Thursday, December 28, 2006

Silvertrain - One

Hear The Track Here

Taking up the last review slot of this month, and indeed the year really, are me old mates (yeah those guys) Silvertrain. It's timely that this has fitted in this way because I have been championing Silvertrain's cause now for over three years. Highs and lows, and there have been a fair scattering of both. I'd be lying through my teeth if I said I preferred say a singer/songwriter combination over a firing on all cylinders kick ass rock band. There lies the central contradiction to the Silvertrain story; which kind of animal are they? On the surface of it - and judged by their most popular tracks - they are the kick ass rock band. Taking in a much longer term view though and they begin to resemble the singer/songerwriter combination more and more.

Damn good job the songs are still there though...

One is, by the sounds of it, a John Brandon song but it shows how much his own personal game has improved this year with some great sounding tracks. Ritchie Allen adding to them is - as always - the icing on the cake but - as always - we'll have to wait a bit for that. What John comes in with in the meantime is absolutely classic Silvertrain territory; shiny 'we can do better' lyrics, a solid rhythmic backbone and a couple of singalonga choruses into the bargain. Once you get used to the track you notice the slight wooliness of the sound in certain places but hey, this is really a small thing. This time last year, John was just starting to experiment with the home produced front and I think he's done amazingly.

Whether it has any longevity to it or not would, I guess ultimately rest with whatever contribution Ritchie makes to it but for now, I'd say One was a good track for some further work to take place on. In that respect, Silvertrain are an absolute nightmare to deal with because almost every single track they do (with the exception of the fully recorded tracks) is pretty much a work in progress. The kind of thing you may (or may not) hear on a Silvertrain CD in about 2 years or so. That is not to say that One cannot stand up for itself as a song, it can and proudly too because it IS a good song and one you should even get into in this raw(ish) state. Me, I think I'll wait for the final version (and that's nothing new either).

Excellent pop/rock song. Recommended.

Conkuss - The Bitter Pill (Part One)

Hear The Track Here

Conkuss, as he will readily admit, an artist you either 'get' or not. I think that my exposure to artists like The Delivery System helped me to better get into what Conkuss was about. On a site where instant music artists were legion and real musicians too few to mention, they stood out as something different. Something awfully, awfully different. Conkuss has always had more than a touch of the dark side about him as his music amply testifies but underneath all that is a musician who is thinking about what's happening and on top of his game. The real jackpot question is going to be whether you like it or not and that will depend on both your musical and stylistic tastes.

Essential Conkuss music is usually raw, half chewed and - often not pleasant to hear. Hold up there hoss... Unpleasant to hear? So what would be the point then? and that, my friends, would be in your brains and aural taste buds. As rough and abrasive of a Conkuss track often is, there is a depth to it, a solid wedge of quality music that does get through, albeit with a distincly gloomy outlook. As Jay (aka Conkuss) advises, it's best to read the lyrics while you are listening to the track because - believe me - you are not going to be able to pin down the track long enough to make sense of it first time round. It's one of those all meat and potato jobs you get that take you months to pick apart properly and at six minutes it's anything but a quick listen.

In fact, The Bitter Pill (Part One) will benefit by prolonged playing because it's only when you live with it for a while that it really starts to register as something complete, rather than a series of sequences which is what our first impression will be. Like a lot of his work, the kind of punk feel and lo-tech sound are things you will become used to and has been his trademark sound for a good many years. This is more apparent in the early (say first verse) rather than in the later part of the track. The sound and vocal remind me strongly of heavy metal bands of the early 70's (Sabbath in particular) but that changes into a much slicker, rounded sound that continues through the end of the track. It's bloody clever, no matter which way you slice and dice it and - if this is a recent work - suggests that Conkuss is up and storming in his time honoured fashion. Something, I say, not to be missed out on. If you don't know who Conkuss is, but are interested in what I have said; take a flyer and give this track a download. You won't be disappointed but be warned this is definitely an acquired taste thing.

Excellent black as a witches tit electronica - but not as we know it. Highly Recommended.

Sound Radius - The Power WIthin Score

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You would think that, by now, my reputation should precede me. I have bored millions of people to an early grave extolling - at great length I might add - my dislike of techno, trance, 4 to the floor electronica of all shapes and sizes, pretentious classicism and - yea verily - that denizen of the deep; Film Soundtracks. In my world, film soundtracks belong on films and only on films - after all that is what they are made for. Without the visuals its just a peice of music innit? Weeeellll (reviewer waggles hand) sorta/kinda and kinda/sorta. I have heard, courtesy of my almost four year imprisonment on Soundclick, a great many varieties of so called film soundtracks, some of which I have really liked and most of which I torn into little bitty peices in a frenzy of rage and despondency

Uh oh, it's that time of month again...

The Power Within slams right into the action with a really high paced intro that instantly disabuses you of the notion that this is 'just' a film soundtrack. The sound tsunami sloshing around your ears isn't going to do that either because - even on first listening - this a soundtrack worthy of the name. Having watched two or three film epics over past couple of days The Power Within definitely hit the right chord, musically and technically. On a strictly musical level, the score is a work of intense beauty and heart-rending sequences that would - given the right graphical environment - would stun audiences. For me, that is where this track really scores; it is simply a wonderful peice of soul stirring, fire in the belly music that could work wonder in the right movie but does plenty well on it's own, thank you very much.

As you also know, I'm not a slouch at recognising musical talent whatever the genre or - more tellingly - my dislike of it and whatever my feelings about soundtracks, peices of well thought out, dramatic, and ultra majestic musical structures make me go all weak at the knees. The Power Within grabbed me from the first castanet snap and never let go since. Even though it's obviously an action adventure theme, there are parts of this track that have such power sonicaly and musically it'll take your breath away. A wonderful, uplifiting epic, lovingly produced and as dramatic as anybody could wish for. Oh, and if you have a full-blooded 7.1 speaker system you are not gonna believe this baby through it. Class, class, class.

MUST HAVE (Ed: OK Lord take me now. I've seen it all).

Decollage - dragonfly eat holland

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Like her friend, Simon Witt (aka Burp) Decollage delights in lower case titles, and shares much of the same musical ground too as it happens. All this I found out when I reviewed the effectively titled No 1 (November 2006), and then discovered that they live in the same city (Munich, Germany) and are friends. Not, as some us automatically assumed, a Burp clone but a person in her own right. For which, the whole of Soundclick breathed a huge sigh of relief. After all, one Burp is more than enough for the current world population I think. No 1, for all it's electronica was a nice peice of work, and I gave it a highly recommended on the strength of its impact and production. What is it about Munich and electronic music? The place is steeped in musical history but especially avant garde and electronica and this is another area where the lines are melting...

All the better I say.

dragonfly eat holland is considerably more disjointed than No 1 which I found sonically powerful and much more pointed in its approach. Not much that defined No 1 survived until this track, or at least that I can remember. Now maybe that's down the use of vocal cuts to spice up the mix, and muddy the water at the same time and that's a special trick. Dragonfly (if I may call it that) is much rawer, both in its use of samples and sonically and experimental - at least in the use of those vocal cuts - and even after extended plays I'm not sure whether I like the track or not. As you know, over the years I have become much more lenient to the experimental side but this track definitely pushes that limit - and that's probably the point.

Having said all that, if you can manage several plays (its fairly tough going sonically) the idea of the vocal cuts begins to gel much, much better than it first appears. The music sometimes helps the track but often seems to play mere backdrop to other musical events. So, dragonfly eat holland is going to be tough going even if you like your electronica with a wee dab of experimental, but ultimately it did prove to be worth the time. As I said, nothing like as immediate as her first track but hey, it's another side of this artist and one - I suspect - which may be closer to her own musical ideal. Although there is a newness and rawness to her work, there is still enough here to show that she will develop quickly once she finds her feet. As it is, dragonfly eat holland is a pretty neat effort to stuff three genres into one.

Handle with care. Not for the squeamish.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Fluidity - Tomorrow

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At the beginning of this year, I reviewed my first Fluidity track, and if I hadn't just gone back to check that date I would have sworn I have known this New Zealand based rock artist a lot longer. Part of that may have to do with the type of rock that John Paul Carroll (aka Fluidity) dishes out to us lucky bar stewards.. Good old fashioned rock, with plenty of singalonga chorus lines and catchy guitar phrases earning him a number of reasonable reviews from Old Grumpy (that's me folks!) and some backhanded compliments about his style which has reminded me of many a rock god over the past year and that's never a bad thing. In the course of the past year Fluidity has made many friends and Tomorrow is going to get him many, many more - especially if I have any say in it.

But first, here is a confession from our sponsor: I hated Quo when they were really happening. I thought they were lame.

Seriously, I was more into the sock-down-the-pants routines of the REAL rock stars - except that not a one of them had ever written a halfway decent hit, much less a string of them a mile long as Status Quo have to their eternal credit. Call them cliched, hackneyed yes, but God they rock like sumbitches... The reason I am waxing lyrical (Ed: talking bollocks in other words) about Status Quo is because Tomorrow sounds a lot like one of their tracks, especially vocally. It's also, in my very 'umble opinion, on of the best Fluidity track I have heard this year and he has delivered some very satisfying material already. To end the year with a track of this quality can only add lustre to his growing reputation.

I've never made any secret of me being an out-and-out rock head, but I have a healthy respect for other sounds too, especially when they are allied to the 'pop' medium - as this track is. JP has always been a bit of a smartypants about his music but Tomorrow shows off his growing confidence in his arranging abilities because the music hammers the point home so percussively at times you find yourself ducking automatically. However, the cleverness of the arrangement is just a passing phase and what stays with me after repeated plays - and what will probably do the same for you too - is the mighty anthemic chorus that you just cannot resist singing along with.

All together now, the fuuuuuuuuttttuuuurrreee.....

The REAL power pop. Highly Recommended and a Must Have for fans.

Bassil Taleb - The Acceleration Of Night Legends

Hear The Track Here

Bassil Taleb is a Syrian electronica artist who I first encountered last month when I reviewed his Starlights Of China which - surprisingly enough - was Chinese in any way. A title is only a title though eh? Starlights of China though had lots of ideas, probably too many as I pointed out in the review. The Acceleration Of Night Legends, on the other hand, is (I quote) 'inspired by stories, events and the traditions of my own city Damascus and it's good people'. As you know I am a confirmed lover of Middle Eastern music but - as I discovered by my last experience - a title is just a title. Moreover, Bassil is obviously working with some kind of loop system which can work, but only with extensive tweaking and hopefully not with over-familiar samples. Been there, done that and I've still got the earache.

Eh? Pardon?

You know me. I'm a firm but fair judge, and when something is wrong with a track I am likely to point out what it is, and hopefully how to deal with it. I absolutely hate to diss someone's hard work but sometimes it's unavoidable, as is the case here. My problem (or is it dilemma?) is that The Acceleration Of Night Legends has so many things wrong with it that I am at a loss as to where to start. Bassil, I hope you understand why I feel I have to write this and I hope you will take what I have to say with an open mind. The prime requisite for dance music is a consistent beat and there is something decidedly dodgy about the 4/4 overdriven-to-hell-and-back kick happening in this track. Ally that to a shifting arrangement which often runs contrary to the rhythm and/or melody(?) and things get decidedly out of kilter.

In short, it plain doesn't work.

I can certainly see the attraction of some of the samples Bassil has used here but when something doesn't gel properly it's just an interesting sound. There are disparities too on sound levels, the prime culprit being the kick of course, but other things (some of the odd noises for example and a really irritating high screech) kick up the same fuss. None of which helps the track to really get started in any meaningful manner. One of the great joys of music software that starts either Magix or Ejay is that you can make quite professional sounds remarkably quickly. However, like all music, unless you follow the musical rules laid down by millions of musicians, it all comes out sounding like a mess. Both of the programs I mentioned actually take the time to sort their samples into musical root order making easier to pick a bit that goes with another bit. Of course it's fun to mix bits together just to see what it sounds like, but its another matter when you release that to a wider audience. They expect more. Now maybe I'm judging Bassil's work too harshly or the two tracks I've heard so far are older tracks, but this is not the way to do it.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

RAF21 - I Have A Dream

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I Have a Dream being, of course, the words that have come to describe the immortal 1963 speech of Dr Martin Luther King in which he uses these words to create a vision of the world he wished to see. It does have tremendous connotations these days for just about any human alive I guess and has become one of the foremost speeches of any age. Some big shoes to fill then, if you are ever going to use such a famous string of words that mean so much to so many people. Raphael Beaudon (aka RAF21) obviously knows better than to try and include any parts of that speech into his music because, weel that would be just too tacky eh? The one complaint that could never be leveled at RAF21 is tackiness (ie eewwwwww, yuk, and other vomiting noises) because even though he's working in one of the most tacky of genre's Electronica: Ambient, he carries it off admirably.

Although I found the production a bit tame on I Have A Dream, it is still clear as a bell with all instruments carrying their weight productively. Personally I would have liked a little more drama but hey, it's small change considering what you are getting. I Have A Dream is a most attractive blend of rock (the drums and bass backing) and classical instrumental themes, all worked together with a thorough professionalism. That isn't something I can normally feel about this much maligned (by me usually) genre. So I question whether this is in the right category, it might fare better as Fusion or definitely some form of classical. In my experience getting the genre classification right can often mean the difference between high plays/downloads or nominal (ie your Mum, your Dad, the dog...) so maybe RAF should rethink this.

On the best possible note, I Have A Dream is a rare track that will take a while to really settle in and I do advise giving it that time. Rapheal plays flute, piano and guitar and considering that the track doesn't consist of much more than that, plays them extremely well. It's a given then that he's also going to treat those instruments with care, never allowing one to overstep the other - and when you're dealing with a track of this complexity and length that's a fair old job. I can't say, with hand on heart, that I Have A Dream is the kind of track I would clasp to me puny bosom but it's certainly proficient and beautifully performed. Particularly if you like a good flautist...

Well produced and performed classical blend. Recommended.

MOG - Visible Fractures

Hear The Track Here

Remember that conversation we were having a llittle while ago about artists changing their mind about the track up for review at the last minute? Guess who the culprit is this month? ;) In the UK cats are, for some obscure reason, often referred to as 'moggys' and I'm a-wondering if we are dealing with the same pussy here... No, wait. On second thoughts, lets not go there at all. So, MOG puts up a track and then changes his mind so I am duty bound - being a right curious George - couldn't resist listening to the dumped track (The Signs Are Everywhere) and hey it isn't bad but a tad on the monotonous side after a while. Always a problem with sample snippets I find and it doesn't help that its a 10 minute monster into the bargain Nonethless, it's a decent enough stab at it and is definitely worth a listen while you make up your own mind.

You do know how to make up your mind, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow...

Even on a first listen I can well understand MOG changing these tracks around. I don't know but maybe he is aware of my short fuse on many issues (such as overlong tracks for example) but even so, Visible Fractures is far and away the better track in so many ways. My first attraction came about because I am fascinated by time. Not the tick tock variety, naaah too mundane by half, but the musical sense of time. Visible Fractures is not your normal 4/4 outing (known to most musicians as the Missionary Position for some unknown reason) but a peice in 7/8 time so it should - by definiton - sound strange to your old lugholes. Especially if you were expecting a floorfillah. Surprisingly enough, even though you are aware of the oddity of the style, it does draw you into its very complex little heart.

Originally a guitar peice, MOG obviously expanded that idea a bit with this full on track containing (and I quote) 'a bass speaker cone being tapped, beer can, Stumpf Fiddle and the heavily twisted vocal sample is from "Keep on the Sunny Side" By Byron G. Harlan from 1906' and believe me when I say this, it all sounds much better than it reads. Take the bass speaker cone thing, for example, in actuality it becomes a rhythm instrument par excellence. That takes a nerdish mind folks, and one I appreciate even though - to my ears - it isn't always right on time. Mind you when faced with the choice this track gives you of sounds, rhythms, times and all, almost everything else pales into the background. Personally I found Visible Fractures an extremely listenable almost-dance track that shows MOG is an artist worth keeping an eye on.

Excellent experimental approach. Recommended.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Da Luck Ent - Changes

Hear The Track Here

Don't quite know what's going on here because the track I have (Changes) doesn't appear to be on the band's Soundclick site and that's a shame because its a decent track and here I am about to talk about it and poor old you can't hear nuffink.... Memo to Da Luck Ent; Puhleeeze put this on the site man, even if its just so that people know I'm not making this shit up :D 'Pot Luck Ent is a label filled with young and talented artists and producers' says the blurb on their page and they are a seven strong group of rappers, musicians and producers from the Windy City: Chicago. So, obviously hip hop is the genre so lets get to work...

Changes has a neat little brass lick cut up sample that introduces the track, along with a Malcom X (I think) vocal sample and in truth it works together to want the listener to listen further. Of course you should like the whole hip/hop rap arena to like what Da Luck Ent get up to but - to be honest - most of the present tracks on their Soundclick page are nothing like as good as the material that makes up Changes. Mind you, I'm not really a fan of the softer, R&B side of this genre and Da Luck obviously are. Changes, however, is a different prospect entirely and one I hope you get to experience soon, especially if you like rap with an experimental edge.

I'm not sure exactly how they are creating that brass riff I was telling you about earlier but it is one of the major hooks in this track and reappears in slightly different guises throughout the proceedings. As a hook, it plays a blinder, as you can tell for yourself by listening to the first thirty seconds of this track. The production isn't bad either, and certainly not typical of the breed, which is another reason why it would be worth a listen. Moreover, Changes is also a very good song in itself, a strong, defiant sound that puts itself across with an ease and musicality that deserves a lot more attention than most of todays rap scene. A surprisingly good listen and a hip hop track that should do well and one I'll be hanging onto.

Recommended rap.

Dan E. Peck - The Lights Of Heaven

Hear The Track Here

Dan E. Peck is a new name to me, coming from out of MP3 Unsigned and Peoria in the beautiful state of Arizona so it's almost a given that we will be talking about some sort of rock music here. That proves to be the case sure enough but with the slightest of differences, it's ALL guitar. It's always been a tricky area to work in - in fact instrumentals in general - but somehow the amount of people who have made any headway in this music can be counted on a couple of fingers. One of the most notable exceptions has been one of my own axeman heroes, Jeff Beck, and truth to tell the initial appeal to me of The Lights Of Heaven was an immediate Beck connection - and that's always a good start.

Mind you, after a few more listens, that reference kinda fades away and you begin to appreciate Dan's own style - this man is a very fluid and confdent player and it shows in his work. The Lights Of Heaven is the title of an upcoming CD project and - as befits a title track - stands up in its own right as a very competent, flowing instrumental peice that has a lot going for it. Should you like rock music in general and rock guitar instrumentals in particular, you will find much here of interest, even though it has the most abrupt ending known to man. And therein lies the rub. IMHO I don't think this will appeal to much out of its genre and that's a shame because it actually is a very decent peice of music with some excellent playing from the man himself.

It sure makes ME want to listen to more from this artist, but I'm not so sure others will be as keen. I have the feeling that other musicians (just like us) will always enjoy a guitarist like Dan E. Peck because the guy just radiates rock cool, and he has a nice line in guitar tones to go with it. Although The Lights Of Heaven is home recorded (with Dan playing all the parts) it doesn't really have that boxy, muffled sound that mars a lot of home recorded product and is - again - a sign of his experience and nous about doing this correctly. In this notoriously electronic world it's somehow comforting to know that there are clever, competent musicians just around the corner and I suspect I will be visiting this guys webpage again and again simply because he is my kind of guitar player.

Excellent rock instrumental and a guitarist who stretches himself... Recommended.

Nuff X - Take Me Out

Hear The Track Here

Nuff X has been one of the only electronica artists to hit it consistently with this reviewer this year, and that has to be down to his own style, aided and abetted by some lovely cutups... As you know, electronica never really hits the high spots with me, but when it is done well - as it is in this case - then I can certainly live with it. At the end of 2005 in my year end review I singled out two new electronica artists who I felt would make an even bigger impression in 2006. One was the much admired Omnisine who has had a terrific year, and the other was Nuff X and he has done splendidly this year. Out of the seven or so tracks I have reviewed this year, I've even kept one and that is amazing for any kind of electronica. Along the way I seem to have also given him a string of recommended's as well.

All in all, making out like a bandit eh? ;)

He's also, I've just noticed, a right prolific little pigdog too, and doncha just hate that. He has 129 tracks on his page and he's only 19, wtf is that at? The really frightening thing is that he is diverse with it, mixing and matching as he sees fit and by gum it works too. Take Me Out struck me immediately with all the finesse of a runaway juggernaut, the Squelchfest at the beginning sucking me ears dry before I could yelp in fear. Although I have some production moans, which I'll discuss in a while, Take Me Out is an adequate introduction to Nuff's work if you have never heard of him; but it isn't to my ears as strong as some of the tracks he has released this year. I'm having trouble putting my finger on what the problem is; musical or technical.

Technical because the rough seems a bit rough to me, and very hot in terms of levels. The damn track leapt out of the speakers and had me in a armlock in seconds and kept that pose throughout. A good thing yes, I would agree, except there is noticeable clipping in a couple of places and that definitely doesn't work for me. It's especially noticeable on the vocals which are obviously very heavily treated so they would be a bit noisy, but not to the extent of clipping. If it were a perfect world, this track should prod some major bottom, but it just misses by the smallest of margins - something worthy of a swift remix to tame it down a bit. Having said that, Nuff X may have intended all this to be part of the overall picture, I certainly wouldn't put it past him. So, if you want this one untreated, best be cautious with it because it is a mighty fearsome beast.

Cool, cut up electronica.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rooney Tunes - She and I

Hear The Track Here

Third time around for Michael Rooney (aka Rooney Tunes), a Texas based multi-instrumentalist who has been making some appropriate noises around Soundclick, not least because he is a seasoned, knowledgable musician who knows what he wants and gets it. The same may not be true for listeners though, as I have found out to my surprise. After I reviewed and raved over Sally (August 2006); a great production, highly polished performance and a cracking song to boot, whereas Island Paradise (November 2006) was not my style at all - it being a ballad and IMHO a pretty 'wet' one at that. There again, that is so obviously a matter of personal taste because - in both cases - I rated those tracks as highly recommended primarily because of the level of musicianship on display.

You are never to old to learn something new, ya know? and if anyone could teach you, this guy could.

Tell you what, no matter which way you look at it, this guy is a born romantic. Love and the pursuit/loss of it seems to be at the heart (no pun intended) of most of his songs so if you are looking for a bit of nasty - better move along, nothing happening here... Although She and I is billed as pop, it's best to be aware that it is a pop ballad and most of you know only too well my redrage concerning these things. Mind you, when music of this quality comes by you listen anyway, regardless of your own personal preferences. Beleive me, you won't hear much better out in the real world commercial business and that's a fact. So the only question left is whether you would actually like it or not, and that depends on what your own take on ballads is.

On every other angle (production, performance, songwriting, arrangement) this is absolutely top class work as I've stated in every other Rooney Tunes review I have done. That doesn't stop me saying that one a personal level, I don't like the track much. It isn't something that I would seek out of my own accord. Having said that, it is a joy to hear real musicians playing together as well as this because as well as Mike's endless instrumentation he is joined by bassist Lou Carfa and drummer Warren Dewey all of whom turn in a sterling performance. I can't even use the excuse that the track lacks drama, detail or any of the other handy pegs I find to dish the dirt. In fact, I suspect if you like your music to edge more towards 'easy listening' then you are going to think Rooney Tunes are the best thing since sliced bread - and in their genre, they probably are. It's just one that plain doesn't interest me much.

Excellent Pop Ballad. (I can't believe I just said that, someone shoot me!!)

Highly Recommended.

Smalllife - Home

Hear The Track Here

Absolutely no doubt Smalllife has been one of this reviewers' greatest finds this year, and remember you read it hear first. After a year full of Must Have's I believe Smalllife have proved beyond doubt that they are a worthy addition to a long, long, line of top class (nay world class) rock bands. Rock? Aaah, but there's a tricky subject to pin down innit?? I mean what end of rock are they? For my side of the story, Smalllife are one of those bands who - if their live performance matches their recorded performance - could give even the veterans a run for their money. Hailing IMHO from the more showbizzy end of rock, Smalllife have it all; a great rock vocalist, slamming guitar riffs, scorchio leads and drums and bass that commit GBH to the ears...

Aaaah bliss.

There again, there's a much larger audience for rock when you combine it with showmanship and that oozes through every single track I have heard from this band, even the odd one-off's like this one (a competition entry). It's still stamped throughout with the trademarks I have come to expect from this Stoke-On-Trent band, an convincing vocal with some incisive lyrics, bouyed up by some class performances all round. Although I could have done with a bit less of the intro section,as soon as Jaymz Lee Shaw enters the picture all is forgiven. As good a band as Smalllife are, there is no doubt that Jaymz is the main powerhouse behind the band as vocalist, songwriter and guitarist as well as - I think - some of the production duties. A busy boy.

Overridding all the performance talent seen from this band this year though is the class of songwriting - especially in such a difficult field. The main reason I keep any track these days is because of the quality of the songs which is why I seem to have collected so many Smalllife tracks this year, they write rock classics like you wouldn't believe. Home, for me, has a peculiar 60's/90's feel to it that captures (say) stuff by the Faces, Aerosmith yet brings a definitely modern edge to the party. Jaymz' voice never ceases to amaze me, this is the true sound of rock sung with such professionalism and style that your jaw can't help but drop. I can't say Home is up there with some of their finest this year, but I'll still be hanging on to it. Destined for much greater things, especially if they get out there and spread the good word...

Great rock track, lovingly performed. Highly Recommended.

Policy Overkill - Song 17

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Yep, gotta love those real snappy song titles doncha?? Policy Overkill, for those who have been living on Mars, is a Soundclick electronica artist (Ed: what? Another?) who I have encountered from time to time throughout this year including Wonder (August 2006), a track I highly recommended despite it being an ambient track and you know I don't like them guys. Still, not doing too bad seeing as PO is relatively new to Soundclick but an already established member of Soundclick's humongeous electronica community. Still, electronica is a bit of an acquired taste - at least for me - and it's definitely a more miss than hit field for me.

Coming in this time with an industrial electronica peice, Policy Overkill caught me by surprise, not what I was expecting at all. I'm dead keen on flowing synth sequences and Policy Overkill employs a raft of them on this entertaining peice that veers from it's industrial base to electropop and back again. Given that's a porky six and a half minutes, Song 17 seems to be a lot shorter than that, and for me that's always a good sign that someone has taken time and patience to stitch something worthwhile together. My initial impression though was slightly less forgiving at the section just prior to the second verse but repeated plays ironed that out. Something about the way that high pitched synth line sits in the track, it bugged me at first but give it time, it really fits.

It's always satisfying to come across a bit of electronica that I really like, and I do like what Song 17 has to say from the four to the floor opening to the closing notes, there is always something new to listen/gawp at. There is no doubt that the star for me is the sequenced sythm sections but - after a time - the actual song itself started to impinge on my tired old brain. The lyrics are delivered in a very grungy, moany style that never impinge on the flow of the music which belts along at a fast clip most of the time; as out of control as it comes but beautifully balanced on the very edge of falling apart. Terrific stuff, I tell you, especially if you happen to be one of the many who like electronica with a difference. Song 17 may be a pretty nondescript title but don't let it put you off this is a ride worth taking.

Top Class electronica. Highly Recommended.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Waxko - Destroyer of Pictures at an Exhibition

Hear The Track Here

Now you may look at this geezer and, not surprisingly, think that he is a rum looking cove. Well that same rum looking cove also happens to be one Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky, a prime influence in Russian and classical music and a man responsible for composing one of my favourite peices, Night On Bald Mountain as well as Pictures At An Exhibition. You may remember it being by 1970's longhairs Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Me? Give me Blue Rondo a la Turk by The Nice anyday. Anyway, we are obviously talking about covers here and classical ones at that, so bear that in mind while reading on.

(Ed: and enough of the fekkin links. Whaddaya? Working for Wikipedia??)

There's no doubt that Waxko's version is more like ELP than anything even close to the classical field, although having said that I do recognise the central theme of the original here but somehow it misses the point. Not musically because this is a hard peice to pull off no matter who you are, but in inception and execution. I know that this track is part of some compo somewhere so I will put down its rushed feel and fumbled approach down to deadline issues, but Lordy I am certain sure that a peice of music as vibrant as this deserves to actually SOUND better than this. I'll admit I am not a big fan of classical music, and even less of the strivings of todays musicians 'inspired' by the genre - it all reminds me of how po-faced ELP could be at times.

However, musically this never stood a chance anyway because it was sabotaged from the start by poor sounds and even poorer production values. It definitely hangs together and I'd guess that if Destroyers of Pictures at an Exhibition were cleaned up aurally and were given some decent soundsets to work with it may work very well indeed. This though, is a pale imitation. There's a generic, plastic-y GM (General MIDI) soundset being used here and for my money it kills whatever richness this track could have. I know that we all struggle to make music in our own different circumstances but even the slightest effort can get you decent soundsets these days and I would urge Waxko to take that time and get some power behind his undoubted musical talent.

An interesting take marred by chronic sound samples.

Amorphix - The Dark Wood (Canto I)

Hear The Track Here

Amorphix is one of a very small number of artists this year who have scored big time with me. I've reviewed two Amorphix tracks so far - Persephone (The Rites of Spring)(July 2006) and A Gnostic Hymn (September 2006) - and both got Must Have ratings and that ain't too shabby t'all. What makes it even more astounding is that Amorphix works in the Ambient field, my least liked of all electronica. It's ambient innit. You aren't supposed to take any notice of it. Not so with Amorphix, his music picks you up by the neck and worries you to death. He's not averse to throwing in the odd 'wtf is that' either because - as you may be able to tell from the track titles - he's gone over to the Dark Side. Darth Amophix is well into a bit of paganism, black magic and all things sepulcheral.

No I'm not telling you what that means. Look it up, ya lazy sod....

The Dark Wood (Canto I) sounds like the usual Amorphix laughfest: 'inspired by Dante's journey through Hell. Dark, desolate & cold. The soundtrack to fallen souls in eternal torment.' Mmmmm tasty. There again, I knew about this side of his work when I reviewed the previous two tracks and I have found no fault in them whatsoever so - as odd as it sounds - I looked forward to this new I worked on a remix of the Kenneth Anger film Lucifer Rising last year and I do like the dramatic flow you can get with dark peices and again Amorphix shows that he is an artist who knows what he wants. And to Hell with the rest of us, so to speak.

Still, it is the music we are about here not solving life's little problems, and musically you will probably love The Dark Wood - providing you wear a lot of black and wear shoes the size of stepladders. All joking aside (Ed: that was a joke?) as a peice of dramatic music, this is eerie beyond belief and not just because the wolves be a-howlin' at the door. Amorphix is a dab hand at creating a brooding air of menace, so much so that I prepared for this review session by wearing extra strength underwear because you can never tell with this guy. As a straightforward peice of music it's your usual audio treat, produced to a T and the kind of track that truly belongs in a fine horror flick. The Devil, so the old saying goes, as all the best acts and - on balance - I think I'd tend to agree with that. Not as immediate with me as the first two tracks from this artist but a gory little epic for all that.

Highly Recommended scary shit.

Duelling Winos - Chris Rea

Hear The Track Here

Although I've read some of the postings by the Duelling Winos on MP3 Unsigned, I had yet - until this moment - to hear any music from these 'acoustic chancers from Ayrshire'. That's in Scotland, before ye ask. OK well the first order of priority is to figure out just how Chris Rea could be the inspiration for anything other than a good bowel voiding is quite beyond me. Now I know the bloke has many, many admirers but unfortunately I'm not one of them. The fact that Princess Di was one should give you a clue. Hey, it's just a personal thing ya know, I can't help my insane predjudice so I might as well vent while I may. Anyfekkinhow, acoustic sounds good dunnit? And chancers, I know loads of them...

Drinkers too as it happens and if the Duelling Winos aren't pickled types 24/7 then I'm a Chinaman and the drinks are on you. Definitely the kind of track you would hear out on some boozy pub crawl where - given the 11 pints you just sank - you will probably piss yourself while giggling crazily. A tale we are all probably familiar with; a boozy night on the town, a woman who looked sooooo much more enticing with a belly full of lager but in reality was the back end of a bus, and finally waking up covered in bodily substances in some strange gutter on the wrong side of town. Duelling Winos deliver this cautionary tale with great lyrical dexterity definitely making me want to know what else these guys have on tap.

OK, enough of the boozing references already...

However, ya's got to be truthful, and being that I have to say I didn't much like this track. Not because of anything the DW have done wrong, but because of my own personal preferences. While I do like the tongue-in-cheek pseudo-country style and vocal delivery, it's definitely something that will wear quickly. So far I've only had it for a few plays but it's already beginning to grate a bit. Still, as I say, it's a personal thing. The production on the track is fairly basic but there again, it's a fairly basic track all round and certainly nothing more than these two guys playing and generally having a laugh. On that level it definitely works and it does make me want to see what else these guys have. It's always a shame having to diss a first track like this, so I hope a get a second chance at this... (Ed: he means instead of a good kicking...)

Good plain fun.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Radio Pohmelye - Sunday Morning Workout

Hear The Track Here

Radio Pohmelye is - so I am informed - 'Electro funk from Helsinki, Finland' which you might not think that big a deal. Especially seeing at it has the dreaded word electro in it and it's in the electronica section - always garanteed to raise a shudder or six. You may very well be under the impression that Finland and it's musicians have a hard time of it in this anglo-centric world...and you would be dead wrong. The fact is that the Scandanavian countries (Sweden and Finland in particular) have produced some of the finest musicians I have ever met - online or off it. During the early online music scene, most of the big names were pretty much all Swedish, Finnish or some variant thereof so where I see musicians from these countries I always expect much and have rarely been disappointed. Don't know what it is about living in those countries but by golly they do produce some very fine, intelligent musicians.

Radio Pohmelye also appears to be one person, Meddi who (I presume) plays everything. Everything in this case covering a large swathe of the instrument world, and all with more than a passing knowledge. Although I continue to have niggles with the track soundwise, there is no doubt that Sunday Morning Workout is a class bit of instrumentation and arrangement. Which, as I explained in the first paragraph, is exactly what I expect from this part of the world. So although it may be billed as electronica, it doesn't quite get that far because of the live guitars happening all over the place. In fact, from an arrangement angle, SMW is a bit of a surprise - as are the rock tinges that filter through every once in a while.

It's where it doesn't score so highly that ultimately make this an interesting but maybe not gripping listen. There's a factory feel about the drum track, especially right at the very beginning, that makes me think of the rhythm accompaniment banks on certain makes of keyboard. The mix is well on the rough side too, with the vocals in particular suffering greatly. Overlooking that though, Sunday Morning Workout is a pleasant, if slightly whimiscal peice that you are either going to love or not. There's a nice rhythm informing the track, an almost disco number at times, that manages to keep everything bubbling along nicely and - from a musicians point of view - this is a nice treat. I'm not so sure from the listeners angle with the exception that Sunday Morning Workout is actually quite a good song too.

It'll be interesting to see what else this artist has up his sleeve.

Avalanche - Will There Still Be A Tomorrow

Hear The Track Here

Around about this time last year I had my first LIVE internet musical experience when I was in the chatroom audience over at Songplanet during Mike-K's Saturday Night Rocks. Mike had invited a couple of members of Avalanche onto the show to entertain some of the of the show but what we didn't expect was to get one of the most dynamite performances any of us had heard. It was all down to the geetar styles of the misters Mike Foster and Mark Easton that made the night special and that's also the central rock on which this particular Avalanche rests on. That is not to denigrate the work of Mike Corsini and Barry Easton (yep Mark's brother) the bassist and drummer respectively. After all, without that massive engine powering out the wattage behind them, what kind of rock gods could Mike and Mark be? Having said that, they can be amazingly subtle with it too, when the need arises.

Finally moving onto Soundclick at the end of this year, Avalanche have only just begun to scratch the surface of this site's rock audience and they have a bunch of influential rock stations playing their stuff. If you have never heard the band then I'd say that their name says what they are, not always of course but a goodly percent of the time. The chosen playground is rock, classic, heavy and everything in between. Get a quick listen to Excessive (August 2006) for an example of why I - in particular - like them. I have to admit I do love a bit of kerrang and Excessive is exactly what it says it is. Will There Be A Tomorrow follows on in that classic rock way of theirs,think Who, Deep Purple, and in particular on this track AC/DC.

To be sure the verses are pure AC/DC riffery, and I think it would indeed be a fair comment to say that it doesn't break any new ground, but you don't expect rock to do that do you? It should IMHO sound like a dinosaur breathing down your neck, after all it's the reproduction of the genre that counts right? Mmmmm. Yeah, but it should also sound good enough to stand on it's own right rather than a pallid copy and that is where Avalanche have always scored with me because their tracks are respectful of the past and forward looking in their songwriting and that's good enough for me. Where this track scores in particular are the juxtapostions between the straighforward AC/DC style of the verses and the more complex Who sound of the bridges (or choruses, whatever). It's taken me no time at all to warm to this track but I would, wouldn't I? You should have some affection for the genre in general to really get swept away by this but it's till a good enough song in its own right to maybe get over any rock predjudice. Time will tell.

Highly Recommended hi-energy Classic Rock.

Friday, December 15, 2006

One Kid's Lunch - Nah

Hear The Track Here

Over here in the UK we have a bit of a hoohah going on about people using language in a 'yeah' or the immortal 'bovvered??' fashion all delivered with a face that looks like a smacked ass. Personally I find it hysterical because I know people like these (as portrayed by Little Britain and Catherine Tate) in my own life and I know how true it is. The reason this particular lingiustic bee flew up my nose is because One Kid's Lunch's (?) Nah is a classic of the breed. The song comment says it all - 'on second thoughts...' For those people who have no idea who One Kids Lunch are, they have been one of the big surprises of this extremely productive Soundclick year with track after track of intelligent, well performed and recorded pop of all descriptions, many of which have residence rights on my hard drive.

Not bad for a couple of guys from Texas...

It was their unique and often laugh out loud lyrics, allied to a killer pop sensibilty that won me over to this duo, and they have been remarkably consistent at delivering it thus far. I know that somewhere along the line of reviews I have done of them this year I have compared them to the 70's Canadian band Klaatu and Nah is a dead ringer both in style and delivery. I very much rated Klaatu at the time for their willingness to push the boundaries of what pop should mean and I think they did some beautifully stunning peices so I guess One Kids Lunch should take that as a high compliment. As always with One Kid's Lunch music, the more you listen the more hooked you become so absolutely no change there - thank God.

Not as immediate as some recent tracks, Nah is nonetheless a very, very distinctive peice of pop rock that will snag you if you give it enough time - and there lies its main problem. At this stage, it would be fair to say that I have a major OKL habit and I will pretty much hoover up anything they put out, but I don't believe that this track reaches the same highs as some of their better tracks this year. Mind you, I am incredibly biased by the quality of material I have heard this year and there is no doubting it gonna be hard to top that. Nah is a track that will take a bit of time, if you give it that time you'll find it has much to offer, especially if you are already a Lunch fan...

Cam's Even Song - Pick Me Up

Hear The Track Here

Cameron Bastedo (aka Cam's Even Song aka Soundclick Song Machine and all points south) has been a busy, busy boy this year. There again, he's been a busy boy ever since I first became aware of him a good many years ago. The first track I ever reviewed of his - The Home Of The Lord (June 2004) - showed what a good guitarist and songwriter this Canadian based guy was. It wasn't however the track that really got me focused on his work, that came later with Scream (version 2), Red Rock and a slew of other tracks that rapidly found room on my hard drive and tracks that I have kept from that year. This year, as many of you know, Cam has excelled himself and I have kept almost every track this year and that says a lot.

Uh oh. What's this, the velvet glove and then the cosh?? Well, not really but...

As the old saying goes, you are only as good as your last track, and when your last tracks has raised the bar some then you may encounter a problem or two. Not that there is anything wrong with Pick Me Up whatsoever, as always it's a classic Cam peice, exactly what you would expect from such a seasoned and consistent musician. You may just have caught me muttering something about being too consistent but pay that no mind, that's just my green eyed monkey peeking out. Making music the old fashioned way (ie actually playing instruments) is enormously difficult to pin down in this electronic age and yet artists of the calibre and breadth of this guy keep on doing it, almost flawlessly time after time.

Pick Me Up is, according to Cam, a song about growing older which is always a perrenial favourite innit? It's also extremely tuneful; mainly coming from a classic fretless bass riff that draws your attention immediately. As always, the song and its structure are familiar trademarks of this artist as is the distinctive, Beatle-ish vocal delivery. It isn't enough though IMO to get it over the slight flaws in this track, some of the sound levels are decidely wobbly and I don't think the song is as cogent as many he has released this year. Still, no doubt there will still be plenty of listeners who will like it and not even notice the admittedly smalll flaws I have mentioned, and with the track record he has this year, Cam has little to worry about anyway. So, a bit of an album filler if you know what I mean. A good Cam track yes, but this has been a year of great ones and it may well suffer in comparison.

Recommended nonetheless.

NPC - One More Thing to Conceal

Hear The Track Here

NPC are a complete unknown to me, and there isn't much to gain by looking around his/hers/theirs/severalsomeones MP3 Unsigned page. Essentially experimental electronica is the overriding impression, not always my favourite genre but I have been surprised by it before. NPC? Now where have I heard that term before....erm.... Would that be non-playing character? In which case I can perfectly understand the need for anonymity. Obviously the absolute first thing I, and others, want from the hundreds (nay fekkin millions) of electronica artists of any stripe is an involving experience, something that gets through the usual woompah woompah that so characterises the genre. My first impression of One More Thing To Conceal was very favourable, being the right blend of production nous and arranging talent. My second impression was that it was too damn short, because I could have gone on listening to it long after it's three and a bit minutes of playing time.

And that was just the first play...

Subsequent listens unveiled the true substance of this track; some remarkable sub-basses I hadn't noticed the first time round; and the depth and integrity of the arrangement and some v-e-r-y long sweeps that are essentially at the root of everything you hear. This is one of those tracks you just allow to roll into your earholes a note at a time (and sometimes it feels like that too), but underpinning it is an extremely well put together electronic soundscape that has plenty of musical nooks and crannies to explore. Most definitely a rare thing in this genre, and it makes me want to hear something else from this artist and that always bodes well.

For my money, this seemed - after some time - as an instrumental of little sections, but with infinite care paid to fitting those sections together and it's that care and attention to detail that make this track infinitely approachable - whether you like the genre or not. Most people that I know usually turn their eyes to heaven at the very mention of the word electronica - the acid test is whether THEY recognise it as electronica so I ran this track by a couple of people who I know don't like electronica (or at least say they don't) and both of them commented on the instant connection to the track they got and that says a lot. Should have got to the bit with the lock sound a bit quicker, one of them said because that was the bit he got really interested. My overall point here is that a track has to work within itself before it can be polished the way I have described and One More Thing definitely works. A totally engrossing electronic peice and not - IMHO - experimental at all. In fact it kinda reminds me of something Pink Floyd may have done in the early days.

Recommended electronica

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Freck Scroggs - The Choir Director

Hear The Track Here

Now how timely is this, two of my ultimate favourite musical loonies back to back. The Hive (aka Burp) and Pilesar. Well, not strictly Pilesar exactly, more like his grandad, a gentleman who goes by the name of Freck Scroggs. But gets better.... Pilesar says it better, let him tell you this one. 'Freck Scroggs is the pseudonym of my late grandfather, Royce Mullinax (aka, Grandpa Ax). He used to sit at the kitchen table and sing these songs. One day, he started recording them on a cheap jambox. I compiled the tapes, cleaned them up as best I could, and uploaded them for your aural pleasure. OK now that should convince you that I am making none of this up, because even I thought it was a classic Pilesar wind up at first but no, it appears not.

There's a first time for everything, so they say ;)

So bear in mind that this is just some guy singing on his own and - given the time it was recorded I guess - a decidely very lo-fi production full of crackles and the odd massive clip or two. What we have there though is not just a peice of Pilesar's family history, but a peice of American music history because - if you know anything about American musical history - you'll know they have a special place in their hearts for storytellers and Freck Scroggs is certainly that. It grieves me some that none of the lyrics of the songs are online because it will take careful listening to tease them all out of this production. Nonetheless, my ears heard a classic American folk sound; the voice and nothing but the voice. For me, I have to say that I really like Americans, and I like those whose accents remind one of the true America - out there in the boonies...

Freck Scroggs has the perfect accent to deliver this saucy little tale and if - like me - you are a dialect freak, this is hog heaven. It is a saucy little tale right enough with Freck screwing left right and centre, but you don't want to know about that. OK OK 'fess up time. I wouldn't go out of my way to hear something like this - and if I did I would probably think it was a joke too. Until, that is, I listened a little deeper and heard that still, small voice that is the American spirit. Smart, sassy, irreverent, as warm hearted and kind as they come - THAT is the nature of the America that I grew to know and love and characters like Freck Scroggs keep that alive and kicking in the face of all who would say NO to everything that isn't written down in some damn book somewhere. Freck Scroggs is a true, larger than life character whose idiosyncratic songs may well charm you as they did me. Well, maybe charm is too strong a word, but it's certainly interesting...

Americana in the flesh and nekkid....

A track from the A Rutabaga Titty and a Cabbage Asshole Album, and that should warn you :D

The Hive - Myrmideon Waters

Hear The Track Here

Squatting awkwardly within said Hive, is one Simon Witt. You may also know him as Burp or if you are REAL old cranky bastid like yours truly, you may also know him as Emetrics. Whatever the hell his name is (in this case The Hive), you can be assured of quality electronica weirdnesses the like of which you have never heard before. Yes, I would be willing to take a bet on that, safe in the knowledge that Burp (by whatever description) is a major Soundclick electronica artist by any stretch. You don't get plays in five figures and you don't get stations heading upwards of 60 and you certainly don't get an everlasting line of number 1's and 2's. Having hammered that point so far into your brain it's probably peeking out of your ass, it should now be obvious that I like this bloke.

In a musical (and certainly manly) way, you understand.

I have, of course, had my introductory brainwashing from The Hive and came out of it successfully although the scars still itch from time to time. I also found a neat track called abhaya mudra (November 2005) which I have grown to love and cherish as one of Simon's finer peices. Although 2005 was peppered with some fine Hive material I have heard nothing whatsoever this year until this track so I anticipated much. Billed under the Electronica: noise genre doesn't bode well - in most cases I would imagine. For a great majority of the population too. However, if you have a taste for it, and you are looking for artists who define good electronica on Soundclick, give Myrmideon Waters (don't ask!) a spin because it features a central tenet of all Simon's work in whatever genre he works in. A sense of rhythm that is almost clockwork in its precision, even when surrounded on all sides by endless noise.

For me as a reviewer (and as a musician), this track absolutely typifies exactly why The Hive et al are worth cultivating. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun listening to noises off, on, sideways, reversed into gaping caverns of reverb and generally marmelised at every turn. In all his work Simon carries with him a sense of his own country's part in the electronica world we live in today, I often get Kraftwerk references through his material and that I do like. The same is true of this track in more ways than one, there is that kind of electronica; what sounds like a car smash of a steel band sound and endless other fascinating bits of aural furniture. Certainly much more left field than most of Burp's output which explains the reason behind the side project name. It stands to reason that you probably shouldn't listen to this if you are of a nervous disposition or sitting with your ancient grannie because either way you will both have a heart attack if you do... Especially once The Hive start syringing your ears out with some Super Strength Sweeps; that's when the brainwashing begins.

The Hive. Handle with extreme caution. First class Electronica though. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Rémon Kroes - Filled Air

Hear The Track Here

Rémon Kroes is a new name to me and, I suspect, Soundclick too judging by the sparseness of the page. One track and a couple of comments usually suggests that. Still there have been a good many seasoned musicians coming onto SC over the past couple of years so no sweat there. Further digging drags up the fact that he is 18 years old and he comes from the Netherlands. Now you'd think with all that stacked in his favour (or not depending on which way you look at it) that he'd try and e-a-s-e his way into it and bring people up to speed slowly. Not this boy, he throws a six minute long piano solo into the Soundclick bearpit. Now that's either the mark of someone insanely delusional or someone who is happy with the work they do and don't give a **** what you or I think.

Move along, move along, there's room for all. Diversity being the spice of life and all that old bollocks.

Now you know full well that I'm not a fan of the gentler side of music although I am always ready to recognise an accomplished musician, whatever genre they are working in. The track is more interesting because it is literally a peice recorded live, off the cuff; a track that fills up air. As such I found the idea of it appealling enough for me to sit through more than a few plays of it although - in my heart of hearts - no matter how good it was it would never be my gen-u-wine cup of tea. No disrespect to Rémon whatsoever because it is a lovely piano peice, very well played as even the most casual of listens will confirm so if it sounds as if you would like it, clickee the linkee.

Of course it being a piano solo peice is probably its greatest drawback, because there is no doubt that fact will deter many listeners but hey, everyone has a small sound corner to go and relax in and this would fit in there very nicely. The ultimate un-stresser is a piano played well, especially when you capture the instrument's own resonances, as proves to be the case on Filled Air which although plainly recorded has a raft of subsounds accompanying it. A gentle, refined peice that has a couple of minor flubs that are easily overlooked by the tenor and style of the peice itself. You never know, given a few plays this may grow on you the way it did me. Mind you, that is mostly because I love the piano sound Rémon has here, not because I like solo piano peices as I may have mentioned a time or two. Which leaves me a choice and I'm gonna go for the more likely of the lot...

Recommended Piano only peice. Chill out supreme.

Larry Lane - Broke & Lonely

Hear The Track Here

Although I didn't quite get on with Larry Lane's last track Amnesia (November 2006) there was more than enough going with the track to want me to delve further into this MP3 Unsigned rock artist. Where it scored with me was in production values and performance capabilities because - if I were honest - the song didn't really do a lot for me. Still that's often the way with rock music, sometimes it scores and sometimes it doesn't. I must admit that there is a certain strain of American rock that doesn't set me on fire, and Amnesia was partly a bit too American in taste. I do, however, love the blues especially when it's done well so that bodes well for Broke & Lonely which - surprisingly enough - is exactly that; a standard blues.

Having grown up with both the prime originators of the scene and their later (usually white) imitators, I've always had a healthy respect for anyone who can truly play or sing the blues. Not the pallid crap that is often served up as the blues these days but the real thing; as bloody and meaty as a T-bone steak and as hot as the Tabasco sauce that covers it. One of the prime movers in online blues music (at least that I have heard) is Mean Gene Kelton & The Die Hards, a Texas based outfit I first heard through Mike K's Saturday Night Rocks show on Songplanet. Sad to say that on that score although Larry certainly has the chops on this, he still has to go some way to getting that edge that makes blues really sing as it stings...

Still, that's not really being fair to Mr Lane, because Mean Gene are some big boots to fill, and Larry's blues is perfectly acceptable in its own right. Put it like this, I didn't outright condemn it (as I would probably in lesser hands) because Broke & Lonely has a lot of good things going for it. Rhythmically, it's right in the pocket - if a little laid back - but a certain laziness never harmed the blues. The sound and tone Larry gets on his lead work is - to my ears anyway - highly reminiscent of Eric Clapton circa John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and that reference should give you a clue to how authentic I actually think this track is. I know there isn't much of a field for decent blues in this electronic world but it's certainly filled well by artists of the calibre of the Mean Gene and - yes - Larry Lane. I doesn't exactly have the sweat and grit of true Southern blues but it sure sounds like the more modern version. More delta than dirty if ya know what I mean?

Recommended guitar blues with a modern slant.

Fear 2 Stop - From The Deep

Hear The Track Here

Fear 2 Stop really do have to be one of Soundclick's success stories this year, and most people who know them and their highly individualistic musical ways are gratified. Yea, and a little relieved too, if the truth were known. For my money Fear 2 Stop have taken the long way around to come up with something that is so them it's a pleasure to hear. Not something, as you know, I have been able to say about them in all the years past but this year they seem to have taken to their heels with a extremely consistent string of class blends of power and weirdness that has surprised a great many people including this reviewer. Finally realising a long cherished dream is a wonderful thing and that is exactly how I feel about this Houston TX based trio. You have no idea how long I have waited for this little chicken to come home to roost...

Despite their years of wandering in the experimental wildernesses, Fear 2 Stop have always had their heart and soul planted firmly in the soil of electronica and it's the marriage of both styles that has given them their well deserved praise. With the last sentence reverberating through your skull, take a quick listen to From The Deep and you'll get a very swift idea of how powerful this can be. While I also like my music to have a touch of the wild child about it, I do much prefer that it has a point for noise, dissonance or whatever else passes (in lesser circles) for something experimental in your track and at least F2S have always used such devices accurately and sparingly.

As well as coming across with a bunch of good track this year, the consistency of those track just keeps getting better and better. There's a Public Image reference here for sure, and even more for bands like The Fall, Joy Division et al because that mileu is where Fear 2 Stop really belong these days. Musically if not geographically, this is UK gloom rock taken to the dance floor and stomped into the ground with extreme predjudice. Out of all the tracks delivered to my hard drive this year from this source, all have contained some hefty rhythmic ideas, some excellent blending of styles and enough energy and drive to power a small planet and From The Deep is no exception. It might seem a little lo-key when you first hear it but don't be decieved, there is a beast lurking underneath.

Highly Recommended blend of experimental and electronica.

Blog 27 - I Still Don't Know Ya

Hear The Track Here

It's rare that I pick up a track that hasn't appeared in my review signup thread on Soundclick, but it does happen every once in a while. It doesn't, however, on MP3 Unsigned and this - believe it or not - is the very first time I have ever done it on that site. Get a listen to this track though, and it'll soon become obvious why I chose this particular track to make this change with. Carol Sue Fitzpatrick (who we should be aware of by now) is the one who brought this to my attention (as well as other members of MP3 Unsigned) and it just goes to show that the lady has a fine pair of ears. Pretty much everyone who responded on that thread responded the same way, so I was kinda honour bound to find out what the fuss was about, wasn't I? See, it always interests me when artists start raving about other artists; usually it means they are either trying to score points in some way OR (and this is rare) they really do mean what they say.

Carol Sue is one of the latter variety and God bless her for that....

Even the most casual of listens will show you that all the palaver about these two 13 year old girls is totally righteous. Hold up! Hold up!! THIS is the work of 13 year olds is the first stupefaction you will face, but it won't be the last. Not sure at this moment where they are from but they make tAtU look like a bunch of old ladies, and coincidentially make them sound like that too. The sheer professionalism and power that this imparts from the opening seconds shows that there is a fine musical mind at work here - and one who knows exactly how to craft that elusive beast - a perfect pop track. The kind that last forever, and with it's shades of tracks like Iko Iko and Crying In The Chapel, if this were being touted commercially there is no doubt in my mind that the music industry would fall over themselves to sign up these little bloggers.

It has be said, as dreadful as it sounds, that being 13 and cute as a button is going to go a long way to achieving their objective. In this facade obssessed world having a viable public image is probably more important these days than the music, and on that score Blog 27 have a fine set of cards in their hands. Of course, it don't mean bollocks if the music is as bland and tedious as most of what passes for fine pop these days and I Still Don't Know Ya shows exactly how it should be done. I don't care what sphere of music floats your boats we all love a good pop track and this is a GREAT pop track, one of the best I've ever heard - online or in the RW music industry. Having spent acres of time with this track since I downloaded it, this is obviously properly produced and arranged in every respect but more than anything else that makes it excel, it is a killer, grab you by the neck until you are dead hook fest. All the while, I might add, paying a very proper respect to its musical roots. Beautiful. Perfect.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Jim-n-Lisa - Cowbot Blues

Hear The Track Here

For some reason this track isn't on Soundclick but hey, you can pick up a 192kb/s version from the link and fidelity is a big thing where Jim-n-Lisa are concerned. High fidelity that is, not the naughty sort that can lead to all sorts of trouble. So my friends tell me. Sorry about the blabbing but it seems even the smallest of exposures to J-n-L leads to a contact high. It's the natural roughage in Jim's diet that does it. Or the smoke filled room he usually inhabits out there in the great Texas hinterland. Wtf is a hinterland anyway? Sooooo, having spent a few days with Cowbot Blues, I'm ever likely to be even more scatterbrained than normal.

So what time is my colonic? Oh no, that's tomorrow....

Cowbot Blues took some while to wear away my usual predjudice because with the usual Jim-n-Lisa tracks I pretty much like them straight away or within a couple of plays. Not so with this track and that is strange. Because I've had a bit of time with the track and have thought about my initial reaction a great deal I finally came to the conclusion that my view was coloured by envy. Nothing new there than, you might sarcastically insert, and you would be well within your rights. It is true that I am in awe of Jim's talent both as a producer and as a musician. What threw me with Cowbot Blues was because it is exactly the kind of track I would have loved to make; the right mix of instrumentation in a challenging and very rewarding mix. Testimony, of course, to the usual quality of performance and production we have become used to from this excellent team.

Slipping into my producers slinky number, I should also point out that there is an additional off-putting sense to the production which I can only assume is intentional, because it's certainly effective. Now maybe I'm a knobhead for picking up on it but I find it fascinating. As the track plays you don't really notice the sheer wall of noise going on behind what is in effect a very stately, majestic (and VERY Western) guitar instrumental but as the track reaches it's climax that sound fades noticeably, as does the high end of the track. A beautiful little trick and one that so caught my attention it take me an age to drag myself back to the music which, as I've said above, is superlative. Read the song comment before listening, start the track and close your eyes. See them?? See them?? They exist!! Jim sez so.

MOOOO HAVE. (Ed: OK taking it too far!!!. Repeat: m-u-s-t pause h-a-v-e stop)

Steve Smith - In 25 Sleeps

Hear The Track Here

Last one out of the reviewbox last month is the first review in this month's joblot. Ain't democracy wonderful. Steve Smith, in case you haven't noticed is the one man on the planet who is bound and determined to give me the musical education I so obviously need. Hey, nothing wrong with that. I think a person can never learn enough, and lets face it, the man definitely knows his little dotty things (Ed: I think he is referring to the fact that Steve Smith can read and write music and SG obviously thinks a note is one of those square yellow things that have something to do with the post.). Aaahhh, burt, can he make entertaining, lucid music that has a spark of life and humanity and there, I am afraid, the jury is still out. Not because of anything that Steve is doing, but merely on a matter of personal musical taste. The best kind of music for me is one that carries and/or evokes an emotion, music that carries its heart on its sleeve, as it were.

Even though I've always had a decent enough time (and even a good ironic chuckle or two) with Steve's work, there still hasn't been anything that really set my ears alight. Now that may well be - as I say - down to my own spartan taste but I also think the way that Steve Smith works may have something to do with it. My problem with classically trained musicians (I married one and I know lots of others) is that they are - as you would expect - technically perfect but there is an edge of ennui (boredom even) that comes across with the music. It doesn't happen always, that's for sure, but it does happen often enough to be worthy of note. Nonetheless, the quality of work Steve comes up with is never in doubt, this is a very inventive musician. Take, for example, last months track The Other Steve (November 20006), as much as I liked it's chilled approach and even went so far as to Highly Recommend it, but I still haven't had the Steve Smith keeper I have been waiting for.

Tell you what though, In 25 Sleeps comes REAL close to what I am looking for, and a lot closer than any previous SS track. It's classical string arrangement and timely Christmas message are winners in every way and if this is the real Steve Smith on vocals I'd say well done that man. However, it's the impact of the soft tones of the string arrangement against the harsh reality detailed in the excellent lyrics that this track really hits home. A jarring, very unseasonal theme yes, but one I found myself ticking off the boxes on. However, one line in particular, sticks out and resonates with me. 'Imagine being a kid who thinks Christmas is a lie' says it all about this song and the sadness and depth of feeling in both the lyric and vocal delivery mark this out as being a bit special. People who know me know I have a bah humbug approach to Christmas because of the things Steve sings about here so he's bang on there as well.

MUST HAVE for your Christmas stocking to remind you what it is all about.