Sunday, February 25, 2007

DJ ToxicKlay - Monolithic Filter

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No matter what happens, I always try to look on the bright side of life and hope that - somehow - my reputation will preceed me, warning people of my quite specific likes and dislikes and the stonings, beheadings, burnings and so forth that follow on from them. Ahhh, but me old chums, that would be the perfect world wouldn't it? Like: Women=Dislike=techno. See the picture forming here? Yep, out of the whole entire massive electronica world, the subgenre that really knackers my nuts the most is the one called techno which IMHO masks a multitude of sins. However, one of the hidden joys of running an open review system like mine is that it does throw up these challenges, and I am always up for a good challenge...


Monolithic Filter (DJ Flatline Extended Mix) is pretty much what I would have expected to hear, especially seeing as it fairly obvious that this artist is just starting out. Although he says he uses Fruity Loops to make his music, I suspect there is some loop programs or samples in back of this track giving it this particular feel. The bass line may well come from his own playing but there is too much familiarity with the keyboard sequences for them to be totally original. btw, these comments are not coming from my dislike of the track. I don't dislike it, in fact I think its quite chirpy and uplifting in its own way. It even had me tapping my feet and that rarely happens with a four to the floor tune.

However, it's flaws outweigh its appeal.

When I say it's obvious this artist is just starting out I am talking about basic errors, the sort of thing that most people iron out of their tracks before releasing them. More to the point the disjoints between sections are extremely noticable and add massively to the feeling that not a lot of thought went into this track. Thought? Hold on, I thought music was all about having fun? Indeed it is, but unless you follow music's rules you may find yourself having fun all on your own. DJ ToxicKlay is, presumably, releasing these tracks because he wants a) more exposure to other listeners and b) a chance to learn from other musicians. Well, I would suggest the artists listen to competition and then try to better that and - whatever happens - don't release something until it is finished. There again, I could be totally wrong and he's just doing all this for a laugh in which case I might as well not be wasting my breath.

A surprisingly listenable techno tune, but not without its faults.

I'ms a Meer - Untld Mldyactual

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Just in case you think I have a particularly bad case of cat and keyboard, alarm yourself not. It's all I'ms a Meer's fault. What is more, he insists that we are ALL meers, so there ya go, wtf this is all about is anyone's guess but I have to admit it's perplexing enough to be intruiging. Moreso when the genre of choice here is Electronica: Experimental which - as you know - is the very stuff of nightmares and even the odd case of bed wetting. Having just reviewed Art Nada recently I have had both of those experiences visited upon me. There again, Pilesar and Co are the masters of music to frighten the kids to... By the looks of things, I'ms a Meer has been around Soundclick for about a year and readily admits that he 'suck(s) at music'. 'But I like to make it' he adds.

Oh, that's alright then???

The first thing you may notice is this track starts with the ending, thereby giving you some clue as to what is about to occur. Not the most auspicious start in the world but hey maybe there is a point to it later. The only problem is that when you reach the end of this track some three minutes later it's still no clearer wtf the beginning had to do with anything. I suspect it's just something that needs trimming off the front of this track, rather than an integral part of the whole. While there is self evident truth about his musical ability believe me I have heard a lot, lot worse. In fact, if you just liked a pretty little electronic instrumental noodle, then this track (I refuse to say that name hee hee) is exactly what you are looking for.

For the rest of us who expect a little bit more bang for our buck, this is lacking in many ways. Now sure everyone has to start somewhere and I have tracks that sound just like this mouldering away in my digital cupboard from years past - especially during my MIDI and VST (instrument) phases, and even some I released to deafening silence. The reason for that silence is probably going to be the same for this track, and it took me years to learn this. As pleasant and listenable as it is, it doesn't have anything like the content and/or drama quotent that the competition is throwing out, and that will be to it's detriment. This is the kind of track that interests only another Fruity tinkerer (me, for instance) but not much further than that. OK if the only thing you want to do is release music, not OK if you want to get somewhere with that music.

Art Nada - Rastafarian Maggotfest

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Hey, don't blame me! I'm just the reviewer. NO-ONE could make this stuff up. Well, maybe one person could but more on that wily creature later or you'll be stampeded into panic before I can get me review past your eyeballs. As you can imagine, approaching a track with the gaudiness and impact of it's title will not be easy and subsequently proves so. Having this back to back with MJK's superlative production on my playlist probably didn't help. A case of from the sublime to the ridiculous really, and one I'm sure the shadowy characters behind Art Nada will readily agree with. Ridiculous in this case carrying the meaning of 'you can't do that to/with music?' or 'that just isn't natural'.

Well, maybe one word can explain this: Mandible.

Yep, we are looking back in time to the very beginnings of Soundclick's very own Rock's Finest Hour because Art Nada features two founding members of Mandible, Michael Coleman and the shady cove who goes by the name of Pilesar. A further point is that it was recorded at the same time as Acka Fracka (my own introduction to the Mandible entity) and carries much of the same air of menace/chaos/madness that informed that track. Not a track to be approached lightly then and - if of a nervous disposition - probably best not to go there. For the other 99.999% of humanity who like skating on the edge, there follows a short announcement. I can read your mind. Mmmmmm. Would you like to bet? See, you are thinking that at last here is a track that you can truly hate, and guess what....

What really grinds my gears about these artists is that you want to hate them, you feel you should hate them and then they plonk a track like RMF into your inbox and - despite all your best efforts - you find yourself having to admit yet again that there is nothing ridiculous about their music. Even going back so far (this is circa 1998/9) the embryo of musical madness is there, tempting you with its siren song of bleeps, clicks, wailings and whatever, ending up in something that could well have come from Mandible. It certainly feels familiar. Over the years I have been abusing myself with the works of Mandible and all their offshoots and rootlings, I have always come back to the realisation they are different - in a most appealing way. Not for the nervous though, even a Pre-Mandible offering softened by the wash of Time is some pretty hardcore aural abuse but my name is Gilmore and I am an aural abuser - BIG TIME.

Couldn't be more alternative. Recommended for dogs, cats and the odd passing viper. You too, if you have a strong stomach.

MJK - Never Loved Me

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According to MJK I reviewed one of his tracks in the past and using my super-duper information scooper (Ed: he means the piles of paper that always obscure his desk) I did indeed. Almost exactly a year ago I reviewed With Me (January 2006) and absolutely loved it. His deep, rich vocal style even managed to overcome my inbuilt revulsion for the softer side of R&B, and that's quite an achievement on its own. It also helped to power up a fairly cloying track into something that would appeal right across the board and - accordingly - I gave it a highly recommended rating. Strange then, innit, that it's been a year between that track and Never Loved Me. Well, actually, the track is called *New* Never Loved Me but I figger you - like me - never heard the original so new is neu??? (Ed: wtf?)

OK, I'm going to set you a task....

Don't listen to the track for a minute while I yap about it. While I am doing that, you click on the link to his site above and look at the picture of him on the right side of the screen. When I first encountered MJK I reckoned that the main selling point was that incredible voice, followed by incredibly professional arrangment and top quality sound control. In short, the real thing. So, look at that guy and NOW start playing the track. Amazing isn't it? That this incredible work of art (and I mean that as a most sincere compliment) can come from such a young (c'mon the guy looks like he's 12!!) and cleancut all-American boy. However, nothing diminishes the sense that here is an artist who shines out from the crowd, and consequently is well worth investigating by pretty much everybody - because his gentle, soulful style almost certainly will appeal to most.

I could write reams and reams about each and every element that make up this wonderfully captured blissout but - as always - the real star is yet again the vocal. In this case, as well as a faultless and emotive performance from the main vocal, the background vocals take immediate second billing for the sound and texture they added at the right points. The real killer punch though occurs around 2:10 with a breakdown that has an almost Indian (eastern, not western) feel, followed by some ear massaging acappela before wandering into an outro that vanishes into the sunset. Seriously folks, this is - to use a much maligned phrase - fekking brilliant in every way. Still not convinced? Well normally I would shoot most urban weepies (slow, full of angst) which - to me anyway - is the complete opposite of the meaning of soul, and need putting out of their misery. Well, there is more soul in this young Miami based singer than in most of the genre it shelters under. He's also one of the most hard-working too because, believe me, making something as good as this takes sooooo much time, blood and trouble - a sign of a musician who was born to this.

MUST HAVE (how could it not be?).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

preOKL - Ice Cream Sandwich

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Like a cheap version of the Wonder Years we now go back in time to the early youth of Soundclick stalwarts, the Texas double dee Dave and Dustin collectively known as One Kids Lunch. Bing!! PreOKL, now it all makes sense :rolleyes: Ice Cream Sandwich is the second track off the preOKL page that I have experienced (and I mean that most definitely folks) and it really does add mileage to the old adage about leopards and never changing spots. Or, looked at another way (askance maybe); once a loony always a loony. Considering their upfront stand on their Christian beliefs, it has to be said that OKL in all their guises have a wicked sense of humour and it pours out of every track I have heard from them, Pre or Post s'all the same to me. Something Green (Insurance Policy) (January 2007) got a highly recommended from me partly on the strength of its laughter lines.

Apparently recorded on an old cassette back in 1994 during the band's ''DogSauce' era'. With that sentiment peeing up our legs, let sleeping dogs lie down with fleas, and whip on reeaaalll quick to the music. It's best not to ask for explanations from this lot, way too much information, know what I mean? ;) However the one thing that is important to me with this band are the lyrics, which are often extremely chucklesome, and often highly lucid (well, for madmen anyway). For all it's lo-fi approach, Ice Cream Sandwich, has a punchy, raunchy sound that neatly counterpoints the Zappa-ish vocal style. Sorta like the Residents gpoing commercial....

In a world of boxes, holes and categories, thank God for the individualists like OKL (in all their guises) who can always - even back into the very mists of time (well 1994 anyway) - manage to bring some lightness into anything they put their hands to. It's easy to see where One Kids Lunch get that hastily slapped together perfection they manage so well, because they have been practising it since the Year Dot. I'm joking of course about the hastily slapped together stuff; despite their humour these guys are serious about their music and it shows now - and judging by this track - and it showed then. The curse of being 'before your time eh?' Oh, one last thing; lyrics, lyrics, lyrics. Post 'em. Now.

Odd, loopy but somehow charming to a fault. Recommended for that little lift.

Critical Theory - Disco

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I have a theory, and the theory is this; theory is one of the most popular bandnames ever. I mean there are bloody hundreds of them which goes to prove a point, theories are like assholes - everyone has them. Let's face it, it's either that or Project right? Anyway, after having insulted this artist within the first two sentences, I suppose I had better rein in my horns and buckle down to the job at hand. Critical Theory is one Rob Geal, a native of the wunnerful Wolverhampton here in the UK. He is, apparently according to the website blurb a working DJ who also makes his own music on the side. Kinda makes sense really, because if you know what makes people dance, making the music yourself is a logical extension.

Now I don't claim to know much about House music, other than I occasionally make a version of it (so I am told), but as usual I do have an opinion about raw music and forget the labels. So let's chow down. I can't say I was a fan of the original disco, too slick for me; although I did really get into it's later versions as 80's electropop and it's that sound that best describes this most enjoyable track. As always when faced with a new artist (or so I thought) I slammed it onto me Ipod and let it have its wicked way with me. And it did. In fact, it made such a substantial impression on me from the very first play that I began to suspect that I had actually heard this artist before and with the same high class work about it. I rummaged around the shed that houses the Gilmore archives and lo, we had met before. Dark Dub (March 2006) as you may suspect from the title got a extremely favourable reaction from me at the time, and for much the same reasons as I took to this from the first play.

Firstly, the man knows full well what he's doing, and he's no slouch at doing it as Dark Dub and Disco so amply prove. Lord alone knows what kind of kit these tracks are coming out of but the one thing I do know is that it isn't the kit that makes this track special; it's the way its handled. 'I don't know what you're waiting for...' the first line wails out immediately, tweaked into that nice voicebox sound that works so well IF it's accomplished well, and this is just perfecto mundo. What we've been waiting for mate, is a track as good as this one. Why the fekk has it taken you a year to give me another track? :D No, on second thoughts, it's probably taken you a year to make and it shows in every note. It is impossible to make a track that is so tight, where every single note makes a point without a great deal of thought about how to create it. Absolute class to the earholes and no mistake, Disco is back but I'll be damned if you are gonna squeeze me into a white suit. (Ed: he forgot to say 'ever again'...)

MUST HAVE (11¾ out of 5)

decollage - Space Zoo

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Decollage, a nice young lady from me old mate Burp's hometown Munich, has done well in the very short time she has been on Soundclick and I think it would be fair to say that knowing Burp has helped her in some way with that. However, it wouldn't matter a hill of beans if she didn't also bring something else to the party and that element is an electronica mixture that certainly pays tribute in all the proper ways. The two tracks I have heard from her so far - No 1 and dragonfly eat holland - although markedly different in style (the former strong and assured, the latter an experimental track that stretched the genre) have a distinctly Burp-like sound and texture. Now maybe that is because of the musical roots they both share, or maybe it's all just coincidence..

Whatever it is, we likes it.

Now that I have a few tracks under my belt I feel it fairly safe to hazard a judgement and say that her ouvre probably is more dragonfly than No 1. Despite it's quite odd and disjointed beginning, the chaos and oddity of Space Zoo is strangely appealing but - like her earlier track - will take some getting used to. To be sure there is an element of 'lets see what this noise does' about the track but after you put a few plays on it, you won't even notice that. I should also say that I have been growing closer and closer to experimental music (yes, infected fits too) so it's a given that I would look on this more favourably than some spotty techno weenie who can't count any higher than four.

Nonetheless, I would also recommend this for the breadth and range of sounds being used, and the way that decollage slice and dices them. Special notice here for the baby crying samples in the middle of the set, it cracks me up every time I come to that bit, the way the vocals sit in the track is just perfect. Ultimately though, I don't think this track has all that much going for it outside of some interesting sounds and a nice mix to go with it. Right now, there is a lot of competition in this field, not least from Burp himself, and I personally feel that decollage must up her game a little to stay in the running. There again, that just me talking all competitive, I don't think decollage even cares about that and why should she? Well, there is getting a larger audience for a start and even in a field as wide open as electronic experimental, individualism is going to count for a lot.

Competent experimental electronica with some nice sounds.

Amorphix - Beyond The Veil Of Light

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I often crack little jokes about people living on another planet but here is a guy who goes one further; he lives in a completely different dimension where even the bravest shake in their boots. Doesn't stop us po' folk in this dimension liking what he slides between the worlds and I have to admit I have been one of the most fervent of voices for this artist. I do indeed have a fear of a red-hot devilish trident jammed up my butt but that isn't the reason why I like this artist, and it certainly isn't for his sunny, upbeat views of life. It's because he is a fine, fine musician who creates his own musical worlds in such a way that even if you don't agree with much of it's inner meanings, entertains, thrills and inspires us. In the space of about four or five tracks this artist has made a bigger impression than I think even he is aware of. In my year end review of 2006, I placed Amorphix as an up and comer for this year so I expect much...yeah, even while quakin' in my boots.

Amorphix got a Must Have from me on his very first outing btw, so be warned I am a fan.

I much prefer Amorphix when he is in sepulchural mode, as in Beyond The Veil Of Light. There is a beauty and majesty in these kinds of tracks he doesn't (for some reason) have in his work in other (slightly more ambient than this) genres. Where other artists get their inspiration from flowers, cute little puppies and love of all things fluffy; Amorphix digs into tombs, crypts and ancient texts on the nature of the universe. In every case of him working in this genre (there are least four of these kind of tracks on his SC page), it is a style of ambient I almost garantee you will not hear elsewhere. I would say he has his fingers firmly on the pulse of his best work but that similie wouldn't work because this stuff does not have a pulse.

What it has though is breathtakingly gorgeous music, produced to perfection that carries an impact far in excess of the musical notes Amorphix employs. Somehow, at least for this reviewer, when he taps into this darker strain of music he manages to capture that hold-your-breath feeling perfectly. When listening to Beyond the Veil Of Light I was assailed by images from the movie 'Brainstorn' where the death video was finally playing out. That is how powerful this track is, musically, emotionally and yes even spiritually. I leave the final words to Amorphix himself because I took his advice and it worked - time and time again. He says 'cast off the shackles of consciousness and dream...'


Lord Skye - Legends Unfurl (Title Theme)

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Having reviewed at least four of Lord Skye's tracks it is now obvious that we are not going to cosy up any time soon. This has nothing to do with Lord Skye musical nous, or even the way he gets his music to our earholes. On both counts the man seems to have a decent grip of what he's after - albeit slightly flawed by some sample problems. As I mentioned before (Ed: several million times...) Games Soundtracks and I do not get on. Despite that, I have noticed some improvement in Lord Skye's major failing on his first few tracks; very standardised samples.

Certainly by the time I reviewed Domain of Spirits (Haunted Manor) (January 2007) I was able to be a bit kinder to him than I had been on previous outings, so I have to admit that I approached this review slightly less apprehensive than I have been in the past. Legends Unfurl (Title Theme) is Lord Skye's first attempt (apparently) at live recording some instruments (in this case I certainly think the acoustic guitar) and a flute which he is attributing to Scarlett Rose (and after a little more digging I find this which explains much more. The good news is that there are two bits of good news - at least for genre-haters like me. The first is that Legends Unfurl is a very pleasant listen indeed and both Skye and Ms Rose get mucho kudos, the second is that it's only one minute and change so even philistines like me won't be that bothered by listening to it.

I was a bit dubious about the horn sounds which I felt were still a little too factory sounding, but everything else works well and sounds real good too. The problem is that IF I were into this kind of music - and there are plenty who are I think I may have felt a bit miffed about the shortness of the peice which is, to my ears anyway, an intro to a much larger peice. It shouold be taken into account though that most video game intros are actually quite short. Nonetheless, the track promises much and at a minute and a bit it won't strain either your ears or your time poor asses, so why not give it a listen.

Excellent, if short, semi-classical peice. Recommended

Phenotypo - Looking for the White Haired Girls Pt 3

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While I was downloading Looking for the White Haired Girls pt 3 I happened to be browsing the main pages of the site (as you do) when I saw several alarming indicators that loudly informed me that we may not be in Kansas any more. The first thing was the extremely familiar cup of coffee/tea/old rusty wine/boldily fluids that sits on the right hand side of the screen. HAdn't I seen that before and wasn't it the stuff of nightmares? Yep it sure was because the more I discovered about Phenotypo the more I began to realise that this handsome new edifice sheltered a very well known Soundclick character of long standing - the artist known universally as drt.

Yep the mad scientist takes to the airwaves yet again.

The man himself explains further 'This (the Phenotypo persona) for the more experimental/noise/drone/soundscape type stuff' which - if the truth were known - is exactly what I know drt for - albeit with a much more experimental slant than ordinary mortals. Although it's experimental in terms of it being electronica of the old school, there is a sense of - what do the youngster call it these days :D - chill out about the music that I found particularly appealing. Its also a track keeps the dissonance only on the electronic bleeps and whirrs, the rest of the track is as smooth as a baby's bum.

Having worked up a couple of my own tunes from electronic drones, I am a confirmed fan of this particular musical device - probably why I am so drawn to instruments like sitars and things. Without those highly dramatic, and stereo space filling sounds, the track lags a bit but drt's inbuilt sense of 'enough is enough' keeps it from running away with itself. Looking for the White Haired Girls Pt 3 is also a surprisingly listenable chunk of electronica that - despite its length (6:47) - never flagged in interest levels, there is always plenty going on so you don't even notice the time passing.

Old school electronica, albeit with a softer experimental edge. Highly Recommended.

Sleutelbos - Hang 'Em High

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It's ok, you can stop donning the poncho, false bristles and much chomped cigar butt, this has nothing whatsoever to do with spaghetti westerns in general or the fil of the same name scored by the great Ennio Morricone. In fact, this Hang 'em High is about as far removed from the noisy violence of those movies as you can get, consisting entirely - as it does - of chamber music. Yep, the land of penguin suits, ladies weighed down by tons of tom foolery (think about it) and dead white dudes. As always with classical rooted tracks, the one thing I am going to demand as a listener is that most important attribute fidelity.

Not, of course, the married kind.

See, I actually do like a great deal of classical music, up to and including larges chunks of chamber music although if I had to state a preference I would far rather hear music like this live - because of the fidelity thing. It's very difficult to record these kinds of instruments, especially when it's the tone and timbre that often makes all the difference in a live context. Seeing as ol' Sleuty lives in the Netherlands, hearing this peice live would be difficult but he surmounts the very first obstacle very neatly because the sounds of the instruments are captured very adequately. As usual, there is the usual dither about whether these actually are live sounds or samples that have been touched up. Whichever it is, I can't see any loose seams to pick at.

As you know, I'm quite good at that.

Sleutelbos also puts a neat little slant on the usual chamber music we know and love and part of that is down to instrument selection. In point of fact, not only is Hang 'em High very short (one and a half minutes) it's a bit sparse instrumentally too. featuring an excellently rendered cello for the low Chamber music parts and what sounds like a recorder giving this a distinct 16th century feel that makes this track work for me. Just to clarify, here in the UK we have an instrument that is taught in schools called a recorder. It sounds a little like a deeper toned flute but plays like a clarinet and it is indeed what they used to play with in the 16th Century. So as short as this track is, it's well up there in terms of production/performance technique amd - more importantly - authenticity.

Highly Recommended classical style, with a neat slant.

Nuff X - I Didn't Come Here To Be Lied To

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My sentiments exactly and if anyone knows the truth of that it's going to be Nuff X because I did give him a rough ride back there at the beginning and - as the old saying goes - he turned out right nice. We all go through a period where we think that our earliest musical noodlings are the dogs bollocks and that absolutely EVERYONE will just love them. The deafening silence that accompanies releasing music on the net is an apt pointer to the mountain we all have to climb for any kind of respectability (among our peers, let alone our listening audience) and usually cures any newbie attraction stone dead. Unless, like Nuff X has so aptly proved, you have the wit and wherewithall to take criticism on the chin and turn it to his advantage.

To prove that he stitched 2006 through with some excellent, original electronica that gained him a great many more listeners than previous attempts. Here is another artist I tipped at the end of last year as being a serious up and comer on Soundclick for 2007, so he has everything to gain this year after having built a solid reputation for being that bit different. Describing IDCHTBLT (think about it) as 'mellow IDM' is about as misleading a statement as you can make; mellow it might well have been in your mind Nuff, it comes across all experimental when filtered through my orificies (orfici?)

And that is a distinct advantage.

It plows the current genre darling flavour of the month; glitch music, and does it most successfully. It does of course help that you have a musical structure to embed all those glorious glitches into, and it's here that Nuff X makes it work. At least for me. There is a loping style to the track, mainly coming through the bass and carried on by the echo timing when the bass is not present. The more I listened to this track the more I admired the way Nuff X stitched all this together, and there is one thing that became evident very quickly - he had a whale of a time making this track and it shows. As always, he takes an idea and puts his own personal slant on it and it works a charm.

Experimental electronica with added judder effect. Highly Recommended.

Big Wheel - Magic Organ

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Big Wheel is getting to be well known fairly rapidly on Soundclick, not least because of his prodigious forum postings but also with his music - an excellent take on the poor old tired electronica scene that I have found quite refreshing. On the way he has gathered a string of Highly Recommend's from this review as well as ranking him as one of Soundclick's up and coming artists for 2007. Not bad going at all for a musician who claims to have started all this 'just over a year ago'. Yeah, and gorgeous women feel impelled to throw themselves at me gagging for it. Look a little deeper, and you would get a much broader picture.

The north of England has always a good place for musicians to grow and work, chiefly because there is fuck all else to do and northern music has always promised (and often delivered) some great music. Big Wheel is from Preston, a city I know well, and plays gig's there with his band Tin Gods. If that name is ringing bells its because they are on Soundclick too and I have reviewed them in the recent past. So having all the accolades heaped on him at the end of 2006 can only lead to one thing - getting a much higher level of scrutiny from this reviewer. I'm very proprietorial about me scabby awards ya know, I have a shot-to-shit reputation yet to sully.

So can the man?

Magic Organ is one of the oldest of Big Wheel tracks, it's right at the bottom of his music list and was first released on here in February of last year and I know for a fact he has progressed much further musically over that time. Therefore, I put all technical considerations aside (and any award points BW may score with newer tracks) and just groove on an excellently chilled, break filled slice of electronica propelled quite nicely thank you very much by a DnB tinged drumtrack. Sure the drum track is fairly unchanging, but the music overlaying it has plenty of little by-ways to wander down. Had I heard this before classics such as Faraway, Lost and even The Yes Song, I would have probably have been kind to it, as it is I know know that this artist is a more than this track would show you. So, for fans as a keeper but certainly still interesting enough to hook a listener into this artists better tracks.

Class electronic chillout. Recommended.

Friday, February 16, 2007

John and Lucie Collins - Artist Overview

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And the winner of this month's Yeah But No But Maybe But award is John and Lucie!

What this means is that (no matter what) someone, somewhere on my review list will change their mind at least once as the review approaches. In this case, it was John and Lucie Collins, and not the one time either. Still, got to love 'em for trying and I do have a surprising soft spot for these purveyors of ''adult contemporary, emotionally complex ballads' (their words.) Wait, O Speedy eyeball, think on what I have just said. I said like and ballads in the same sentence. Will the sky fall on our heads now? As you know I can't stand anything slushy (my words) but I'm certainly honest enough to know when it's done properly and - in every respect - John and Lucie Collins deliver the goods perfectly. As I said in my year end 2006 review thread...therefore.... I'm doing THREE of their tracks because the poor little mites can't make up their minds :D

The rest of you should not be getting any ideas from this. My choice, my words.

Of course, I wouldn't do this for anyone and to do it for someone who doesn't even work in a genre I like says it all - that is how good I think they are. Part payment, I think, for the pleasure they gave me with Open Up Your Heart (April 2006). A great place to start right now would be I Feel Your Heart, a track that features the very distinctive vocal tones of Lucie Collins on quite a rocky track that in itserlf is a bit of departure from the norm. Lucie's voice has been the main selling point over the past year, but great kudos should go to John Collins for a splendid arrangement for the voice and the musical nous to fill the spectrum with complimentary sounds. In many ways, although nothing like as immediate, I Feel Your Heart has much in common with my favourite J and L track.

Men In Uniform carries on the more modern setting shown by Heart, a very substantial departure from their ballads and show tunes image of the past. After the highlight provided by I Feel Your Heart, I just didn't get into Men In Uniform as much, and that may have something to do with its lightness as a track. Again, absolutely nothing wrong with it whatsoever, just a personal preference. I also felt, correct me if I'm wrong, that Lucie was not as convincing on this track as the first one. Switchblades switches the vocal spotlight onto John, on a highly topical subject and - as usual - he turns in his usual faultless performance and in the process giving us a track that has a lovely feel and sound. A track that I think is going to gain them some considerable attention; it's topical AND it's delivered in a very poppy way that many will find appealing. It was nice to spend some time indulged this divergence in styles which is why I also chose the review all three tracks - this is a very promising area for them.

Excellent songsmiths, on top form. Highly Recommended.

K-Gi - Migration

Hear The Track Here

K-Gi is a Canadian artist I have only recently become aware of, although the music he makes has much more in common with yeah mon, blues skies, sunny climates and sandy beaches. A far cry, you might think, from the normal lumberjack image most of us usually associate with that country. In my very 'umble opinion, I think you can blame that social conditioning on a python called Monty and his ariel circus not - for the moment anyway - on my usual slack gob. The first thing you may notice about K-Gi's work is how gloriously stuffed with technical ability - production and performance.

There again, if you have a look at his webpage, you'll see the answer why. K-Gi is a working musician (a rare thing these days apparently) and it shows in every note and nuance. It also goes some way to explaining why I singled him out for special praise in my end of year review 2006, earning the man a Track Of The Year 2006 with his exceptional Dutty Water. That, my friends, is getting it right first time out. There again, when you have this amount of experience at your fingertips, it also means that people are going to expect more with each succeeding track and only the rare ones - such as K-Gi - have the longevity. It's especially important when dealing with anything in any way reggae, as the man amply displays (at least IMO on Dutty Water).

Migration is a totally different beast.

My first and only real gripe is that some of the sounds used were very toneless, and I suspect that some of these sounds are ether 'factory' samples and/or some kind of MIDI rendering. That, for me, spoils this otherwise pristine track - a track that is quite a way removed from the highly polished Dutty Water. It doesn't feature K-Gi's best asset - his voice, and that also detracts from Migrations impact. It's essentially a reggae based jazzy workout, the sort of thing a band may play to get warmed up and - to my ears anyway - I hear some of the influences this guy uses in his normal (he works on cruise ships) working life. None of which should detract from the enjoyment of the musical wonders on this track. Whatever you might think about this or that niggle, here is a musician who can really play...

Nice reggae/jazz blend that is light on the ears. Recommended.

wehebbennoggeennaamvooronzeband - Revolution

Hear The Track Here

It's no good, I can see it on your face. The burning question of the moment. wtf happened to this artists name? Damnit, that's the closest I have ever seen words come to looking like roadkill, and believe me, I have been known to mangle the language with the best of them. Whoever wehebbennoggeennaamvooronzeband actually are, here is a tip - they are currently looking for a singer and a keyboard player. It could be you. Or it could ALL be one big joke. Time, I think, to don one's investigatory clothing for a looksee...

...only to scamper back into hiding when I discovered I myself was in for a hiding. A prog-rock hiding no less. Yep, uh oh would be a good description. Hordes of people know of my ambivalence to this genre, so lets not labour it here. Judging by the sparsness of the bands webpage, I'd hazard a guess and say they are new to Sounclick, so go over and be a good neighour and say Hi. While you are there you may as well check out Revolution, especially if prog rock floats your boats because Revolution is a pretty decent workout in that genre. Put it like this, even I found it listenable, and coming from me that is high praise indeed.

There again, I have known a great many unsigned musicians from the Netherlands and I know them to be - almost to a man, woman, child, whatever - to be unusually well schooled in music's little nuances. To be honest, its that which kept me listening to this track because - as I've stated - I don't really like listening to it. However when it's done with a modicum of style and a knowing ear, it's very successful and even an old curmedgeon like myself has to admit it. It will be an acquired taste I think, but there are plenty of people around who would find this really enjoyable.

Recommended prog rock.

Young Kannon - Nowhere 2 Hide

Hear The Track Here

OK, bear with me a minute here because I have to explain something. Although I am reviewing the artist Young Kannon, you will notice that the link is to the Da Luck Ent page. This is the overall name Kannon and his crew work under. Ah, you mutter, he's talking about a hip hop artist here - and damn me if you wouldn't be right. I've reviewed two or three of Kannon's tracks at this stage (including one I attributed to Dal Luck Ent - ahh, gullible Gilmore) and quite liked his style - and you know I wouldn't say that lightly.

One of things I do like about the music I have heard is that it is not afraid to experiment with sounds that you may not usually associate with hip hop and Nowhere 2 Hide is a great example of it. I have to admit that wasn't my first thought when I first encountered this track. In fact, it took some some considerable plays before the track finally clicked with me, and I think that's because of the cut up way the the intro to the track patches itself into your mind.

Either that or I've really been hitting the ol' waccy baccy a bit hard.

The other thing about this collective's work I appreciate is that the tracks really do tell a story, in most cases a gritty, hard hitting, hard nosed story. Nowhere 2 Hide features some extremely vivid vocal and musical images and - if you are not used to it - can probably be seriously upsetting, so handle with cae. For the rest of the Unshockables (probably you and me aaiight) you will either like this track or not. Personally, I think it's a terrific peice of sound cinema but not something I'd want to hang with on a regular basis. Too fekking scary for a middle class white boy like meself....

Highly graphic, Highly Recommended.

Rooney Tunes - Pink Leather Jumpsuit

Hear The Track Here

Despite an incessant barrage of abuse from me about his lyrical content and the easy-listening style of his music, I doubt that Mike Rooney (aka Rooney Tunes) loses much sleep over it, and neither should he. It's just an opinion, after all, and I just happen not to like slush and goo in any form, although I have a special venomous sting for the musical variety. I joke, of course, but not by much because the truth is that as much as I am in awe of Mr Rooney's talents, his music has yet to find a chink in my chitinous armour.

Although a lady in a Pink Leather Jumpsuit may find a way in....

I think the one thing Mike and I can agree on is that we love women. I have been an inveterate woman-watcher all my life and not just for the naughty bits. It's the look of them, the smell, the way they carry themselves, the clothes they wear. It inspires me, as it definitely inspires Rooney Tunes because every track I have heard from this artist has been about the subject. It's in the musical transition where everything falls apart. Not because Mike Rooney is doing anything wrong whatsoever, which is the reason I have so much guilt about these reviews. The man is very talented at what he does, it's just that what he does leaves me pretty cold.

Sure, I can appreciate the technical aspects of creating what sounds like a cheesy '60's film song, complete with an arrangement that wouldn't be out of place in (say) an Austin Powers movie. See, in that respect, PLJ has it sewn up tight. I can even see the go-go dancers prancing around to it while it's inane patter rattles around my rapidly mortifying ear canals. I've always had an intense loathing for the easy listening side of the force, and as much as I admire the remarkable work Mike Rooney has put into this track, I still can't get past that shudder factor. You most likely will, especially if you like your cheese delivered with consumate skill.

Highly Recommended nonetheless, especially if you like the genre/general idea.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Drew Warburton - Lose

Hear The Track Here

Although I know Drew Warburton through his many Soundclick postings I think I have only ever reviewed one of his tracks, so I went digging back in the archive - mainly because I think it was not a great review for him - and I like to see how an artist has progressed (or not, as they case may be). Having looked up my review of Eternally Forever (September 2004), I now see why rang such a bell. It isn't often that I am very harsh with my words but on the odd ocassion I find I really have to be. Such was the case - I thought - with Eternally Forever. It was (btw) one of the hardest (and longest) reviews I have ever written in twelve years of doing this.

So, here we are two years down the road...

First off, from what Drew says on his webpage, this appears to be a studio track of some kind and the difference to two years ago is startling. If this is him singing, and I suspect it is, then here's a rock voice that sounds authorative and distinctive. I'm wondering if the line up on this track is the same as the others (Sam Skirrow - Double Bass, Evan -Keys) oir whether this is all Drew's own work. Whatever It doesn't much matter because what comes across - albeit with a bit of a rough edge - a kinda Rolling Stones sound, if ya will. Maybe that's more because Drew pronounces I as AH in the time honoured Jagger tradition and the songs style relies heavily on the same instrumentation.

Although I couldn't put my hand on my heart and say that I took Lose to my bosom, but I did enjoy listening to it very much and look forward to hearing some more in the same vein. It isn't without it's flaws, there is a certain hesitancy about the musical track that doesn't always flow properly and I'm not sure whether the guitars at the end really work but its obviously light years away from the mauling I gave him the last time we met. Lose is, despite all that, a very reasonable stab at the classic rock genre that almost works, but is an enjoyable listen nonetheless.

Rolling Stones tinged classic rock.

Laura Amiela Smith - Laura's Bop

Hear The Track Here

There aren't that many people online who use their real names, and I think that's a shame. 90% of the online musician community uses nicknames of some kind, but there again maybe because they are all called Norbert or Clive. Well, you would want to hide that wouldn't you? The reason this subject even came up because I saw Laura Amelie Smith's answer to SC's question 'Why this name?' 'Because it was on my birth certificate' she says. Had me chortling into my beard for days that one did. For the record, Laura is an Australian based multi-instrumentalist which you may say is not that surprising, there seem to be a lot of those kinds of musicians about. Ah burt, I gleefully pounce on your naiviety, not multi-instrumentalists of the tender age of 12.

S'no good rubbing your eyes, you did read that right.

Now given that she has to be fairly new to all this, and her tender age, my immediate presumption was that I was in for something light and frothy, girly and probably all about ponies. What I never expected was a one minute kicking by some very hard music by an individual (regardless of age or gender) who certainly isn't new to making music. Judging by her comments on her Soundclick webpage I assume that everything I hear is from the girl herself so what we got here? Mmmm, lead guitar, slamming bass and some rocking drum sounds - even if they seem a little staid, by in a track of one minute and change it hardly matters.

There is a surprising maturity to Laura's Bop that belies her age because - despite its brevity - Laura's Bop is a rocker that kicks butt. The drums and bass are solid, even if the lead lines are often a little shaky. I would have loved to hear this a bit more stretched out and I'm a little sad that this is the only track that Laura presently has online, but it does give a pretty good taste of what she does - rock like a good 'un. Given her age, of course, it is bound to be somewhat flawed - in this case in the lead lines, but what did you are I know at 12?? I was hoovering the stuff up as fast as I heard it, I didn't start playing seriously until I was about 16 or 17. I'd say that Laura has a head start on her competition and I'd be very up for hearing some more material from her. Very well done.

Got a minute? Try this.

Policy Overkill - Chaos Theory

Hear The Track Here

As if I don't have enough on my plate this month, Policy Overkill cheerily tells me that Chaos Theory is 'something a little more off the deep end' and that he is ' trying to scare people away'. Mmmmm, nice. That's something to look forward to. It takes a lot to scare me, as many of you know, and a bit of string theory here or there never hurt anyone and the answer is 42. So if that doesn't give you some clue as to my mental condition after being trapped in my head with this pesky varmint for a couple of days, nothing will.

Unless I bite your neck.

I quote the man again; (The track is) 'maddening glitch music' Not much to say beyond that' Yes indeed. Except for a poor schmuck like me who has to come up with the words to describe to someone who really couldn't give a fekk what the music was called so long as it rocked. Or in Chaos Theory's case, splintered, imploded and any number of other painful contortions. It is safe then to assume that Chaos Theory is not the easiest track to listen to - whatever your state of mind at the time of playing - and to be absolutely honest is not something that I could generally recommend and certainly not for those people of a nervous disposition or those with a fear of a disjointed existence.

Chaos Theory is in essense an exercise in the use of a bit of kit - in this case the Glitch VST plugin and if you are looking for something meaningful from your music this is not going to be it. As a musician and a confirmed tinkerer of sound I would naturally be taken by some of the sounds (and the spaghetti-fied, jagged sequences), but I doubt that anyone other than a musician would have much interest in this. There again, it's in the Electronica: Experimental genre so I guess it fits in with the rest of the oddballs - although Chaos Theory even stretches that definition. There again, as I say, I did like the weirdness of the peice so what does that say about me?

Weird. Very, very weird.

Burp - Habakkuk must wait

Hear The Track Here

It has to be said that over the years I have probably introduced many of you to some strange and wonderful sounds, but none IMHO stranger and yaaay more wonderful than the music of one Munich resident known to all and sundry as Burp. At first, Simon Witt (aka the Burpster) took some incredible jibes about his name change from his earlier Emetrics personna to the Burp one - and I shamefully admit I was loudest in the chorus of wot?s that followed that name change. Now, a couple of years down the line from that traumatic event, I finally realise that Burp fits this artist soooo perfectly I couldn't imagine him being called anything else. If a brain could belch, this is what it would sound like.

And if you are not interested after that lead in, why sirrah you have no soul...

Burp is carrying on (in my opinion of course) the grand tradition that German musicians have with the strange and wonderful, from classical music through to the music of Kraftwerk - whose electronic style has a lot of echoes in Burp's work. The list of Burp classics seems endless, although it has be said that the lowercase routine is well old by now ;) and you can find out exactly why Habakkuk must wait, and what for. See, this isn't just music that gives your brain a good rotor rooting, it teaches you things as well. Now that, my wise ol' chums, is what I call German efficency.

Musically, it is exactly what I have come to expect from this excellent (and most experimental) of artists, music of depth, complexity and a surprising warmth that even seduces the most casual of listeners. As much as I liked this track - and I love anything this guy does - I didn't think that it had the major league pulling power of some of his more classic works and may well appeal more to those people who have already acquired a burping habit. However, it still has those essential ingredients I mentioned in the first sentence of this paragraph so it might well rope in some new fans - as well it should.

Highly Recommended Experimental, like no other...

Jim-n-Lisa - 16 Grams

Hear The Track Here

Considering the major attention Jim-n-Lisa have garnered over the past couple of years, and no not just from me, I'm more than a little surprised that when browsing over their Soundclick webpage that the page isn't a hell of a lot busier than it is. Moreover, that the list of radio stations playing their material is a bit on the low side IMO. Ladles and gerbils, THIS is a band that was born for radio. What? You look like an unbeliever. Tell ya what, go to their webpage that's the first link), pick a track, any track. Be blown away like the rest who us who have been exposed to this superlative talent, and thrill to the sound of your jaw flapping on the floor. I take a great deal of care and a lot of Deep Thought to come up with my Artist Of The Year award and I don't give it to just anyone. I am immensely proud that I picked J-n-L as my AOTY 2004 and IMHO they have proved that beyond measure with the releases AFTER they won the award.

Now read on...and DO get with the program.

The reason Jim-n-Lisa are the darlings of SC, Songplanet and all points west is that they make music that thrills, amazes and - the ultimate goal - touches people where they live. It has to be said that the driving force behind this artist is Mr W. James Miller, a multi-instrumentalist, seriously good songwriter and a producer par excellence all in one slightly dodgy package. Their music is a wild blend of just about anything, although alternative is as good a place to start as any. Certainly Sixteen Grams is highly representative of what Jim-n-Lisa is all about. In fact, after listening to it for about a week now, it is absolutely typical Jimbo fare; laconic vocals that are as dry as the Texas deserts where he lives, seriously chunky rhythm track (in all the best ways) and - for me the best part of all - peppered with little slices of Jim's favourite WMD; his sax.

Lots of people go all weak at the knees with a well played sax, but in Jim's case it's not just the way he plays it but the sounds he manages to get. He has one of the finest recorded sax sounds it has ever been my pleasure to hear, in the real world or here online. The main feature of Sixteen Grams (at least for me) is the way Jim has worked the classic (1946, by the great Merle Travis) workingmans song Sixteen Tons into the structure of his own track and booooy does it work well. See, that is what makes a great talent; a great idea, a flawless (or as near as damnit) performance and a sound so sharp you could shave with it. Terrific stuff from my favourite SC artist and had it not contained that segment of Sixteen Tons I would have said this would appeal more to J-n-L fans as opposed to someone new to them. It's inclusion makes it ultra special and something everyone should get a listen to. So, all together now. 'Sixteen tons and what do you get?, another day older and deeper in debt, St Peter don't you call me 'cos I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store'

Amen to that brothers and sisters. MUST HAVE.

Silverline Productions - Icicle

Hear The Track Here

Brrrr makes me cold just looking at the title. Don't you fekkin hate winter? I know I do. Sun good, snow bad. It's probably a shame that Silverline Productions and Sound Radius ended up back to back in the review list this month because I have a abysmally low threshold for listening to soundtracks. Games, video and films, it's all the same to me; something that I might enjoy very much while watching/playing the film/video/game I find utterly pointless when taken out of context like this. Again, though, Greg Michalec (aka Silverline Productions) exonerated himself by delivering some decent musical licks in the past few months but nothing - as yet - I have been able to sink my teeth into.

On first showing Icicle didn't show me anything that I didn't already know either, and subsequent listens only reinforced those conclusions. Taken alone, Icicle is a very personable, laid back, light track that floats on the surface of your brain rather than giving it a right good seeing to. Still, not everyone can hit the musical G spot every time and considering what Icicle consists of (ie a fairly basic instrumental, leavened by some sax riffs that sounded - to my ears anyway - a bit cheesy. There's a bigger production on this track than I've noticed on previous Silverline Productions outings and I'm wondering if this is made in a different way to the tracks I have already heard. There's a distinctly different sound about it, and that's for sure.

Although I definitely wouldn't spend much time with this track, that must be put down to my own personal demons, and shouldn't stop you checking out this eminently likeable tune - especially if you like jazzy electronica. Considering that it tops out at just over four minutes in length, it moves along at a reasonably varied pace structurally so there's always things going on to attract your ear and it doesn't have a tinge of 'soundtrack' anywhere on its person. After repeated exposure to the track it did become surprisingly listenable but nothing like as strong as it needs to be to really stand out, but it does show that the track have some longevity potential. A workmanlike release, fer sure.

Slick jazzy electronica.

Sound Radius - Evolution Demo Reel

Hear The Track Here

Sound Radius works in my absolute least favourite of genres: Film Soundtracks. I'm not going to go into the reasons here because no doubt you are heartily sick of them by now. Most tracks of this genre (even the very best of them) escape my clutches with (at best) a recommended or two, or (at worst) damning with very faint praise - a speciality of mine as In think you've already experienced once or twice. However, slap me in a dress and call me Sally, Sound Radius managed to turn all that upside down with just ONE track - and his first review from me into the bargain. The Power Within (December 2006) is a superb example of exactly how to do this stuff so that even a philistine like me can see the point. Needless to say, it was my one (and so far only) Must Have in this category.

Not bad at all for a new Soundclicker.

His arranging and production skills are - as you may gather - prodigious as even the merest skimming of The Power Within will show. A track whose title describes exactly what the track is about. Evolution: A Symphony Of Rock is the title of the new CD from Sound Radius and - judging on what has come before - will probably also do exactly what it says on the tin, so lets dive into the title track. As well as the usual Sound Radius contribution the track is helped on this occasion by one Eric Severson who (apparently) played some guitar - that's the acoustic that features in this track presumably. It certainly sticks out as one of the main instruments and has a lovely sound, but that's another Sound Radius trait innit?

I can't say I am as bowled over by this track as I was by The Power Within mainly because I didn't think this was as good technically, there are distinctly iffy passages in terms of performance and/or chord placements. Not that these are wrong, more like they just don't sound right. The drums especially didn't back the track up and in certain cases sounded as if they weren't working to the track at all. Plus (and it's a biggie...) the style the track is delivered in is definitely not something I am partial too. However, the technical comments I make are based on what I hear, not what I think. Coming from an artist whose debut was so distinctive may well be the problem and I'm just too dumb to see it but, that's just me and I'm a well known nit picker. As soundtracks go, this is head and shoulders above most attempts at the genre DESPITE all I've had to say on the subject, and if you like this style of music, you will like this a lot.

Recommended Soundtrack material.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Omnisine - Crimson Stars

Hear The Track Here

Over the two years or so he has been around Soundclick, Omnisine and his previous alter ego CJ Freq-X, have dished up some very tasty electronica - and this from a guy who doesn't particularly like the genre. I reserve my special venom and bile though for a couple of sub-genres that usually typify the mundane and emotionless; trance and techno. Most people who have read my reviews will know my own little pet hates by now and would know giving me a track like this is akin to mooning a few thousand mad mullahs at a Jihadi convention. Not something you want to lose your head over.

Ooops, sorry about that, that's another prejudice showing.

The truth is that after last months tour-de-force In The Name Of God (January 2007) I kinda wanted something a little less intense this time round but I never suspected he'd try and dump a bit of trance on me. It says everything about Omnisine's work and talent that I found my first (and subsequent) listens to this track only served to confirm that - no matter what the genre - here is a musician who always delivers a first class performance and some great melodic electronica that has his signature all over it. This, remember, from the artist who gave me my first taste of Arabic house :D

How could he fail?

Its the variance he puts into each and every sound, and the way he meshes it all together that truly symbolises what Omnisine is about. The one thing that has attracted me about his music - from the very first - is the warmness of his music, it's emotional weight. Crimson Stars is a classic case in point. Here is an absolutely bog standard 4 to the floor potboiler you will have heard a gazillion times before but not, I contend, with such style and dexterity. From arrangement to production this is a Omnisine treat for fans and newcomers. The sound and depth of complexity of the track will certainly ensure it won't wear out its welcome any time soon.

Highly Recommended trance. A genre, I might add, I detest and that should show you how good this is.

Monktrump - Sleepscape

Hear The Track Here

I have a feeling that Mike Atkins (the artist known as Monktrump) is sitting back thinking that overall 2006 was a really good year for him - especially with this reviewer who has been one of his harsher critics. There again, I have to say what I think and I know that Mike understands that. It all turned around last year though; he gained a bunch of very favourable reviews from me and a placing as an up and coming Soundclick artist in my year end review of 2006. Not bad going at all, and a lot of that really has to be put down to Monktrump's willingness to act on advice given. He hasn't changed musically - at least as far as I can tell - but the way he is presenting it is of a much higher quality (arrangement and production) than his earlier works.

Musically what he offers is fairly standard American pop rock in the same vein as other Soundclick artists such as Starting Over, Cameron Pierce et al so you are either going to like it or not. I do like the genre, just giving you a flash of my prejudice ya understand... Mike said when putting in for this review that Sleepscape is 'just an experimental Instrumental track' and I find no arument there whatsoever. As it happens, it's actually a fairly listenable track considering it is just an instrumental and some of the sounds Mike coaxes from whatever the lead lines are played with really work well and were - for me anyway - the highlight of the track. If highlight can be applied to a straightforward guitar track that is.

Admittedly it has a few fumbles (on some of the leads) and the whole thing could do with a major tightening up of the arrangement but - when all is said and done - it is actually a work in progress. Ah, but should it progess? Does it have anything worth exploring further? Actually yes, as I said above, its actually quite a listenable track. Whether it has any real 'legs' is, of course, down to what Monktrump does with it from here on out but I do see it as an avenue well worth pursuing. Obviously then if you are a listener wanting to listen to someone elses musical noodlings then this may very well interest you. If the very thought gives you a bad case of the heaves, then I suggest that you leave well alone and pass by this one...

Cam's Even Song - Gonna Sell Something to a Telephone Salesman

Hear The Track Here

Well it's another month so surely it must be time for yet another from Cam's Even Song :D

One of life's modern (non Biblical) plagues are the ubiquitous cold sales calls which - as much as we are bedevilled by it here in the UK - is far, far worse if you live in the continental USA. Cam obviously has much experience of this and - strangely enough - came up with the same answer as the rest of us. How CAN we turn the tables around on these people? Believe me I have spent hours and hours devising ploys to get rid of this most modern of irritants until I discovered that if you ask them a question every time theuy ask you one soon puts them off. Mind you, a good loud **** off works just as well but leaves you feeling pretty crap for losing your rag at an inanimate telephone who has done nothing whatsoever to harm you.

Besides that, replacing the telephone every couple of days worked out expensive.

For some people who don't live in the same world as the rest of us (there are quite a few so I'm told) Cam's Even Song are currently one of Soundclick's better known names, and if there is such a thing as a Soundclick 'star' then Cam's Even Song has been one for a good many years. His distinctive blend of pop rock that references everything from the Beatles to Bob Dylan has won him a great many fans as well as endless Must Haves, Highly Recommended and even an Artist Of The Year 2006 from this reviewer. Despite all appearances to the contrary I am no pushover when it comes to music and an artist has to have a lot of things on the go (performance, arrangement, production, songwriting talent) to snag one of these awards but Cam deserves every bit of it - as Telephone Salesman aptly demonstrates.

Taking a leaf this time out of the Beatles songbook, Gonna Sell Something to the Telephone Salesman! is one of those tracks you could have sworn you heard on an old Beatles album circa (say) Rubber Soul. Cam puts in a performance above and beyond on this extremely endearing track which, needless to say, I loved from the get go. The Lennon-esqe loudhailer vocals that pepper (no pun intended) this track was the first thing to strike me about the track but it's the overall composition and arrangement of the whole track that's gonna win it space on your hard drive - and it IS gonna win that space. Considering the blinders (Ed: I think he means good tracks but you never can tell with this guy...) he supplied us with this year, the man is starting 2007 like a racehorse fresh out of the gate.

Pure Cam, pure enjoyment. (sigh) MUST HAVE.

Savanna Roots - Separate

Hear The Track Here

Now it's not that often that I see Old Beardo... Um. Er. (thinks: did I say that out loud?)

Now it's not often that I see young Cam splutter into his beard but the first thing that caught me about this artist was a message from Mr Even Song congratulating Savanah Roots on his (Steven Bennet aka SR) work. I've long followed Cam's reviews and his music and I know he's quite adamant about what works and what does not so to say 'You are simply in a different league than 90% of the artists on Soundclick. This is amazingly well produced material and I'm quite stunned by professional it all sounds!' is - in my eyes - the finest praise you can get on Soundclick - or outside of it for that matter. I read that while I was downloading the track a few days ago and since then I've heard for mysef.

Now maybe it was that buildup but as much as I liked the musical and technical expertise of Separate, it still struck me as a bit ragged. There again, I've got an incredible ear for recording techniques and some of the limitations Savanna Roots has to deal with leads to some odd changes in overall sound. Not that Joe Q Public would ever notice such an inconsquential thing, they'd be too busy rocking out to what turns out to be a pretty fine song with only a couple of what if... moments that didn't sit too well with me. In particular, the guitar progression down during the pre-chorus is distinctly jarring - there is definitely something wrong there.

There again, as I say, that may well be me. Personally I blame Cam.

There is no doubt that Savanna Roots will fit into the guitar rock multitudes that infest Soundclick and judging by this example may well have some very tasty treats up his sleeve. As far as structure, performance and technical ability this shows just how much this artist has to offer and whether you get it or not will probably depend entirely on a question of taste. As pleasant and interesting a listen as it is, it still doesn't grip me the way that I could rave over, and that definitely is a stylistic statement. As much as I like the genre, it has to be a really special song to stand out above the Soundclick crowd and Separate isn't it. I'd be willing to bet though that Savanna Roots does have that track somewhere on the page or even in his mind as we speak. One to watch, methinks.

Classy pop rock and Highly Recommended.

LMS (Miami) - Oh Well

Hear The Track Here

Although I get asked to review a lot more rap and hip hop these days than I used to, it's still a trickle compared to the deluge that's out there. I try, wherever possible, to snatch a listen to some things off my own bat but with my review schedule it kinda complicates things. One of the artists who has given me some tracks over the last year is (to give him his correct name) -LMS- (Miami). A rapper from Miami via New Jersey (born in Jersey, made in Dade) I first encountered him when I reviewed Crow Flyin' (April 2006) and although I liked the rap, the track itself didn't do very much for me.

But sometimes in life you just got to say fuck it.

At least that's the first thing that jumped out of the track at me as I played it through the first time. Again I have to say that I am completely into the way LMS raps, his flow and lyrics are excellent - and on that level Oh Well is a splendid update on where he's at now. The man can rabbit like nobody's business, and he knows how to make the thing rock too and that's no bad thing. It's especially useful when the same problem that dogged earlier tracks dogs this one. Although the music is certainly of a better musical standard it doesn't put fire and backbone into the track the way the rap does and thus, kinda misses the target.

The main offender here I think has to be the very pedestrian drumtrack that holds no surprises whatsoever. For my money rap works best when powered from behind by the largest, phattest backline you ever heard, and this track just lays back too much for that to be happening. Now maybe this is exactly what LMS (and producer Big Eff) were after in which case I say very good and move on, saying along the way that this is an extremely clean recording (although not lyrically), it's rap will be it's highlight and there is no disputing how good that is. With a more powerful musical arrangement, this rapper could scorch your eyebrows off from a 100 yards.

Class rap but the track doesn't get behind it. Highly Recommended nonetheless (for the rap)

Denton - Dog-Leap Stairs

Hear The Track Here

I hope I do better this time, sighs Mat Wilson (aka Denton) when he put this foirward for review this month. Well, so do I mate, so do I. Despite all appearances to the contrary I don't enjoy dishing peoples work in the slightest but hey, you got to state an opinion... The Reivers Way was the culprit last time and I wasn't, IMO, that sadistic about a track that I found a bit ordinary and certainly not much competition in the impress me stakes. However, as I mentioned later, it's a bit unfair to take an artists measure by just one track and that I'd like to hear some more - and here ya go...

Dog Leap Stairs is a title which, I assume, describes the condition ytou are in when you've had a few bevvies and are a bit of a party animal. The comment I made about The Reivers Tale also holds true here; Denton makes rock with a distinct Ventures/Shadows tinge, mainly lead guitar led instrumentals and - as such - I haven't heard anyone else quite like him. That still deserves an explanation; do I like him? Surprisingly enough I do, certainly enough to give him the respect due for creating such a time sensitive sound, although the track is not without its flaws. Mainly, I hasten to add in the arranging department, the music sounds well fine.

So it would be good if you had preference for guitar instrumentals that hark back to bands from the 1950's and early '60's including the two best known US and UK bands of the time. The lead guitar probably owes more to the American side of the story rather than the softer (to my mind more emotional and much underrated Hank B Marvin) UK versions but that's no bad thing. The track zips along like the man's whippit (don't ask) going through a lot of changes in style. It's those changes in style, though worthwhile, kinda detract from a more pointed performance. It's clever sure enough and will make you tap your feet and nod your head but it doesn't, for my money, ever catch fire. Still, it's a good idea and some refinement of the sound and arrangement would sharpen it's focus maybe.

Air guitarists unite. Recommended instrumental Rock

Monday, February 05, 2007

Shorthand Phonetics - New Adventures in Meta Songwriting

Hear The Track Here

OK, here's one for you - a song about writing a song. It could have only have come from the fertile imagination of one Ababil Ashari and his Shorthand Phonetics bandname. Anyone who has een around Soundclick for any length of time will have been made aware of this highly distinctive (if raucous) Indonesian band; either from the many reviews from myself and other Critics Corner reviewers, or from a direct encounter with their vivid, punk rock style delivery on staple SP tracks such as Green Apple Garden (a classic btw), All Too Platonic and a great many other worthwhile and entertaining tracks. The sound and fury of the band in full spate while decidedly lo-fi (and as ruff as a bears butt), the sheer power and energy those tracks throw out more than makes up for the few duds IMHO they have also given us.

I don't like the band's softer, cuddlier side. Might as well make that plain right now.

There isn't much soft and cuddly about New Adventures etc etc and considering its a 'song about writing a song' the one thing it does is show the ball breaking, tedious and frustrating activity music making can often be. In a word: painful. Although the overall sound has improved quite dramatically from the 'old' Shorthand Phonetics - there's now a distinctly clear production (and in meaningful stereo too) - it does tend to highlight certain other disappointments this track has in store - especially to one who has followed their 'career' with great interest. It isn't, by any stretch, a bad track IMO just a little ill formed and not very well thought out.

The one thing that has always attracted me to Ababil's work has been his songwriting and vocal styles, and having lived with this track for a while it is funny. Why the lyrics are not online as well surprises me because that's half the fun of the track. Where it falls down, and quite badly at that, are in the main vocals and in some of the guitar leads. Firstly the vocal is rushed, clearly straining in certain segments of the track and it's jarring, as are the almost-out-of-tune lead guitar lead lines that pepper the 'chorus'. To be sure it only conjures up a ghost of what Shorthand Phonetics were about and that's partly down to Ababil's individual style, which works when he finally unleashes himself in the section around 2:20 and catches fire around 3:04. That's the style I was looking for from the track . For my money this needs tidying up in those areas and I think doing that will make this the track it promises to be at times.

Good song but a work in progress??

Fear 2 Stop - Givin' In

Hear The Track Here

Lot of eyeballs on Fear 2 Stop right now, mainly because of their excellent turnaround that saw 2006 being one of their best ever years on Soundclick - at least where this reviewer is concerned. Mind you, I can see by the increased turnover on the Fear 2 Stop Soundclick webpage that something is definitely happening for them, as well it should. The way Fear 2 Stop have captured their own little share of the online world is a lesson in how to make this scene work for you. After years of crap about their music, they finally honed their very own sound - and if you think you like experimental then Fear 2 Stop are right up there with the best of them; think the Fall mixed up with Throbbing Gristle and a rhythm section that has links to Joy Division.

Except, being Americans and not whiny brits, there is a distinct lack of angst. Which is a good thing. Definitely.

I think the turnaround came for them when they discovered the beats and rhythms that actually fitted their tracks rather than just kinda slung on there to make some sort of sense of it. For me, the puny rhythm sound they had going for them in some of their earlier tracks was what caused them most grief and - over the last year or so - they have solved that dilemma forever. If you have any doubts about this bold statement then I direct you to a play of Givin' In as a prime example of where Fear 2 Stop are today.

There is still that extreme oddity that can only come from the mind Castillo, but now it's chained to an (almost) rock solid backing track that gives impetus and meaning to their music. The first few bars will show exactly what I mean and the echoed, detuned piano hits that introduce this peice will either give you nightmares for a week or make you go 'that's neat...' which was my reaction. Although nothing like as accessible as some of last years highlights, I rather took to Givin' In as an experimental track - although it certainly has its dancy side and its this combination that ultimately puts it over the top. A track from the upcoming Fear 2 Stop album How High Are You, this bodes well for 2007 being an even better year for this most interesing of bands.

Another MUST HAVE for F2S fans and a Highly Recommended for anyone else's taste.

Muggsy - Cryin'

Hear The Track Here

As you know, I NEVER review from little billet doux delivered to my SC PM box. It's a bit of a principle thing, because think how often you get spammed with people wanting you to 'peep their s***', now imagine how many of those I get - then triple it. Seriously, its amazing how many people I get PMing me about reviews. However, as I have learned to my cost many, many times; never say never. Because here is a case where I almost feel duty bound to take it up. Muggsy, as well as being a musician/rapper, also happens to be at the sharp end of the military machine. Always support your friends I say and I consider the US Navy one of my friends. I also feel immensely sorry for anyone who does nine hour watches so here ya go brother, and I hope you find this review worth it.

So, the music??

You may also know that I am big, long term fan of all things hip hop and rap - even though I don't do much of it myself. I've always found it an exhuberant and exhilarating genre, full of fire and passion. Well, mainly anyway, if it is in any way 'real' and both in production terms and delivery Cryin' is as real a track as you'll hear from online rap. To be sure there are elements in the track that are increasingly familiar (particularly the rapping pattern) but Muggsy makes an excellent presentation of the track as a whole that you can forgive him certain industry standards (I'm talking here about rap delivery not about the production, which btw is excellent; clear and big boned).

Moreover, the elements that make up this powerful track almost force you to listen to more, just to see what's coming next, and that is the sign of a real pro. There again seeing as Muggsy is a resident of one of rap's birthplaces - Brooklyn to be exact - he would have to have upped his game long before he came to my attention if he had foisted something not up to scratch, I feel certain his homies would have carved him a whole new butt. Seriously good production and a fresh, interesting arrangement make this stand head and shoulders above a lot of the rap you are gonna hear online, and with just the tiniest bit of tweaking would making a cohesive commercial sound too. OK, so it's the first time I have encountered Muggsy but judging from Cryin', he and I are about to explore his world big time.

Highly Recommended hip hop with an extremely commercial rap (which, btw, does contain lotsa cusswords).

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mark Holley - Before The Dawn

Hear The Track Here

Out of the myriad of Mark's over at MP3 Unsigned I seem to have agthered the acquaintance of a couple, one of which is the Mark Holley we have before us right now. 2006 was peppered with fine tracks from this artist gaining him a string of recommended's from yours truly, even though - being honest - I haven't heard anything from this artist yet that really set me alight. Mind you, there's always time for that, and when dealing with a musician like Mark Holley it really is only a question of time. If I had to choose right now which of his works I preferred, I'd go for his collabs with another Mark - Mark Alexander.

And then there is Before The Dawn. Although if you read what's going on with this track it sounds somewhat as if it were a 'work in progress' but there is no way it's gonna sound like that. Mark talks about adding things to it but after all THIS is the basis of anything, if this track doesn't work then nothing on top will either. That's the beauty of listening to something from an artist who knows what he's doing because Before The Dawn is a very listenable (and complex) track that works perfectly well on its own, thank you very much. That's got a great deal to do with Mark Holley's production nous which is on great form on this clear-as-a-bell track.

As I grew into the track the central guitar figure started to play more and more in my mind; it is after all the backbone of the track. It's amazing though the different directions Mark takes the track in, with musical references from Jethro Tull(?) through to Bruce Springsteen rearing their heads. There's a musical intelligence about the track that marks it out - at least for me - as being of special character. Yes, I would be helped with a great vocal on it, but hey if the tune beneath the warbling isn't fit for purpose, nothing is going to save it. Before The Dawn needs no such assistance; it's a very competent, entertaining instrumental with a lot to say for itself - as it stands right now.

Recommended Rock instrumental.