Thursday, September 28, 2006

Monkeyswirl - Move

Hear The Track Here

When I first encountered Canadian acoustic rock artist Monkeyswirl, he immediately pressed all my favourite musical buttons. Sweet acoustic rock, layered and meaningful vocals and a song with a sense of itself. All those things were shown in Late In The Evening (August 2006) which I described as classic acoustic rock. Move moves things on a great deal further in my opinion and I think we start to get an idea of just what we are dealing with here. So let me admit extreme bias from the outset because Monkeyswirl has everything I like in an artist; style, class and a touch for knowing just how far to go.

Move is a classic example of how to do this right.

I think I was sold on this track as soon as I heard it but - in this case - I had a further duty to perform. I was asked to check if there was any difference between the downloadable file and the hi-fi play track and - to be honest - I can't see any discernible differences. Both versions show off the track as well as can be expected but obviously the download version is preferable. Obviously it would sound better at 192kbit/s but hey, that's just splitting hairs. The version that I have is fine enough for just about anyone's ears I would say.

Monkeyswirl promised a lot on that first track and I really feel he has delivered exactly that on Move, a very moody number indeed. Set in a much heavier, rockier soundscape than the previous track, Move delights me in endless ways. It's faultless vocals have to be a decided highlight, but the depth and quality of sound that is accompanying that vocal is every bit as up to the job. At the end of the day, Move is a great song, produced and performed to a very high standard and a track I would be proud to have made (Ed: what he actually means is that he is pigsick that he didn't make this track) So, having fessed up about my vaunting bias already it should come as no surprise that I really, really rate this track and - should you give it a listen - I think you may too.

Highly Recommended. A beautiful track.

Policy Overkill - Smile

Hear The Track Here

Even though - after the last review - I have learned not to call this artist Project Overkill, I am still sorely afflicted. So if I happen to say something along the lines of 'and Policy Roadkill dropped a right bollock there' let it be understood as a sign of my continuing verbal deterioration and descent into a bitter and twisted old age. Anyway, to business! The Stomp Dance (June 2006) interested me because of it's retro feel, not enough admittedly to wholeheartedly recommend it but enough to find interesting. Wonder (August 2006) was however, certainly good enough for a recommendation, a surprise considering it's Electronica: Ambient genre placing.

Yep, a eureka moment, right enough.

Smile though falls into my least favourite sub genre: techno, but trying to put my predjudice aside... Even Policy Ro... errr Overkill baldly states that this track is 'dreary, repetitive, minor key' and although that may well be a technical description, the almost six minutes of its length passes relatively easily. Despite, I might add a basic, static production that does nothing whatsover to shape the sound. Quite why that is I have no idea but it doesn't help this song at all. Because the track relies on the sounds it contains (and this does contain some very pleasant and intriguing sounds) I feel a little more time could have been spent scrubbing them up a bit more.

Pretty much middle based without much in the way of meaningful bass or high end doesn't really suit music of this type. The very best techno is full spectrum stuff with as much attention paid to the beat sounds as the instrumental selections. All of which is not to say that Smile is not a good track. On the contrary it's a reasonably pleasant little tune that - with a little more work - may actually turn into something. It may well work better with a vocal maybe? Anyfekkinhoo, it is a decent slice of the lighter side of electronica and if you already like the genre you'll be quids in. Goth Techno? I don't think so, it's waaaayy to light for the Misery Brigade. It's also a surprisingly pretty tune considering its genre.

Parasol - Sleeping

Hear The Track Here

Call me completely clueless as far as Parasol goes. A completely new name to me but who says he's 'some kid strumming the guitar not really caring if anyone listens or not'. YAh, right, heard that one before. Of course y'all care about whether anyone listens, that's why you are doing it right?? It's a tad more difficult, I find, to get people to listen to your music when you are in the Acoustic Folk genre. Don't know why but the very term brings lots of people out in a red mist. I suspect this is down more to the image the terms conjures up, than anything any of the genre's artists are doing wrong. The one thing the genre CAN be relied upon for is to throw up some good songs. I also told a fib about not knowing anything about Parasol because I just found a review I did just last month on Still A Bit of Everything Here, and pretty much just repeated the opening paragraph of that review.

DOH!! Old timers!!!

Turns out that despite it's musical sparsity, I liked the way Parasol put the song across. We all got to start somewhere, innit? So, given that you already like the genre, nothing will come as a surprise. What might come as a surprise is the 25 seconds or so of dead air before ANYTHING happens, not an auspicious start and one I recommend Parasol deal with immediately. The song itself is fairly wordy, so it comes as a bit of surprise that the lyrics are not posted, that would help too. However, thats just mere dressing because the real problem with this track lies in the songs structure, and it's delivery.

Let me see if I understand this. You have a recording device of some kind, either a straightforward stereo cassette system, or a basic 4 track. Most of your work is done in your bedroom (don't we ALL know that one), and you can't make too much noise otherwise the family will be on the recording too. The problem is that it really effects the way you emote your songs lyrics. I can hear you trying to be quiet, and that ain't good. The guitar also appears to be slightly out of tune and this only serves to make things worse. When the only things on the track are as flawed as this, the only thing to do is to try and capture it again....and again.........and again....

And haven't we all heard that one before too.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Onemob - Rain Lobes (Remix)

Hear The Track Here

If you clicked on the website link before reading this review, you are probably feeling a bit confused. The link is to the SC page of the concisely named Soupbone For Murder - an artist you may remember from my encounter earlier this month with the Groucho Von Strainer track - a lovely, and very surprisingly acoustic instrumental. So does Soundclick stalwart Onemob have to do with this? Welp, obviously our old friend and master beatsman has done a remix and this is the beast it rode in on. However, hearing a remix is nothing unless you've had a go on the original so let's take that first... If you are on the webpage (god bless tabbed browsers!), it's the next track down from Onemob's remix.

Like Groucho Von Strainer is delightfully acoustic and it automatically gets in my good books because it uses country strings (mandolin, acoustic guitar, banjo). It's also a surprisingly good song with - I presume - vocals from 'The Mac' of Quaco Project. Shame that the lyrics didn't get posted with the track because I sure could have done with them but no doubt there's a reason for this. I did like the original a great deal, I got to admit and would have given it a good rating for being a good song, encased in a solid arrangement. Good vocals too.

Onemob's version approaches from the other direction entirely and kicks your head in from the first beat. So far, so Onemob then eh? Over the years I have known this guy he has thrown some considerable chunks of material at me, most of which I have appreciated, if not actually kept. Those same years have given Onemob a production sound and trickery that really suits the DnB arrangement this remix is set in. There's not a lot left over for frills because what counts here is the intensity of the groove. The original version doesn't really appear until about halfway through the track and then disappears back into the undergrowth quickly enough. As much as the original is still here, the reason I just put Onemob in the title of this review is because the bulk of the track is most definitely his work. More banging for your buck and no mistake, a master of the arts.

Quality hardcore drums and bass. Highly Recommended. (btw, so is the original!)

Timmy Sells His Soul - Good Little Consumer

Hear The Track Here

Timmy Sells His Soul is the absolutely brilliant bandname for a solo project from one Daniel Euphrat. If that name is familiar that may be because you have encountered him with brother Greg in the band Dross who I have encountered a couple of times in the past. Once in collaboration with arch musical fiend Guanoman with the incredibly lurid title, Gradually Sealing Every Orifice In His Head (December 2004) - to my ears a dense, intense combination but not for those with weak stomachs. Then I came across them in their own right with Naptha Dentifrice (May 2005) where again they can throw up a strong sound, albeit one that nibbles voraciously on your nerve endings. As I say, not for the faint of heart.

Then up pops Daniel in his TSHS guise and he promises us 'strange songs in an essentially 'pop' song structure' Mmmm sounded good to me too, because you can only take so much musical chaos theory innit? Welp, don't approach this track wearing anything that might get - shall I say - soiled. because no matter what Good Little Consumer is, it ain't pop as we know it in this universe. Billed as an 'Other:Alternative' track I can testify that the emphasis should be on the Other bit. Mind you, anyone familair with the Dross personna I was gabbling about a while back will recognise this little musical vixen immediately.

As wild as the Euphrat's musical world happens to be, it is an alternative universe even, the sound and energy pumped into the work in terms of performance and production are very much of this world. You are either going to love this stuff, or you are going to hate it. Whenever I play this is I am battered by God knows how many different genres - mostly guitar-oriented. There's thrash, grunge, industrial - in fact every 'dirty' sound known to man. This is all thrown into a musical blender, shot through space at the speed of light before arriving at your earholes as a buzzy, fuzzy strain-to-hear-it cacophony that - strangely enough - works. Every time I hear anything from this quarter it seems that no matter what kind of sonic mayhem is created, it somehow sounds right, proper.

Recommended Alternative Universe.

Alchemystic - New Horizons

Hear The Track Here

Considering he was going to give all this music lark a miss a couple of months ago, Alchemystic has been a surprisingly busy boy. It's a fact that keeping up your internet presence is often more of a pain in the ass, and a great many of us get discouraged, some forever. Still, there are even greater numbers of us to which the thought of doing anything different is completely laughable. I freely admit that there is nothing I'd rather be doing than making music and sharing it with my friends and listeners. Even if I had no friends and no listeners I'd STILL be doing this because it is what makes me get up in the morning - the thought that today I may come up with an inspiring track.

The same, I think, is true of Alchemystic, not matter what he says.

I think I must have had a direct download to this track on another site because it doesn't seem to exist on either Soundclick or the artists main site. Quite why that should be so, I can't remember but I'm sure the man will be along presently to enlighten us. New Horizons, as it's title suggests is well in the film soundtrack groove and it's only the steadying presence of Alchemystic's musical nous that's keeping me rooted enough to find out whether it's gonna make me dream or scream.

Because of the compositional nous he displays, and the tremendously tidy job he makes of the production, I can forgive this guy delving into my least favourite genre easily enough. Suffice to say that as much as I enjoyed listening to this track, to my ears it isn't one of Alchemystic's 'keepers'. His many fans will definitely like this lush, epic production and if you have no idea what I've been throwing at your eyeballs for the past three paragraphs, this is a good place to start. So, yeah a bit soundtrack-y but still a good peice of music for all that.

Alchemystic - New Horizons

Hear The Track Here

Considering he was going to give all this music lark a miss a couple of months ago, Alchemystic has been a surprisingly busy boy. It's a fact that keeping up your internet presence is often more of a pain in the ass, and a great many of us get discouraged, some forever. Still, there are even greater numbers of us to which the thought of doing anything different is completely laughable. I freely admit that there is nothing I'd rather be doing than making music and sharing it with my friends and listeners. Even if I had no friends and no listeners I'd STILL be doing this because it is what makes me get up in the morning - the thought that today I may come up with an inspiring track.

The same, I think, is true of Alchemystic, not matter what he says.

I think I must have had a direct download to this track on another site because it doesn't seem to exist on either Soundclick or the artists main site. Quite why that should be so, I can't remember but I'm sure the man will be along presently to enlighten us. New Horizons, as it's title suggests is well in the film soundtrack groove and it's only the steadying presence of Alchemystic's musical nous that's keeping me rooted enough to find out whether it's gonna make me dream or scream.

Because of the compositional nous he displays, and the tremendously tidy job he makes of the production, I can forgive this guy delving into my least favourite genre easily enough. Suffice to say that as much as I enjoyed listening to this track, to my ears it isn't one of Alchemystic's 'keepers'. His many fans will definitely like this lush, epic production and if you have no idea what I've been throwing at your eyeballs for the past three paragraphs, this is a good place to start. So, yeah a bit soundtrack-y but still a good peice of music for all that.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

HiEnergy - Fast Forward

Hear The Track Here

You would think that an outfit by the name of HiEnergy would be all dance moves and sexy mamas wanting to show you their booties. Quite why they would want me to look at their footwear is beyond me, but no doubt the answer will arrive one day. HiEnergy are billed as Electronica though, so I suppose it IS a dance thing. Uh oh, worse. It's my old nemesis Trance. There appears to be nothing on the Soundclick page to tell us anything about this artist, and only one song online so I should probably presume HiEnergy are new to the site - and maybe even new to music making...

Double uh oh there then...

Ever since I did a stint on a heavily electronic (trance/techno) scene, I have had a down on the kind of music pumped out from this quarter. Not all of it mind, just the slavish kind. I like artists - of whatever genre - to think a little outside the box, not stick to the tried and trusted - ESPECIALLY when it comes to this particular musical style. For my money, this type of track was done best in the late 1990's, and I haven't heard much that I liked outside of that time frame. See, back then this was new, fresh, exciting. Now it's so overdone, it's very time signature is tedious.

Although Fast Forward has great momentum, and some decent intervals, it's reliance on the 4 to the floor beat, and the endless repetition just didn't do it for me. From this track, I would assume that HiEnergy are new to this stuff, simply because this track only works on one level but hey, we all have to start somewhere. If you like techno and particularly the European kind (this artist is German) the I have no doubt you may find something to like here. However, if you don't like the whole metronomic thing, you will probably run a mile for this. Don't get me wrong, it isn't a bad track, just plain and unexciting.

Basic Trance workout

Gare - If Not For You

Hear The Track Here

Gary Teed (AKA Gare) wrote this track for his wife of 18 years, and as a 20 year veteran of the institution, I understand exactly why he felt moved to do this. They may talk your ears off at every opportunity, find millions of unpleasant and time consuming tasks for you to undertake, and berate you to do better at work, but what would we do without them? Of course, for the rest of us, such a frank admission of love could have us either reaching for the sickbag or running in the opposite direction without so much as listening to a note of music.

Damn those philistines!

I could have sworn I have reviewed this guy more than once, but apparently not. I reviewed Back Home (February 2006) and considering it was folk and one of the man's stated influence is John Denver, it wasn't that bad an experience. Matter of fact, it was a fine song, simply sung and there is nowt wrong with that. Since then, he has been experimenting with various types and music making, and I think he had a bit of a catharsis because he felt a bit lost. Welp, Gary me old mate, I now know exactly what you should be doing - churning out what you do best. As much as I don't like the genre, and some of the awesome mushiness of a lot of the lyrics, I can appreciate a decent peice of music and If Not For You is that.

It is very true that you would probably need to be pretty open-minded to listen to something that is folk in every way or - like me - know the genre more than intimately. I think that's the main reason why I like Gare being a guitarist/singer, and maybe why you will like him too. I'll also make no great shakes about the song either, which is very conventional and exactly what you would expect from the genre. However, it's the clarity of the arrangement and production and the tone and timbre of the man's vocals that finally do it for me. Not as deep as Johnny Cash, not as whiny as Dylan but somewhere right in between. Obviously this track isn't going to be for everybody, but I don't think that'll matter to Gare overmuch.

Very presentable folk rock.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Amorphix - A Gnostic Hymn

Hear The Track Here

When I first came across this Soundclick artist a couple of months ago, things didn't look at all promising. Persephone (The Rites of Spring)(July 2006) was billed as Electronica: Ambient and if you take the title and genre classification into account, it was enough to make lightheaded as I started to review it. After all, ambient to me usually means something that only Eno would sick up. Sure, I HAVE heard plenty of decent ambient tracks, and even praised a few, but generally this whole area gives me a bad case of the Hershey squirts. Amorphix, blissfully unaware of the miasma he was about to encounter, couldn't know that I would be absolutely blissed out by the track, giving it a Must Have in the process. Kinda says something about his overall compositional skills I'd say.

A Gnostic Hymn (liber xv) shows exactly why that first track made such a great impression on me. Like Persephone, it's a track from Beyond The Veil Of Light album, and judging by these intense musical peices that is one album worth getting. As you would imagine from the title A Gnostic Hymn is 'an attempt to set the first two texts of the Collects from the Crowleyan Gnostic Mass into a hymnal form'. Alllllrighty then, that's a lot clearer. No, not really so I went a-looking and came up with this should you wish to know more about the subject. Now let's all bow to the great god Google and get back to business.

And what a business it is too.

A Gnostic Hymn - whatever it's real purpose - in this particular case means great music, performed and produced to a very high standard indeed. Sure you would need to be into long, involved musical peices, and you would also have an inclination/fascination with the darker side, this is a intensely sombre peice of music. It's also a work of delicacy and musical tact, each part neatly dovetailing into each other seamlessly, giving the listener the spiritual sense the music requires. There is no doubt in my mind that Amorphix is a frighteningly intelligent musician who SHOULD scare me (and you too) but when the music is this fine, I'll pretty much forgive anything. While less immediate - if such a thing can be applied to this artist - than Persephone, time will show that this is just as classy, detailed, emotive and just plain gorgeous. Two Must Have's in a row. That's certainly a milestone for me and this often irritating genre, Amporphix I salute you, this stuff is just wonderful.


Ditheramb - Fell Apart

Hear The Track Here

Since I came across this Australian band when I reviewed In My Shadow (October 2005), they have seldom been off my radar. Part of that allure has to be down to my own liking for the band's rock credentials and their particular slant on what the term 'metal' should mean. Part of that is down to a personal friendship with Steve Kinghorn (the most visible member of the band). The other members, Steve's brother Scott, Jack Greenhill and Glenn Townsend, probably have a life and get out more which Steve - and this Steve - can only dream about. A right couple of saddo's. No wonder we are mates...

Actually, probably not now eh?

The difference between Ditheramb and most bands that the bulk of humanity regard as metal is style. A three chord bash, a castrato on vocals, and a drumkit the size of Mars generally is the impression most people gather, before running away screaming. For my money, Ditheramb's influence comes from something much bigger than metal, and certainly something with a lot more intelligence - both lyrically and musically. Out of the five or six tracks I have reviewed from this band, I have never known them to shirk the more difficult arrangements/lyrical content and carry it off in their own inimitable style.

On a more personal level, I feel like I am going back into the band's recent history, and question if we are to hear anything new from the band soon (hint, hint). Yep, never satisfied me... If you are already a Ditheramb fan, you will know this track, and if you are not, this may not be the track to start with. 3 Away, Darkest Hour and the classic Euphoria would be the better bet. Not because this isn't a good Ditheramb track, it is. However, I thought it may be a bit too dense for yer average casual listener. Only my opinion of course but after living with this track for a while, it doesn't strike me with anything like the impact of the tracks I've mentioned above. Still, when put against yer average metal, this would bounce them out of the ballpark every time; musical ideas applied with considerable intelligence. Now that's not something you usually associate with metal is it?

Recommended Classic rock (regardless of what others say...)

Mark Holley - Harbour The Pain

Hear The Track Here

Reviewing Mark Holley these days is pretty much reviewing the other Mark too - Mark Alexander to be precise - because he has ALL the vocal duties on this track. Both Mark's are, of course, MP3 Unsigned artists who have had a good many reviews from me, the bulk of them being relatively favourable. Considering my usual crabbiness towards singer/songwriters (as they both are) that's not bad going at all. However, I noticed when I was downloading the track that Mark H commented that this was a classically based peice so all that may change right now... :D

Not sure who the mysterious lyricist is that Mark H is referring to in the song comments but whoever it is knows how to craft a word or two. Essentially a tale of a woman undergoing an illness that robs her of her hearing, which means she would never be able to hear the song that had been written for her. Yeah, nice, pleasant up-beat style, exactly what we need now that winter looms on the horizon. I have to admit that I don't do classical/ballad very gracefully, as many of you already know, and Harbour The Pain is a bit of both - not a good start. However, both Mark's undoubtedly work well together and this collaboration has raised Mark Alexander's game tremendously.

I blush to say this but when I was a young sprog I was heavily into an unknown Canadian band called Klaatu an embyronic pomp rock band, and Harbour The Pain definitely has a Klaatu quality about it. Again, Mark Alexander rules the roost here with a terrific vocal on an obviously demanding lyrical structure. Also to be noted are his own vocal embellishments, all round great work. It has to be said that Harbour The Pain will be a difficult listen, because of the lyrical context, flow and the musical structure, all not designed for a quick drive-by listen. It's a track that demands the listeners attention or tells them to sod off, and that is how I think it should be. Both Mark's (and their unknown lyricist) should only feel the greatest satisfaction that they took a very complicated peice and made it work beautifully. Even to the point of winning over an old curmudgeon like this reviewer.

Class track that will take some time to sink in. Recommended.

Friday, September 22, 2006

David Orrick - Viral Storm

Hear The Track Here

Fancying myself as a bit of a wordsmith, I am not likely to ignore someone who manages to wangle the word 'malarky' into a sentence. David Orrick managed this feat thusly 'being a newcomer to this Soundclick malarky' he chirped, 'I'd be interested in what your thoughts are on a three peice suite'. It took me some minutes I can tell you before I realised he didn't want to talk about living room furniture, but my lightning brain functions finally sputtered into life and made the correct translation. David explains further 'as I write in the filmscore/soundtrack/game-music areas and this selection is from a 70 minute album'


Three part peice?? 70 minute album??? Or, most frightening of them all 'filmscore/movie soundtrack' Quick Nurse, the screens!! I fondly imagine that even the lowliest Mongolian Yak herder would know of my intense dislike of the whole movie soundtrack thing by now, but let me just say it one more time: music belongs in FILMS. OK, I feel so much better now. My fears were somewhat assuaged when I noticed that Viral storm was only 9 minutes or so.. There are days I whishked I shoulda stood in bed (Ed: is this an example of the brain in action then?)

Viral Storm starts as if it were going to become a Pink Floyd spectacular, which is no bad thing in my books. It's sense of something looming in the background is really keen, causing me to glance fretfully over my shoulder. This tension is screwed to within an inch of its life until you feel you can't encompass any more but yet it still keeps coming until - around 2:17 - it starts raining. Certainly extremely evocative so far, and I guess that is the aim of music like this and the next section (a kinda Tubular Bells feel) is to create music pictures and that it does superbly. Then, just before four minutes, the REAL tune kicks in and knocks you on your ass. A pulsing, squirming, guitar driven almost rock tune that pleases these ears immensely. The sounds, and the depth of attention and detail in both the arrangement and production spell out q-u-a-l-i-t-y of a high order. If I were you I would completely ignore the genre classification and grab this track simply because it's a terrific peice of music that'll have you guessing every step of the way. Some serious shit, as those rascally old hippies would have it.

Most Highly Recommended (and I never get to say that about film soundtracks).

JC's Revenge - This Year

Hear The Track Here

JC's Revenge are a band from Cheltenham in the UK who I have been aware of for around a year. When I reviewed Another Way (August 2005) I liked their brand of guitar based soft rock (to be utterly correct Alternative General according to Soundclick) and although the track had some problems, I said this would be a band to keep an eye on. I really liked 7/11 (October 2005) with it's breezy guitar/vocal combinations which helped to solidify the band in my eyes. However, as was obvious when I reviewed Action (August 2006) that something was not right in the production department. This Year only confirms that

There are probably a good many of you shaking their heads right now and hoping that I am not going to off on one. What does it matter, you sigh wearily, haven't you heard good production only REALLY applies to commercial music? Sorry to burst your bubble there fellah, but no, it applies just as much online, if not more. See, we all think that if we give our music away people will love it and clutch it to their breast. Well as a fairly dedicated onlline music listener I have only squirreled away some 80+ tracks this year to go into my keeper-for-ever files. So that should go some way to showing just how difficult it is.

The competition, my friends, is slick, hungry ready to rumble.

So as good as some of JC's Revenge material has been in terms of songwriting and performance, it always falls down in the delivery. Most of the material has a 4/8 track feel about it and I personally feel it doesn't do the band any favours. Surprisingly enough, there ARE goals to aim for in Internet life and the main one is obviously gaining a sizeable audience. While it's true that people will like what this band does (and in their material and performance they get me too) they won't be able to take a larger step forward until they solve this basic problem. As a final word, like all of their tracks, I finally ended up liking This Year and that has been the same with everything I have from them. I LIKE what they do, but now maybe is the time to take it up a notch.

Pleasant alternative rock, despite its rough appearance.

Smalllife - Keep On

Hear The Track Here

Coming from the background that I do, I always get a great deal of pleasure when I come across a good rock band. That is what I thought I had with Smalllife until I reviewed Need To Buy A Woman (August 2006), and then things became MUCH clearer. Judging by performance, passion and live sound, Smallife has all the makings of becoming a great rock band. If you think that I am indulging in my usual mountains of hyperbole, I suggest you have a listen to this wonderful track which - to my ears anyway - has one of the best vocal performances anywhere in rock - on or off the net.

So it was with a fairly keen sense of pleasure that I watched this climbing this months review list, despite being told by Jaymz Lee Shaw, the aforementioned vocalist, that this was the lesser of all the tracks I had heard so far. Listen for a man as starved of good rock as me, any port in a storm, know what I mean? I think I'd tend to agree with Jaymz too that this is more indie than rock, but to me - after a good few plays under my belt, there is still that heart of iron that seems to be the hallmark of this band's output and style. It's certainly crunchy enough to satisfy my bass bins and again shows that Smalllife should be some killer live band.

There's a distinctive wall of guitars that particularly hooks me to this band, and that is much in evidence here. As up to date and modern indie as it sounds, to me it also smacks of some of the Rolling Stones finer ballbreakers, particularly in the vocal department with Jaymz showing a distinct vocal sneer. After four tracks now, there is no doubt in my mind that - should they get out gigging anytime soon - Smalllife are destined for bigger things. It's that live show that will do it for them, but judging from what I have heard so far, they are doing surprisingly well at capturing it for the many earholes out here in netland. For which we all be exceeedingly grateful, because I know I am. So, one of Smalllife's 'lesser' tracks (NOT) which would crap from a great height on other bands of this ilk. I suspect that Smalllife are going to feature quite heavily this year in MP3 Unsigned's 2006 Awards, and don't be surprised if the same thing happens with my own puny year end offering. As mancini so elegantly puts it 'quality, fooookin' quality' Couldn't agree more.

High class rock and Highly Recommended.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

OnOffOn - Bridge To Presage CD

Hear The Track Here

Here's a familiar refrain, and one I'm sure you are heartily sick of. 'Come on', someone says in a heated online debate, 'TRUE stars can't come from the internet you guys are just jerking with yourself'. Welp, despite the joys, and hairy palms that onanism gives you, I dispute this statement adamantly. See, this is a VERY large scene and lots of areas stray into the very real world of music, musicians and it's attendant business sharks. To my mind, one of the undoubted stars of this new age, happens to be also one of the most talented, individualistic and thrilling groups on the internet: OnOffOn

As a recognised reviewer, I get lots of CDs, but I review very, very few and even less do I actually ASK an artist for a CD. Not to review mind, but because I truly meant every word I have just written above, and I WANTED the damn thing. I bumped into Von Babasin a while ago on Mike-K's Saturday Night Rocks on Songplanet and twisted his arm to send me a copy of their new 'Bridge To Presage' work. Honest, I never intended to review this, but after spending almost a week living with the work of art that is so lovingly captured in it's 9 jazzily sublime tracks. Now normally this is where I would break down and do a track by track mini review but funnily enough, there is NO way I could commit that kind of sacrilege. Bridge To Presage is of a peice, one peice that encompasses the excellent standard of work I have to expect from these most accomplished musicians.

Dave Goode, Von Babasin and Don Lake are OnOffOn and are joined on this CD by Marcus Duke (piano), the sublimely fluid Glen Garrett (saxes/flute), Ron King(trumpet/flugelhorn) and Bob Chesney (trombone) and if this isn't - in every way - THE most commercial jazz grouping I've heard in a long time, then I don't know what I am talking about. Long time readers will already be aware of my liking for OnOffOn's music, The Gift Must Always Move lives permanently on my playlist and shows no sign whatsoever of departing anytime soon. Truthfully, I am BLOWN AWAY by the sheer style, verve, musical dexterity and innovation shown on this remarkable CD, and I am certain even non jazz fans will find much to love about it. Oh, and stars? God knows how many recognised awards these guys have scooped up so far (do a search onthe bandname, you'll see what I mean) not to mention this very CD being chosen as Jazz Album of the Year from International Online Music Awards (IOMA) which will go nicely with their Artist Of The Year award in 2005. Personally, I really run out of superlatives for this work, and ask you to go have a listen and buy, buy, buy... MY Jazz Album of the Decade even :D

Awesome, breathtaking musical vision.

Silvertrain - The End

Hear The Track Here

Even though John Silvertrain has become a one man song factory since their debut CD The One To Blame, the band Silvertrain hasn't been anything like as active. Last month, in fact, was the first time I had heard Ritchie Silvertrain in many a long day. Don't get me wrong, I think John Brandon is becoming an excellent songwriter and no slouch in the production department either BEEERRRTTTT it ain't Silvertrain is it? Moreover, the last we heard of Ritchie was on Turn Away (June 2006) which was still an unfinished and still rough at the edges track. And then they went into the studio....

Yep, they finally did. Hoo-fekkin-ray already :D

The End is one of the centrepeice tracks of the up and coming NEW cd (wonders will never cease, will they?) Nine Lives. Considering the near two year gap between these two releases, I'd say that Silvertrain were a bit slow. Not their fault though because, as we all know, the path of true internet music rarely runs smoothly. Encountering and overcoming all kinds of obstacles is the true sign of committment and I for one dedicated Silvertrain fan am all the happier for it. Even more so once I 'empty my mind and let it go' and drown in the splendours of The End - which is odd, because it's really the beginning, if you know what I mean.

No? Funny, neither do I now....

Ever the masters of the short, sharp thrill, The End is almost a two minute wonder, weighing in at a 0 size model time of 1:57. I am under the impression that what I have is a fairly rough mix version, and that there is more to be done to the track yet. So if I mention the voice being a bit dry, and some other small niggles you'll get the picture. While you are fixing up those things guys, maybe you should think about putting an extension in there too of - say - about seven minutes.... Come on, you owe us that much after all this time (Ed: falls off his chair laughing). Seriously, and all jokes aside, this is a very, very welcome sight and one I have waited extremely patiently for. So has it lived up to the hype? You betcha, although it needs some more work in arrangement, production and final gloss, the root is the song is most definitely the Silvertrain we know and love. A work in progress but still eminently listenable for old fans and new listeners alike, you won't find much on Soundclick better than Silvertrain when they are cooking...

Highly Recommended, can't wait for the album version...

One Kids Lunch - Things To Do

Hear The Track Here

Yet again our 'goofy Christian rock' mates launch another instruction manual at the world; Things To Do. One of the best things to do - this year anyway - is to listen to what these guys have to say. In the space of three tracks OKL have endeared themselves to me forever. Why? Because they are silly, that's why. Not like stupid silly (falls ass over tit down a manhole) just plain silly silly. Not that there is anything whatsoever silly about their music - which is pretty much cream of the crop as a listen to any one of their tracks will show you.

Christians haven't normally been known to behave in this fashion...

Dustin and Dave are OKL and are extremely gifted musicians and songwriters and you would be hard pressed to find anything on Soundclick that was both exhuberant AND irreverent at the same time. As wacky as their tracks have been - and they have been - they still have a solid music backing, and so does Things To Do, and that is the extent of the difference. Where the other tracks I have heard sheltered a very lively pop sensibility (as in Beatles Pop) but Things To do has more in common with music from Zappa, the Residents, Devo and their ilk.

This is just plain weird. Good weird, but still weird.

It took me a while to get the band's slant this time, and I think that was because Things To Do is immediately accessible, completely off the wall and quite possibly the best thing I have heard this year - and certainly the funniest. It takes a fine artist indeed to make this reviewer soil his boxers but these guys seem to do it effortlessly - every time! The first time I heard it, I couldn't concentrate on what was going on I was laughing so much but after a while this track WILL work its magic on you. Definitely the feel-good track of the year.

(another) MUST HAVE

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

dcallen - Once Upon Another Time

Hear The Track Here

David C. Allen, to give him the fully monty, knows a trick or two. dcallen's long involvement with Soundclick is evident by the amount of review references he throws up if I do a search on him. Although he's certainly been LESS active on Soundclick, he has been around elsewhere, and has even delivered a couple of musical suprises along the way. Although I've always liked his solo style from the very first track, the tracks that stand out for me just lately have both been collaborations. So it is kinda nice to get to hear some newer stuff from the man himself.

Posted just at the end of August, this is still smoking it's so new. I'm not such a big fan of his more mellow work but I do find this guys ideas interesting and his sound and production knowledge keeps up its end too. Kinda weird then that Once Upon a Time has that 'showroom demo' feel about it that many keyboard manufacturers use to demonstrate their wares. Of course, in the hands of an old master like dcallen, the usual cheesiness is squeezed out by his ability to string a decent track together.

It has to be said though - for this reviewer - I thought the sounds used were well on the cheey side, and now Dave is going to tell me he made every sound himself. Sorry, mate, but it doesn't sound like that. Nonetheless it will please his SC fans no end to hear something new even if its decidedly retro in feel. Even so, if you live with it a while, you might find it grows somewhat on you, it certainly did with me. Whether I'll get to keep it is dependent on whether I can eradicate the memories of its inherent cheesiness.

Strong, layered instrumental but merely an interlude for this artist.

melv - Song 9

Hear The Track Here

Neil Melvin (aka melv) has long been a favourite artist in my house. His brand of big hair rock histronics has given me more than a few keeper tracks over the year or so I have known him. This is despite an often flawed recording and sound that doesn't do very much for the songs content or the music that carries it. Still, like all of us, melv has to work with what he's got and if that's the way it is, I'll settle for that. After all, it is about the music and melv is a songwriter of classic proportions as he has proved time and again. Sooo, before you ask because I see that gleam in your eye, I have NO idea why this song is called Song 9, ask melv...

In fact, it's probably best if we don't even begin to discuss what the track about because - having read the lyrics - I'm none the wiser. In a few ways it's a bit of a departure for melv because it has a strong electronica base - and a sense of eccentricity in the arrangement and performance. Of course, the usual brickwall of a mix is present giving the track an almost live feel - and if it were live it would probably work. Sadly, however, it isn't live.

I think my real problem with this track is that I'm not convinced. Make no mistake, the usual melv slam and bash is present, and there are some lovely almost out-of-kilter moments, but you gotta get over a very hard sounding mix to really get it. There's a decided rock leaning in the tracks delivery and feel and it does work surprisingly well. It isn't - to my mind - up there with some of melv's best tracks but it does show off his skill in making four and a half minutes go like that (snap). Ultimately though I think that's probably because I am a fan that Song 9 sounds - like its title - a bit unfinished, and the first place to start would be the mix.

There's no escape ;)

Carol Sue Kirkpatrick & AndyF - I'll Always Be With You

Hear The Track Here

Yet another MP3 Unsigned collaboration - they are at it like rabbits over there I tell ya! This time with Carol Sue Kirkpatrick and my old mate AndyF, who I have known for many years. I met Carol Sue just recently and if you are reading this on Soundclick then you will already know she's set up camp there too. You didn't know??! Well her page is here so why don't you go over and give her a shout and make her feel welcome. I've reviewed a couple of her tracks so far and although there hasn't been anything that'll make me bounce off the ceiling, what she does is very listenable, and she does a good chooon. Faint praise I know but both these artists work in genres I never really feel comfortable in.

Andy's favourite frolicking ground is kinda new age-y verging on the classical which - for this reviewer anyway - sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. It worked, for example, on his treatment of Ditheramb's Darkest Hour, but not on others I could name. I should stress here though that this is really a matter of personal taste because Andy has been around long enough to know what is required. His scoring for I'll Always Be With You is a fine example of what he does best, it's very understatement working perfectly with the vocal delivery.

This is obviously a very personal song for Carol, about her Mother making a will and all that entails, so be prepared both for angelic choirs and strings and lots of heart. Now normally I would run away screaming from something like this but again it's Carol's vocal that keeps the 'aaarrrggghhh factor' down to a minimum. Hearing such a personal song also makes demands on the listener too, and it's only total conviction of the lyricist and vocalist to make it work properly. Besides having a lovely, honeyed voice, Carol Sue has the emotional maturity to pull it off successfully. Not an easy trick.

I warn you though, it IS really gooey... Recommended (if you like gooey ballads)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Big Wheel - Lost

Hear The Track Here

It's not bad enough having the damn thing on the telly every five minutes, Big Wheel now gets to tell us to get Lost too. Come on, I mean wtf is it with that program?? I loved Twin Peaks and thought that was pretty confusing but I's lost in Lost. I'm not lost with Big Wheel though, I know exactly what I am getting into now; electronica and lots of it. You know this is an area I graze in often but don't generally stay in but with two tracks, Big Wheel has said 'yeah but I'm different'.

And he is...

There's electronica (boink, boink, whirr whirr) and there's electronica (oooh how do they do that?) and Lost is in the second category. With a splendid bass and drum track, this track insinuates itself into your mind a damn sight better than the TV series ever will, and it makes a lot more sense too. One of the features that struck me about BW's stuff from the getgo was his production values and Lost shows off this skill to a T. It even has a hint of the 'I am a TV soundtrack' about it too, it's languid building style a sure fire addition to any self respecting Sound Library.

I've made mention before of Big Wheels tendency towards the 1980's electropop sound but that is not a charge that could levelled here. Lost is very much of the now, a broody, moody peice of work that doesn't seem anything like it's four and a half minute length. That should also tell you that Big Wheel's work is fairly dense (ie theres lots of interesting details) but is nonethless clear as a bell. I'm not sure whether Lost will join the other track I kept of his, but right now I am liking this track very much; for it's style, it's subtlety and terrific production.

Class electronica, Highly Recommended.

Prash - Love Means Never Having To Say It Aloud

Hear The Track Here

Here's another artist who has been going great guns on Soundclick over the past couple of years, and one of my favourite Soundclick artists of all time. Obviously a lot of that has to do with me knowing the guy (so to speak) and the day to day interactions we have, but long before I got to know him he was just a noobie like you, or you. It was his music that sold me on the person, as is usually the case. Fact is, there is no denying that Prash is an individualistic, talented musician and one that can make music to satisfy many ears - regardless of genre preferences.

An accomplished musician is an accomplished musician, right?

After a string of Must Haves and two appearance in my end of year reviews (2004 & 2005), Prash has done a grand job as far as I am concerned and judging by his many fans and listeners, he is doing it right. This year has been a bit slow on the Prash front although he stormed back into form with his collaboration with Chris Bishop (aka Project Overseer) on What Has Happened To Peace On Earth (August 2006), a track I highly recommend you get a listen to. Now you would think that Prash - being a mate and all - would know I [grinding teeth]fekkin HATE[/ungrinding teeth] - and I quote here - 'mushy love song(s)'.

Not the usual sort of drivel you'd expect from the lad, is it? Well, lessee...

Prash wrote this for a friend as a gift to HIS wife (Prash is still single, ladies) and I think that is a great idea. Don't buy her flowers, buy her a song :D Nonetheless I wish he had put up the lyrics on the site, but as I struggled with my massive predjudices, I think I got the gist of it. What we find is Prash in fine pop form, albeit with a massive overdose of sugar - mostly admittedly from the lyrics. The music though is pure Prash; soft, inviting and so smooth you could use it as a ski slope. I freely admit that I don't like this song as much as some of Prash's own personal tracks, but Love Means... carries all the hallmarks of the skills I - and many others - have come to associate with this artist.

Highly Recommended (providing you like (ahem) 'mushy love songs').

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Divine Turmoil - Ambivalent Emotions

Hear The Track Here

Now here's something that going to stretch even my descriptive powers. Get this: Divine Turmoil (great name btw) are in the Alternative: Experimental niche which will probably make a good few listeners pause - unless they read the bands bio in which case things get even murkier. Seems like their influences are Megadeath, Mogwai and other metal maniacs and they seem to plays some decent guitars between them. So who, exactly, does this square with the whole 'experimental' tag? That certainly had me scratching my head for a while because I read all this while downloading the track prior to the review process.

Now that I've heard it, I am absolutely none the wiser.

I am, I have to admit, much cheered by coming across a guitar instrumental in such a setting and a ridiculously good guitar instrumental too. Except, surprisingly enough the kinda Metal section towards the end of the track. That section didn't really work for me, I thought it detracted to much from what had gone before. So, there is no doubt that - in some ways - this IS a bit of an experimental track but whatever you do, don't let that tag put you off this nimble little track. I know what the term means to most people and I know that avoidance is their first response. In this particular case, it would be a mistake - particularly if what I've described above interests you.

Now, when I say this is a guitar track you'd better believe it. Every method that can be brought to bear is used 'as a lap-steel, distortion over clean, and simply playing around with different effects and harmonics' as the band state in the songs comments. As such its definitely worth a listen if you like to hear guitars played well. It's funny though that as convincing as they are in the acoustic arena that this doesn't carry on into the metal phase, which sounds amateurish by comparison. Still, even as a musical exercise it works well so I doubt DT will lose any sleep over anyone's opinion..let alone mine.

Very decent acoustic guitar track, don't let the label fool you.

Onager - The Blossomed Gates

Hear The Track Here

I've come across Colwyn Bay's Onager a couple of times before through MP3 Unsigned and liked what they did although nothing - as yet - as set me on fire. Having said that I did give them a Recommended for Dark Glass (July 2005) for its edgy electronic feel and it's Numanesque musical references - although missing the essential ingredient, the vocal to go with it. There is an added incentive with this track because it's a spoken word poem by one Abeey Williams, a young lady who has been gathering much attention on that site although I have yet to hear any of her work.

So, let's rectify that right now...

Her contribution to this track is writing the lyrics and then speaking them over the track Onager constructed especially for this purpose. Well, to quote one of the main lines in the track 'I've blossomed beautifully' because it certainly applies to the whole track too. The combination of the poem's meter and delivery and the dramatic flourishes of the musical track is really, really effective. My only quibble, and it is slight, is that sometimes the vocal gets a bit lost in all the musical fireworks going on. So, if I haven't particularly liked anything from Onager before this track solves those problems with an emphatic 'yyyyyeeeessssss' Class work all round, from all parties.

However, special mention of two things: the lyrics (which really should be read as you listen to the tune, and the music. Abeey has an excellent vision, and her lyrics show that she knows how to construct a visual word picture that conveys the subject matter beautifully. Excellent job. The real highspot - for me anyway - is the music. What a breathtaking peice this is. If this had come up as a track on it's own I would have raved about it, it's mixture of drama and musical nous propels it along at breakneck speed. The sounds were very, very cool and the mix understated enough for the full drama of the lyrics and music to work their magic. Yet another collaboration that shows working together can often have ridiculously good results.

Highly Recommended. Class all the way.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Soupbone For Murder - Groucho Von Strainer

Hear The Track Here

Lavalush - the forumname of SFM - asked me to forget reviewing this during this months reviews but hey.... Look at it. Soupbone For Murder? Groucho von Strainer? Come on, the question that should be asked is how the fekk can I resist it?? :D Seriously, this is definitely a contender for wacky names of the year, in all respects. Despite being, I hope, quite a witty guy I often wonder if I should take an artist with a strange/name attitude seriously or not. I like music, and Soupbone For Murder claim to make it so hey, why not.

At least it keeps me off the streets. Which keeps you safe.

You could have slapped me in a dress and called me Sally, so dazed was I the first time I heard this track. It really isn't often that you come across class production allied with instrumental expertise - especially in the acoustic field. Most of this genres artists are of the singer songwriter persuasion and there really aren't that many at all of the calibre of (say) Christopher Martin Hansen or MiKe Silvestri. Having said that, surprisingly enough, Soupbone For Murder comes comfortably close to that mark on this extremely likeable and approachable tune.

Whatever I might think about an artist, the one thing that always determines it is the music and in this case, Groucho Von Strainer is as good anything else around in that genre - and it would beat the pants off a few musicians in other genres too. It's a very hefty brew too, considering it's acoustic background, because almost every manner of known acoustic stringed instrument makes it's presence felt. All produced in a superfine, clear mix that lets each instrument claim its rightful place. It's also just over two minutes long which is about as much as is necessary for this track to register solidly. Which should also tell you much about this musician. Very tasty stuff indeed and this is an artist (despite being named like some Cluedo character) who definitely SHOULD be taken seriously.

Highly Recommended Acoustic instrumental with just a whiff of traditional...

Retrograde Pop - In A Little While

Hear The Track Here

OK I'm going to be REALLY rude here and address myself to the many, many old farts frequenting Soundclick, because a lot of the things I have to say apply directly to people of my generation (crusty to falling to bits) and the flashbacks I am about to unleash in your direction may hinder your thought processes. All this chatter just lately about the new Bob Dylan album got me thinking about this most influential of artists. Me, I love and adore his Blood On The Tracks sound and I suspect that is one of the reasons I have grown to love the musical talent we know as Cam because he captures that languid tone so well.

Yep, that is him in a earlier, gentler time. He looks about 12 doesn't he? ;)

Retrograde Pop is a new cubbyhole for a younger version of Cam's Even Song and I know for a fact there are going to be thousands of musicians on here who will recognise and empathise with regurgitating his musical past. See, another of my most influential artists has been The Beatles, particularly in their more lyrical moments and this Cam combines both Beatle AND Dylan most superbly. In A Little While isn't the time it took this track to adhere itself to my ears, cos that happened in about two notes. While it's true that there is a lot of musical reference here (for us alleged old farts) there's also a classic Cam performance.

All the Retrograde Pop tracks date from when Cam was a mere 16 and are some of the tracks he wrote at the time, re-recorded and performed - or at least that's my understanding. However, when you are deep in the midst of a track with the lushness of In A Little While, such things don't matter because - as Cam says - he's only picking the best tracks from the period and this is definitely that and a bit more besides. Fact is I couldn't care less when this was made/written/spawned, all I care about is yet another almost flawless Cam performance encased in an arrangement that owes everything to both Beatles and Dylan but with that typical Cam lightness of touch. Irrisistable to Cam fans certainly but I suspect this is also a casual listener wake up call too. Classic Cam. Who'da thunk it?


Cameron Pierce - Cold

Hear The Track Here

It's pretty much a given now that when I see a new Cameron Pierce track on my review list, I am going to like it so there's my bias out the way from the start. The only question, in my mind, anyway is am I going to keep it? See, despite me seeming to rave about most anything that comes down the pike, I am very selective indeed at the amount (and quality) of the tracks I give hard drive room for. These are usually Must Have's and contribute greatly towards my year end awards points system. For example, out of the 500+ tracks I have reviewed this year, I have kept 83.

See how tough it is?

Not that Cameron needs to worry overly much, he has figured in every year end review so far, mainly because he really IS that good, and certainly one of the most consistently good artists on Soundclick. To be sure you would need to be into his brand of semi-acoustic pop rock with a distinct leaning towards the harmony group approach, and in this case the vocals are always worthy of a listen or two. So, you will hear a slick, polished songwriter at work and if you like that kind of thing, believe me you and Cameron really should and Cold is a good enough example of what he does.

Aaah, you say, but is it a keeper? Welp, again he has nothing to worry about on that score because he already has one of those 83 slots I mentioned. As likeable as Cold is, I admit that I did have some problems with it. Certainly not with the song itself or even the production (my usual harrowing ground) in this case, I think it's the performance that's throwing me. Despite it's semi-acoustic setting, Cold is an angry song, and it's not afraid to show it. It felt to me when the track really started to emote (and it does that exceedingly well) the vocals didn't quite match the drive of the track. Mind you, this is a quibble this small (holds finger and thumb together) because as usual everything else sounds very good and I'm just merciless ain't I? Yeah, mean too...

Recommended Pop Rock. Not Cold at all, hot even.

Martin Gallagher - Morning Fantasy

Hear The Track Here

Well this is the third time around for MP3 Unsigned's Martin Gallagher and I haven't recieved a good kicking yet so I think it is fair to say he isn't related to those other Gallaghers. Stylistically he's a far remove from an Oasis retro remake and owes more to the old standard; credible arrangement, tasteful aural decorations and a trick at writing a catchy song. I admit I liked, very much, the tribute song to his father, By Your Side (December 2005) and loved its simplicity and its emotional reach - not easy given an acoustic setting.

What give it a point though is the song. No matter what you daub on top of it, it won't mean anything if the tune doesn't have meaning, and musical reference for the listener, and in that respect Martin has definitely come good. Although it's a bit on the light side, the production is certainly meaty enough where it's needed, the bass in particular was right in the pocket. Mind you, I have a thing about walking basslines anyway and this one pounds the pavements from here to yonder. And that's just the chassis of this fascinating peice of music, and while I can (and probably will) pull a few holes in the mix/production, there is no doubt that musically this is a real high spot for Martin and he no doubt feels good about it.

As indeed he should.

It's a terrific track; full of Beatle references, gorgeous harmony backing vocals and some very slick moves from the man himself. For my money, all this achievement was undermined by a couple of things, nothing really major and may not indeed by spotted by that many listeners. Firstly, the drums kinda disappeared entirely once the song got a-pumping, and for a track with this amount of oomph that is definitely not a good thing. For a guy who is also steeped in the UK culture I can spot millions of local references in what Martin does, and I guess it is one of the reasons why I think most people won't notice the odd strain in the main vocal, they will be too busy wallowing in the nostalgia for the world Martin grew up in. Morning Fantasy is a bright and extremely pleasant track whose overall performance makes it happen and it's certainly the best thing I have heard from him yet.

Highly Recommended (for a great song and arrangement)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Jay Daniels - Lunette Tears

Hear The Track Here

Here's a long but heartening story. Imagine this, you come online a couple of years ago, all fired up with the zeal of uncovering the internet. You are a rock guitarist and although your kit isn't up to much, you think you have what it takes. Then some guy comes along, listens to what you put online and then proceeds to bite your critical ass each time you lay a track before him. A bit of a comedown, right? Welp, that is the position Jay (Jonti) Daniels found himself in with me. No matter which way he spun around, his material was just not doing anything for me. Believe me, I know what it's like to take hard reviews, I've had more than my fair share and some that still bring a blush to my cheeks to this day. How could I have been sooooo blind?, you know what I mean?

So what does this artist do about that?

Turns into a hip hop artist is what, although to my ears what he is doing has more (still) to do with rock than any form of hip hop I know. Still, that's just small and very bitter grapes, because - ta da - Lunette Tears is pretty much everything I have expected from this artist in the past and never gotten. If it takes a change of genre to do that, then so be it. It also proves a golden rule about reviews, it's just an opinion. If you get put off by a review then you never had it in you in the first place, believe me the things I say are FAR kinder than you would recieve in the real world. Nonetheless, all my criticism is for one reason and one reason only, to further the music. When it pays off, as it does in this case, it is a rare and wonderous event.

It isn't all beer and skittles though because as decent as Lunette Tears is, it still has some rough edges. However, compared to what came before, this is certainly something I feel Jay can be proud of, although not in a hip hop way. The reason I got interested in this guy in the first place was because he claimed to like and play like Jimi Hendrix and a statement like that is always going to interest me. Now, at least on this track, I see the glimmer of what he was talking about. He has managed to sew together an extremely passable backing track, a very good arrangement and some tasty licks to add the icing and -considering where we came from - this is a great listen. Stilll need to pay more attention to the finer points of the mix but this is definitely getting somewhere.

Tasty guitar based instrumental (and it's only 2:25)

Lord Skye - Legends Main Theme

Hear The Track Here

I think Lord Skye is trying a bit of Bait The Bear with this request ;) I make no secret of my aversion to the Games (shudder) Soundtrack scene, and yet here he is bedevilling me with yet another... Is there no end to this curse? (Ed: I ask myself that several times a day). I jest, of course, but not by much. While its true that I don't like the bleepy, SID type tracks employed by games AT ALL, I do kind of enjoy a well thought out, complete musical soundtrack as much as the next guy and guyess. I will stipulate here though that I mean in the game, I like the music in the game, that's what it's made for. It's the same with movie soundtracks, I'd rather be watching the film with the music in it, ya know what I mean?

Still, there are always exceptions...

I reviewed his Spring~Sunny Meadow track last month and quite liked it although the sounds used wasn't really my cup of tea at all. Still, if you take into account my predjudice against the genre, that counts as a compliment I guess. So, Legends Main Theme is - as you no doubt guessed - the soundtrack to a freeware game LS is working on and is 'a typical march' Oh. Right. Hold on, I'll get out some marching powder (think about it, think about it). While Legends suffers from exactly the same fate as its predecesser in the sound department, to my ears there is no denying that - given the right tools - Lord Skye can be making tracks thta could sit equally well amongst so called 'modern composers' He's certainly got the musical knowledge for that.

See, if you have a little dig around in his kit list (bottom of his SC page), you'll see that our Lord is a musician of the old school; all those cute little black dots on that strangely lined paper. He works with Finale and Fruity Studio, with soundfonts and that is where IMHO the problem lies. I know FS well, and I know and respect its post production wonders. I also know about soundfonts and either GM or XG sound formats, and this track is made almost entirely of the latter. 'Nowt wrong with that!!' I hear the geeks squeak but I beg to differ. The difference IMHO being you have to work to make your creation breathe otherwise it's an art exhibit and nothing more. Personally, Lord Skye, I think you have nothing whatsoever to worry about musically, as you have already proved. Now it's all a matter of presentation. No, wait. Maybe you HAVE to work this way because of the games soundtrack genre?? Somehow, I don't think so.

Musically muscular, but well flabby in the soundsets...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Pilesar - Radioactive Toy Revolt

Hear The Track Here

My neighbours hate Pilesar. I think they have finally tumbled to the fact that the music that gives them toothache, earache, headache and menopausal hot flushes is none other than Pilesar's greatest hits. It has to be said, however, that even I will admit that the procession of musical insanity that constitutes Pilesar's output is often hard to take. He is, after all, the Prince of Pandimonium and pretty much anything goes and often does. Having said that, his work is enjoyable, interesting, endlessly fascinating and completely, utterly manical.

Just the way we likes it...

Luckily though, especially for those who think I jest about this, his normal reactions are somewhat muted on RTR because it's the second collaboration with Cam (aka Cam's Even Song). I am a big, big fan of both these artists so it's pretty easy for me to work out who is who on this track, and I especially see Cam's prediliction for a great groove. Like all of Pilesar's work, it does require that the listener have at least the semblence of a working brain and a knack for getting under the surface of things. Believe me, if you took Pilesar at his base value you would have to run away screaming. It's taken me a long time to build up immunity (ooops, sorry I meant an acquired taste) but now I've got it, it'll scar me for life.

Cam is far less the scarier figure here and it would appear that he provides the base arrangement (and the backing track if I guess right) and Pilesar provides the witches brew of stuff a-wailin' and a-hollerin' over the top of it. Yeah, but after a few good plays, do I actually like it? As a combination of these two very different artists talents, I most certainly do because it shows them both off to the best advantage. As a track in its own right, this is a moody, complex peice that will demand the viewers attention if you want to get the most out of it - but it is worth the effort. Another worthy - if highly unlikely - collaborative effort bears strange fruit. Ain't the internet the dogs danglies??

Recommended weirdness.

Envy - Everything

Hear The Track Here

You may notice I have a blank look today. That is because although I have had a lot of experience with the emotion called envy (that sly green goddess!!), I have no experience whatsoever with the MP3 Unsigned artist by that name. So, let's see (squints at screen) yadda yaddda, ahh. Older track of theirs, revamped. Yadda yadda. A five peice band from Sarf Eas' Lunnun. Rock! Yeah, that'll do it. So, as you can see I'm struggling enormously to give you any meaningful info so stop being such lazy gits and go and find out for yourself what Envy are about.

Let's concentrate on the music...

When they say rock, mind, they mean of the rough and in-yer-face variety and that's usually the best kind of rock music. There's some very authentic buzzes and whines at the beginning that make me think that this is basically a live recording and if it ain't these guys have done a great job of getting it to sound like it was. Everything turns out to be pretty much old school rock, rifferama city even. Nothing wrong with that and Envy turn in a very capable performance that made me pay attention, at least for the first few plays.

Once I started to really look at the track though there were things I though could have been done better, but considering all the activity in the track - if it was recorded live - would have been nigh on impossible. However, as a wishlist, I think the vocalist could stop trying so hard and r-e-l-a-x into the track it would help, although the vocals as a whole are still good enough. The evidence of straining to reach notes is fairly noticeable though, but only to a nitpicker like me. The overall sound could have been easily beefed up a little more, considering this is blood and thunder craggy, wizened rock, it's quite easy on the ear.

Good song though, and that's what will do it for this band...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Rolland Harrison - Ja Makin Moonshine

Hear The Track Here

I first came across this fluid, competent jazz guitarist last month when I reviewed his Dogtown Blues track, and right good it were too. Of course, it has to be stated that not everyone jives to jazz, but there are enough afficiendos of the genre to give Rolland Harrison the big thumbs up. Truth is, this kind of cool blue jazz is all too rare, at least with this amount of dexterity; there are loads of jazz players around but not too many jazz guitarists. So, if you need a welcome change to bonka-bonka and cheep-cheep-whirr-whirr then bend an ear this guys way, I garantee he will keep you amused even if you think jazz is 'ole time music'

T'ain't I tell ya!!

A collaboration, this time with the curtly named ODB or ODannyboy to be completely accurate. Matter of fact, this should be accurately be called an ODB track because the only thing that Rolland contributes here is the lead guitar. Of course, saying 'only' the guitar much denigrates the awesomely fluid licks Rolland contributes to these proceedings; his tone and his dexterity are wonders to behold. However, when all is said and done, the guitar piece is only one small part of this extremely well made, breezy as a September day track.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting ODB to sound anything like as polished (slick even) as he does and I have no idea why. Certainly, the lightness of being that carries this track through its paces may well give you the impression that this is a lightweight track, but that would be mistaken. Sure, there's not much driving this superficially, but over a period of time, this track seems to develop momentum easily enough so don't go by first impressions. Ja Makin Moonshine is a wide open, extremely friendly track that will certainly find a home amongst those who like their music on the softer, gentler side.

Highly Recommended (for the song and performance of both artists)

Redshirt Theory - Good Grace

Hear The Track Here

At least I think this is the track I am supposed to review but my copy says this is called Good Faith so I'm a bit confused. Situation normal then. I'm not confused about Redshirt Theory though because Aaron Jones (for it is he) has delivered some very neat music my way over the past few months. One of which, Its Been a Long Time (June 2006) got a Must Have rating from me and considering it was a dance track I'd say that was a rare compliment for this guys work. In the space of a year or so, Redshirt Theory have carved out a nice little spot on MP3 Unsigned, and deservedly so. It appears there's dance music and then there GOOD dance music. There's a turn up for the books.

This is a collaborative effort, including our old friend Mark Alexander who seems to be popping up everywhere just lately. So let me see if I can get this right (for a change). Aaron is responsible for arranging, producing, with added vocals, piano and bass from Mark. I have to tell you Mark and I have had words about some of the things he does but - in all truth - I have never heard him sound better than on this track. A wonderful, powerfilled vocal that soars thanks to the faultess production and mix that is a standard feature of Redshirt work.

The icing on this particular smorgasbord is supplied by the engimatically named 'essence' who picks up the bulk of the vocal duties. Again she is tremendous uplifted by the production being brought to bear but nonetheless she would still have sounded good even if she were recording into a bucket. She has one of those voices, you know what I mean? A breathy, ethereal thing of light and beauty, it floats through the track with confidence and maturity. When Mark enters the picture (around 2:40) though, it's his vocal that captures the attention. Now whether that's because I know the guys work well and - as I say - I haven't heard him sound better than this, and I'm therefore biased. For my money though, Mark Alexander stamps his personality on this track in no uncertain terms. Absolutely top marks for all involved, in every respect. This is a killer track and no mistake, you'd be a fool to miss it.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Jeremy Nail Duo - California

Hear The Track Here

Jeremy Nail and Justin Sitz (AKA The Jeremy Nail Duo) are a new name to me and by the looks of it Soundclick too. Considering they cite such mope muppets as The Cure, Morrisey and U2, they have a surprisingly light easy sound and decidely more upbeat lyrics than 'I hate me, I hate you, I hate everything and everybody and life is really horrible' that are the usual frolicking ground of the English Le Miserables. Bet you get the impression I can't stand all that self absorbed navel gazing eh? You'd be dead right too.

Get a grip, life sucks. Deal with it as my American chums like to spout.

There's a very Californian sound about California (Ed: Did he just write that!! Please tell me he didn't just write two fricking California's), so if you were already thinking Beach Boys, Eagles etc then you'd be partway right. Therefore it stands to reason that this is just one facet of what these two songwriters do because I can discern no English influence whatsoever - mopy or otherwise. What I do get is that special flavour that West Coast inspired tracks always bring, sunshine through my ears and direct to my soul and that, my friends, is exactly what I would have expected. So, as far as material goes, I'm sold. California is a great song, well performed but it would have been nice to see some lyrics, always an important factor in listening pleasure.

Where the track does fall down is the overall sound, and to my mind, the lack of drums to really nail this sucker to the floor. Had it had those attributes, I would have needed the tissues while being around this track if you take my filthy innuendo. Without it what you get is a light, breezy, guitar and vocal workout that serves to show what kind of track California could be, given the right arrangement. As it is, I can certainly recommend it for it's inbuilt sunshine and general likeability and after several plays I see the Bono in the vocals, which is no bad thing. Provided that there is no whining :D

A little slice of sunshine.

Jim-n-Lisa - Rasta Man

Hear The Track Here

Rasta? I've heard of Tex-Mex but Kingston Tex is really pushing the boat out. It goes without saying that just about everything this duo do really pushes the boat out so seeing them tackle a nice likkle bit o' riddim is kinda par for the course. As they say themselves in their opening blurb 'Jim-n-Lisa play electronic, acoustic, world/new age, jazz, rock, and other styles; sometimes, all at once'. Surprisingly enough it never sounds as bad as it's written. There is a definite art to stitching together complex peices of work and Jim-n-Lisa are one of Soundclick's leading players in the 'how do they do that?' stakes.

Regular readers will already be nauseatingly aware of my feelings about this artist, they were after all my Artist Of The Year once and they have a string of glowing reviews from me - all rightly deserved IMHO. Mind you, after the dubious delights (I jest, t'were fekkin amazing) of Missing Douglas (August 2006) they would have to go some to top that droll little love billetdoux. Truth is, I was half expecting to be a bit let down because - after all - no-one can keep coming up with the goods every time. Especially when it covers an area I especially love, and consider myself fairly proficient. So, having put aside my automatic 'how dare he, I'll kill him' response, which admittedly a hard thing for me to do, I got to grips with me bredden who heretofore had only emitted the odd y'all, now was all I and I and all that...

So, where we we? Aaahh, yes, ganga....

Rasta Man is basically a pean to the miracle weed, complete with bong bubbles, lighter flicks and a roomful of smoke that could drop an elephant in its tracks. My immediate thought was this was like something 10cc would do, rather than something more rootsy and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's a fine pop tradition. In that respect, Rasta Man eventually won over the HUGE predjudice I had worked up with it's cool, breezy style, the lovely flute licks, the inspired sound fx and so much more. You can always count on Jim to load his deck as full as possible, and this track is five minutes of music that it will take you months to drain it dry. Absolutely knockout and not something you would expect from such a known toker. Whenever I meet him, he seems to have trouble stringing a couple of words together. On second thoughts, THAT might have to do with the Texas accent too*. Always talking like they still have the burger in their gob....**

Highly Recommended (very) smooth pop (may prove addictive)

* and ** = NOTE to the Lone Star state: I was only having a leedle joke, please don't kill me

Friday, September 08, 2006

Nuff X - Inside (What I Want)

Hear The Track Here

Having just said in my Digital Juggernaut review that I don't particularly like breakbeat, here is a breakbeat artist I DO have a bit of time for. Although Nuff X and I got off to a rocky start, over the past few months he has shown me that first impressions can often (Ed: I think he means always...) be wrong. His cutup style of breakbeat is very much too my liking and he has shown consistently over the past two or three releases that is not just a one-off either. So much so that I gave his Open Your Eyes and See Me Screaming (August 2006) a Highly Recommended and - believe me - that isn't my normal reaction to breakbeats.

The difference, of course, being experience, musical maturity and a willingness to go that little bit further to make the track actually work. Inside (What I Want) is considerably heavier than anything I have heard from Nuff X, in terms of both instrumentation and feel and so far I've had a very decent time of it. Again, it shows to me that with this artist it really is ideas that count and this guy has a barrelful of them, on almost every one of his tracks of late.

From the opening synth/kick routine you know that you are listening to finely balanced sound, the kick sound in particular is a joy to behold. Mind you, it's all the extraneous sounds that make the track work for me. 'Is this truly what you want' Nuff whispers in your ears and I have to say that yes, this is exactly what we want. Great musical ideas, used in a way that is as unique as it is possible in a genre done to death. As good as a breakbeat artist as he may be, for me this is a thinking musician who truly works hard to get his point across.

Highly Recommended (as if that were any surprise) Seriously disturbing.

Digital Juggernaut - The Berlin Sex Slave

Hear The Track Here

Digital Juggernaut is the band name of Tim Spicer, a 22 year old producer and DJ from Warwickshire,UK. A new name to me from MP3 Unsigned to be sure, and one that works in the Breakbeats field too, which - as you well know - isn't always a good place for me to find decent tracks. Funnily enough, MP3 Unsigned seems to be home to a lot of Breakbbeat artists, so it's a bit puzzling that I haven't had to deal with lots more of them. Maybe, in this case, my reputation really does preceed me....

Or maybe I'm just as nasty as people make out :D

If I didn't already know DJ was a Reason user, certainly the first instrument would have shown me. A plucked string VST that many of us will be all to familiar with, and not a sound everyone loves, including me. It is a 'factory' sound that I feel could have been made more of by even just the slightest of tweaks to it and it shows a hint of laziness that it wasn't done. The same thing applies to the JFK sample, which to my mind is used way too much and after a while just serves to get on your nerves. Although there are undoubtedly some really good ideas buried away in this track, I don't think they were much capitalised on. Certainly the bassline is strong enough to keep the track afloat but to my mind the arrangement is a little too ragged to really hold interest.

Here again, I seem to be at odds with the number of comments praising this track, and I fear that I will have to put that down to me not particularly liking the genre. Personally I feel like a LOT more attention could have been paid to getting the sounds right (particularly the factory sounds) and working the arrangement a little better. The same could be said of the drum track which is so sparse it comes down to a single snare hit. Now that SOUNDS like it should work out fine, but to my ears it just highlights the sparseness of the arrangement. Maybe if you really like the genre, you will probably think differently, but for me, well I come away from this track disappointed. Won't stop me listening to what else this artist has to offer, and this review should not stop you from checking out this track too - remember I am an old curmedgeon as far as material like this goes...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Alderman - A Place With No Name

Hear The Track Here

Another artist I have known it seems like forever and another that has consistently pleased and often confounded me by the musical directions he has gone into. I think the very first track I ever heard from him was Catch a Glimpse of Wonderland (February 2004) in which he set out his musical stall very nicely. A taut, intense electronica workout that showed he had a different style than the others in his field. Since that time he has proved that time and time again, he knows what he wants and he gets it. It helps, of course, to have your fortunes mixed with the likes of Jim-n-Lisa (the collab offshoot Pond Surfers), Rey Varela (who guest warbles on this track) and other luminaries of this little scene. Course, it don't mean diddly if Alderman didn't come up consistently with the goods and he does more often than not.

He is also an artist who can literally touch people with his work, I have seen it time and again. One of the reasons I gave his Into The Light (March 2005) a Must Have is not just because the music was good, but because the song said something, and in so saying touched the essential human in many of his listeners. The same can be said of the first real J-n-L/Alderman collab Diamond Dust (June 2005) also, btw, a Must Have. So what is it then, that makes Alderman so special? Well, I of course can only speak from a personal angle but I think many people like this artist because he is who he seems to be: a decent human being who is sharing his thoughts and ideas about life and the universe with us in the only way he knows how - through his music.

Not a lot wrong with that.

I mention Into The Light and Diamond Dust purposely because A Place With No Name explores some of the same themes as those tracks. Not only does Rey deliver the vocals on this track he went some way towards straightening out Alderman's English. Mind you, seeing as he is Swedish, there's nowt wrong with that. He can speak better English than I can speak Swedish and that's a fact. Lyrically and emotionally I bonded with this track immediately but despite that I found myself struggling to LIKE the track and the reasons for that are quite complex - and none of them the fault of either Alderman or Rey Varela. Something about the arrangement of the track - and the samples used to create it - doesn't sit right with me and I've spent days trying to pin it down. Both the musical and vocal performance are infinitely credible, but I don't know, it just doesn't sit right. Still, that's really just me being Mr Perfecto again and most people listening to this will nod their heads and think 'aaah yes, Alderman.....I like him....' Well, the singer knows his stuff too, and I think both musicians have nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of...

Recommended, other-worldly chillout.

Herult Hennreg - Journeyman

Hear The Track Here

Herult Hennereg is (and I quote his words) 'a genre chameleon whose weirdness is his blessing' so there. It is, however, a fairly accurate description, at least judging from what I already know about Journeyman, having lived with it for a few days. Weirdness IS a blessing as far as I am concerned and - in this case - it is rightly applied. For sure, you may well hear some of this artists quality elsewhere but there can be no denying - whatsoever - you won't hear much that would better this. That applies regardless of what your particular musical preference may be. That's because Journeyman is that special, and exceeding rare thing, a beautifully produced, artfully rendered, seamless track is is nectar to your hearing implements.

Herult Hennereg is obviously a new name to Soundclick although I notice that HELLbus has already picked up on the quality on display here and that's agood sign. As soon as I heard this track, my immediate impression was that he must be Swedish. He is, as it turns out, Austrian (I think) so that goes part way to explaining exactly how good his music is. Not sure what it is about the pop sensibility of artists from Europe but there is a craftsmans touch about this which can only be European. Even at their most innovative, American musicians could never come out with something so complex, and yet so simple. Now, before I get innundated with abusive emails from our friends with the big hats and even big skies, you KNOW I like American music but hey, listen to this then tell me what American artists sounds or feels like this.

I think the reason also I am making the Swedish connection is that Journeyman reminds me of the work of Sylvan & Bonamici if not in style then certainly for the arrangement and production values. Journeyman is pretty much yer typical sea shanty (I kid you not) although it's probably more ho ho than yo ho. It's also encased in a rock solid rock arrangement all of which makes it an absolutely cracking song and to be sure that's it's main selling point, but certainly not the whole of the picture. In every other respect (performance, production, arrangement and musical idea) this is the real deal and well deserving of the high rating I am about to give it.

Excellent idea, brilliantly brought to life and a MUST HAVE.

Strife & TGL - Till The End Of Time

Hear The Track Here

I've been thinking a lot about the past over the past few weeks. First because a lot of the people I knew 2-3 years ago have all of a sudden started appearing again (names like ConKuss, Skizza and others may ring some bells) and - yesterday - i heard that one of the people from that era (an artist known as Pagoda) had passed away. In keeping with that train of coincidence, this month's review list starts off with another artist I have known from that period - Strife (joined in this case by TGL, another member of that long ago site) and now working as a duo.

Nice to see those old faces, that's for sure.

So, although I've given you Strife's SC page as the link, the track up for review can be found at, it does not appear to be on Soundclick as yet. As it happens, I've always had a penchant for Strife's brand of bright n breezy electropop, although he hasn't always delivered things that stand the test of time. Still, that small change when, if all you are looking for is a straight forward peice of electronica that doesn't stretch the brain cells too much but definitely infects the nod and toe-tap muscles. Mind you, having said all that, I like to have a fekking heart attack when I noticed that this obese sucker weighed in at just over 10 minutes. Dance (uh oh) electronica (double uh oh) that should be enough to give Gilmore the galloping gripes right enough.

Good job then that I have both a taste for Strife's work, if still a marked dislike for the genre he works in, and Till The End Of Time shows him to be in fine, fine form and is a classic example of what Strife does best. For my money, ten minutes is stretching a listeners attention span, although I can imagine this would go dance a storm in yer average electronica haunt, it has tremendous dancebility. But here's the thing. Remember I started off this review by yapping about 'back in the day'? Well, I've known Strife for most of the time he has been online, and his experience and maturity as an online musician is exceptional. He is still pursuing the same musical road he was on when I first met him but by God he has learned some tricks since then. I NEVER thought I'd ever say this about a electronica dance track, even less so a ten minute Gorilla in Our Midst version, but I feel I have no choice, this is that good.

Highly Recommended (yep, even electronic and longer than a long thing).