Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blue Bird - Metamorphosis EP

Hear The Track Here

As you can imagine, I get a few review requests. Such is the deluge that I don't review half of what lands in my box because I seem to have got on all sorts of lists, rather than people stumbling across the blog and requesting - which was my initial vision. So it takes something different to make a request stand out from the unsolicited stuff, usually it's the visuals that go with it. In the case of Blue Bird it was three things: this graphic, singer Marta Fiedler, and the comment that Blue Bird's music is 'make-out music'. How could I resist? I am so shamelessly tawdry I know but I put it down to growing old disgracefully.

(code)quick change of subject(end code)

Blue Bird are a seven piece band from Omaha, Nebraska and having listened to the EP, I understand the 'make out' comment and agree somewhat. As you can imagine the music is fairly laid back, and has a definite country feel to it and I notice the band refer to themselves as Americana and I'd agree with that too. Musically, this EP is a treat, excellently recorded and mixed, capturing some beautiful performed music along the way from some very accomplished musicians. Technically then, there isn't really anything wrong with this EP, and a great deal to recommend it to you.

Obviously you'd need to like its blend of styles (country/rock/Americana) and appreciate a good song - and who doesn't like a good song. Marta has a clear, strong voice that fits the material like a glove and while it veers into the sugary sometimes, it's a minor inconvenience when looked at overall. Moreover, music like this is always going to be a personal taste and I would bet that more Americans are going to take to it than us philistine Europeans, but shame on us then. As a change of pace from the usual monthly kerrang and profanity poems, this is bliss to my ears. Blue Bird, too lazy to fly, just lie down here and r----eeeee---lax...

Highly Recommended Americana.

Emmett Grayson - That Rock Is Gonna Roll

Hear The Track Here

Although I have always been into American traditional folk music, I haven't always been a fan of its more commercial aspect known as country and western. For sure like most people of a certain age (and obviously geographical location) I can remember the first time I heard Johnny Cash but he was a giant beyond genres and not strictly (Nashville) country and western. It was Bob Dylan who first really turned me on to what the genre is capable of in the right hands, to this day his 2nd finest period was around the John Wesley HardingNashville Skyline/Blood on The Tracks combination.

Sadly though, I lost the taste for it for a long time because of the blandness of the genre and it was only hearing unsigned musicians on the net that sparked that interest again. Obviously I'm on the folkie kick because Emmett Grayson is a country musician and singer and, I shamefully admit, previously unknown to me. He approached me through the blog some time ago, but it's only lately that I have been able to spend some time with his music. That Rock Is Gonna Roll is classic old time country, with some beautifully recorded instrumentation and a song that grows on you with every playing.

I mentioned Johnny Cash because tonally Emmett has some of that warm, vibrant quality he was so justly famed for. In some ways the song also lends itself to that comparison because once you realise what the rock is, and it's part in the story, things get much more interesting. When I finally got to scan the lyrics, it confirmed that this is indeed the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ and I have to say I found it most uplifting - as the best of these kind of songs are. Obviously straight country is probably a minor taste but if you have it, you really got to hear what Emmett can do.

Highly Recommended Country.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Howard Billington - Mobile Circus

Hear The Track Here

Bringing up the rear of this months list is Howard Billington, shorn of his usual Smoke It 'n' Die or other alter egos. The last solo work we heard was The Meaning Of Christmas (January 2011), a brilliant slice of HoBi mania and probably the first ever Christmas song that survived a mauling from yours truly. On a more serious note Howard Billington (and his other offshoots) has brightened up my life (and many others) since I first encountered him with He Stole My Girl (January 2010). Virtually everything I have heard from this musician/singer/songwriter/ whatEVAH has had that secret, quite magical, ingredient only he seems to be able to muster - fun. When this man states quite baldly that he makes 'happy music' better believe it.

**** eating grin time, whether you like it or not.

Mobile Circus is a track from the Welcome To Tomorrow album and highlights Howard's amazing knack of keeping you guessing. His music brings in every influence under the sun, often in the most unexpected way and it all - surprisingly enough - works. Take Mobile Circus, for example. A track that (I think) is a Howard rant about the digital world's suffocating hold on his life and is lyrically right up there with HoBi's best. For me that takes second place to what's going on musically in the track but ultimately it's hard to divorce one from the other.

Stylistically this is a real mish mash and - on the face of it - shouldn't work at all. The vocals are powered in such a way that it's a cross between hip hop rapping and punk spitting in your musical eye and that's about as good a description as you are going to get from me. What sets this apart however, and it's role in the track is small, is the kinda/sorta comedy music hall motif being played on the piano throughout the track. That little detail is pure Howard Billington and a classic example of why I value him so highly. As they say in the comics, don't get many of those in a pound...

Victor Meldrew on a Red Bull diet. Highly Recommended.

Gangbangsters - Get Retarded

Hear The Track Here

So as beautifully non-PC (not the computer folks) as ever, Gangbangsters enter the fray yet again. Gangbangsters peppered 2010 (and got a substantial namecheck in the Stevies!) with some great tracks; Yellow Haze, Brainwashed and the awesome Letzgetfuctup all of which ended up in my Tracks Of The Year 2010 list. No small achievement and it shows that there is much, much more to hip hop if you look in the right places. Ryan Wixted (aka Gangbangsters) - along with a few other Soundclick rappers - has shown me a whole new side to the genre that owes more to indie than hip hop although the blend (in every case) is just right.

Like the best of these new rappers, Gangbangsters doesn't need to bang on and on about 'gettin' paid' or parading with the riches and bitches or even swearing as a second language. Well yes, I suppose that he does bang on somewhat about getting a) fuctup or b) retarded but he means it in the nicest possible way. Musically, I think this is the most bare-assed track I've ever heard from him and that stripped down to essentials bring out his lyrics exceptionally well. Admittedly I do have a bias about this artist, because nobody - and I mean nobody - could ever better Letzgetfuctup as the ultimate party animal track. A singular achievement in my world.

So if you are looking for regular hip hop, this isn't the place although if you are into the whole flow thing then this is a definite listen, this guy knows his stuff - even on a track with virtually no meat on its bones. I've always liked this musicians desire to bring a different slant to the table and - given the opportunity - this track is up there with his better works. For sure, it's pretty lo-fi and - if I were honest - an over-reliance on the solid rhythm as the vehicle but that's a very small quibble when you get into the whole head nodding thing... This one almost dislocated my neck. I'd love to hear a metal version of this (hint hint)

Excellent Indie hip hop. Highly Recommended.

Andrea Caccese - Icarus Falling/Set The World On Fire EP

Hear The Track Here

As an indication of how backed up my review system is, I recieved a request to review Andrea Caccese over six weeks ago and lookee here, it finally gets there. Andrea is a solo musician, originally from Italy (Ed: nooooooo) but now living and working in Sweden. Smart boy, maybe he knows what it is in the air/water/food supply of that country that makes their musicians so bloody good. Believe me, I've been living with that thought for a long time. Anyway, Icarus Falling etc is the latest project from him and was, apparently, put together while travelling throughout Europe. He recruited cellist Nadja Ali from the town he eventually settled in to add some other flavours to the four tracks on offer and lo... Yeah but, you mutter, how the **** do you know all this?

All a bit TMI even for me, innit.

The reason, my stupified friends, is that this man has a WIKI!! Damn, I am so jealous. Even I don't have a Wiki, although I try not to publicise this disgraceful lack.. (Ed: that's because you mean nothing Gilmore, deal with it!). So, jealousy aside, what's shaking musically here? Icarus Falling is the first track out of the box and sets the scene for the whole EP and considering it was made in a succession of 'apartments, hotel rooms, trains and airports' it sounds pretty decent, if a little too clean for my tastes. Nadja's cello takes centre stage on Set The World On Fire, and I suspect that's her on the backing vocal too and the combination of Andrea and the aching beauty of the track instantly assured a place in my heart. Lovely song for sure.

I never bought into the cults surrounding Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley, but I was aware of their music and when Andrea compares himself to them, I'd say that was accurate, at least for the majority of the tracks.The only real oddity here is Playing With Ghosts which is definitely more tinkly **** than I could stand, even while I could appreciate is as an ambient piece and I'm never very friendly with that genre. The last song, Stars and Satellites, reverts back to the folk music style of the other tracks although peppered this time with some squally electric guitar. This was also the track that, for my money, illustrated the one problem with this whole set. With the exception of Set The World On Fire, the vocals in all cases was too low, and on Stars and Satellites it was noticeably so. Meh, small change if what I have described (Ed: totally inadequately) sounds good to you.

Highly Recommended Folk (uh uh)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rude Corps - UCallMeSir - Poisoned (Rude Corps Mix)

Hear The Track Here

As you can see, I did a bit of a whoopsie on the title but I was confuddled... The track is actually by a rapper who Rude Corps has worked with very successfully in the past and is the main reason I've been willing this up the review queue all month. Well, there's always one, ya know? The first Rude Corps/Sir collaboration was When There's Just You and Me (March 2007) and it were a belter although - given Cheryl Cole's present linguistic problems - Americans may have trouble understanding it. (Newcastle Ed: nowt wrong wi' a Geordie accent!!!) (Big Ed: that's a crap accent and you are fired) Her Perception of Us (May 2007) was the track that really got my attention though and I don't think I've heard anything from them since. Heard plenty from Rude Corps of course, too much some may argue.

To which I say **** off. No such thing as too much.

If there is a track or an artist that really deserves the 'alternative hip hop' tag assigned to this bad boy, I've yet to hear it. More to the point, while I've been lauding the same alternative hip hop from our cousins across the pond such as Rustik, Gangbangsters, Twizzie et al, I'd forgotten just how sharp and pointy UK based hip hop can be. Mind you, it's almost inevitable that the lyrical content will be highly topical, something I have certainly come to expect (and relish) from Rude Corps, and something I know from previous exposure to the most excellent (if mysteriously titled) Sir. Stylistically then, this is a pretty bleak track but only if you let it get to you. Personally I like topical/political songs, for me that was one of its main functions back in the day.

Sir impressed me with those first tracks and this is only going to burnish that reputation. Makes me laugh when people say that (for example) The Streets are one of the UK's leading lights. Not in my world mate, and not in any of my friends worlds either who much prefer the rawness and energy pumped out by some of the UK's complete unknowns (many from the North East UK too as it happens). Propelled by an edgy, almost industrial music track, Sir delivers a lecture about the state of the modern world which has bite in more ways than one. It's the all-over relentless listen-to-me-or-*******-die feel that captivated me though. The aural equivalent of being mobbed by a Stop The Cuts rally.

Excellent (and HARD bwoy) UK hip hop. MUST HAVE for fans. Highly Recommended for nervous nellies.

Gem-X - You're An Angel (But A Demon Too)

Hear The Track Here

I generally get to roam around a bit when writing these reviews doing research into this or that aspect, but none more so than with this track and this artist. It's a long story, so I'd get a cup of what does it best for you, grab a seat and let me tell you what happened. The first time I heard You're An Angel (But A Demon Too) it was obvious that it had some problems and after whapping my Ipod upside the head a couple of times, I decided the fault had to lie with the track itself. After continued playing I couldn't help but come to the conclusion that Gem-X just can't sing. Seemed a bit harsh to me too, but it was an inescapable conclusion. Therefore I REALLY applied myself to it and noticed that the tendency to go out of tune was the problem. Not much wrong with the music btw.

Call me soft but I hate to diss someone's work without digging much deeper to see whether it is this track that would give me this impression and that others may show a different face. There are only three tracks on Gem-X's Soundclick page; two MP3's and a video cover version of AFI's Girls Not Grey. The online version is definitely NOT the version I reviewed, it's been Auto-tuned for a start and that's bound to help any pitch problems and truth is it's a pretty good track because of that. Mark this moment chums, because it will probably by the one and only time you will find me defending Auto-tune.

Sign, the other MP3 shows that this inability to hit the notes isn't restricted to the one track, and of course Auto-tuned to within an inch of it's life. Funnily enough, it actually doesn't help much with this track because the voice goes where it will. The songs themselves are really not bad though, and neither is Gem's voice - despite my pissing and moaning - provided it stays in pitch. As far as the AFI cover goes, I actually like that band and that track so I was a bit hesitant to listen to what Gem could do with it and surprisingly enough, it came out pretty well. An acoustic version, for sure but Gem holds the tune well considering it's complexity and those long drawn out endings. Don't know whether it was the tunes familiarity but I liked this the best of all the tracks I heard.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hhymn - In The Depths CD

Hear The Track Here

I think I've proved beyond all shadow of a doubt that I am a big fan of DIY. Not, of course, the do-it-yourself mania of home/garden/dog etc that seems to fascinate the rest of humanity but do it yourself as in; form a band, make a recording, release it and so on. I'm a firm believer in the smaller types of record labels we are seeing online and one - Denizen (from Nottingham) - introduced me to Hhymn who you may remember me reviewing a while ago. These Hands (December 2010) was the track in question and it ended up getting both a Must Have rating and these closing comments : 'awesomely pretty' and 'a wonderful blend of styles'. It is also happens to be track one off their new CD which I have just spent some quality time with. It's a ballad and I love it so that should tell you all you need to know.

Ballad?? Love??

Yes, I know, but that's how good These Hands is. Not Before I Go embellishes the reputation earned from that track and show that Hhymn fit easily somewhere between the Doves and Elbow, and IMHO outwrite them as far as pure, old fashioned songwriting goes. While I have to honest and say that I don't really have much time for the bands I mentioned, it just shows how much this band has their finger on the modern pulse. If that's so, you may argue, it's a tough world commercially so what makes this band different to the ones I have mentioned. The songs, obviously, but it's in their instrumental lineup that they score for this listener. Pulling in the very best of English musical culture, the tracks on In The Depths will only, I think, help to bring them to wider attention. More to the point, there is not a track on this CD that doesn't deserve the space and that isn't something you see much these days. Take a look at the two very slick videos for two tracks on You Tube if you need the visuals and you'll see I do not exaggerate.

Hhymn are a five piece, Ed Bannard, Simon Ritchie, Amy Heliwell, William Jeffery and Michael Wynne, helped out on a couple of tracks with guests, but essentially it's the tightness at the centre of the band that helps this CD to establish it's own voice and style. For sure, as much as I might make comparisons, in truth this is a band who really don't sound like anybody else - and for that they should feel some pride. To make a commercially viable CD is an incredibly difficult and time consuming process, to make it with songs that are little jewels of pleasure is nothing less than a labour of love. Weld all that to a very professional look and production and IMHO you have the very best that unsigned England can offer you. But get aboard now, because if anyone can do this, Hhymn can and I don't think the world can ignore them. This is an incredible achievement in every respect and I can't rave enough about it. I doubt that I'll hear anything else this good this year.

MUST HAVE state-of-the-English-art.

Ian Dadon - Demon Inside

Hear The Track Here

Having reviewed a great many singer/songwriters there is no doubt that I have become somewhat jaded. Along with that has come an unwillingness to cut the breed many breaks, especially technically, which the whole genre suffers from. What does it matter, you ask, am I not always saying it's the song that counts? Yep, but only when you can make sense of the thing through the lo-fi that is. One of the problems with me seeing what Isreali musician Ian Dadon had to offer in those early tracks was my own blinkered vision and the lo-fi nature of it all. Subsequent tracks saw that tighten up considerably though and although the rough edges are still present, the emphasis is most definitely on the song. And yes (sigh) he still sounds a bit like JPC (NZ) but IMHO that's a good thing too.

Now maybe I haven't noticed it before, or maybe it's just the natural evolution of the thing but, judging by Demon Inside - a completely new song - the arrangement is much subtler, adventurous even and IMHO the game changer. However, like the aforementioned JPC (NZ) it comes with a built-in snag. There is no denying that voices and songs of the kind songwriters like Ian and JPC write (and people like Cam Bastedo too for that matter) are certainly to be considered as an acquired taste, because their vocals are not what you expect but, given time, can grow on you like Topsy - whoever that is.

It seems unfair in some way to compare songwriters like the three I have mentioned because this is, after all, a review of an Ian Dadon track, However my reason for doing so was to show you that these songwriters/singers/musicians all have a love of complex lyrical turns, and surprising, out-of-the-box way of scoring it musically. One of the reasons I have come to like Ian's work is because the man so obviously takes time and effort to make this material, so if I have to wade through a couple of niggles to get to it, it seems like a small price to pay. Musically, this is tagged as rock, and indeed it is, but the more musical side of the field for sure...

Highly Recommended song.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rustik - In A Funk

Hear The Track Here

Ever since I reviewed Rustik's Backpack (March 2010) he has been one of my favourite Soundclick hip hop musicians (and that's a very small list). Not, I might add, that I reviewed the guy's actual backpack, that would be too stupid even for me who makes an artform of stupid. After all, what kind of review would it be? Three chewed pencil stubs, a dirty sock, three candy bars that have seen better days and about 40lbs of baggy lint. Couldn't even recommend the baggy lint, could I? Although I must admit I was tempted right there....

Anyway, enough of this nonsense. Rustik is one of very few hip hop rappers who tries to put some distance between his work and the more commercial stuff that poisons the airwaves...and that is cool by me. However, I had to check but this track seems to have come out at the same time as Backpack and I am hoping that will explain why I didn't like it much. Older material see. The reason I say this is because the newer tracks are the type I describe above, but I think In A Funk is...well in a funk I guess.

Rustik, as a rapper, isn't IMO the problem. Nope the fault lies with the music, although it will probably only be me that says that. As far as someone who either likes Rustik or hip hop will definitely go for this but I think I've heard what he is really capable of, and this isn't it. Sure, it's a nice enough hip hop track but 'nice enough' isn't going to cut it for me. Having said all that, this is an artist I predicted big things from this year when compiling my year end review of 2010, and I still hold to that. So, I guess I'll be waiting for some newer material...(sigh). In the meantime, should you like hip hop and/or Rustik, don't let my churlishness put you off...

Recommended hip hop.

Alchemystic - Tahtoo Parempaa (Argle Remix)

Hear The Track Here

Now I am, as you know, a bit of a grumpy gruff about most music that doesn't start with an R and end with a K, but I do make exceptions - usually because those asking for reviews force me to, but hey, what can you do? People I have known for a while, of course, can usually skate all kinds of stuff past me without (much) complaint but there are genres where even friends can test my patience. One of those areas being dance music in general, and the electronic kind in particular. Usually because I find that very unchallenging musically, but Adam Kirby (aka Alchemystic) has long been one of those musicians who can clamber over my puny defenses. Come to think of it, so can Hekki Roots (aka Reflexion X) whose original track this is.

Best thing about remixes (for me anyway) is trying to figure out who did what, which is why I have also given you a link to the original so you can come back and piss and moan about how much I got wrong. (Ed: damn sir, you sound crabby today!) Hekki's original lies in the Urban : Neo-Soul range on Soundclick but to my ears sounds more like electro-pop with a Eurovision slant which probably comes about because it's all in Finnish (I think). btw, it sounds better downloaded than streamed though - just a word to the wise. And yes, it is worth downloading, Reflexion X is good at his stuff. So, the burning question is how much has Alchy changed it and the answer is as surprising as it can be.

I started this review rapping about my taste for rock music and Argle's (don't ask) remix stomps around like the bad rock boy it has become in his hands. Which is a bit of double surprise because - I don't think - I've heard any rock from this quarter, and damn I want more now! It isn't a question of what Alchemystic has done to the track, more of a what hasn't he done to it, if you know what I mean. The original is a pleasant enough track mind, but when put through the Alchemystic filter it grew rock balls and muscles Arnie would have been proud of.

MUST HAVE rock (honest!!)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mike-K - I Won't Give Up Ft Mista Perez

Hear The Track Here

Well, lookee there, Mike-K! It's been a long, long while since I last reviewed this musician/DJ/veteran of the scene, and it was a pleasant surprise to see him putting his name down this month on the dotted line. For those who don't know, Mike Kohlgraf has been around a long time, made gazillions of friends and - along the way - has become a much loved and respected member of a wider music scene than Soundclick. Way back in the mists of Soundclick's past Mike was a very active member of Soundclick, being one of the first to jump on Soundclick's (then new) idea of stations. Shortly after that, he took to the internet airwaves for real, hosting the long running Saturday Night Rocks show currently at home on Mixposure.

Mike is joined on this track by another Mixposure name, Mista Perez whose Temptation And Other Things...(November 2009) showed a very sophisticated (read smooth) line in music, one it seemed that would be a perfect fit to Mike's own preferred brand.The music and production would appear to be down to Mike, with Mista Perez supplying lyrics and vocals sounding like a cross between Prince and The Bee Gees in a track that justly earns it's Smooth R&B tag.

With either of these musicians it is pointless to look for flaws, their experience would have washed out most of the obvious ones, so what you get is a clear, clean mix and the kind of clarity this kind of music specialises in. Personally, as I have said many times, I don't care for music like this but - on a review level - I can see that have both spent time and effort in making this track as good as it could be. Mind you, its easy-on-the-ear feel is certainly going to find favour on the wider scene, lots of people (I'm told) do like smooth anything... Me, I just shrug and move right along...

Recommended for the pairing and the vocals.

JCH (UK) - Living In A Different World

Hear The Track Here

How often is it you feel you are living in a different world to everyone else? I certainly do, but that's probably got more to do with my messed up existence than with the reality the rest of the world lives in. Anyway, enough about me, James Crosby Hancox (JCH to you guys) is a regular review favourite of mine from Soundclick and this will be the (counts on fingers) gazillionth (not really but almost) because he's quite prolific which is a good thing because he's also quite good at what he does. Said task being of the songwriter variety and JCH is one of the brighter talents around in that direction,

Last time we heard from him, he gave us Nightmares (April 2011) although, in truth, it wasn't that scary unless you count my balladophobia which reared its ugly head in my review. Now I'm as easy going as the next man if I had to deal with the odd ballad but when a musician starts lobbing them at me with regularity I am going to get well suspicious. Living In A Different World (where people love ballads apparently) isn't exactly a four hankie weepie, more of yer actual rock ballad and that is why the blood splatters are absent this time. THIS time. Hear?

Several things mitigate against instant annihilation. He's a terrific songwriter, an accomplished musician and a decent singer into the bargain and - finally - Living In A Different World shows its rock roots splendidly. It's got some class instrumentation (as JCH points out in the song comments), lots of lovely jangly guitars, but the prize for me is the understated organ bed that emphasises the choruses. A pure 1960's sound that suits this track so well. Fans of James Crosby Hancox (of whatever stripe) will find much to like about this track as do I, outside of the whole ballad thing (Ed: OK Gilmore, we have that now...)

Highly Recommended classic rock ballad.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

April K - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

It isn't often but, every once in a while I break my own rules. Well, ya gotta sometimes right, even if its just to kick at the traces? The rule in question being the one about reviewing from downloaded files. April K, a 'spoken word' musician apparently, came to me through the Rebel Riffs blog with such a nice request I couldn't refuse. It meant wandering over to Myspazz for a while as I considered her material but hey, small change... What? What? Yes, she's a girl but no, that isn't the whole (and sole) reason for this rule relaxation routine, funnily enough it was the songs that did it. Actually, 'fessing up, it was the song titles...as you'll see.

There are only four tracks on her site, so let's start with Broke-Arse Guys, which sounds like fun. 'Broke arse guys who do you think you are, no job, no house, no cash, no car' she raps (Ed: aaah, THAT spoken word) although she makes it clear that she isn't aiming for a rich guy, just someone who is her equal at bringing home the bacon. 'Nothing sexy about a guy who hasn't got a pot to piss in' she says, and I can only nod my head in agreement. Coming from somewhere around London, it is inevitable that contrasts to Lily Allan would be made when listening to her material but she's a much softer, easier listen to my ears. She doesn't however pull any punches lyrically so if profanity or sexual imagery is a problem for you, sod off before we all start calling you Auntie. Both I'm A Whore and I Love Shagging are - surprisingly enough - about sex and worthy of a listen, although be best have a box of tissues handy (Ed: FFS, you can't say that!!)

Chavs Like Me scans like April's political manifesto, as she describes the life she finds herself living as a self-described 'chav'. Personally, I don't like the word because it is often used in a derogatory manner, but I do understand the life she describes (from my own experiences) and applaud her willingness to at least try and stand on her own two - independent - feet. However, as she says in the track, this is a hard life, full of abuse from strangers who know ***all about you but who are extremely quick to judge you based on the way you look or speak. Out of the four tracks, Broke Arse Guys is the most complete and ready to roll but if you like gritty, truthful hip hop, this girl has some moves for you.

Recommended UK hip hop.

C Anthony Goggin - Time Flies

Hear The Track Here

This is the second time round for Soundclick acoustic musician Cody Goggin, whose Snow (February 2011) didn't get me excited, but merely because it was plagued by several problems completely outside Cody's ambit. In short, no equipment. Well, there's a guitar and there's a voice and this is acoustic after all so what's the problem? The problem is that Snow is essentially a demo in every respect of the word, and knowing what it's like out here in internet la-la land, they have much the same problems as RW music business demos. They get binned, sight and sound unseen. As I pointed out in that review, even in the one man and his geetar stakes, the musical and technical standard available to yer average listener is intimidating - even the barest skim of Soundclick would show that.

So here we are with Time Flies and nothing much has changed which suggests two things: nothing has changed (Ed: said that already) in his technical ability and or equipment OR this is from the same time period and maybe he's doing something different now. Mind you he does say that Time Flies is 'just a sort of demo' so at least its clear what you are likely to get. While my initial impression was much the same as before, listening further brought a couple of things to light.

First off, this is actually a better song than Snow, although it took me some time to wring that admission from it. For me, the real problem here is the lack of confidence coming through the vocal, it gives the whole song a breathless, lets-not-make-a-noise edginess that doesn't suit the lyrics or the accompaniment. Said accompaniment being largely strummed chords on what sounds like a decent guitar although it's been recorded on a mantle thick wodge of cotton wool. Having said all that, Time Flies is a decent almost-country song that aches to be done properly.

Recommended for the song but be prepared for lo-fi though.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Markie Gee - Silence

Hear The Track Here

OK this is too weird for me. I've spent a while listening to Markie Gee's Silence track, happily I might add. It's actually a really nice bit of electronic dance and you know I don't do that genre too well. So there I was ready to do this review and generally when I am writing the reviews themselves is where I do most of the research - including this all important links. A lot of the reason my reviews are successful, I suspect, is because I have always been really scrupulous about making sure that the links are correct simply because my readers are - how can I phrase this delicately? - really, really lazy *****. (Ed: I intervened because he REALLY shouldn't say that to you guys...)

So, sore point number 1: maybe the link I am supplying here may not work. Either that is because Markie Gee is no longer at Soundclick, or Soundclick and he are having some sort of tussle over his pages/content. Against that background, as much as you may not be able to hear it, if Markie is still around we can get a valid link to it. The reason, therefore I am pursuing this review is because the track is actually worth the trouble searching out. Not sure about the vocal being used in it, it's very slick and sounds professionally recorded - and that may indeed be a problem with Soundclick hosting it.

Obviously its dance overtones wouldn't have done much, but the electronica that the dance rhythm provides is a direct descendant of 1980's electro-pop in feel and sound, very Euro if you know what I mean. What comes out is a very accessible pop track that has a lot going for it which is why I am so frustrated that I am not able to provide a verifiable link. OK, so if you like commercial hip hop or anything electronic brings you out in boils and weeping sores, this is not the track for you. If you like what I have described then this is well worth tracking down.

Highly Recommended light and bouncy electro-pop.

Chayse Maclair - It's Getting Darker

Hear The Track Here

A new name to me from Soundclick, Chayse Maclair is an American hip hop rapper, of which Soundclick seems to have countless hordes. In probably the harshest market on Soundclick, and the RW in general, it's going to take someone working in this field delivering something really off the beaten commercial track to really grab your attention. Fact is, Soundclick has some very good rappers and some world class producers and beat factories, one of which - Anno Domini - supplies the music on this track and they have long been among my favourites. I have heard their music done by more rappers than you can shake a stick at. A good indication of just how many people like their style.

Of course the big problem with beat factories on the one hand, and a wannabe rapper on the other is successfully marrying the two together and that is where most rappers fail IMHO. The rap would be on, but the music would be off, or vice versa or - on the odd horror - where neither jibe together. I tend to get a bit snarky about it when it doesn't work, especially if the rap steps over the music. The good news is that Chayse Maclair definitely knows enough to make sure that the backing track is front and centre and it should be - this is a nice piece of work from Anno Domini.

If you are breathlessly expecting me to give you the bad news now, there ain't none. Chayse also delivers a quality rap, done with considerable style. While it isn't as standout as it should be to really get attention in this genre, the man does the job well. As you know, commercial rap doesn't have much resonance for me, but I am a keen aficionado of indie hip hop a la Soundclick and other indie sites, and Chayse Maclair fits right in with that. For me, a lot of the power in this track, unfortunately, comes from the excellent music track but I suspect Chayse is going to prove that wrong with further tracks, and he's got a lot on his page :)

Recommended hip hop (knockout music track from Anno Domini)

PLB (Bay Area) - Fixing The World (Japanese)

Hear The Track Here

It's no good going 'uh oh' and shaking your head, it has to be said that if any musician you've ever known was as confident and uncaring of opinion as PLB (Bay Area)'s Patrick Lew, then the world would surely be a much noisier and discordant place. Regular readers of these reviews are probably already cowering under their tables ready for the sonic onslaught about to descend upon their poor uncomprehending hearing equipment because, to put it mildly, Patrick Lew follows his own star. Put it like this, if I hadn't known that Patrick was singing this in Japanese (not his mother tongue btw) I still would have said it was like past tracks from this source.

Baffling. Exuberant. Irritating.

All words I have applied to Patrick's work before and will come as no surprise to him whatsoever. Patrick's problem (at least with me) is that he doesn't live in the same musical universe as the rest of us and - surprisingly enough - that's OK. I must admit that I did cut up extremely rough with the first few tracks I heard from this SF based Taiwanese-American, but time, as they say, heals all wounds. Either that or his music has sealed my ears up. Either way, what I do admire about Patrick is his uncompromising stance on what he does, leaving you but one choice - love it or hate it.

As a musical reference, Patrick's music evolved from the early West Coast grunge scene of Washington, filtered through a miasma of influenced by living in San Francisco and its own roots in grunge (or you could say garage) music. I'd say that Patrick is, in essence, a bit of a thrasher and a wailer whose sense of musical progression seems to have been enhanced by several large quarts of mind altering substances and a healthy disregard for any form of musical coherence. Definitely not a musician to be taken lightly, the one thing I can actually guarantee is that it will either terrify you or have you scratching your head muttering 'wtf' under your breath.

不可解な (Ed: Japanese for baffling)

Cam's Even Song - So Fay Rae

Hear The Track Here

Having staked his entire musical catalog out of the equivalent of writing a song about everything Cameron Bastedo (for it is he) sees, hears or smells, it was ever likely that - sooner or later - he would write about the mighty King Kong. In this case, the original 1933 black and white classic featuring Fay Wray, although I'm not sure whether the mispelling is intentional or not. There again, Cam is also a teacher so he's got to be right, innit? (bats eyelids). If I've left you at the starting gate with a blank look, then obviously you haven't been around here a lot. Cam is one of several veteran Soundclick stalwarts who music continues to impress members of that site, and indeed my own readers.

Cam's Even Song is a Christian musician who manages to tread that fine line between folksy and preachy and does it extraordinarily well. So well, in fact, that I made him my Artist Of The Year 2006 and believe me that's a hard nut to crack - and virtually impossible for the other kind of Christian, if you know what I mean. When Cam isn't doing that, he is making whimsical, often funny narratives based on events in his life, newspaper stories and maybe even cereal packets for all I know. Cam explains the story behind So Faye Rae as 'Girl finds love in unlikely place, ape pays big price. You know, the old story' and then commences to tell the story his way where - for example - King Kong is 'a real tough blood, from a dinosaur hood' who met a girl on safari and 'now he's ape in the heart, for some New York tart'

And therein lies the beauty in what Cam's Even Song is all about. Cam is a consummate songwriter, it's something he literally HAS to do, and over the years his music and songs have enlivened many a review session and So Faye Rae is no exception. Coming from the pop rock, whimsical side of Cam's personality which, to be honest, is not my preferred Cam style, the track still acquits itself honourably and shows that Cam's Even Song show no signs of running out steam any time soon. There will be those who would carp that Cam's style isn't 'modern' but that would miss the point entirely. It's the song, stupid. btw, this has some great acoustic sounds into the bargain....(Ed: that fact for the plank spankers, as Gilmore would call them). More to the point, the video accompanying it features the man himself, and very good it is too.

Highly Recommended pop rock.

DeepSeaGreen - Valsorda EP

Hear The Track Here

If your puzzlement is vast, that's because you weren't around when we reviewed DeepSeaGreen's eponymous debut CD (August 2010) and they contacted me lately with this, their second official release. More a mini-album than an EP, Valsorda should - by reckoning - have taken the band on somewhat from this first album. Classic rock is what this band were about, and very good they were at it too, Listen to me, sounds like I am talking about something from the distant past, rather than last year.

So what is Valsorda? and should you care?

DeepSeaGreen are comprised of brothers Jon and Dan Jefford, Marco Menestrina and Trent Halliday and Soul, Stray Cats And The Cosmos (track one) instantly shows that the band has not changed one whit in the main things, and I think the feel and sound of this EP is somewhat heftier than the first album. All well and good then, so what kind of music? Well, back when I was reviewing the album I compared them in sound to early Free, and although the vocalist sounds slightly like Paul Rodgers, that impression soon wears off. By the time Coagula slithers into view, the stage is set for some steamy blues rock, sounding like a weird cross between Canned Heat and the aforementioned Free.

As I seem to be endlessly pointing out, classic rock is my own life soundtrack so no matter how much I stray into other things, this was always my first love, so I am going to expect respect whenever it is attempted. What colours all of the Valsorda set is heavy blues rock of the old school and all members of the band deliver perfectly to capture the raw, musically energetic lope and style of the genre, the last three tracks in particular are awesome in that respect. Other classic rock bands may be slightly more pop than DeepSeaGreen, but these guys obviously love the genre because it shows up on every track of this excellent EP. What it has done for me is made me more determined to catch the band live, and soon too. Watch this space.

MUST HAVE Classic (blues) Rock.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hana Pirana - My Nerves Were Made For Grinding EP

Hear The Track Here

I thank whatever guardian angel is looking after me that my children are boys. Bad enough that one of them likes Justin Beiber, but I wouldn't have been able to cope if Hanna Montana had been on the cultural agenda. Thankfully, however, we slid by that bear trap with ease (with the slight stumble with Beiber being a mere irritation). Now, as if the universe has aligned with my wishes, this daddy can introduce his sons to one Hana Pirana who - by name alone - is already miles above the teenies we have been discussing. Hana approached me to review her latest EP through the Rebel Riffs blog, and with a name like this, how could I refuse?

Me being a well known coward of the world, of course...

So, aside from the catchy name, a very fetching image does Hana have any other unique selling points? Well, funny you should mention that because Hana has a very unique selling point. She plays violin-led rock that is a treat to this jaded earholes, and may do the same trick with you. As you know, I do tend to get through a wodge of music every month so it's only likely that I become somewhat blase. It takes something very different and/or idiosyncratic to capture my attention properly so that I really WANT to spend time with it. Well, Hana Pirana manages to be both idiosyncratic and different and she rocks...big time.

There are three tracks on the Grinding EP: Thin Air, My Nerves Were Made For Grinding (not, as I first thought, My Nuts Were Made For Grinding) and Paper Doll and I'll tell you truth, I am hard pressed to single out one I like more than any other track. Each has its own style and feel, but solidly based in good old rock music and musically it ranges from sub Hot Rats Zappa to punky vocalists to some amazingly hard rock sections. Moreover, Hana is also an idiosyncratic songwriter and a powerful singer who knows how to put a song over. If all that wasn't enough (she had me at the image, of course) she also happens to be a fiery, passionate violinist whose contribution is the highlight of these tracks. I could have a couple of digs about the overall sound, but that is such small change.. Go over, listen to all three...

MUST HAVE violin rock (I kid ye not)

Pidgeman - You Mean The World To Me

Hear The Track Here

To my certain knowledge Pidgeman has been making and releasing music online for a good many years. I first encountered him in 2007 and there has been a lot of musical water under the bridge since then. So it stands to reason that after that amount of time, the thing you could bank on most would be technical quality - in songwriting and production. Most of the musicians who have been around on this scene for some time learn those lessons real quick, leaving you (the listener) only one real choice; do you like it or not? For me, the pinnacle of what we do is to give the listener that choice, rather than have to go through endless demos - which is what it felt like back at the beginning.

(sigh) yes I was there too...

Suffice to say, Pidgeman always delivers and although I believe he has made better tracks, You Mean The World To Me is miles above the obvious competition and shows that Pidgeman has learned his presentation extremely well. Musically this track flows seamlessly, aided by a faultless production and anyone who is familiar with Pidgeman's particular take on the rock animal will take to this like a duck to water. So what does that mean for the drive-by hordes? Well, your starting point would have to be classic rock of one kind or another, your second would be impeccable music. For an example of this, listen to the section in this track where the organ enters the frame - knockout idea and execution.

On that score, Pidgeman does beautifully and if you've picked up a tone in this review it's purely a stylistic thing. See, Pidgeman is an equal opportunity plunderer (I mean that in the nicest way) and he takes influences from both UK and US rock history and - to my ears - this is a bit too American sounding for my tastes. Oh, and it's also a semi-ballad thing too and that could certainly play a part. As I said earlier, there is only one choice here, whether you like it or not. I certainly like it enough to add to my own personal Pidgeman collection, but you'll have to make up your own mind.

Highly Recommended Pop Rock of quality,

Jon Solo - Drift Away

Hear The Track Here

No relation, btw, to another legendary superhero, Han Solo. (Ed: and it's downhill from there folks!) Harrumpphh!! Not even started before I'm bushwacked... Anyway, Jon Solo (the musician and superhero) has made what seems like a big impact in a very short time on Soundclick's de-nuded forums. What people tend to forget is that Jon was also there back in the glory days of Soundclick (yes, there was one) and has obviously learned a trick or two along the way. Out of the four tracks I have reviewed so far, three got a Must Have rating and despite all appearances, I don't hand them out like Smarties (and no, I don't mean M&M's).

Uh oh, sweet wars!! **** drift away, run awaaaaayyyyyyyy...

Jon Solo's secret is encapsulated in three letters: p-o-p. It has been at the root of all the tracks I have heard from him and - let me tell you - it takes a special skill to pull it off successfully. That's why hit records are so prized, after all. At least, that was so until the internet that is. I've heard lots and lots of hits from unsigned and unknown musicians but in a world where the dollar talks and music walks, they are highly unlikely to be real world hits. One them just has to be Jon's Elisabeth Shue (June 2009), a beautiful example of Beatle based pop.

Although still with that same Beatle-ish feel, Drift Away, also reminds me of yet another 1960's band that is often overlooked. The Hollies were a Manchester band who rose to fame with a great blend of vocal harmonies, one of the members being Graham Nash who went on to form Crosby, Stills Nash, one of the prime innovators in this style. The reason I drag history (and the resultant dust) into this conversation is actually a compliment to Jon's unerring ability to...well, nail it I suppose. Whatever it is, it's a gift and Jon makes good use of it. So should you.

MUST HAVE pop of the old school.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Distant Autumn - Just The Same

Hear The Track Here

John Brandon, Al McNeill and Brad Strickland make up the entity known as Distant Autumn and with this track, these guys are batting three for three; three tracks out, three Gilmore reviews... I sense a pattern here. Mind you, it's a well established and long standing pattern started by the aforementioned John Brandon, first when he was a member of Silvertrain and secondly as a member of just about any band going. I jest, of course, but only slightly. From being in a kind of maybe/sometime band like Silvertrain, he has grown like Topsy the last couple of years with Distant Autumn and Those Among Us.

This is, apparently, Al McNeil's first song which surprises me because John is usually in that role. Here he just 'lent my ears this time round' which means that this is pretty much a collab between the less familiar members of the band. Truth is, I loved the first track, You Know What You Do (October 2010) but didn't go so much for Shine (January 2011) but this is purely a personal taste thing because these are committed and experienced musicians, not going to be able to bitch and moan about technical problems...sheesh..

For a first song, Just The Same scrubs up real nice in that effortless pop rock way that is a feature of all their tracks. It is beyond doubt that Distant Autumn will find a large audience for all their work, so it's just a question of favouritism. To my mind, they still have to eclipse that first track, but as I say this is a purely personal thing nothing to do with the music or the song. As it is, Just The Same is an American flavoured power rock ballad that will go down very nicely at sites like Soundclick and Mixposure but might not travel that well on more modern sites.

Classic pop rock though. Highly Recommended.

Dep - Put You On Ft Lazy Jaw & P Of Untitled(DTP)

Hear The Track Here

While places like Soundclick et al are awash with hip hop music, rappers and bands, that doesn't mean to say that they are neglecting other parts of the internet because this link - for example - is to the artists blog. Doesn't seem to have a website for music other than Mixtape Central, otherwise known as the excellent datpiff site. Dep's first mixtape, The First Installment, is there, and this track is one of its contents. Although Dep is a new name to me, obviously he isn't on the hip hop scene because he drops a lot of names on his blog.

The Mixtape lists Johnny Juliano, Vybe Beatz and T-Minus as producers and Lazy Jaw, Untitled of DTP, Cush, VS, Royalty as rappers. Mind you, I have no idea whatsoever because none of those names mean anything to me and nor should they. What we have to go on here is the music and, in that respect, it is a bit of a mixed bag. Kneeling on the confessional, I have to say that commercially inclined hip hop does not appeal to me in the slightest, and Put You On comes dangerously close to being exactly that. This is obviously a personal taste thing and should probably be taken into account.

Technically, this is exactly what I would expect given the roll call of names but it is right up at the tamer end of the scale and while I can appreciate both the musicianship and the rapping quality, the track stylistically doesn't do very much for me. There again, as I say, this is definitely not aimed at someone like me but having heard almost everything that could be thrown at me from my reviewing activities, I'd say if you DO like commercial hip hop this is as good as anything out there. Personally, I would like to hear something less - how can I put this? - nice.

Highly Recommended nonetheless.

Ralph Atkinson - Throw The TV Out Of The Window

Hear The Track Here

When I was growing up, television was a unifying force; a truly awesome medium that seemed to always be on the verge of great things. In the UK (land of 3 channels for the longest time) it gave people something to talk about the next day or - if it was a particularly exciting programme - the whole week. It also, of course, gave me exposure to some of the musicians who would consequently shape my own life. Watching the Sixties heroes in dazzling black and white was the highlight of my young life, and many of the other programmes had a lot to offer too. But that was then, and this is the brash and newly digital 21st Century, so best do as Ralph Atkinson suggests. I haven't watched TV itself in years and I don't even own one.

There again, I don't own anything so that's no comparison.

If you are a regular reader of these literary chicken entrails, you will already well aware of Canadian musician and songwriter Ralph Atkinson, and who knows you may already be a fan of this increasingly diverse musician. Like a lot of Soundclick musicians, Ralph lets the music do the talking for him, giving us some very tasty examples of blues, rock and anything in between in the couple of years I have known of him. 'Everyone watched 'til they were nearly blind' he sings, 'and it stole our hearts as it was stealing our minds' and I can only nod my head in understanding. Know exactly what you mean with this song.

Ralph has consistently proved his musical mettle, backing it up with some considerable technical chops and, to my ears anyway, seems to be getting better with each successive track. Now that could well be me being swayed but I love this track, and I am not afraid to say it. The reason for that is twofold; it's a great song and it's beautifully put together with some vocal harmony tracks that are honey to the ears. Mind you, it has this bluesy feel running through it and IMHO Ralph Atkinson is definitely at his best when playing in that genre.

Highly Recommended bluesy pop and MUST HAVE for fans.

Fear 2 Stop - The Flood

Hear The Track Here

Oh just when you thought it was safe to go in the water along comes a flood, and not just an ordinary one too, it's a Fear 2 Stop one. Be afraid. There again, if you have been exposed to this Houston, TX trio before you will already be experiencing a certain pucker factor. Regardless of anything else. Fear 2 Stop compositions take some assimilation but - once bitten - it is amazing how fond of them you can become. So while I was prepared for the usual level of musical bedlam from them, I was totally unprepared for what appears to be their most commercial sounding track yet...


Well, it is Fear 2 Stop we are talking about here, the last thing it would be is straight forward. This has always been a band that takes great delight in confounding and confusing listeners and taking a path that is distinctly their own. You are certainly not going to hear that many Fear 2 Stop clones, nobody else would want to take such a difficult path. Mind you, a lot of us Soundclick vets have grown a marked liking for their particular brand of experimental electronica and the most surprising thing about this track is that it's pretty much vanilla, dance-flavoured electronica. Definitely not like the band's normal blend of analog and digital sound.

The music on the track dates from 2001 and is the very first Fear 2 Stop track ever and - I suspect - the sound and feel has more to do with the software they used to make it than anything they intended. The vocal, however, was added this year and that is the reason this track carries a Parental Advisory - a lot of swearing and general profanity and there are no lyrics printed so its difficult to tell what its about. A very different sounding track then, and one that carries a bit of history with it, not only the first F2S track ever written, but also the first to feature a 'proper' - if such a term can be applied - vocal from Billy Castillo.

Recommended oddity.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thomas J Marchant - The Lost Dream of Being an Astronaut

Hear The Track Here

By far one of the most prolific and spontaneous musicians on Soundclick, Thomas J Marchant has come a long way from his callow musical youth, when he was about as experimental as they come. Mind you, he could still be termed experimental in some ways, certainly he could be thought of as a bit of an acquired taste. Personally I like Thomas's style and have done for a long time but I do appreciate there are bound to be detractors. Thomas has, in my view, blossomed into a quite extraordinary singer/songwriter with his own particular feel for what's right and I know he has enough admirers to make this all worthwhile.

So whats on the menu this month?

Actually a blend of the callow youth mentioned above, and the more nonchalant Thomas we have come to know through his songwriting. So, experimental nonchalance anyone? The sound of such an unlikely beast is obviously going to be a question of taste. One thing I have learned about Thomas, you either like his work or you don't, he doesn't leave any room for compromise. In my view, Thomas fits into a nice little niche of his own and - shame on me - I have even used him as references for other tracks I review.

However in this overcrowded environment I still contend that there is no-one quite like Thomas and, whatever flaws it might have, his music appeals to me. Flaws? Weeellll (waggles fingers).... It's a question of perception I guess. You could listen to this and think that there is too much reverb on the voice (well, well, well), that the arrangement and performance is a bit ramshackle and you would be describing pretty much any Thomas J track. For people like me that is exactly why I like him, that simple, direct approach surmounts any number of technical problems. Having said that, this IS pretty rough sounding and that may very well put some people off...Thomas, however, likes it like that.

Recommended whimsy.

Darius Lux - Time Is Now EP

Hear The Track Here

As an honoured and distinguished journalist (Ed: pffttt) I get offered all kind of goodies not available to members of the general public (Ed: he means you guys). OK I know it might be stretching a point to describe the endless begging letters I get as 'goodies' but hey, at least it is some kind of perk. One of the nicest of those beggars (Ed: sure you meant to say that?) is Amanda from the excellent LaFamos hype factory, who has put me onto some fine music since I first appeared in their begging list. Fact is LaFamos work hard to get the word about their artists out and their artists are definitely world class, at least those I have heard so I had no difficulty getting to grips with Amanda's new pash - LA's Darius Lux.

Time Is Now is a six track EP, and if you need a taster track for what his music is like, point yourself for a listen to No Problem (track one of the EP). Parts of this track are soooo American in sound and feel and then suddenly switch around to sound eerily close to Paul Rodgers and the early Free; as English as it gets. Darius describes his music somewhere as 'soulful and thoughtful rockin urban pop' but he left out the extremely high quality of the recorded sound, and the performance on this first track is nothing less than sublime. A lesson in how to craft a perfect pop song, right here. There again I could say the same about every single track on this superb collection of songs. The only problem, for someone like me, is not to get carried away by just how good this EP in every respect.

Of course it's commercial; that's the point. It's also a collection of incredibly user friendly songs that pull you straight into the action, making them IMHO about as commercially viable as it gets. So why then, is he not a massive star? S'no good staring at your feet, the answer is not down there. So here we have a musician who has everything lined up in a row: great image, very sophisticated commercial nous concerning the kind of music he make, and a performing and production side that is as up to the mark as the music and songwriting. My blog is amazing, every once in a while it does spit out these little jewels and Darius Lux is up there with the best of them, so I'm a happy puppy. Whether this will lead to anything positive for Darius is up to the gods but if the live video of Moondance is any indication, it's only a matter fof time before someone bites.

MUST HAVE hottie ;)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Gabriel Sabadi - La Vuelta (The Return) - Listen

Hear The Track Here

Like many internet musicians, Gabriel Sabadi straddles a mess of different websites and social media - a necessary part of promoting yourself as a musician these days - and seems to gain friends wherever he goes. Partly because he is a very friendly kind of guy, and partly because of the sophistication and depth of his musical works, technically and artistically. Now that's quite a stretch for me to say all that because, in reality, Gabriel's absolute all-time favourite genre of choice is prog-rock: big in hair and ideas. Luckily, in this case, Gabe has dispensed with all the showy glitz and just gone for cracking tunes that almost hug your brain. Damn catchy stuff too, some of it. Almost makes an old prog-rock curmudgeon like myself ashamed at some of my more vitriolic outpourings against the genre.

Please note the key word 'almost'...

Gabriel is joined on La Vuelta (The Return) - Listen (don't ask, I have no idea) by another legendary figure in certain internet circles, the one - and definitely only - Ked Dieter, mad axeman of the North and petrolhead par excellence. I'd say gas-head to be more linguistically correct but Ked is several planet sizes bigger than me and I'm certain he wouldn't take lightly to being called gas head. Oh ****. I just did it, didn't I? Quick, the music!!! It's absolutely pointless to review anything from these musicians on a technical level, they have both long passed that test with flying colours. Suffice to say the production quality evident on this track speaks volumes for their technical ability.

Like any halfway decent prog-rock, this is a track of many different shades and textures including the amazing tones that flow out of Ked's fingers and I defy anyone who knows him not to start grinning as soon as he loosens up his chops part way into the track. There is a playfulness in the track that isn't immediately apparent, I only started to notice it after a few plays but it is the element that - for me - made this the listening pleasure it was. More to the point, for a prog-rock track it came in at a very manageable six minutes and even old curmudgeons can appreciate that. All joking aside, this is two long time musicians having a lot of fun working together, and it shows.

Highly Recommended prog axefest.

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Endless Suffering

Hear The Track Here

I have to 'fess up and admit that when I first encountered Weylin's Slayer Orchestra I thought I was in for some endless suffering all of my very own. I have to say, in my own defense, that it was probably a lot to do with not understanding what this musician was about. Having done some (counts on fingers) five reviews now, I find myself liking the music more and more. Technically, however, it's often a different story but that is one of the drawbacks of home recording, especially when you are still experimenting with how best to do it. Having said that, Weylin's Slayer Orchestra, are pretty good musically, having a metal edge that I most definitely appreciate especially when the music wanders into genres known to be poisonous to Gilmore-kind.

Such as prog-rock.

Endless Suffering is the title track from the forthcoming album/CD/thing Weylin has been working on so a couple of things need to be pointed out. Firstly, it's probably best to approach this track as a work in progress. It's currently an instrumental (as is the bulk of his work) but lyrics have been written and (presumably) a singer is being sought. It could be YOU!! Obviously from a stylistic point of view, you will have heard lots of things that are similar and that may, or may not, be a good thing. Depends on your view of prog-rock music I guess. Mind you, I do see the reasoning behind wanting vocals on this track, it certainly cries out for them.

If nothing else Weylin's Slayer Orchestra do provide a pretty convincing show, and Endless Suffering is no exception, showing the guitar skills that are a major part of what this musician does. Moreover, it doesn't suffer from the same fate as previous tracks where the music was marred by drum tracks that just didn't match the action. There again, this is a fairly slow, almost majestic piece at times - as befits the genre - and that alone keeps the attention. I'm really keen on instrumentals per se, I get to hear way too damn many of them but this was surprisingly easy listen. Be interesting to see what kind of song comes out of this.

Highly Recommended prog rock nonetheless.

Bikini Black Special - Physioterrorists CD

Hear The Track Here

Drugs are baaad m'OK? Except when they are good. It's a well known fact that making music and drugs go together in many peoples eyes, although not in every case. However, I have to stress that the drugs that fuelled the new Bikini Black Special were of a more conventional type - painkillers. Surely the music wasn't that bad? Nope, as my review of The Grim Mathematics Of Intercourse CD (November 2009), Bikini Black Special are a bit different in many ways, it takes time to get to know this bands music so be best not to do this one in drive-by stylee... Obviously it's been a while since that CD and this one, and that is where the painkiller story comes in. After a year or so of problems - physical and otherwise - the band set to 'writing new material in a haze of hardcore painkillers' and surely the title of the CD tells the whole story of this time. Talk about the best writing comes from you know and experience.

So, face masks on, and let's begin...

BBS are a five piece band from Preston (that's the North of England for our American chums) who make what they call 'electro-rock noisemakers' which is why I say it will take time to truly appreciate what this band does. Certainly the intro to the first track, The Safety Plan will have you scratching your heads but give it a moment and it becomes a very good song - provided, of course, that you like music that dares to be a little different. Their line-up and choice of instruments says it all, Lyndsey Wilson supplies the vocals, Paddy Green, gtr/vocals/coding, Bobby Gormley on drums, Jonti Peters on keyboards and Tom Woolsgrove on violin. Not your conventional lineup that's for sure and as odd as their music often is, the roots of it are definitely in the music they heard growing up - I hear many influences. If you really want a track that says this is BBS, then go for the second track Lone Mouse In The Reptile House - very clever musically and a really good song into the bargain.

In some places I am reminded of Fear 2 Stop musically, although the voices of Paddy and Lyndsey make all the difference. Moreover, Lyndsey has a very English voice and approach (think Kate Bush)and - surprisingly enough - it really fits in with the particular Bikini Black Special sound they come up with. No slouch at songwriters either I say. 'I wouldn't wish a plague on your house' Kobra Kai states but goes on to add that a little sickness wouldn't go amiss. Got to love that understatement. Kobra Kai also shows how well the band ride odd rhythms, a bit of a hallmark of theirs, Taken as a whole I'd say that Better Homes and Gardens is probably the band at their most commercial and accessible but again, conventional it isn't. 'You are not gonna get rich, bitch' The Bikini Method says, and I'd say the same for this CD. However, if your taste is towards the more 'interesting' and 'intelligent' musical styles, this CD puts Bikini Black Special up there with the best of them. Let's hope there are sufficient drugs left around to make another just like this. At this point, I have to say I am definitely a fan of this very different band, and that's a good thing for me, and hopefully for you too if you like this style because putting the time in is soooo worth it.

Highly Recommended 'electro-rock noisemaking'

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Love, Susan - Alive

Hear The Track Here

My final review of this month is also from the UK, this time from Dundee in Scotland, Love, Susan is a five piece band who - should you happen to live in the area - are a live gigging band and judging from what I hear, they would be well worth a visit to see live. What? I know you think I am interested because it's a woman, but seriously, Love Susan are a cut above the average. Put it like this, whenever I am rounding out a month of reviews it comes as some comfort that the last track I have to handle is as good as Alive is. It does exactly what it says on the tin, if you know what I mean..


If I were being honest, reviewing as much as I do is often more of a slog than a joy but once, just once in a while along comes a track that makes it all worthwhile and Alive is one of those tracks. The sort of music that leaps out of the speakers and gives you a great big feelgood hug. All five members of the band have put in long service at the musical coal face and their music has that hard edge of commercial credibility that often comes with (ahem) 'paying your dues'. Much more to the point, though, as good as the music is (and it is), what lifts it most are the vocal and songwriting talents of the aforementioned Susan - Susan McCathie (a Royal Academy of Music student in her time).

She is the main driving force here but it would be criminal not to name the other musicians involved because they all - each and every one of them - do a splendid job of fleshing out Susan's musical vision. Ed Muirhead, Kris Boyd, Gary McQueen and Bruce Langlands are all local musicians, and very accomplished ones too. Alive is a track from the band's first EP Look in the Mirror which has just been released and if this track is any indication this is definitely a Must Have EP. Right from the very first note Alive impressed me with it's warmth of sound, and blew me away when Susan started to sing. It's an incredibly commercial track that deserves to be heard simply as an example of how good it can get. Definitely a great find for me, that's for sure.

MUST HAVE love drop.