Rebelriffs blog. I feel the hot, angry stares of quite a few American eyeballs right at this moment but let me point out that I lived there, married one of them, and my children are both American and English. See, I love 'em really...

Just not their business practices.

Used Future is the second (natch) of three separate EP's from this arty electronica pair and one thing Thou art That (track one) shows immediately what a strong vocalist James is, and what an oddball vocalist Brea is. Sounds like an unlikely combination but the warmth and vibrancy that comes from this track is pure magic. Back in the days of early English electro-pop I fondly imagined what could be done with the genre with a bit of muscle attached to it. I always heard electronica as being a dense, all enveloping sound with a lyric and vocal too match and very few of those early bands managed that. Depeche Mode and Soft Cell were probably the closest. Now US English don't sound like either of those bands but the ethos is certainly the same. What is What allows Brea to step centre stage and its immediate that she can also sing when put to it, and the blend of their voices is just sublime. In these two tracks alone, I hear so much different from the norm I almost - dare I say it? - excited.

Songs, check, ideas, check and by the bucketload, originality check now what else? All that talent would, of course, mean nothing if the rendering of it unto our earholes is not as up to the mark. Production, my bug eyed chums, is the name of the game and that is where US English really ace it. If this is 'home produced' then I am doubly impressed because he doesn't exhibit any of the usual flaws associated with the process. All four songs are beautifully performed, intricate and interesting, showcasing a ridiculously good songwriting team. Between the first two tracks and Lonely Internet and Future More Vivid, you will be TOTALLY spoilt for choice because each is as good as the other. Only one word for this; awesome. Forget the electronica thing; think drama, excitement and sounds of pure undiluted wonder. Try it, it will blow you on your smug ass...

MUST HAVE originality.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kevin Miller - Bluebird Train

Hear The Track Here

I would be one of the first to say that we all face an overwhelming number of one-man bands on Soundclick (and elsewhere), a large number of whom tend to be men of a certain age which raises a lot of hackles every once in a while. Time and again you will have read someone attacking this guy or that (and they usually ARE guys) because they are too old to be making music and - a much more damning point - their music sounds old too. Personally I disagree on all points but I would because I am also an old geezer who is N-E-V-E-R going to be too old to make music. Why, I even have my funeral anthems all filed in A-Z order.

How cool is that?

Moreover if there is anyone who knows just how many there, it would be me simply because I've reviewed most of them. Sure, there are some that either need to try a lot, lot harder, or need to stop trying altogether but mostly, I find these musicians to be of a particular quality with very standouts. Kevin Miller, like (say) Ralph Atkinson, Ron Vogel and others are IMHO a step above that crowd and Kevin in particular has given me some splendid Americana moments so I am always open to listening to new things.

Bluebird Train reeks of Americana consisting of two classic American themes: travel and bluegrass. Kevin's family are usually roped into the proceedings and such is the case here. Bluebird Train features wife Sarah on bass and son Forrest on banjo and is about as American as Mom and apple pie. I have always had a distinct taste for American country music (ie NOT country and western which IMHO is the commercialised version and has nothing whatsover to do with country music), but especially the music of the mountains and forests of the early American experience. I first heard bluegrass while watching some old black and white BBC documentary on American music in the early 1960's. That triggered a fascination with the genre that lasts to this day, enabling me to get the most out of a track like Bluebird Train. The point of all this is, we all get old, but some of us get better with it.

Highly Recommended Bluegrass Special.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Alchemystic - Mr Outsider

Hear The Track Here

There is no question in my mind that resolution is a prime factor in liking certain kinds of music. Not talking about New Year resolutions here, mind. Audio resolution is what I'm talking about. Most tracks you hear online come at the almost standard 128kbps, which is all well and good for an earful of crash crash music that is lo-fi in it's genesis anyway. However, for music with more subtle moves you definitely need to go way higher. I decided to release 192kbps downloadable files for my own track because it's a happy medium between 128 and 320kbps (the highest 'CD' quality) although nothing is true as the original WAV file and/or recording. So why all the geekspeak? Well, I was thinking about it because this track is a 320kbps file and a good job it is too.

Alchemystic is a well known name and probably needs no introduction suffice to say he specializes in electronica dance, and he's well good at it too. Now the reason I was so rabid about resolution is because IMHO 'sophisticated' dance music like this is murdered in lower resolutions. The drum track would sound like a phased washing machine and much of the detail that is part of the musical experience is completely lost, butchered out of sight to make a bit more headroom. Listening to this little beauty only makes me appreciate Alki's thoughtfulness, as I say it is important to make a good first impression. Not on me of course, I'm already a big fan, but certainly on someone coming fresh to this excellent musician.

What they would find is a very slick, highly polished slab of drums and bass electronica that wouldn't look out of place amongst the big dogs of the genre. I'd expect nothing less from Alchemystic, and again he has found a female singer (this is the guy who introduced me to Yolande Strauss remember) who breathes fire and warmth into the track. Ali Kat is, I presume, the lady in question and a great job she does of it too. If you spend your days looking for tracks that are up to the mark commercially, stop searching and groove on this for a while. In a world where there was justice, this would have been massive...

Highly Recommended drums and bass

Rayon Vert - Who's The Winner

Hear The Track Here

OK me old chums, better brace yourselves... The song comments for Who's The Winner proudly (nay brazenly!!) proclaim that the track is a 'prog rock song with some great performances' Riiiighhht. I'll tell ya, in any normal circumstance, you could probably hear me screaming where you live, even though it may be on the other side of the world. Prog-rock, it has to be said, has been the bane of my musical life and I am never happy when faced with it. Now, if you are thinking you've seen the name Rayon Vert before, you have. I reviewed Rayon Vert Remastered (April 2010) and look, I survived that and so did you. It even got a Highly Recommended and for prog rock that's a real coup. So what's the secret ingredient that keeps the snarling monster of rock at bay?

Two words, Farrell Jackson.

Actually to single out Farrell (who IMHO is one of the better rock musicians around right now) is grossly unfair to the rest of Rayon Vert. Fact is, it's a kind of supergroup of unsigned musicians, if you know what I mean. DrC, Rob Grant and Gary Carciello have all been around a long time and soaked up the lessons internet musicians are forced to learn, so consequently you won't find any blemishes. Therefore it's all down to style and content, and that is where Rayon Vert score big-time.

Written as a tribute to Gerry Rafferty who sadly passed away earlier this year, Who's The Winner tells the tale of Gerry's struggles with personal problems and a music business that didn't understand him and lyrically I can't pick a fault. Hugely, hugely prog-rock though and if I didn't know these musicians and know that none of them have big hair and even bigger egos, I think this is the kind of prog rock I can finally live with. All of the musicians play a blinder although my favourite is Rob Grant's great solid bass playing. The guy works up a nice sweat and I do love to hear a bass played with a bit of finesse. Now while I am well crabby with the whole prog rock thing, I am well aware there are millions of people who really love it - in which case Rayon Vert have nothing whatsoever to worry about because THIS is the real deal. Without the hair and the egos.....damn things DO change, don't they?...

Highly Recommended p-p-p-p-prog rock (with some great performances).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wendy H - Kid Doctor

Hear The Track Here

God knows why I would have raced to the conclusion that Wendy H was some kind of hip hop artist, but believe me that hasty assumption almost led to a nasty accident in the street. See, what came out of my player was so unlike hip hop as to be startling. And that, I declare, is why I screamed out loud, no doubt startling innocent bystanders out of a years growth. As unlikely as it sounds, I was frightened that my player had been taken over by evil thingies...errrr..... munchkin thingies. As soon as I had my heart pounding in a more normal fashion I tried it again, and slowly it dawned on me that this wasn't gremlins, it was girls. I know it could be argued that they are one and the same thing but I refuse to be dragged into that verbal thicket and it's only one girl - Wendy H.

Meh, you think, what can one girl do?

Mess with your brain is what, and Wendy H is very, very good at it too. However, that wasn't my first impression as I shamefully admitted, that was more puzzlement. The kind of wtf is this puzzlement when faced with something out of the ordinary. 'The song itself tells the story of a pre-school girl who is trying to find a way to visit sick grandma' Wendy explains helpfully, and I wish I had read that before I heard the track because it explains everything. Certainly part of my confusion upon encountering the track was trying to figure out if it was a joke (kinda spoof thing maybe) or for real. I finally decided it was for real, and that's where things get really interesting...

I grew up being ultra-impressed by the talents of Kate Bush and, having just written a review about the punk period another female singer who made it despite not being in any way punk like. I speak of course of the inimitable Lena Lovich. More to the point, the reason I mention these singers is because Wendy sounds like both of them in equal measure and musically, can out-Kate Kate in the musically weird department. Despite it's childlike slant and delivery, behind it is a very smart cookie indeed. I bet you won't want to like Kid Doctor but I'd place an even larger bet that you'll love it to death - because it is brilliantly done. Of course, if you don't love it, you must be prepared to scream loudly in public. You have been warned.

Quirky and cute as a button. MUST HAVE oddity.

Alderman - A Bright Day

Hear The Track Here

Now look, here is a most pleasant surprise for me. It isn't often these days that I get to hear tracks from musicians I have known for a very long time, either because they are off doing other things, or because they are plain lazy bastards. Alderman is one such. Not a lazy etc of course, but an old friend. Alderman and I go back at least six or so years and, in that time, have collaborated on gathering sounds to use. A couple of my own current tracks feature samples ran down by this excellent musician. The guy has great ears, and always has done. When I reviewed the first track of his - Catch a Glimpse of Wonderland (February 2004) - I wrote that he was 'definitely an artist keep an eye on' and such has been the case.

His strongest tools have always been his choices of sounds, and his interpretation of them, something that impressed me even back then. The intervening years have only added muscle to that initial flash so that now you can certainly vouch for the quality of an Alderman track long before you actually hear it. It's a mark of how much he has come on as a producer that this track completely surrounds you in an incredibly warm, floating propulsive cloud of music that have you gawping in amazement. It's billed as Alternative and it's certainly that, but much more besides.

Like all long time musicians, Alderman is at ease at mixing and blending styles and this track is a classic example of how it's done properly, with proper attention to the seamless flow of musical energy. (puts his head in his hands) I can't believe I just wrote 'seamless flow of musical energy' It's true, I am turning into a literary twat!! Good job Alderman is there to administer the only known antidote, music that has style and grace. There aren't many instrumentals I can take to like a duck to water, but Alderman never fails in that respect - regardless of any known genre...

Great instrumental. Don't get to say that too often. Highly Recommended.

Smoke It 'n' Die - Off Bounds

Hear The Track Here

The problem with reviewing Howard Billington, Grace Jackson and Louis Marshall (collectively known as Smoke It 'n' Die) is that there is always something else to take up your attention. I've been over there (the webpage) a lot lately due to a track and video called Take Your Shot. Both the track and the video show exactly how I pictured this band and - for my money - is well worth a look and listen. You should go and have a listen to these immortal lines set to music. You ready....? Oh, the chorus goes: 'You suck, you suck real bad and you can go to hell. That, and also your breath poo.' Classic I tell ya. It's a measure of just how good a songwriter Howard Billington is that he can make that sound soooo damn positive. He,and Smoke It 'n' Die have been a big favourite of mine for a while. An original.

Here's the scenario right now...

Howard and mates are hanging out shooting the **** and necking hi-energy drinks by the gallon. Finally one of them suggests going to play around in the garage, and this track was recorded by their next door neighbour and will probably come up in the court case. Face it, at the speed this rockets out of your speakers, it leaves skidmarks on your speaker grille. Damn hard to wash off too. Howard, as well as being a fairly English songwriter, has always been a fan of punk rock and Off Bounds is the love child of that but by God it's got a fierce turn of speed on it. Best to wear a neck brace I say, whiplash could be a problem for some.

It is insanely difficult to make out any of the words because of the speed they are spat into your musical eye, but then you give up and give in to the sheer drive and energy of the thing. If you were of the pogo generation (Ed: original punks) here's a chance to relive that sordid past. Even though this is rough, as true punk should be, there is still a clarity and precision about the production that raises it above the usual lo-fi noise brigade. That and the quality of the song itself are adequate testimony to Howard's 'keeping it real' as in authentic. Proper, pukka punk, know what I mean? Off (it) Bounds indeed.

MUST HAVE punkfest (psst and Take Your Shot!)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

RHA - La Caduta di Alice CD

Hear The Track Here

Remember those science experiments at school where you were introduced to the properties of magnetism? Where a magnet is placed on a flat surface and sprinkled with iron filings to show the lines of magnetic force? Well my life is like that, except instead of iron filings my specialty seems to be Italians. If I'm not tripping over groups of them in the street, I'm out cavorting with my own fratelli ******* guys... Speaking of which buongiorno, ciao and all that bollocks, let me introduce you to both electronic musician RHA and MODR the netlabel wot houses them (Ed: wot houses them? wtf are you on??) Actually MODR is also home to my favourite Eyetalian band lately, the sublime Ofelia Dorme who I have waxed lyrical over time and time again. Now I'm well aware that Ofelia Dorme may be considered a little out there musically (and that's part of their charm) but set against them RHA is in another universe altogether.

The title means 'The Fall Of Alice' Clue much??

A world of bleeps and whirrs in an experimental electronica melange and you know I am partial to a bit of that, although I found dissonanze distorte (gotta love titles in lower case innit?) a bit tame compared to some I've heard. It has serious structure beneath the seeming mayhem and it could even be said to be pumping, maybe even be guilty of being a bit dance-y. Eek alors indeed mes amis (Ed: wrong country...durrr). Having said that, it's a good track, as are the rest of this fairly intense session. No doubt in my mind that you are going to have an ear for electronica in general to really get anything out of this but earache, but there are plenty of people who do like it. Tell you what though as good as this music is, I can't take too many helpings, except in cases (like Soundclick's Fear 2 Stop for example) where I do see a point to the mayhem.

Once you become familiar with the overall feel of the music it's soon evident that RHA is some serious beat machine. I had to try and describe music that was slamming, I'd be pointing them towards this bad boy. Whoever RHA is, the time, care and attention that has been lavished on these ten tracks shows a careful, considered musician to whom groove is as much a given as technical know how. I don't know but whenever I hear music of this type and this quality the first thing that springs to mind is reason. Actually I should say Reason because it's a piece of software that is ideal for music of this kind. Prime electronica with a pulse and a warm heart.

MUST HAVE Electronica

Thomas J Marchant - Honestly This Is Honesty

Hear The Track Here

And now the continuing adventures of Thomas J Marchant, one time Artist Of The Year (2007 't'were) and all-round songwriting machine who will not be averted from his need to vent all over us. Aaaah, but he does it so well, doesn't he? A style, I might add, that has made him quite a popular chap out there in the internet hinterland (and of course Soundclick) Mind you, it's hard NOT to like Thomas's approach which is simple and to the point. It's the song that counts, not the technical and/or musical side, and even there I can indeed meet him halfway because of the strength of his songwriting which IMHO has got considerably sharper since his recording capacity was tragically reduced.

Damn those computers!!

Like a great many Soundclick veterans, I like pretty much everything Thomas does, even though I may - every once in a while - voice doubts about this or that. Usually to do with the sound and/or production which, to be fair, Thomas hasn't much control over. Musically this track is much more muscular than some of his recent offerings, including piano, bass and drums as well as the obligatory acoustic strumming along. Considering his usual musical skinniness this is positively obese and let me tell you it takes some getting used to. It wasn't until I'd heard it often enough for it to become familiar, that I figured out that the lo-fi vocal is actually made that way intentionally. Kinda works too...

So if lo-fi music isn't really your thing, you already give this musician a swerve anyway right? If the answer to that is yes, then I can only feel pity for you, See, the one overriding factor in all of Thomas's work is how human he comes over. I like that he shares this with us, regardless of how its musically couched and - as I say - given time this might even melt the hardest heart. Whenever I played this song though, I kept seeing the ghost of John Lennon flitting about. Whether that was from the music (very early Lennon) or from the directness of Thomas's honesty is open to debate, but I suspect that it's the music, stupid. I wonder if this augers in Thomas's 'electric' period? :)

Rough sure, but feel the quality. Highly Recommended Indie.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Red Wanting Blue - These Magnificent Miles CD & DVD

Hear The Track Here

There is a belief in some people that ideas somehow float in the air, which accounts for people picking up those ideas even though they may be oceans apart and oblivious of each other. I noticed it particularly in the music business where trends actually did come in handy bunches once upon a time. And here's yet another example. As many of you know, I contributed to an upcoming documentary on a long running rock band last year and lo and behold, here's another one! How mad is that? I hadn't heard of either Red Wanting Blue or the Ken Davenport film of the band on tour prior to this but it's an even bet that I'm going to become very familiar with them - and by extension you are too. So let's start as we mean to go on. Pull up the comfy chairs, share out the popcorn and lets go the movies!!! (Ed: not on my watch you don't...)

What comes across in the movie trailer (a live version of Finger In The Air, one of the tracks from the CD we'll get to shortly) is the band's utter contempt of the 'usual' practices (managers, agents, song pluggers etc) of such a situation. Personally I couldn't agree more. Who needs all that ****. It's the music, stupid. However, the HUGE Elephantidae (Ed: elephant Gilmore, just say it like a real person) in the room is the cost of such a sensible attitude. Takes huge stones to make and market indie music (and films), and I applaud them every step of the way. Btw, the movie looks awesome, as the HD trailer will show you. Stands to reason then that Finger in The Air (yeah really!) is going to be a stand out track for me from the get-go, but in many ways it's the icing on a very large cake indeed.

The simple truth is that every track is standout. Easily the most professional approach (in every way) it has been my pleasure to encounter in YEARS. Seriously. The problem with us hard-bitten, dog-eared reviewers is that (having done it for a few years) we've heard it all. Takes a shedload of ducks in a row to really get my attention, and such a thing doesn't happen often. What I'm talking about here is that rocked back, o.mi.god moment when you realise the music you are hearing is phe-*******-nomenal. My personal check boxes are killer songs, intricate and detailed arrangements and finally, the kind of recording, production and mixes you would expect from the very, very best of commercial musicians. Red Wanting Blue stomp seven kinds of crap all over those check boxes. The right attitude, the right music, the right time?? Hell yeah. Now, what about y'all making these guys the stars they so obviously are?

AWESOME music and movie. The very best of indie. MUST HAVE.

Scheezy McGee - All I Need

Hear The Track Here

When I last reviewed this hip hop artist I was enthusing about how lively the Soundclick hip hop scene was, but he had no idea at the time that he would feature quite heavily in my year end review of 2010 and - along the way - snagging three Tracks Of The Year 2010. Not bad going, I'd say. Like a few other rappers that were mentioned last year, they are quick to get the next tracks online and this is (I think) Scheezy's first of 2011. Now you would think that someone who cites The Velvet Underground, The Smiths, The Fall and Sonic Youth wouldn't really have much time for hip hop, but you'd be wrong. Scheezy has always been one to stretch the genre as wide as is possible but, underneath all the fluffery, is a solid hip hop sensibilty.

Just a different angle is all.

Rick Rubens is the defining figure IMHO in making rock music acceptable to the hip hop crowd and vice versa, it was his melding of the styles - first with Areosmith/Run DMC and later with many others - that inform artists like Scheezy, whether they are aware of it or not. As such, I've always had a softer spot for it than say the more commercial forms of hip hop music, or even the so called R&B scene. Face it, I like music with bollocks (Ed: you can't say that!!) and Scheezy certainly delivers that, in every track I have heard from him and All I Need is no exception but this time, alas no lyrics are posted so you'll have to figure it out (what he needs, as it were)..(Ed: coke he says, he wants coca cola)

Now when you are as poor as a church mouse, as most of us are, lack of equipment is a problem, but so is the latitude we give ourselves as 'home producers' and both those problems can mar peoples enjoyment of your work. I'm used to it, but All I Need's rough and ready approach might not suit some purists, certainly IMO the rap could have been tighter, but to single that out when the ideas and style work like gangbusters is niggardly to say the least. Fact is, this is a damn fine track, just not as good as some of his previous work technically

Highly Recommended nonetheless.

This Modern Empire - Soundtrack To Our Lives

Hear The Track Here

Wooooaaahhh deja vu all over again, or is it? I know there are memory type bells ringing all over the shop but no, I don't seem to have reviewed this particular track before although I have reviewed several different versions of some of their tracks. All of the said tracks have now ended up (fully mastered of course) in the band's new EP How You See The World. So, it took me a while to really 'get' this band and certainly it seems to have been a while for them to get to stage of a proper release (as it were) but here we are. My past reticence has been mostly a question of style rather than substance.

The other tracks on the EP - First Time, How You See The World and Love Is The New Black - certainly earn their place, especially the Talking Heads soundalike First Time. I'm afraid I can't say the same about Soundtrack To Our Lives even after trying real, real hard. Now whether this is because the other songs are so good (and in their own way they are) or whether this track just doesn't sit right with the rest. For sure IMO it is a lesser song with a couple of flaws I personally found impossible to ignore.

The vocal just didn't work for me, and that may be a personal thing but - to me - the vocals sound mumbled. Not sure about the arrangement either, although it's execution seems pretty tight and controlled. Ultimately though, it comes down to the calibre of the song and IMO the other three tracks will/do overshadow it. As I say, I played this considerably more than I may have played previous tracks to be sure of what I was saying about it. It may well be that fans of the band will like it nonetheless but if I wanted to show someone what This Modern Empire are capable of, I'd be pointing them at First Time or Love Is The New Black.

Recommended Indie.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jon Solo - Once Upon a Time Ago

Hear The Track Here

OK, so I admit that any guy who can get so obsessed with Elisabeth Shue that he writes a song about her is an OK guy with me because wooooaaahhhhhh know what I mean? (Ed: down boy, down). Mind you, when you can cite influences such as The Beatles, Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren and Tears For Fears and write and perform music up to that high standard, what does Jon Solo need with such salacious thoughts as mine? Here I am fixating on the female (as usual) and in the meantime Jon is busy pumping out some of the best tracks I have heard in a good while. Having said that, most of the tracks I have reviewed have been from some time ago and Once Upon a Time Ago is smoking hot off the press (as it were) and is the first track to surface from his upcoming Head, Heart, & Hands CD.

Out of the two Jon Solo tracks I have reviewed - Elisabeth Shue (June 2009) and Circles (January 2011) - both paid off handsomely with Must Have ratings for their style and sheer dedication to musical duty. I was definitely looking forward to hearing something new... Now while I admit to a certain disappointment that this is not a vocal track (probably because I was expecting one) that's about as far as any gripe is likely to go. Jon showed me some time ago that his grasp of the nuances of making music is spot on, as is his ability to produce it to a standard rarely heard from yer average internet musician.

So, does it actually sound like an instrumental waiting for a vocal? Wellll, no, although I'm sure that with such a thing aboard some of those nuances of production would get lost and that would be a shame (Ed: said the techie head, not everyone likes production tricks). At base, Once Upon A Time Ago is essentially electronic power pop, all urgency, galacial sounds and pounding rhythm a la 1980's stylee. Now one of the things I loved about that scene was their ability to make electronic music with heart, soul and fire which, given the medium, is not an easy task. The warm richness of the sounds, the intensely involving arrangement and the sheer attention to detail make this happen, and incidentally make this an instrumental that will definitely stand out of the crowd.

Highly Recommended Electronic dance.

Zone Music Inc - Willingly

Hear The Track Here

I could have sworn that I have reviewed something from Zone Music alter-ego Humachine in the past, but maybe its the lack of brain cells making me my usual delusional self, who knows and yeah, who cares too? The reason I say this is because this is only the second Zone Music track I have reviewed, the first being a very handy slab of funky electronica (I kid you not) called Shaper (July 2009). Considering that Zone Music has been very active on Soundclick in general and has some 346 tracks on his page (again I kid you not), you would have thought he would have been as well known to you readers as (say) Thomas J Marchant, 333maxwell and to many others to mention. All of them, I rush to mention, apparently welded to my monthly sign up thread.

Not that I am advocating Zone bury me under a deluge, after all his main genre is electronica and sometimes that can make me well crabby. However, if I went by the calibre of tracks like Shaper and Willingly, it wouldn't matter what genre he worked in. What I like most about this reveiwing hoohaa is to hear a musician playing and performing with confidence because - for me - anyone can talk about how good they are, few can prove it. In that respect, I'm all for bigging up yourself, but be sure to have something to be backing that statement up. Different, fresh approaches are a good start, and a willingness to do things that - at first glance - don't seem right at all. It only becomes clear with familiarity.

Willingly isn't a track that bursts full blown into your brain, you have to work at it. It has a dense, almost wooly production that doesn't help, but it becomes clear why this is so (and intentional) Moreover, it isn't strictly electronica either, although obviously the main elements are. Where it scores with me is in imagination and an inspired use of odd sounds to breathe life into an awfully tired sub-genre; the ballad. Electronic ballad??? You may very well splutter wtf! wtf! but I know from whence I speak and, believe me, I'm well impressed. OK, hand on heart, I can't stand the dull headache-inducing plod that introduces the track and if it were merely that kind of thing, these walls would be covered with blood. The musical and vocal layering Zone puts over this insanely pedestrian backing lifts this to a whole different level as do the endless little production tricks and sleight of ear and dammit, the man is even using a fragment of The Beatles to devastating effect. What's not to like?? OK, the ballad thing, but come on, we can't all be perfect...

Highly Recommended inventiveness.

Sandro Cuzzetto - Perfect Timing

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Been a pretty long while between tracks from Canadian musician Sandro Cuzzetto, who is one of those people who stays a while, goes away a while, stays a while etc. For example, although I reviewed a couple of his tracks - More Than Me (April 2009) and Where Your Quarter Goes (September 2009) - this is the first track since then. Generally that means either the real world intruding, recording/computer problems, musicians block or writing tracks that take a long time to come together. Then sometimes, you can just spit them out with ease and I guess that is where perfect timing comes into it.

At least according to Sandro.

Hailing from the same city as Cam's Even Song, Sandro and Cam share the same Christian faith and - to a certain extent - a large amount of musical ground too. However, Cam's Even Song and Sandro do approach both their music and songs in very different ways. Put it this way, Cam writes songs as if he were a rabbit on Viagra, seemingly one a minute and as we see, it takes Sandro a bit longer. I couldn't, for some reason, get all that comfortable with his two previous two tracks, but I had none of those problems with Perfect Timing; a classy song with some equally classy production and performance values.

Looking back on those past reviews I would have to surmise that Sandro has put some very serious work into his songwriting and his playing in the intervening time and it shows in the liveliness and sparkle that imbues Perfect Timing. Moreover, there is a confidence, vocally and instrumentally, that I'm pretty sure wasn't there in previous tracks otherwise I'm sure I would have mentioned it. After all, you can't hear something this slick, and this commercially relevant, and not be more than surprised at just how good it it. Mmmm, I wonder if this is part of a new 'stays for a while' periods? If so, let's hope for more of this...

Highly Recommended Christian rock.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ralph Atkinson - Blue Valentine

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I was in a virtual world the other day and got caught up in the mother of all arguments about what really counted about musicians online. One the one hand were the 'young but energetic' kind and on the other - damn how can I put this? - musicians of a certain age. Bunch of geriatric bed blockers, the young and energetic loudly proclaimed, to a chorus of whiny wheezes from the so-called bed blockers. Most modern music is rubbish, the elder camp declaims with vindictive spite, especially the newer internet bands. Yeah and most older music is boring, merely going over the tricks these old dogs learnt back in their day.

Both, of course, have some cause for complaint, but only because we all need something to bitch and moan about. As someone who reviews all sides of the spectrum, I'd say there was plenty of room for all of us. Of course, being an an accredited Old Fart I am bound to trot out the phrase 'but with age comes experience' but - to be blunt - that isn't always the case. Sure we old 'uns may know enough to know what sounds right and what doesn't, but that isn't what makes the music popular. That comes through the idea/plan/road to Damascus moment that conceives the track, regardless of age, temperament, skin or eye colour.

One of those musicians of a certain age who is showing a very clean pair of heels to all and sundry is Canadian songwriter and guitarist Ralph Atkinson whose meek and mild exterior (in his pic) is no indication of the fire and energy of his musical world, It may indeed sound very familiar, but Ralph stamps his own style on every track, gaining him a few Must Haves into the bargain. My preferred Atkinson mode is the blues, which is what first caught my attention about him. Hardest thing about the blues is to make it sound real, ask any bluesman worth their salt. It isn't just a sound or a style, it's an attitude and you've either got it or you haven't. Ralph has it d-o-w-n, even though IMHO Blue Valentine stretches the genre a tad. What it is are a combination of instrumental set pieces (piano, lead, strings0 that shouldn't work together but bond like superglue. Emotion? Drenched in it.

MUST HAVE blues instrumental.

The New Royalty - When Poets Dream CD

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Got to love it when a plan comes together. After I reviewed (and raved) over Here I Go (February 2011), a track from this CD, I was delighted when the band sent me a copy of the whole album to salivate over, and believe me this is a rare occurrence. Most of the time when people ask me to review albums, it takes me an hour to stop screaming. So what makes The New Royalty so different, that I would actually look forward to such toil and strife? Maybe you should wander over to their site and have a listen to Here I Go because it may well spur you to want to know what else this young band can do. Can't seem to find any information about the CD other than a link to the ITunes site, and what I was sent does not seem to feature Here I go (unless its because I have already reviewed it) but three tracks - A Step Outside Time, Alive and Second Thoughts (as well as Here I Go) are all available for listening on the link above - and well worth the listen they are.

If you are not too strapped for cash, you could always buy a copy and support your local musicians innit?

To be honest, I have never had much time for the whole 'alternative' thing, more so when the alternative in question is American alternative What exactly is 'alternative' about regurgitated sub standard rock themes? Where The New Royalty score with me is because they are good songwriters and performers, backed up by some VERY good production and mixing, production that is, to the highest standard you would expect. That is what got me into Here We Go, and it's what makes the CD as a whole work too. Much more to the point, I'm sure many of your share my cringe whenever faced with a ballad, but When Poets Dream features a beaut in Alive, and look I still live, and I like to kill (and scalp) ballads on sight and have the trophies to prove it.

When you are young, cute and talented, the only other thing you need on your way to fame and fortune is a professionally produced 'product' and, most telling of all, a hefty slice of luck itself. Believe me, seen it a million times. You can have all that together and it's still nigh on impossible to crack the RW music business but there is another way. New York City - like London - has a established core of musicians working within it, but it's the Tri state area where these bands work. If I were a live music promoter in New Jersey (where the band are based) I would welcome live bands like The New Royalty with open arms because, dammit, they know their market and play to it accordingly. Doing it that way is hard work, for sure, but so much more satisfying when it pays off.

Very high class Alternative. Highly Recommended.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Collective Surrender - Dissociative Identity

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Considering the commercial as hell sound the band known as Satellite 3 pump out, it definitely came as a surprise that they had an alter ego - an experimental electronica alter ego and yay it's name was Collective Surrender. Manned by two of the Satellite 3, Justin Storie and Joey Saha, Collective Surrender came to my attention when I reviewed A New Beginning (February 2011), a pretty decent, interesting diversion for sure and only surprising because of the source of the music.

What made it different was the blend of electronic and live instruments (mainly lead guitar) and the different ways these could be made to respond to each other. So, as a musical exercise it was pretty good, although it may not appeal to everyone, especially because it is yet another instrumental in a field awash with the things. There are only two tracks on the page, that one and Dissociative Identity which sounds exactly as it's described. For sure, you are probably going to have to like the harder edge of the experimental world, but for this reviewer, this track finally shows what A New Beginning promised isn't a one-off.

Speaking as one well inured to the rough and tumble of experimental music (especially the electronica version), Dissociative Identity is surprisingly accessible for all its experimental trappings. At root this is actually a kind of space rock track, but a really good one and the use of the electric lead is inspired in a Floyd-y kind of way. Now, having shown that they are not a one trick pony, Collective Surrender begin to take on the aura of something well worth following to see where it leads. The best place to do that is with this track, and there's no time like the present...

Highly Recommended blend of experimental, electronica and rock.

Twizzie - Lyric Ill

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As you can see, doesn't seem to be any let up from the newer names in Soundclick hip hop, and more power to them I say. Having just reviewed Rustik's illustrious new joint, For The Better this month, along comes our old friend Twizzie (previously known as Twisted Angel) with his first track of 2011. Both these rapper/musicians scored highly with me last year, along with a couple of other dare-to-be-different names, and I am expecting some nice times this coming year. Now Twizzie has always appealed to me right from the get go. Although Some Kind Of Monster (April 2009) was exactly going to set the block alight, it was certainly enough to perk my ideas up and since then he has produced a prodigious amount of neat tracks.

See, standard hiphop is not for these guys. Twizzie has experimented successfully with a whole clutch of different styles, although he still hasn't - to my mind - hit that extra special sweet spot but hey, time is definitely on his side. Lyric Ill is ' a verse only song by myself no hooks all punchlines' and if you want to see what that means go look at the lyrics. What looks like 45 million words fitting into a what, 2:50 song? Nah, not even motormouth himself... It helps, I think, that the music is pretty much straight forward, although it doesn't exactly inspire anything other than a gentle rocking of the body.

Not that I much care because what has always been the highspot with Twizzie are his lyrics and I think he has pretty much everyone in his sights this time, all of which is seasoned with a healthy dose of good old fashioned ****, ***** and *******. Funnily enough, it's not sporting one of those flashy Parental Advisory doo-dads so be warned if profanity is likely to make you all sniffy. It's also the closest Twizzie has come to straight forward 'competition' rap and that - for me - is why it works. I like those duels, you see, and when I listen to this track I can almost see Twizzie spitting and snarling away up there on the stage... Hand on heart, I've heard him do better material but that isn't what this is about, it's about the flow...

Twiz in full spate. Recommended New School Hip Hop.

Charlie A - Emotions

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It probably doesn't seem to me or to Charlie Armour (aka Charlie A natch) two minutes since I reviewed Bebee Bubba (July 2006) but as you can see by that review date, it's been a good few years now. Charlie has put the time to good use, even though his preferred genre isn't my first port of call, he's enough of a savvy musician (especially on what he does best) that you can't really ignore him. I am, as you know, an avowed bottom feeder when it comes to music, usually the roughest, chewiest kind so it's a given that all lovey dovey stringy things (of whatever description) isn't really going to get me interested. Give me the sound of a cat in heat any day I say... But that's me and I have ears of the hardest titanium and your delicate shell likes are probably more attuned to such sweetness.

There is no doubt that as a long term musician, Charlie has his admirers, and rightly so because this is one 'soundtrack' musician I can listen to without blowing steam out of my ears and that's always an added bonus. The main reason I can listen to Charlie is because the guy is good; he knows his music and where it is aimed, and he does surprisingly well out of it including landing at least a couple of RW soundtrack videos, and there are not many Soundclick musicians in this category who can claim that honour. Two things endear Charlie to me personally, even though soundtracks are really not my thing.

Firstly, Charlie is a careful, diligent composer, you won't find any rough edges so its a waste of time listening for them. Secondly, and much more important, centres around the F word. Fidelity (of the audio kind) is the name of the game here, and Charlie A has always been up for it. As well as the sense of humour that much of his work contains, Charlie's trademark attention to sonic detail are hallmarks of a great Charlie A track. He's also a great believer in the less is more school of thought so Emotion hangs purely on a set of strings which, given my usual loathing for that sound, could be a car smash but sounds beautifully sad and forlorn. Which I suppose is the whole point of the exercise, I guess.

Highly Recommended soundtrack(ry,ry,ry).

Friday, March 18, 2011

NeverNoodz - Good Days and Cliches EP

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A new name to me, and I suspect to you too is NeverNoodz, a 'melodic punk band' hailing from the beautiful city of Galway in the Republic Of Ireland and God bless them for it. That last statement - I promise - is the very last time I will make a sub-standard Father Ted joke. Now, as it happens I definitely have a liking for melodic anything and if anyone can make that happen it will be the Irish. I gob along with the best of them when punk is also on the musical agenda so all this bodes well for NeverNoodz innit? Well, (waggles hand), many is the slip t'wixt cup and lip - whatever the **** that means. Mind you, I've known many great Irish musicians in my long, long (Ed: OK Gilmore, don't milk it) lifetime and all of them, to a man and woman, born with the music in their souls so I expected big things from NeverNoodz...

Sorry to bring up the old fart thing again but I was living in London and working in the music business when punk vomited itself into our worldview and NeverNoodz have captured EXACTLY the kind of joyous **** you attitude so typical of that era. Don't go running away with the idea that its time for a punk revival though or else I'll be forced to snap your neck. Once is enough, know what I mean? Actually, all joking aside (Ed: oh there's a first) punk is already alive and well both on the internet and in a thousand small outfits like NeverNoodz who gig regularly and if I was insane enough to actually go to a punk gig - on the face of this EP's three tracks - I'd definitely pick this band for that dubious honour. Yeah, yeah, but what about the music, I hear you shout with rising impatience...

'Member what I was saying about getting it exactly right? Well, early punk was as raw as sandpapering your face with a nice sheet of extra rough, and just as full of bodily fluids All three tracks on this EP show that with abandon. So forget sound fidelity, not happening. What you get is a musical fist in the face and a sonic, balls-to-the-line dash for the speed record, absolutely top marks on that too. Mind you, I got a distinct echo of Lemmy and Motorhead on Weight Of The World and I find that scary, in some ways more than the punk thing. Good Days and Cliches is a damn fine starter track and if you are still listening after twenty seconds, you'll like the rest. Where I have questions centre on the not-so-hot timekeeping on the drums, which - to my ears anyway - often steps all over the shop. There again, this is punk it that may be intentional. Whatever, if safety pins and saliva constitute your main food groups, dive in and mosh down... Just don't be pogo-ing over this way k??

Highly Recommended Old School Punk

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Endless Night

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I know I can be infinitely slow on the uptake but hey, I'm only human (somewhat). Therefore I feel no shame that it has taken me four tracks to actually get the point Weylin's Slayer Orchestra has been trying to make all along or, looked at another way, this track is a marked departure from what came before. Therefore, if that were the case, maybe this is the first track this musician has given me that certain something I look for in every track - whatever the genre. Anyway, you take your pick and I'll carry on... Now here's the stumbling block so listen up, initially I laboured under the impression that WSO was death metal goth-y kinda thing, but what I got and continued to get were Game Soundtrack flavoured and - as good as the tracks were - that isn't my taste.

Endless Night is a clever combination of both metal (of a darker hue obviously) and orchestral and I got the point first time out, which is what I never did with previous tracks. In fact the beginning of this track is exactly what I was expecting from the start of this musical relationship, and by God it shows that Derek Shunia (aka Weylin et al) can rock out with the best of them and if I went by the first two minutes of this track I'd be in hog heaven. Then comes the other two minutes (roughly y'understand), which is the aforementioned classical/orchestral section, which - to my ears - sounds suspiciously like prog-rock. Uh oh,is that another stumbling block ahead??

Thankfully no, because although it does indeed some like prog-rock it does make sense to me, as a terrific musical piece - and that is what I guess I have been looking for. See, here is a track that even an old philistine like me - with all my warts, prejudice and bile - can get into with ease. The simple truth is that I wasn't looking forward to doing this review but Endless Night did what three other tracks never achieved, got and kept my interest throughout. Now while I truthfully admit that I probably won't dig this out often for a play, I may well come back to it from to time because it is that good.

Highly Recommended Metal/classical/orchestral/prog rock yes, but not a soundtrack (yay)

Fear 2 Stop - If You Can't...

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You catch me dressed in this cute little schoolboy outfit because I was trying a small experiment. I was trying to put myself in the shoes of some young naif blithely wandering the shady Soundclick streets without a care in the world, and then happening into Fear 2 Stop in full flow. How would said naif react? Run screaming home to Mommy? Run screaming at the band in order to render them limb from limb? Perk up their ears and wonder how come they can hear noises that only dogs can hear? It's an interesting conundrum I tell ya. See, the first time I encountered F2S I ran screaming home to Mommy, the second time (and 3rd, 4th, fifth ad nauseum) I screamed at the band and tried to rip their arms out of their sockets then - one fine day - the sky opened up and a light shone in my brain. Fear 2 Stop, the light said, actually can be accused of making music that only dogs can hear but is that actually a bad thing?

Nope, says I and I've liked them ever since.

Now if you are new to all this, I can imagine you are looking at me in that weird way, especially if you are listening to the track at the same time. What I found happening is that I started to appreciate what Fear 2 Stop actually do, although I can't say it's been an easy road. At this stage of the game I'm a seasoned professional and pretty much take Fear 2 Stop tracks in my stride but I have seen people literally dash out their brains rather than listen to another minute of it. I think I'd be there too except I know that Fear 2 Stop have been doing this for a very long time, and it is most definitely what they do best - should you have the musical constitution of course.

It isn't, despite what you may think, just noise. Although they do make a place for levels of dissonance you won't find elsewhere, they also make a kind of cross between freeform jazz and rock (the beats and bass) and soundscapes using digital and analog sounds in a way that defines them. Over those same years, Fear 2 Stop have steadily but surely built up a sizable Soundclick following but given the wider picture, I'd be interested to see if they could carry that into other places on the wider net scene. Now, anyone fancy a Fear 2 Stop video for example, or even - more prosaically - appearing on other sites than the old tried and tested. It's called preaching to the choir and it's self defeating.

Only F2S can do this. Highly Recommended wtf.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rustik - ...For The Better

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Persistence pays off, or at least it's paid off in Rustik's case. While I was assembling my thoughts for this review (always a lengthy process) I leafed through previous reviews and was surprised to find I had done so many. It was one of the reasons he made such a strong showing in my year end review of 2010, getting at least three Tracks Of The Year and I don't give them out like Smarties. The reason, of course, is that Rustik is damn good at what he does, and considering this is basically hip hop we are talking about, being damn good is half the battle. Face it, almost anyone can be a rapper right? Wrong!! You ever tried it?

Riding the beats successfully is an incredible skill, and one I can only marvel at so consequently I know what works and what doesn't and I'm not shy about saying so but Rustik is one artist I've never had that problem with. Rustik is one of a new breed of hip hop musicians on Soundclick who are decidedly different to their more commercial contemporaries, musically and lyrically and - for me anyway - offer up some hope of hip hop's long held promise of hope and redemption rather than how many 'hos' you can fit in your ride and the grab-it-all mentality that permeates the genre like cancer.

While For The Better isn't anything like as instant as some of the tracks from last year, give it time and you should get the same result as I did. See, I did say that Rustik was different and this is distinctly so, especially in the way the beats work. You wouldn't think it would work but it does with a vengeance. Have to admit though on first hearing this was very difficult to get a grip on but with some serious replaying it's obvious that Rustik has more than a few tricks up his copious musical sleeve. Moreover, this is all him, no bought in beats and - believe me - that's always a plus.

Highly Recommended indie hip hop.

Larry Ludwick - A Cloud Passes

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I think it is fair to say that you will not have heard too many musicians like Larry Ludwick, even if - like me - you exist on a steady diet of unsigned music. Like a lot of internet musicians Larry has learned the most essential of facts about what can or can't be done, and then tailored his vision to that. What comes out is, to those who know him, is quintessential Larry Ludwick regardless, it seems, of the genre the track is set in. Where he generally cavorts though is in the wilderness between Leonard Cohen (in feel and temperament) and any number of country and western crooners. With the best will in the world, Larry does not do 'singing' per se.

And that is why a lot of us treasure him.

Larry dons his Ludwig Von Larry disguise this time as he goes all classical on us, an area he has excelled in previously (I almost wrote pervishly and that'll never do) and A Cloud Passes holds itself up very well indeed. I say classical, but that is a bit of a dodgy premise because - if anything - this is a piano track with the odd dash of classical seasoning, all overlaid with the lyrical sensibility and unique vocal style that typifies anything made by this musician. The track was inspired by a conversation Larry was having with Gary Judge (of Cinnabar) about families and this track is dedicated to Larry's father as a consequence.

Ask anyone who knows me, I have no time whatsoever for what used to be called schmlatz (Ed: excessive sentimentality in art or music) and whenever I come across it I can be quite testy about it. Looked at baldly, a lot of Larry's work (certainly lyrically) does touch on such areas but he does it in such a way that it doesn't grate or repulse but fascinates and compels and that - to my mind - is what makes Larry Ludwick stand out from the norm. Sure, it would be right to say that he is probably an acquired taste, but surely that shouldn't stop you from giving a listen to a musician who doesn't just try to be different, he just is. A Cloud Passes also happens to be one of his finest tracks to date, musically, vocally and lyrically and for fans it just has to be a...

MUST HAVE blend of styles.

Daddy Go Go - In For The Kill 2011 (DJ &JNp Mix) - La Roux ft. Ludacris & Daddy GoGo

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Confusion reigns for the next few paragraphs, so be warned. Daddy Go Go is a rapper we have come across a couple of times, once in his own right and once with the elegantly named Jane Do3 now know as Jane G33 (don't ask). Moreover surely both La Roux and Ludacris as major signed artists so what is this doing in a pile of unsigned artists reviews? Welp, technically, Daddy Go Go is exactly that and what strokes he pulled to appear with both RW artists is his business, surely? Anyway, as far as you guys are concerned you get to see the video, and I get a nice MP3 to play with. Despair not though, because although this track doesn't appear there, his Reverbnation page has a fair selection for listen or download.

You'll need to like hip hop, obviously.

Funny thing is that the MP3 I have seems to be titled Flawless, and indeed that does appear to be one of the lyrical motifs of the track, although the video has that cumbersome litter of names. While it's true that La Roux and Ludacris chuck in their bits, Daddy Go Go is the main man, and the reason ultimately this review is going ahead. Mind you, it helps that this is a full-on mashup that rattles along with great energy and drive. This was produced by a British DJ who goes by the name jNp, who I've not heard of before but this may force me to put that oversight right. Banging choon is a banging choon, know what I mean.

Like a lot of rappers, getting the right mix of music and rap is always a bit of a hit and miss affair. Certainly among the Soundclick rappers I am more familiar with this is the case and when a particular combination works it's always a kick up the pants. Daddy Go Go has IMHO hit it right with this combination, although they could lose both La Roux and Ludacris and I don't think it would make that much difference. My confusion about who does what (and to whom) is obviously total and this may be a direct rip of something everybody in the world but me knows about, but I don't care. Damn thing is as catchy as the plague, and I suspect I'm probably going to be listening to this for some considerable time to come.

Highly Recommended (even with the guest appearances).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Densyl - You Are My Friend

Hear The Track Here

Here's a heart warming tale for these cold winters nights. A musician based in Canada meets another musician from Pakistan, collaborate a few times on several good tracks and become firm friends. Now that may not mean so much if you were born with the web right to hand but - believe it or not - such a thing would never have happened without it. Like Densyl (the Canadian half of the equation) and Musicarian (Pakistan posse), I have found many close friends on the internet and if anyone says, yeah but that isn't real I may just kick them in the teeth. This song, then, is about this virtual friendship so many of us derive comfort and well being from, and long may it remain so.

We may not be able to do an Egypt right now, but small steps, small steps...

Like a lot of long time Soundclick musicians, I have developed an ear for Densyl's work and like a lot of these musicians can almost always predict what such and such a track is going to sound like and it isn't often that I am surprised. There is a side to Densyl's oeuvre that doesn't sit too well with me, and that's because sometimes wearing your heart on your sleeve really ticks me off. Mind you, I put that down to my stiff-upper-lip, quick-run-through-the-hills-and-a-thrashing-in-the-study English upbringing which has been known to suppress all known emotional content, external or internal. Can't blame Denysl for my own failings as a human being after all, although I'm often tempted...

While You Are My Friend is a very competent, finger-picked standard format acoustic song, for sure it's appeal is going to be very limited. One because of the content (it is a personal track and I'm not the only philistine on the planet) and secondly because it's basically recorded live in what sounds like the deepest well on Earth. Reverb is the culprit here, and huge wodges of it into the bargain. It is to Densyl's credit that the tune and the song rise above it and are quite clear, but nonetheless it does somewhat spoil the overall effect. Nice touch on the friendship though, and remember that some of this musicians better works have come through such collaborations.

Personalised Acoustic track.

Watercandle - Todos es mentira

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If my interstellar language unit is giving me the right translation the title means 'everything is lies', a sentiment that finds no argument whatsoever with me. Watercandle is a completely new name to me out of Spain and Soundclick respectively. I am, as you know, a tad affected by the whole world music thing and am fascinated with the different blends of interesting instruments that you would hear in - say - rock music. Or, for that matter, acoustic folk which is this billed as. Suffice to say that it may be better if you were of Spanish/Hispanic descent to get what this track is really about - and that may well limit its appeal. The sort of music that requires more than the mind of a gnat.

While the track is written and sung in Spanish I have to say that this is the extent of the Spanish musical influence, it's more a question of Steeleye Span than 'ándale ándale' if you get my drift. Yes, I know it's not strictly a Spanish word, but us writers need some artistic leeway too ya know. Anyway, diverging no further, Todo es mentira sounds very much like a small acoustic group, pretty much recorded live and very nice it is too, if you like acoustic folk and you don't really mind not understanding the lyrics, Personally I prefer to hear artists in their own language but I know that this doesn't wash with the great unwashed out there (Ed: he's talking about you lumpen masses!).

So the guitars carry all the musical duties, so it's a good job that there are three of them on the go in this track. As an acoustic guitarist myself, I really enjoy this kind of grouping, but I really appreciate it more when voices are involved. Watercandle introduces us to at least one female vocalist as lead and maybe another in backing vocals, all of is extremely pleasant on this reviewers rock weary ears. Of course that's me and I'm well aware that there are many who shudder at the word acoustic and if you add folk to that word are likely to run away screaming but hey, that's their loss. While Todo es mentira is not going to set the world on fire, its a welcome change from the normal fayre.

Spanish language folk. Highly Recommended.

Raven-K - Verbal Fighter

Hear The Track Here

My how times change. There was a time when musicians would spend years and years making tracks but here on the super highspeed internet it seems to happen in seconds. I've lost count of the amount of tracks I have reviewed that openly boast about how quick they were made and thrown out of the door. Good in some ways, not in others. See, the reason that classic tracks have become classic tracks is that every note and sound was pored over in infinite details. These days you just program an interesting riff, slap a drumtrack to it and then try - in some way - to make it different to the millions of others clamouring for our attention. Nowhere is this more relevant than on the hip hop side of the street. As you can gather, I hear a lot of this stuff and it's still got a long way to go before it can apply for the classic tag..

Damn, lets start off with bunches and bunches of sour grapes aaaaight...

Of course there are classic hip hop tracks but they have become classics because of the time and effort and money that went into making them, same as any other recorded genre. yeah, but it doesn't matter on here does it? After all, this is just a hobby, right?? Is it f***!! If you think that all these musicians are hobbyists, think again. Remember, the tracks you put online are up there forever. I still find stuff I made in the 1990's in some of the weirdest places. While Raven-K (who is a very good rapper indeed) and producer Justin Storie (of Satellite 3) have nothing to feel ashamed about with this track, there are some niggles.

The current hip hop fascination with classical music sounds and styles is a double-edged sword. When it works it's absolutely breathtaking, when it doesn't it just makes you want to cry and not in a good way. A lot of that is down to the choice of phrases and - much more importantly - the sounds used. The trumpet sound in this track, for example, is a great idea musically but let down woefully by the actual sound of the sample. I know MIDI has some great sounds but IMHO you can't beat the sound of a real trumpet and with the wealth of real classical samples (some of which are free) there are around something should fit that bill. Everything else, mind, is very good although IMHO the sound could have been much fatter, especially at the bottom end.

Highly Recommended (for the rapper).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

333maxwell - You Suck

Hear The Track Here

Coming out of the Gilmore Grotto on the morning I put this months review thread online I was thrown - legs akimbo - to the ground by tripping on something some fool had left on my doorstep. So you can imagine my surprise when said something, said something. (Ed: eh?) 'I've ran out of people i can coerce into listening to this kind of crap' it moaned, and peering intensely at the pile of rags that was obviously hiding a human being, I spotted a familiar shape. Now, say what you like, but 333 is a bloody odd shape and no mistake, but there again so is it's owner. Meet, then, one Chas Holman, erstwhile doorstep obstacle, more familiar to you guys as the musician 333maxwell who happens to be one of the most irritating musicians I know and - as you can imagine - I know more than a few of that kind.

Why does he irritate? Read on...

This guy has turned his hand to every musical genre on the planet (and more than a few off world ones too btw) and in every single case, he pulls it off. Not just pulls it off but pulls it off so magnificently, so maxwellian that you can't help but get irritated. How come some one eared guy (don't ask) has sooo much talent? A question which, I would imagine, would have also been asked of Vincent Van Gogh but that's another century. Pulls off everything? you mutter sceptically. Well, lessee, yep and if you don't believe such a bold claim, stick a couple of safety pins through your cheeks, rip up your clothes and get up a nice head of saliva and lets head for the punky part of time where You Suck is based. Aaaahhh, going a bit paler at that prospect, are we? Don't worry, it's all in the mind.

Actually, You Suck IS punk in the truest sense, although I am sure to get detractors to such a stand but here's the thing - I was there. I was involved for a brief period back in the day with a band called the 101'ers, and if I am reminded of anything by You Suck it is that band. Don't worry if you haven't heard of them, but you will have heard of their frontman, a certain Joe Strummer and - surprise - Chas even manages to do a passable Strummer and that's got to rub the ol' salt in the wound. I can't apply my usual high standards for this musician to this track because that's not what it was made for, it was made to sound exactly like it is and some will like it and some won't. For me, this is a bit of a curio insofar as influences but not - I hesitate to stick in the knife but a second - one of his better tracks. Fun, yes but that's it.

DNS (Does Not Suck) (that bad)

Drop The Ball - Time Spent Travelling Is Not Time Wasted LP

Hear The Track Here

First one out of the box this month is a request that I got through the RebelRiffs blog and it seems to have been around for ages, which just goes to show how long the list is becoming... Enough of my travails though, let's say hi to West Midlands based Drop The Ball who were kind enough to let me get a full copy of their Time Spent Travelling Is Not Wasted LP. Four of the tracks are in the Myspace link I have provided although you may be able to hear the whole thing at their Bandcamp site. Drop The Ball are a completely new name to me who, apparently, are supposed to sound a little like Weezer and that's no bad thing in my books. The band are Pete Stanley (gtr/vocals), Dan Watts (gtr/vocals), Luke Fewtrell-Bowers (bass/vocals) and Gaz McCabe (drums) who do appear to be a live, gigging band as well as a net presence.

Multi-tasking, gotta love that.

I'm a big fan of the ol' kerrangg in music, but that often proves to be a mixed blessing in situations like these because I know - beyond all doubt - what it should sound like, this is music I grew up making. I am therefore, typically harsher when reviewing this type of material. Now that we've raised a nervous sweat in the Drop The Ball camp, let me say it isn't necessary because this LP is a pretty decent effort, although I'm struggling with the Weezer thing (although Fracture The Waves comes close). Anyway, can't say that I was particularly impressed with We Are Kinetic and given that this was the first track, that isn't good. Not sure if this is an eight track recording but it sure sounds like it, but hey as an example of what the band is capable it more than fills the bill. As someone who is a big fan of the newer hard rock bands, this is right up my street, if a little rough and ready around the edges and as someone used to listening to 'demo' type material, I don't see much wrong with it.

Songwise, the four tracks that reside on the Myspace page - Fracture The Waves, Corpus, 1000 and Five, Five Five - are definitely the most together in terms of song and performance, Corpus at high volume is i-n-t-e-n-s-e and reminds me somewhat of Slade in the frenzied vocals. What these four tracks show, although not the others sadly, show that this probably would have been much better off as an EP would maybe score better points because of that. However, as I say, the material is rough, almost punk-like at times and there are some quite noticeable vocal glitches happening but I guess this is a young band and such things are to be expected. Nonetheless, two important questions: do they REALLY rock and is there something special in this mixture? Start off with Corpus and Facture The Waves and if you get something out of them, I'm sure you can find things of value in the other tracks too. Definitely a band to keep an eye on because when it clicks, they will be powerful and nuanced.

Recommended (if slightly demo-ish) rock of the old school.

Pidgeman - Still Got Moore To Give

Hear The Track Here

Best not to be thinking that someone jogged Pidgeman's elbow when he was writing the title of this track. Any self respecting plank spanker (Ed: guitarist Gilmore, say it. Gee-tar-ist) will know of the recent death of UK guitarist Gary Moore, and this is Pidgeman's offering on such a sad event. Personally I never saw Gary Moore, either in Thin Lizzy or in anything else he was involved with, and I must admit I was a bit surprised when the media here made such a big deal of it. I was aware of him, of course, you couldn't fail not be be, but I had no idea he was held in such reverence as a blues guitarist. Now, of course, it's a little too late to sample some of that and that's a shame because I do like good blues playing so this may force me off my lazy ass and find out once and for all what the fuss is about.

Pidgeman is, to us anyway, also a known subject. I've got through a good many reviews since I first met him on another site when I reviewed Misery Loves Company (November 2007), It has to be said that it took me some while to really cotton on to him but - over the past couple of years - he's really started to step out with a whole new attitude and one that has earned him much praise from yours well as a clutch of Must Haves. One of the reasons I like this musician is because he knows how to rock, musically and lyrically but I wouldn't have out him down as a blues guy and I admit to looking forward to this track.

One of the hardest genres to actually play, at least with any conviction and/or authority IMHO, and one Pidgeman seems to have taken to like a duck to water. OK, so it's a rock blues more suited to the work of the Chicago legends and early pioneers like the Butterfield Blues Band, but that was Gary Moore's specialty. The hard rock of Thin Lizzy is really just the smallest part of what Gary Moore has done. So, as a tribute, I find this excellent. There again, I would not have expected a musician like Pidgeman to get it wrong, especially on something that means so much. What I didn't expect was how soulful and fluid his style is in this. Great blues for a blues great.

Highly Recommended Blues Rock tribute.