Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Antennaheadz - Garden Party

Hear The Track Here

Last one out of the pile this month is another side of our old friend Thomas J, saxophonist, musical oddity and experimental artist whose specialty is often couched in the 'wtf?' mode. I first encountered him in his very enigmatic Station For Imitation phase and, to be honest, we didn't really eye to eye on that one. However, since he has branched out into other things (less electronic) I have become more and more interested in what he is up to. The Pong Bandits, The Men From San Deigo and others have all featured various facets of what Thomas does, but its the Antennaheadz we'se talking about here. I first reviewed their LoL oMG wTF!!11!! (Bingo Bongo Mix) (January 2006) and liked its original style and showed some promise.

Unfortunately, even after reviewing another three tracks throughout 2006, none of them really displayed what I particularly wanted to hear; either for a idea or musical standpoint. Sure the stuff was interesting, but it's not something designed to knock you on your ass. Still, knowing this artist, maybe that's the point. Take Garden Party for example, given everything that I have said above, what would be the least obvious musical direction for him to go in? The one direction I would never have ascribed to him is to come up with an acoustic folk tune, yet here is Garden Party which is exactly that. It's also probably a one take jobbie featuring just guitar and vocal, so its a given that the term production values holds no sway here.

My main bellyache about the track isn't that it's folk, surprisingly enough. After all, when I thought about it, it is a fairly logical step for Thomas to make. He is, like me, a native of the UK which has a fine folk tradition going back thousands of years so it's obvious that he would have encountered it in some form. I think this is probably the first time I have heard him play the guitar OR sing for that matter, and he does it well. Although the song arrangement is decidely flabby, not so much a song, as a poetic ramble, it still has some decent qualities - the sound notwithstanding. It should be understood that you should like lo-fi, lo-tech music to really get anything out of this but you may that very person. Me, I've heard better from this artist but this is a interesting sidestep nonetheless...

Thomas J, folk troubadour, who'da thunk it?

Necromancer - Conjoint With Confucious (Cut 2)

Hear The Track Here

Here's a completed circle. When I first brought my reviews to Soundclick (I had been doing them on another site) the roster of artists was (obviously) much smaller than it is now. Given that, it stands to reason that the forum was - in some instances - much more of a community although the spam level was always high. Funnily enough, it was this artist and this track (or its earlier incarnation) that was one of the first tracks I ever reviewed on here. The original Conjoint With Confucious (July 2003) was a belting drums and bass and I wrote at the time that it was 'high energy, no-time-to-be-bored, and it sounds bloody awesome played at 'kill the neighbours' volumes'. As you would have expected, I ended up keeping it and it's still hanging around somewhere to this day.

No matter because the original is still on his page (almost at the bottom) but - listening back to it - I think I'd have to say it's showing its age a bit, and I probably wouldn't be as rapturous about it these days; especially given the competition these days. Like myself Necromancer (aka The Shallow Man) has delved into his back catalog for something to remix and I must admit that this track could do with an update, especially if it puts a new slant on the original idea. The most obvious change would be (and indeed is) the overall quality of sound, we have come a long way in computer music technology since then, and it shows in the cleanness and clarity of the mix - which to be honest felt a little light to me.

The original track is pretty much all there, and sad to say there isn't much in the way of innovation concerning new parts so I think it's much more of a remix than a remaster. Nonethless, although it lacks a lot of the bite of the original (thanks to that light mix) it still has the poke and brio of the original and that is what counts. To be sure you will probably have to like drums and bass to really appreciate this track but hey, there are a lot of people who do. I think my problem with the track is that I liked the original so much that I can't really get this mix....nonetheless, I'm sure some of you will...

Recommended Drums and Bass.

Rude Corps - When There's Just Me And You (w/ Sir)

Hear The Track Here

It came as a bit of a surprise to me that the first review I did with this artist was so long ago, my how time flies when you are having fun. I listened to and reviewed Tonight's Alright (September 2005) and - judging by that review - I thought that the artist had something. Fast forward almost a year and Cosmetics confirmed that Rude Corps were good at what he does (electronica with a dark tinge) gaining a highly recommended rating from me and I can't even say I am a fan of this particular style or genre. I can appreciate it sure enough, but it isn't what I would personally pick to listen to unless, as in this case, it is carried off with a bit of style. There are very few electronica artists who really keep my interest over a long period, and all along it would seem that Rude Corps has had that potential although not - as yet - blowing my socks off with a track.

And with 213 tracks on his page, it isn't lack of practice is it?

If you are easily offended, I'd look away now. The reason I say this is because Rude Corps says that 'the idea behind this was to write a flat out porn song - a song to get lasses wet just listening to it....' Ooo er missis indeed. Personally, I think that is a highly laudable goal for any musician to aim for, but I would do because I am a fully paid up member of the DOM club (think about it). The (spoken) lyrics, vocals and basic idea are a friend of RC called Sir (hence the title), Rude Corps is solely responsible for the music. As someone who really loved such beat poets as Linton Kwesi Johnson and John Cooper Clark (who Sir reminds me of) I really liked this guy's delivery and - unfortunately - the lyrics are not online but what I can decipher sounds well good.

Quite why Dolly (don't ask) said in the review comments that I probably wouldn't like this is beyond me, because I like good hip hop beats and rhythms and I especially love poetry delivered in that flat, laconic Northern English accent. Although it's fairly linear and doesn't move much from what its starts out with, there is still some substantial mileage in the track; mainly from the little piano licks, a couple of nice breaks and a lovely build towards the end. Oh sure, it isn't going to set the world on fire with but it certainly isn't something the musicians should be hanging their heads in shame over. Point of fact, give it more than a couple of plays and it may well grow on you as it did with me. Oh, and yes, it's well naughty, so beware of the sexual content in front of your Momma.

Highly Recommended hip hop with a unique UK twist (or should that be kink?)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Azoora - Marzipan Demo

Hear The Track Here

If you hang around on sites like Soundclick for years (Ed: he wandered in here 4 years ago and he hasn't stopped bellyaching since) you get used to the ebb and flow of this life. Artists, for example, wander in and out of this place in bewildering quantities, depositing tracks and getting involved in the forums; then they drop off the face of the map. I'm real glad to see that Azoora have not joined that maddening circus. Sites like this need to have artists that inspire and Azoora's pedigree is solid, as is John Purcell in his many guises. After a very healthy start around the middle of 2005, the last time I came across an Azoora track was a collaboration with HELLbus, but nothing from them as artists in their own right for ages.

OK, lemme explain. Azoora are a real band, on this track consisting of Paul Loader (acoustic guitar/lead vox), John Purcell (electric guitar/production), Trudi Lawrence (backing vocals) and Ben Cockran on drums. I think that Ben is a new addition because I can't remember them having a drummer when I knew them back in the day. If I had not had this previous experience of the magic Azoora can conjure up, then a quick listen to Marzipan would soon put me right on that score. Considering that John Purcell has studied all aspects of recorded and performed sound, the mix and production is everything I would have expected and a tad more just for luck.
Marzipan is a beautifully tasteful indie alternative track coloured by acoustic guitars, and sweet, sweet voices; made almost orgasmically perfect around 1:40 when the main melody kicks in. It's also a lovely song, full of warmth and light, the faultless production serving to display the song with the right tones and emotions. In other words, a thoroughly professional performance in every respect and one I added to my hard drive within two plays - even though I loved it within the first two seconds. I can't think if I have had a track that really blew me away this year so far, but this may very well be it, only time will tell. Right now, I love it to death and cannot find any substantial fault in it in any form - and it's not for want of trying. Lovely.

MUST HAVE. Killer tune.

King Kaxl and the No Good Duo - Your Boyfriend

Hear The Track Here

The grandly named King Kaxl and the No Good Duo are, apparently, two Finns; Benito Bolognese on drums and Meddi on bass and keys. The keys being, I presume, mainly organ(ic). See the reason I am fixated on this essential fact is because while I was downloading the track for review I scanned their page (as you do) and saw that they listed as an influence one of the mainstays of my own musical world. I love the sound and texture of a Hammond B3, there is no other sound quite like it and it cannot be duplicated. Booker T and The MG's is the influence here, and it was them and - in particular - the great Jimmy Smith that won me over to the sound of this unique instrument.. You can imagine then the disappointment I felt that Your Boyfriend didn't contain anything Hammond-like.

The other influence they cite is Belle and Sebastian and this comparison is probably closer to the mark, because Your Boyfriend is a light pop confection at first glance. However, like a lot of tracks if you give them more than one or two plays they can often reward you in other, less instant, ways. It's true that I did pretty much take to this track from the beginning simply because it's almost impossible to dislike it, its trying so hard. Some of the Soundclick veterans around will remember some impressive tracks in the same style from fellow Scandanavian The Big Ship, so if you liked that, King Kaxl is da boy for you.

Considering its bright and breezy style, Your Boyfriend packs a lot of different things into the almost three minutes of existence. The song itself is a paltry eight lines but they are made to count and introduce the tenor of the track very well. Sung by the duo at extreme left/right separation, it's well sung although there's some degredation of the overall sound when the vocals are happening. The rest of the track is taken up with some nice rhythmic bits that sometimes work, and sometimes not quite and - after a few plays - are quite as arresting as the earlier part of the track. Still, niggles aside, this is a catchy little track that won't tax your brain too much.

Nice alternative sound. Recommended.

Big Wheel - Curve

Hear The Track Here

My ears are still ringing from reviewing Big Wheel's Magic Organ (February 2007), a classy downtempo little jobbie that has managed to somehow hang on in my playlist despite me only giving a Recommended at the time. Doesn't usually happen ya see. Normally the only tracks I keep after review are the very good Highly Recommended and Must Have varieties. There again, it's also fairly typical of what Big Wheel has to offer, his tracks have an ability to grasp your ears more than most electronica you are likely to hear. His blend of class sounds and a knowing rhythmic sense have made him a good many friends in the year or so he has been on Soundclick as is shown by his chart placings and the amount of stations giving Big Wheel much needed exposure.

Not yer usual electronica by any stretch. Not that it breaks any new ground, but neither should it be expected to. A decent tune married to a good idea would do for starters and BW has definitely got some smart ideas about his music.Curve is a classic example of the Big Wheel stylee; smooth, sharp and sophisticated and a sense of musical construction not normally associated with the genre. That was the quality that first attracted me to this artist and on Curve he has hit the spot so well it shouldn't be legal. It is fair to level the accusation that I am biased because of my own like of this artists work, and the fact that Curve contains some essential dub sounds and feel, and that would be fair comment. It would also be only half the story because - like all his tracks - Curve is going to take a while to permeate the ol' brain pan.

It's initial pull won't be a problem because if you like smoky, cool tracks then this bad boy is all that and more. It's also and amazingly dense and complex peice that never lets up for one second. The chieftain of chillage comes up top with this track and as one who has watched this artist from day one, this is easily the most professional work I have heard from him yet. A really lovely piano drenched instrumental that you can either drift away to or gawp at with wonder at how something so light could be so, so filling. Now I know that 'really lovely' and 'instrumental' in the same sentence is likely to make some people foam at the mouth, fall over in indignation and curse like a sailor but Curve is exactly that. Looks like Big Wheel is getting into gear to make 2007 a very good year.

MUST HAVE chillage :D

Avalanche - The Golden Sun

Hear The Track Here

Amongst the many anniversaries being celebrated right around now is the anniversary of the formation of Avalanche. Here is a sign that a good band - like a good marriage - is forever, because this year marks the 30th year of Avalanche's existence. Yep, thirty fekkin years, so obviously not much chance of an overnight success there then. Keeping a band together and alive over the amount of time isn't just a feat of endurance - although it certainly is that too - it's also an act of selfless love, putting the band before pretty much everything else. Now though, in this digital age where music is piped into your ears direct from the internet, being a live, working band is surely well past its sell by date? Well, in some ways I guess it is, as Avalanche have been finding out for themselves. Rock will never die, but I'm afraid live rock performance - at least outside of the major leagues - may well be in its last days.

This song, according to Avalanche guitarist and songwriter Mike Foster, is older than the band being originally written in 1972 then recorded on 2 inch, 24 track tape with the original Avalanche bass player, Charles Calmese (who had earlier found fame and a couple of Platinum Records with the Steve Miller Band's Fly Like and Eagle and Book of Dreams albums) The Golden Sun really is a golden oldie. Especially seeing as Charles Calmese died in 1988 in a car accident, this is a little bit of rock history. Previously unheard, and not in very good condition - the original tapes have been damaged over the years according to Mike F, this track should in no way count as being representative of where Avalanche are right now. btw, where they are right now is a very nice position indeed, and they are rocking it for all they are worth as a quick listen to - say - Excessive will show you.

In common with the time it was written The Golden Sun is an epic rock track sprawling out over thirteen and a half minutes and, for an old hippie like me is still strangely timely. In other words, it sounds pretty much like the Avalanche I have come to know and love, albeit with a slightly sunnier outlook but hey, we all thought we had the answers then, didn't we? It is an extraordinarily clear recording considered all the caveats Mike Foster loaded onto its shoulders and I honestly doubt whether anyone but himself will ever notice those problems. For the rest of us lucky bar stewards, here is a slice of Avalanche rock that has so much depth you very well find yourself drowning in it. As good as it is instrumentally (as you would expect from Mike F, Calmese and the equally talented Easton brothers), this is also a terrific song and - had I heard it way back then - would have been a fan of this band from the get go. As far as rock goes, bands have come and gone on Soundclick and I have had me rock funnybits tickled a time or two but ever since Avalanche came along they have been my staple holder of the flame. I would agree that this track is a bit of a rock noodle but things were back then, it's more the style than a bunch of musicians showing off how good they are - and Avalanche would never have to do that live. They would be too busy having fun and making us - their audience - happy campers. At this point I have listened to this whole track right the way through at least seven times at the time of writing and I know this is going to take me forever to wear out.

A MUST HAVE slice of rock history, and even Highly Recommended Rock for those less rabid than myself.

Matan - The Flood

Hear The Track Here

Matan is a 20 year old alternative artist from Isreal who I have already encountered a couple of times in the past, once with The Gate (April 2006) and again with Travelogue (July 2006). I preferred the latter track on balance because it was by far the better song of the two and that distinction is important when the instrumentation is so sparse that the song become predominant. Obviously Matan is as strapped for decent sound facilities as the rest of us and his work does tend to show a distinctly lo-fi edge but - as yet - I actually think he has received a reasonably quiet response from me. You know me and amateurish, sloppy tracks, it's like a vermillion square to an uncastrated adult male of the cattle genus. The thing, I think, that has kept Matan from a good Gilmore Gnashing has been that at least his tracks are interesting enough to make listening not so much of a chore, and - toee be fair - he does have a very decent voice.

That says a lot, I think.

Now whether he has caught me on a good day again, or whether The Flood is possibly the best track from him so far only time will tell. For my money, Matan has sidestepped the slight flaws that marred his first two tracks and supplied not just a good song but a coherent, intelligent and flowing arrangement to surround it with. There is still the little problem of his singing (he sings with a distinct accent) but in this case, it actually adds to the appeal of the track - at least for this reviewer. Having said that, it is fair to say that this is also not a track to set the world alight, being very laid back and understated and this - once again - is one of its main attractions for me.
The song's the thing though, again and again with this artist and my feeling is that he making considerable gains in his knowledge of how to construct and perform what are fairly complex tracks - or at least The Flood is. A percussive, moody track that has a menacing air about it, enlightened by the almost sweet vocal tone Matan is using. Listening to this more than a few times, I kept getting this little niggle about his vocal reminding me of something, but even now I'm still no wiser to pinning it down. What I have pinned down is this little track (it's only two minutes and change) and by golly, I like it. I have to say that the accent on the vocals does detract from the impact of the song - especially when you have lived with it for a while but that really is something the artist has no control over. It doesn't detract that much from a very worthwhile song performed with the proper young-man-in-a-tailspin angst and doom laden intent. In short, it works.

Recommended Alternative track with a bit of local character.

the hive - forth came cerebus and black night

Hear The Track Here

The Hive (or the hive to be absolutely lower case correct) is the brainchild and alter ego of the artist we all know as Burp, a key player in Soundclick's electronic/experimental genres. As many of you are already aware, I am a dedicated, long term fan of this Munich based musician and he has the distinction of being one of the very few Soundclick artist whose entire body of work rests on my hard drive all the way back to material from Emetrics (an early re-incarnation of the Burp personna). It was interesting reading that very first review (Biodiversity, November 2003) because much of what I said at that time still applies. This artists still makes the most intelligent electronica you are likely to hear anywhere.

Ooops, sorry, my bias is showing.

At the very heart of every single track that Simon Witt (aka the hive/burp et al) is his signature aural trademark. In my eyes there is no one, repeat n-o o-n-e, who can duplicate (or even get close to) this artists natural sense of rhythmical patterns, particularly when said rhythms are usually being carried by instruments that have no right whatsoever to be in the rhythm section. Where a lot of them rightly belong is in the bag marked 'strange and unusual bleeps, sweeps, buzzes and burrs' , the sort of thing other electronica artists think of as background or 'washes' There again, the other trademark of this artist has always been to sail as close to the wind as possible, musically speaking, and it's a sure bet that not everyone is going to 'get ' it. What they might get is a headache, ESPECIALLY if you try and make any sense of it.

The whole thing IS the rhythms and what they are doing, and conversely the instruments that are making them do those things. Like fellow electronica/experimental Soundclick artists such as Pilesar, Refrag (whatever happened to Refrag?) and even our old friends Fear 2 Stop, Simon discovered long ago that the only way to make any headroom in this field is to be different and yes, original. This he has been from the very first and forth came erebus is yet another in a long line of cantankerous tracks that make you pull your hair out in frustration while at the same time slapping a happy grin all over your chops. While I don't think it as acessible to new listeners as earlier hive tracks, this track still manages to throw in some heavy duty 'wtf is that' moments - always one of the most pleasurable chores associated with this artist.

Intelligent experimental electronica that is crazy as a mofo. Highly Recommended.

Shorthand Phonetics - Fujioka Tsubasa [single edit]

Hear The Track Here

I first met the masters of the Amazing Long and Obtuse, Declarative and Informative song titles (aka Shorthand Phonetics) when I first started reviewing on SC what seems like forever ago. A lot has changed since then, we've all got considerably older, but poor ol' Shorthand Phonetics has also got considerably smaller. From a brawlin' yawlin' Indonesian five peice with a penchant for punk pop, these days the band reposes in the body of one Ababil Ashari - for my money the main songwriter and influence behind the group anyway. It was his songs and his vocals (Green Apple Garden, All Too Platonic et al) that first won over some of the more skeptical reviewers, including me. We all gave them the same amount of crap for how noisy and messy the recordings were but none of us could deny the powers of the songs they helped limp along to.

It wasn't perfect but the spirit of it sure was.

I've already reviewed one track from this new SP; New Adventures in Meta Songwriting (February 2007), which I didn't like all that much. To me it didn't seem finished, and that is never a good thing. All the hallmarks of any Shorthand Phonetics track were there; the Buzzcocks sounding vocals, the crashing guitars and yes even lots and lots of noise. Ultimately though I didn't feel the song itself was that strong so - to be honest - I approached this new track with some misgiving. The endearing image I carry away from the first listen was shouting at the track to 'fekkin speed up'. It took no notice, of course, and blithly went upon it's merry way cavorting in the time honoured Shorthand Phonetics fashion. If you like that fashion, and I do very much, you will love this track which to my ears is a welcome return to a familiar sound and structure - and no, it does work at the right speed. My ears didn't there at first and neither will yours.

For me, as someone who has followed this artist for years, there is an added level of sophistication to this track I have never ehard from them before - which is why it took me a while to get the track. Stop laughing!! I can use the word sophisticated about this band - so long as we aren't talking about attitude, style, sound or performance. all of which are the much loved shambles we expect from this band. The level of songwriting has become much more sophisticated and consequently this is a track it will take a while to pick the bones out of. I agree it isn't pretty, and it can be rather quite brutish but for Shorthand Phonetics fans (and there are many) this is exactly what we require from them. Again, the song isn't as immediate as in the past, but it most certainly there in a different, maybe more interesting form. Always one of the most original bands, Shorthand Phonetics make a playground that dedicated listeners will recognise instantly - despite the roughness of the production, performance (puleeeze fix those leads) and mix.

Punk pop?? Whaddat?? Whatever it is, it gets a Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Kelly Sweet - Raincoat

Hear The Track Here

I'm usually real good about sticking to my own rules about reviewing, that's why I started the monthly signup thing in the first place. However, once in a while I have to step out of that 'first come, first served' (Ed: sure you don't mean first abused?) mindset because I've heard something that I feel duty bound to bring to your attention. Kelly Sweet and her Raincoat are that certain something. You know me, I'm a fairly level headed kinda guy when it comes to me musical taste - that's why so many of you read this right? So, it would have to be a bit special for me to stretch all the way out here to bring this to your notice... As the used car salesman said 'would I steer you wrong??'

Actually, it would probably be best not to answer that.

Like a lot of good tracks I hear outside of the review process, Kelly Sweet - an 18 year old singer from LA California - was brought to my attention by the Godfather of the Indies, Mike-K who played it on his Saturday Night Rocks show this week. T'ain't often I get totally blown away by a track (especially a listen only jobbie) but believe me this is soooo worth it. My first thought - being an incorrigible old lecher - was did she look as sweet as she sounded, and she does, but that still doesn't detract (nor should it) from the absolutely superlative job she makes of Raincoat; three minutes and fifty seconds of unbelieveable ear massage. Don't take my word for it, click on the Hi Fi stream link and grab an earful while you are ploughing through this verbal thicket.

Raincoat is a track from the We Are One CD and you can hear a great many of the tracks on Kelly's own site at, and I do recommend you get a listen to We Are One. The comment came up in the SNR chatroom that Kelly sounded as good as Norah Jones, but I beg to differ - she's a lot silkier, smoother. What really impresses though - more than the high class of musical performance and production - is Kelly's incredible vocal control; teasing, swooping, caressing. Sweet's the name and sweets the tone and style and I for one wouldn't want it any other way. Raincoat is a wonderful track AND it's a ballad which should tell you something about why I rate it so highly because I normally can't abide 'em.

Absolute MUST HAVE. Ear treats for everyone.

The Vantangle - Like It

Hear The Track Here

As soon as I saw this artist name in my list this month, it rang a bell. Surprising as it may seem, this doesn't happen very often and when such an impression has been made it can only go one of two ways; a great review or a bad one. I knew I had reviewed them before so I went searching and uh oh.....guess which one we are talking about here? Reading back the review of He Is A Genius (October 2006) it's fairly obvious why it rang such a loud bell. Most people know that I'm a bit of a pushover and really hate having to puke up all over someones work - but sometimes I find myself with no other choice. Such was the case with this artist and that track. So much so that I feel it must range amongst the very worst reviews I have ever written. Phrases such as 'nothing to offer' and 'yer basic rhythm that does nothing whatsoever' don't normally trip lightly off my tongue so it's bound to have stung a bit. Mind you, judging by all you can read, Eric Vantol (aka The Vantangle) kinda likes that whole deal and seems quite happy with his status.

Takes all kinds, right?

So, back to the story. Six months has gone by (kinda/sorta) so presumably things would/could/maybe/fuckit have changed. In most normal cases that would be so, and - for just a while there - Like It finally managed to make a reasonable impression on me. Although a lot of the same problems that I felt dogged Genuis are indeed still present in Like It but I think the tune (also kinda/sorta) is more coherent and makes more sense. Performance and production values are still as sloppy as ever and you should expect the most basic one-man-and-his-guitar routine to pep up (or not) your earholes. As in Genius too, lyrics are almost non-existent, a mere five lines of purple prose that Eric manages to stretch out reasonably convincingly over the three minutes the track lasts.

However, the small improvement is still not enough BUT is a sign (maybe) that The Vantangle - although content to tread his own path - may also now be aware of the impact of the path he has chosen. As I say, I hate giving shitty reviews but I see no reason why not if the track is not up to scratch. This one? Well, IMHO, this just about passes muster and will probably appeal most to anyone who likes that whole acoustic lo-fi pseudo-folk that seems to be all the rage these days. I do, however, think that there is a germ of a good idea here, and maybe Eric will develop that angle in later stuff. Certainly, after more than a few plays, the central 'like it' refrain does pay off albeit fleetingly and with a sound as rough as a bears butt vocally and aurally.

Nuff X - Heroic

Hear The Track Here

Nuff X has been around Soundclick now for over three years and in that time, he has come from a standing start to racing ahead of the pack - all down to a sea-change in his work over the past year or so. Mentioned in both the 2005 and 2006 Stevie's Nuff X has attracted the right kind of attention for his breakbeat stylee, and not just because a skinny little twat like me says so. Take a squint at the amount of stations pumping Nuff out to the masses, you don't gather that amount of attention unless you are worth it - and stylistically Nuff X is well worth it.

The musical niche that this artist has carved for himself is at best disjointed and at worst cut-up to fuckry. All of which sounds really bad in plain text but manages to sound staggeringly fresh and original when applied to the earholes in liberal doses. Heroic carries on that fine tradition by starting as if obsessed by the collective works of Leonard Cohen, before getting zapped everywhichway but the weirdest set of musical chops you are likely to hear adorning Soundclick's collective ears. While he does have his afficiendos, I don't think many who don't know this artist would find this track an easy approach although it certainly doesn't lack in interest or ingenuity.

That Cohenism btw is an initial impression only because this is English mardyass (Educational Ed: also means grumpy, out of sorts) personified. The sub-Kevin vocals especially became effective after a few more plays and - surprise surprise - this is going to end up being quite a favourite of mine; and for many of the same reasons I have picked up on previous NX outings. Never one to shy away from something difficult, Nuff X has proved that he has substantial reserves of grand ideas and interpretations of what he is about and Heroic is cut from that cloth. Chock full of interesting bits of aural decor, this is a track to be picked over at leisure and I'm already certain it's got 'deep inside, deep inside' my brain. He's also responsible for the Kevin/Cohen vocals all of which make this a difficult track to really pick up and now it's proving fekking impossible to put down.

Highly Recommended and a terrifically original track.

Lord Skye - Runaway Hog

Hear The Track Here

Even though he may not think so, Lord Skye is doing quite well in my reviews - especially seeing as he works in a genre (Games Soundtrack) that I usually can't stand. He hasn't (as yet) blown my socks off with anything but hey he's young, there's time. So much so that he has gone a confused 'wtf?' reaction to gaining himself his first Recommended from me last month with Legends Unfurl (Title Theme), although at just over a minute and a bit, to call it a theme is stretching the word drastically. I think I prefer his music from the classically influenced side of his style and that's probably why Legends Unfurl got such a good reaction from me.
Still that was then and this is now...

Billed as a 'bouncy bluegrass skit' it beckons the 'wtf?' reaction before I even get around to playing it. Mind you, I had to wait for a while for this to rotate round and the more I thought about that description, the more intrigued I became. so, donning me wellies and tweeds let's see what's happening down on the farm. Now, just in case you think I may be joking here, let me tell you the first thirty seconds or so of this track will soon disabuse you of that notion. After the entire cast of Animal Farm has thundered by your earholes you become aware that this isn't going to be yer normal kind of track. Oh no. Even the bluegrass element of the track has it's slightly odd side but att the end of the day - somehow - it all manages to coexist quite maturely. Although it would be best to know the meaning of the word irony before getting your feet muddy.

In point of fact, I personally found Runaway Hog most entertaining, in a wild, reckless kind of way. To be sure, it is certainly not going to appeal to a great many listeners because of a) its content or b) it's wickedly realised sense of fun - and that is exactly why I liked it so much. A track for the Contrarians then? Well, no, I think it has a sufficiently good sense of humour it may well appeal to listeners because of that. However, facing reality, it also has to be said that this is probably more a musicians track than anything else. A musical joke, if you like, and one that works surprisingly well - provided you like that sort of thing. It's an oddity and that is the reason I'm gonna be hanging on to it for a while, for those days when I need something to raise a chuckle. Agreed, that'll be most days.

Recommended for the odd at heart. Pig Out.

Fluidity - Higher Ground

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Considering he's only been around Soundclick for just over a year, John Paul Carroll (aka Fluidity) has certainly managed to make a considerable impression, even to the point of snagging one of my SC Star 2006 awards - and of course the obligatory string of fawning, obsequious reviews from yours truly. That's probably got much to do with the fact that I do like the kind of rock that Fluidity specialises in, although - it has to be said - not every track has hit me with the same impact. To my ears, Fluidity's music speaks more from the Antipodean school of rock than say anything manufactured in the US or UK and that is somewhat of a acquired taste.

Contain's deep and meaningful lyrics, JP gleefully informs us in this song comments, as if we would expect anything else from him :D My only comment about those lyrics is that, 40 years on, the same sentiments that infused the whole CND/hippie/stop the war thing are just as relevant today - nothing ever changes eh? As much as we learn about the utter futility of war, our politicians really do live in another world where war is an act of policy as much as necessity. Higher Ground starts off with a considerably more American sound than I am used to from this quarter and is most definitely leaning more towards the heavier end of the rock spectrum. Nothing wrong with that because the I knew that was always the case with JP but believe me this track has TEETH to frighten babies with...

For my money, the track takes too long to get to the real meat and taters and that's a shame because it actually is a very good track indeed once it gets started. Obviously you would need to like yer rock a bit on the dandruffy side and/or be aware of Fludity anyway but get past the first minute or so of this track and it's true strength will kick you a whole new asshole. The vocals are often a problem in Fluidity tracks and that applies here noticeably. S'all OK when you are into the higher ground refrain but somehow the main vocal always seems to come off second best and - in a track where lyrics (and clarity of said thingies) is all important - that could be seen as a problem. Maybe it's a product of the way JP records; ie backing vocals last instead of the other way around, or something interfering with the higher frequencies. Still, wtf do you care about it eh? Does it rock, that's the only currency you are interested in innit?

Slightly flawed yeah, but feel the bollocks... Recommended Heavy rock bash.

Road Apples - Fly Away

Hear The Track Here

S'funny, I could have sworn Road Apples has had a few reviews off me but according to my H Samuel Everight database, it has only been once. When I reviewed August (in November 2006 funnily enough) I found it a charming pop rock confection set in an extremely listenable Beatle-ish tune. Not surprisingly I gave it a highly recommended because tracks like this usually manage to push all my favourite buttons; jangly guitars, main and backing vocals and a workmalike (hi Ringo!) drumtrack. Like a lot of todyas artists, Road Apples doesn't just mimic the Beatles, he puts his own slant on it and that's never a bad thing - at least in my eyes.

There again, some people just hate that whole Beatles thing, don't they?

Joined on this track by our own Alchemystic (aka arglebargle on the forums) and that is a strange combination, and one I must admit to looking forward to reviewing. The Alchy One provided - in this instance - some of the orchestration and arrangement and I presume was responsible for the final production and mix because it's well up his usual standard. If you want an abiding impression of that standard, take a listen to Cerulean Skies which I reviewed a couple of days ago and loudly declared it an absolute Must Have, so that should give you a clue as to my respect for this particular artist.

Moreover, the combination of their talents really helps the track establish itself in your brain as being something other than 'beatle-like'. Not that there aren't endless Beatle references; the chorus for starters and there is even an almost complete guitar riff taken straight from You Got To Hide Your Love Away all patched together to make a very listenable and enjoyable three minutes and change. There again, as I said earlier, I DO like material with this kind of flavour and the addition of Alchemystic's talents just makes it easier to hit home. There are going to be some people who wouldn't like this kind of music at all, but there are more than enough of us who do, and that will probably do for Road Apples. A most enjoyable track in a fine Beatles tradition, spiced up nicely by Alchemystic's special touch.

Highly Recommended pop/rock.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Alchemystic - Cerulean Skies

Hear The Track Here

When I first encountered Alchemystic he was classed as a Video Game soundtrack and/or experimental musician and that first track - Sands Of Time (May 2005) soon showed that label the door. Classed these days as Other Alternative, it's a genre that fits his work like a glove. That first track got a recommended from me, and it has not been the last of them. Since that time, not only has Alchemystic explored lots of musical nooks and crannies, he has entertained me and a great many others along the way. It's fair to say that Alchemystic is now one of the better known Soundclick artists - particularly from the strength of musical skills although his forum musings have won him some mates too.

So, stop calling him Billy No Mates, OK? ;P

I have to say that my bias towards tracks like Cerulean Skies comes from the willingness of the artist to pursue something wherever it leads, even if to most ears it may not work. In other words, daring to different and that - more than any other reason - is what makes Cerulean Skies a track worth assigning a place on your hard drive for. As much as I expected something of quality from Alchemystic - as I have found to my pleasure - nothing forewarned me that this artist was about to come up with a beautifully complex, and immensely fulfilling peice of gender-bending such as this. Usually, in the first phase of reveiwing I am not sure which will survive continued listening but I knew as soon as I heard this that it had substantial meat on its bones.

You expect a bit more than the average from this calibre of artist (mentioned in both 2005 and 2006 awards) and in this case I think this artist has really stretched out with this track. Mind you, it might well be the khamsin winds that this track evokes that's blowing all this sand in my face - whatever it is, I likes it. It's that shifting sand of the arrangement (west, east, west, east) that first sucked me in and I'm willing to bet it will do the same for you too. Moreover, I'll go down on record and say this is absolutely the best thing I have ever heard from this quarter. Mind you, that might be because Alchemystic strays so far into my World music world (if you know what I mean) it should be number 1 in that genre, even though it's not actually billed as such. (Ed: it is billed as World Fusion, Gilmore just needs to learn to read...)

MUST HAVE world extravaganza

Alderman - Visions

Hear The Track Here

The Vikings are coming! The Vikings are coming! Well, one of them anyway... Alderman isn't really a Viking, for a start he's from Stockholm, Sweden - not a country that has been known to pillage and rape with abandon. They do, however, spit out some extremely competent and entertaining musicians, many of which are my own personal favourites. So I would be remiss if I didn't make you aware that Alderman has been a required listen in my house for at least the last two years. In fact, in my first review of any of his works back in 2004, I said he was an artist to watch and he's proved me as omnipotent as I am egotisical. Mind you, when you work - on an ever changing basis - with some of the finest musicians around on Soundclick, you sure better know your stuff and Alderman has learned that lesson well.


Visions is (apparently) the next instalment of the Reflection series - the first one being the Reflection track itself which you will also find on his Soundclick page. Joined on this track by one Christopher Martin Hansen, it added considerably to the constant allure of this track as I watched it take shape on another forum (hey rey). It also helps that I admire CMH greatly as a guitarist of note as I've mentioned every time I've reviewed his work. Given the build up then, Visions better deliver and it truly does - on every level known to man. A deeply satisfying, semi classical ear binge with both artists playing and performing with a confidence and authority that will gain this track endless plays, something it well deserves. It's a given that CMH can do no wrong for me, but I have had the odd disagreement or two with Leif (aka Alderman) but not in this case because it's his work in the song structure and scoring of main instruments that is the jewel of this track.

It's string based arrangement sounds pretty tedious on paper: cellos, violins etc but works such a treat in real life. My first shock was the (probably unknown) Eleanor Rigby reference the strings carried for me. It didn't wear off as I explored the tune further either but has become one of the listening highlights for me. It only really occurs in the intro but was such a strong hook for me, it took a while for the whole track to sink in properly. When it did what I found was a work of patience, love and lots and lots of effort culminating in something that borrows from classical sources, by way of George Martin, metamorphosing into the work of beauty that is Visions. It also reinforces the fact that we dont hear anywhere near enough of CMH in his own right, it's been a while since I've heard something new from him but hey - this is more than enough to be going on with. This is a collaboration blessed with everything that makes good music - a great idea created to perfection. It is, of course, a.....

MUST HAVE (betcha)

Laura Amelia Smith - Waistdeep In Popcorn

Hear The Track Here

I first came across this 12 year old (honest, I kid you not) Australian musician when I reviewed Laura's Bop (February 2007) and finding that I really liked its simplicity. Considering her age, Laura is a bit of a rocker at heart and Laura's Bop shows that although she may be young, she should be taken seriously. Yeah, for sure it is true that your music will be a little unformed - as indeed Laura's Bop is - but it still packs a punch and that is what counts. After all, how many of us could carry of a tune as quick and (fairly) complex as this one on our axes when we were twelve? Me, I was to busy getting into fights and hooking off school to even think about practising my guitar - or anything else that smacked of patience, discipline and hard work. Although Laura's Bop does show that Laura has a way to go instrumentally, I defy you to find another 12 year old to match it or better it.

Why do I have a feeling I may have to eat those words?

Where Laura's Bop was pure, unadulterated straight ahead rock, Waist-deep In Popcorn bills itself as instrumental: smooth. Yes, you may very well be repeating uh oh along with me at this stage, particularly if you view those two words with intense suspicion. Waist-deep prove to have much of the uh oh factor about it too, a fact only helped if you read what Laura says about the concept that created it: This is like film credits music. When you wake up and find that you are waist-deep in popcorn and your mobile phone is missing and there are a hundred million people who managed to get listed in film credits, and you like wonder why the credit music is so different to the film's mood and what these people do when they aren't holding someone's cup on a film set.

Sorry, gotta love that attitude :D

In light of that, don't expect too much from this track, other than a nice likkle dabble in the musak department. I think it would be wrong to say that this track has anything much going for it because IMO it doesn't. Yes, it's a nice little exercise and - again because of her age - Laura acquits herself reasonably well performing it but yes Laura, your intonation does suck but I have heard lots worse. It's the track itself that I'm having problems with because a) I dislike this kind of music anyway and b) as good as Laura might be with it, it is still a lame track - unless of course you take the ironic view expressed so well by Laura that this stuff is essentially lame anyway. The only thing I'm coming away from this track with is that each track she makes will improve yet another aspect of what she does - and she has plenty of time and room to develop yet.

Silvertrain - I Thought I Knew You

Hear The Track Here

The surest sign that an artist is doing well on Soundclick is in the number of stations playing AND the amount of plays ascribed to a particular artist. In Silvertrain's case, they are just coming up to their 500,000 play (this is a VERY big deal, don't make that mistake) and their tracks feature on over 300 stations. That, my friends, is what I call making a success of being on a site like Soundclick. Should you think that breaking into a site like SC is easy, just be aware that Silvertrain have been Soundclick darlings ever since they first arrived here and for the longest time they were most definitely flavour of the month. So, although half a million plays sounds great - it's actually taken them a little over three years to clock up that number...

Aaah, doesn't look so easy now eh?

Having said all that, I Thought I Knew You is yet another in a never ending lineup of not-quite Silvertrain tracks. The two members of the band, Ritchie Allen and John Brandon, live a way away from each other and tracks are usually put together over a period of time, usually with Mr Song Machine himself (John Brandon) supplying the initial song before Ritchie either adds to it or not. Although this tends to present a very uneven view of the band (most of their better tracks are studio recorded), luckily they are both strong enough songwriters to be able to air what are essentially 'demo' recordings of their work without attracting too much flak for it. Although it has to be said, they have recieved their fair share from yours truly because - well, I expect more innit? It's not often these days that I have to take John to task about what he puts in front of us, his skill in 'fleshing out' the track has improved a hundredfold over the past couple of years as this track will amply show.

I think it's the very first time that I am able to say that I actually liked the drum track John supplied too, it actually sounds real which is no bad thing. Kinda surprised though to see that no lyrics had been posted at the time of writing this review which I can only assume is an oversight because - believe me - the lyrics are an essential part of the whole Silvertrain now-you-hear-it-now-you-don't experience. Masters of the two minute pop vignette for way back, I Thought I Knew You is absolutely staple Silvertrain material and - as John points out - may sound better with Ritchie's vocals. I don't know about that. Apart from it being a fairly noisy track overall, I think John's vocal on this is what makes the song happen. Admittedly, you may well have to be a Silvertrain fan of long standing to understand that comment but no, IMHO this is John's song and I'm not sure it needs Ritchie's vocal (unless he supplies a counterpoint vocal of course). Now there's a thing to dream about. Excellent song, well performed and sung, even if the track itself is a little noisy.

Recommended, driving Pop/Rock.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Alyssa Collins - Hiragana Song

Hear The Track Here

Hang around long enough on the internet and you are likely to review just about everybody - or at least that's my excuse. Moreover, hang around even longer than that and you may get to review their children too, as is the case here. Alyssa Collins is the 15 year old daughter of Soundclick's regulars John and Lucie Collins so there is the first reason I picked this track for review. After all, I love the way Momma (that's Lucie Collins to the rest of us) sings so maybe it's passed down to their daughter. The second reason is that I am a complete Japan freak. I love the language, the people, the fashions and (most) of the manga/anime culture - although there are some areas of this that leave much to be desired. Why is it that all island races end up being a) completely bonkers and b) a nation of perverts??

I include, of course, my own island race - the perfidious brits.

Hiragana, just in case you are wondering, is the Japanese syllabi that constitute the language; the building blocks of Japanese if ya like, the ABC's. The song itself came about with a collab between Daniel Bloom and Goodnight Kiss's songwriter Janet Fisher and was produced by Art Munson, a very well known and respected producer with an unbelieveable pedigree. So, judging by all that, Hiragana Song should be a shoo-in right? Ah, you know me too well, you KNOW I wouldn't just let something slide by just because I happen to know the people who made it. The first listen confirmed pretty much all I had been expecting; a faultless performance and the kind of production values you would have expected from a known (ie a RW track record) producer. Where the track missed, at least on initial plays, was that I found it incredibly lightweight in a very poppy way. Nothing bad but it would obviously be a track that would only appeal to certain audiences.

Appearances, as always, can be very deceptive though...

It's after living with the track for a few days when it's obvious this is a very serious effort at that elusive 'worldwide' hit. To be sure to my ears - after some fairly consistent playing - it sounds like the real deal. Moreover, given the market it's aimed at, that kind of lightweight pop is exactly what the market requires. So, whether it will make that grade or not is up to the moves it makes within the real world music business. So what does this mean for us internet bottom feeders who want everything for free? There's talk that a fragment of the track will be uploaded onto Soundclick some time soon and if so, I do suggest you give it a listen because it is an excellently realised, very commercial track that presses all the right buttons. If you like the sound of the track and just want it anyway, the download at ITunes will cost you just under a pound in the UK and probably 79c in the US). On a more personal level, Alyssa has a different vocal quality to Lucie (as you would expect) but this track bodes very well indeed for this talented young singer. It takes talent to shine in company such as this and for a 15 year old, Alyssa has a surprising maturity about her performance. For me, living with the track is what finally sold me on it, the sheer professionalism of the technical side could only carry it so far. At the end of the day, this is a very catchy, likeable song encased in a classic pop setting and proves to be eminently listenable.

Highly recommended (song content and hooks are superb). Pop of the first order.

Even So... - Nervy

Hear The Track Here

Over the past year, since I've been doing my Rebelriffs blog, I have been getting more and more tracks coming at me from different directions as opposed to the three sites that have taken up all my time over the last three or four years. There is no doubt that the reach of the blog is much larger than any of the forums I regularly post in but surprisingly I don't recieve that many review requests from it. It's audience does seem to be listeners as opposed to other musicians. As you can tell though, Even So... managed to find out where I lived and wheedled a review out of me. The reason is partly because I liked their no nonsense approach and are natives of Baltimore, MD where I lived myself for a couple of years. The downside is that there aren't any download options here, but hey there are plenty of messages to browse (it is the Murdoch Empire after all where marketing is king) while you are listening...

(Reviewer mimes putting the needle on the record)

Even So... are a three peice Indie/alternative band consisting of Sam Hoffberger, Ira Gamerman and Tyler Wolfe who are obviously influenced by the movers and shakers of that genre primarily REM and (surprisingly enough) Radiohead. So if either of those two names makes your blood lively itself up, then go and have a listen right now because Nervy is exactly what is sounds like. There is a punch and energy in this track that I don't normally associate with the genre (or at least the unsigned varieties I most often hear) and that is a definite point in it's favour. As is the unfussy, lets-play-it-straight production and mix, all of which helps to establish the track in your mind surprisingly quickly but useful in this listen-only situation.

The real kicker for me was - as always - the song. What a great shame there are no lyrics online because I - and millions of other potential listeners - love to read the lyrics as we listen to the music. The reason I am so exercised about the lack of lyrics is because Nervy is a great, zippy little track with an enormous likeability factor - an almost first play turn on which is no bad thing. There's an almost punk feel to the headlong rush of words and music and the chorus could well have come from any UK source of that music, so it's a given that this is a most invigorating listen and I for one would like to see some kind of download option for it because - had there been one - I would most definitely snaffled myself a copy. A very nice introduction to this band indeed and I recommend that they also sign up for a Soundclick account because that's where a large alternative audience is sitting waiting for them.

Highly Recommended alternative punch-in-the-face rock.