Saturday, June 30, 2007

dcallen - Is This a Problem?

Hear The Track Here

It is nice to end up this month reviewing an artist I have known for many years, and its even better to note his return to Soundclick after a lengthy hiatus. For those who remember him from a couple of years ago young Dave (for it is he) made his particular mark on this community with an absolute string of wonderful (yes I did say that) electronic viginettes making it into my very first Stevies as a known Soundclick talent (this was 2003 in case ya wuz wondering) and again at the end of 2004. Since then mind, things have been very quiet and dcallen has spent a lot of time on other sites although I came across a couple of new tracks during 2005 and 2006. One such was, I hoped at the time, an indication of just how far dcallen had changed as a musician, this was a collaborative (rock) effort Bad Karma Gonna Get Ya (July 2005) that was - what do they say these days? - slammin'.


So here the man is again again and he wants to know 'is this a problem?' I should coco. I've missed the smoothness and quality that this artist manages to bring to the feast of fools, and I for one heartily welcome his return. I've got some rope and I'm gonna tie him down so he can't be straying off to and winning all kinds of kudos. Can't allow it doncha see? Since those heady days when the electronica field on this site was full to bursting with extraordinary talent (Bonamici, Adam Fielding, Stompp, Fahrenheit 451 et al) Dave Allen still managed to single himself out by his music and by the titles, some of which are the wittiest and best I have ever seen. Still, it was the music that kept it all afloat so does this older, wiser, dave still have the chops he had back in the day?

From small acorns, as the saying goes. Tell you what. Have a listen to the first thirty seconds of Is This a Problem and it's blindingly obvious that here is a musician who knows what he wants. His music has always been more tuneful (nay melodious) than most of the four-to-the-floor sheep, and that talent seems to have grown in leaps and bounds because what you here from this track shouts quality work in any language. The great thing about all of the artists I have mentioned in this review is that stretched the (then) electronica genre to encompass almost anything, and dcallen has always been at the leading edge of that. So what would you, who may never have heard of this artist, expect from Is This a Problem? Some of the classiest, freshest music you are ever likely to hear - in any genre, let alone electronica.


Big Wheel - Capriccio

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Although I have been known to nod off ocassionally (I'm old, what can I tell you?) I have never been a fan of the music that is made for putting you to sleep - chill out. Most of the time, it just sounded like regurgitated elevator muzak with ideas waayyy beyond its station. Then along came a Big Wheel and that put paid to that bit of nonsense. Fact is, whatever the hell he calls his musical style, Big Wheel's music has consistently struck a chord (Ed: groan) with this reviewer because the one thing that can be said of him is that he is remarkably consistent.

No bad thing where I live...

I first came across him reviewing Far Away (July 2006) although I have a suspicion he'd been hanging out at Soundclick for some time before that. That consistency, and his particular approach to the genre(s) (from chillout to d&b) have won him many listeners over the past year. For example, there are some 70+ stations currently playing his material and I would imagine his download count is pretty healthy too. Just spending a couple of seconds checking out the first part of the intro of this track will show why he is held in such regard - especially if you like d&b; you can bet there is always a trace of that genre in his work and Capriccio is pretty much exactly what I expect from a Big Wheel track these days.

Bright, competent mixes encasing - as the man himself says - 'a piece of self-indulgent piano noodlery' doesn't sound up to much on paper but sounds bloody wonderful sailing down your ear canals. Cappricio is a tad more lush than I care for, but even so there is plenty here for listeners to glom onto especially if you are a sound spotter (Ed: aren't we all?). While I am dead set against any 'noodling' in music, I can take it if there is a point to it's noodling (if you see what I mean) and in this case the point is well made. Nothing to exert your brainpower over, just another normal day in the Big Wheel universe. If you have never heard this electronica artist before, do your ears a favour and check him out.

Class blend of chill and pill. Recommended electronica.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sound Radius - Our Crowning Moment Suite

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Had I met Sound Radius during the earlier part of 2006, there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that he would have been a major player in my year end awards writeup. As it is, I reviewed The Power Within (December 2006) and found myself foaming at the mouth with excitement. A truly incredible musical experience and one that immediately got a Must Have rating from me. Evolution (February 2007) didn't have quite the same impact (how could it?) but it also showed the same amount of thought, detail and sheer musical talent this artist can bring to bear. Oceans of Freedom (April 2007) almost reached the same ecstatic heights of The Power Within (it does exactly what it says) and got a highly recommended from me. The real shocker here is the genre SR works in; Film Music.

Yes, I have seen the light. Halleluyah!!

So it comes as a bit of a shock that Sound Radius writes 'This will be the last of my film pieces for a while (as Ive started writing music for song), so I might as well go out in style' You *********, (shakes fist) you ********** *****!! Here I am overcoming my (enormous) predjudices and now you are bailing out of this much despised genre? Que pasa?? Actually, I jest. Sound Radius is that good at what he does, I look forward to his work regardless of the genre. Doing a little digging around I think I see some stuff coming from him and Sablade and that I am most definitely interested in. Our Crowning Moment (to bring us crashing back down to the ground) is the last of his film works and - as usual - the damn thing is faultless; try as hard as I might I cannot find a chink in its armour anywhere.

Curse those perfectionists!!

Musically, it sounds exactly the way you would expect good film music to sound; crisp, clear and sharp. All the better to highlight what (it has to be said) is this artists greatest asset; his arrangements. Almost everybody I know likes this artist because he puts real power and life into his music, and his arranging skills play a large part in that process. For me, the very essence of a good track is that it contains a lot to explore and every SR has that, regardless of its overall style. Although only four minutes and change, it packs a lot in from the string driven, angelic intro, to the tune of majesty and grace that lies behind it. Sound Radius really does have a knack for this kind of material and if I were going to listen to what I would consider to be the best in the genre, then this artist would be the place to start. Wow! Such praise eh? Rather than take my extremely dubious word for it, why don't you go and make up your own mind - you may even start foaming at the mouth too. Now there's a thought to end with.

Extremely high class film score. Highly Recommended.

Mobi - Smokey's

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As I start to scrape the bottom of this month's barrel, it's nice to see that there is still a surprise or two waiting. It's been a month of familiar names with new tunes, but I've heard a sprinkling of new stuff and here another one. Mobi (no relation, obviously) is a self confessed Gorillaz fan - as am I - and from Tampere in Finland so better dress warmly. Mobi's adopted musical stomping ground is also one you don't come across all that often; smooth jazz. Now me, I do like a bit of jazz in all its many varieties, although some of the more cacaphonic exercises in dissonance have been known to give me a fearsome headache. Mind you, I get the same symptoms whenever I am exposed to techno for any length of time, so I guess it doesn't count.

'Just like Smokey's would be' Mobi opines in the song comments, in which case the listener may well be expecting some cool blue jazz as played in that self-same smoky, dank cellar. The first time I galloped through this track, I wasn't aware of what I was listening to, I just threw a bunch of review tracks onto my Ipod. I have to admit that I was a bit puzzled by the track not because it wasn't well executed (it is) or because it was in any way flawed. Like a lot of tracks it has little niggles (some of the sounds are a bit 'factory'), the mix and production are less than sparkly. Having said that, it's musically worth some space because obviously Mobi does have a touch and feel for this material.

The question is, do any of us?

Jazz has always been a bit of a left-behind genre and that's a shame because there are many great artists still living and breathing the genre. I wouldn't go as far as to say that Smokey's is blue note jazz or even smoky cellar jazz, it's probably got more to do with the watered down, easier listening variety promoted by the big jazz stars of the 1930's and 40's. Where it falls down for me is in the most critical part, the brass sounds. For me, the prime requisite of ANY jazz, is to get the tone and timbre of the brass instruments exactly right and this track misses that by a mile. It would have made a much, much better track had more attention been paid to getting the instruments to sound right. However, it's still a very decent track in a genre you don't hear much of these days.

A refreshing change, songwise. Cool jazz vocal (with the slightest of accents).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Alchemystic - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

Here's something I haven't done in a while. It's been ages since I've done an artist spotlight and if anyone deserves a bit of a special mention it would be our old electronica buddy Alchemwotsit. While it's true that he has been switching his tracks around like a man possessed of late, it is also true that I missed a couple of his review requests completely so maybe this will go some way to making the poor boy feel better. For those who have no idea what I am rabbitting on about, I first encountered this American musician when I reviewed and liked Sands Of Time (May 2005) even though it was classed at the time as Game Soundtrack it showed that Alchemystic had a lot more in store. Proved to be the case too because in the two years since then this artist has become a favourite SC artist of mine and lots of others.

One track that got lost in the shuffle was Jungle Storm, a track I should have reviewed a couple of months ago. so I thought I'll get this one out the way too. It is, as you would suspect, a jungle tinged track but with the wide-open spaces and beautifully placed sounds that are an Alchemystic trademark. It's in the depth of the music that this artist really excels - at least for me - and every track has a long shelf life. Jungle Storm is a stomping wide screen action track that doesn't let up for one second once the initial drums-only intro reels you in. The intense rhythms are adorned with the usual electronica trickery but in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, it's an odd combination that works surprisingly well. Tell you what, have a listen and it's a pound to a penny that you will be downloading it too.

The real review request for this month, however, was Di Good Life which is as different from Jungle Storm as you could get and hope to live to tell the tale. I've lived with this track for the best part of the week and I'm still trying to come to terms with it. Not with the music (which is fekkin awesome) or the production (which is awesomer?) but with the fact that this is Alchemystic doing this stuff. While it has an incredible Caribbean feel and the lilt of a reggae tune it is still an Alchemical concoction but I tell you, the boy's never sounded so good, or so fresh and different, Maybe its because I love the summery feel of the track and the way it has been put together with skill and patience but whatever it is I fell for Di Good Life right off the bat and it ain't stopped since.

MUST HAVE Artist and a MUST HAVE track in DI Good Life.

Colin McSloy - Cowboy Dream (The Ballad Of Johnny Cash)

Hear The Track Here

Having been long exposed to such excellent online (ie unsigned) country talent such as Morris P Rainville and the incomparable Chairs I have to admit a definite liking for music that makes you go yeeeeehhhaaaahhh. Silly I know, but there it is. It has to be real country though, which completely rules out anything coming out of Nashville these days. American country music has nothing whatsoever to do with country and western. Nor is it the usual ploy of making an American rock song and then calling it country which happens more often than not. Nope my favourite country is the music made in America during the expansion of that country; bluegrass, fiddles, banjos and yes, even a tad of what used to be known as 'folk' music.

Yes, I agree. A big yeeehhhaaaahhh for that. Now, can we get on?

If you are now wondering why I am flapping my gums about real country when - as you can see - Colin McSloy appears to be a Pop Rock artist, at least according to the genre definition. However, look closer on the page and you will see a cover of Hank Williams' Your Cheating Heart as well as Cowboy Dream (The Ballad Of Johnny Cash). Both Hank and Mr Cash are - by my lights anyway - the heart of country music. The track is, instrumentally at least, fairly authentic featuring pedal steel, lotsa jangly guitars but - to my ears - it doesn't really qualify under my own peculiar notion of what country is or isn't.

Cowboy Dream is well performed and produced but there, I'm afraid, I'm gonna have to stop being so nice. Now maybe the whole country thing got in the way, and I got predjudiced by it or this track just isn't my thing. Reminding me vocally of an early Cameron Bastedo, the song kinda plods along (not in a western way though) and in truth the arrangement and performance have more to do with yer average american rock song. To be sure, if the arrangement and pulse of the track were rethought this may well be a track I could get into but as it stands now its only of passing interest. Instrumentally though, I suspect that there must be more to this artist than this kinda stodgy track.

The Antennaheadz - And Then Our Heads

Hear The Track Here

With the heartfelt prayer 'please God, let Thomas J not be in an obtuse mood' reverberating around His Divine Earhole, let's turn our attention to this month's addition to the growing list of Antennaheadz tracks that have tickled my own earholes. The truth is that although I like Thomas J as a musician (he's a sax player, along with his computerised personna) I don't always understand, like or even 'get' what he is about. Because, in his more obtuse guise, The Antennaheadz to tend to explore the wilder fringes of the sonic world. Knowing the musician behind these tracks shows me that - no matter how wild it gets - there is always a musical brain behind it calling the shots...

Except that it's sometimes difficult to see that.

Endless monkeys on endless computers could make music like this, but Thomas J seems to thrive on the chaos he causes his listeners, and despite endless groans and acres of 'huh?'s nothing seems to stop him. Thankfully, on first playing. And Then Our Heads doesn't stray to far into the darker, wilder undergrowth and is - for The Antennaheadz anyway - reasonably accessible and almost (dare I say this?) dance material. There's a loping squelch bass that sets the tone and meter of the track and it doesn't move about too far from that initial groove.

Having said that, it does build up a sufficient head of steam that when the track starts ramping itself up (around 2:20) the progression is natural and then kick in the ass from this section is pretty damn smart. Eventually I found myself warming to this track, from the Linn drum samples to that wild build, it is considerably more mainstream than the bulk of material I have heard from this quarter in a while. As such, I think it will do The Antennaheadz a lot of good because material like this will only open people up to their wilder works.

Excellently paced, electronic dance music. Recommended.

Mean Scene Project - Redline

Hear The Track Here

Mean Scene Project are - by the looks of their SC page, fairly new to this site and certainly to this reviewer. Not much info to go on from the SC page but a little digging always pays off. MSP appears to consist of at least Sean from the USA and he's an alternative artist (Ed: aren't they all?). Not much to go on I grant you but it did raise a further thought. How come all us geezers (chaps, guys, humans with dangly bits) on Soundclick seem to have some truly beautiful looking friends? I'm just as guilty as the next man and one of the joys of sifting through the members pages is gazing at the boooootiful women on SC. Take, for example, Lorena Echavarria - she's front and center of Sean's SC members page of friends. I say pppphhhhooooaaaawwwww

(Ed: any more of this Gilmore, and I'll be taking the blue edit pencil out. Get on with it!)

So all thoughts slippery safely stashed away, let's look at what we are really about (Ed: yeah right), the music. While I was downloading Redline I noticed that MSP cover several shades of rock from classic to pop. Redline being an example of Pop rock, it should be right up my street innit? In fact all nine tracks on the page appealed to me because I am a consumate rock animal and I like finding new things. Ahhhh, bert does it translate into aural joy? The first time I wound up my gramophone (Ed: Good God, are you THAT old??) and inserted this it became obvious that it illustrates - yet again - the yawning chasm between what Europeans term pop and what Americans do.

Taken at an Alternative indie level, Redline is pretty much what you would expect, its American sound showing just how strong the whole rock thing is over there. I can't say I find much wrong with this track technically, it's put together well and with good sense and some time has been spent getting the mix and production just right. It's on a musical level though that Redline stands or falls and that is - I'm afraid - down to peoples likes and dislikes. To be sure if you like the whole American alternative thing then MSP and Redline is a real good example of it in all ways. It would have been nice, however, to be able to read some lyrics as well but hey, I'm forever harpin' on that subject. On the strength of this I am tempted to dip into some other tracks by this artist, but as I said, I do like all shades of rock.

Excellently presented Alternative rock with an American slant. Recommended.

Decollage - Not Without My Parmesan

Hear The Track Here

Decollage, a Munich, Germany based Experimental artist has had a bit of an up and down time with this reviewer. I absolutely loved the first track of hers (for it is a she!) - Number 1 (November 2006) but since then I have felt that her work is a little too patchy for me to show the kind of keeness I was showing for Number 1. That's probably more because the tracks weren't what I wanted at the time, rather than some intrinsic fault. Fact is Decollage doesn't do fault (or at least not by much). And, it's only been a little while since Decollage started all this stuff, so I guess she's not particularly that perturbed about what people say, and indeed why should she be? I have, after all, heard a lot worse tracks than the four or five of her tracks I have reviewed so far, and Although I may pick holes in the tracks I do like what Decollage does. So much so that I've never really done any of her tracks down that much and even recommended one or two.

Electronica, German style, has always held appeal for me.

That cannot be said, of course, for the general population of Soundclick and I am well aware that this is a small part of the bigger picture but hey, it's a fruitful small part. See, I have a special liking for yet another Munich artist, Burp who just happens to be a friend of Decollage - I think you see where I'm going with this. Decollage shares a lot of Burp's musical taste too so it's a given that if you like Burp, you will like Decollage. Both play with electronic sound and rhythms to make their music and - other than Burp - I can't think of anybody who quite sounds like this. Refrag used to have an even more deviant version of this but he seems to have disappeared off the face or the Earth. Enquiring minds want to know: Whatever happened to Refrag?

So.....where was I? Ahhh yeah....

For the particulars of Not Without My Parmesan, regular fans of Decollage with have no hesitation in recognising the style. Not etc... is billed as IDM (intelligent dance music, seeing as ya axed) but for me it's still a little out there for dance. Unless you happened to by a master of the stop-start-fart about mode last seen when aping robots dancing was all the rage. Musically too it has much, much more in common with yer plain, unadorned experimental - in this case both instrumentally and rhythmically. I couldn't put my hand on my heart and cry out that I love this track more than is good for me, but it is a good example of what Decollage does - whatever genre its placed in.

Recommended experimental electronica.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Policy Overkill - Failure

Hear The Track Here

S'been almost a year now since I first laid ears on Policy Overkill, an electronica artist from PA, USA and several other big capital letters, so it's about time we had a good look at what happened in that year. Impressed was I at Wonder (August 2006), a recommended I gave it. (Ed: you haven't been taking your anti-Yoda meds have you?) Not a bad start, and in ambient electronica too which is not usually a fruitful place for me. Smile (September 2006) didn't fare so well, it's techno-Goth feel a bit too spotty to really work out. Song 17 (December 2006) ended the year on a very high note with it getting a highly recommended from me and guaranteed him a place in the Soundclick Hall of Oddities for that year. Chaos Theory (February 2007) showed that Policy Overkill is not one for standing still; an adventurer in the wilder aural limits.

OK, yeah, another ********* nutter would do just as well.

After I spent an hour scratching my head, my thumbs twiddlling for the audio clean up department, I finally decided that Policy Overkill was exactly the kind of nutter who would put record hiss and crackle into a track. Funnily enough, it (just about) works but that's only because the rest of the musical scenery soon takes up most of your attention span. Much more experimental electronica than your average techno fan might expect but that's their look out because I found Failure surprisingly listenable. I have to put that down to my continuing education thanks to Soundclick's more experimental artists.

Certainly Failure is a classic slice of experimental electronica that has more in common with drt and the ilk but there again Policy Overkill has a tendency to hop about a bit. After a few plays I'd warmed up enormously to this track, despite my initial dislike of the crackle and hum, there's a willingness to REALLY fekk around with the track and make itself tie itself in knots. I gotta tell you I love that stuff. Accordingly, Failure is going to gain a place on my hard drive so I guess its not that much of a failure is it? Obviously it's not going to count for everybody but if you like electronica that skates on the thin edge then Policy Overkill has a world of bafflement to behold.

Highly Recommended experimental electronica. (Ed: yeah, but why does this happen? Is it Fate? Is it Destiny?)

Radio Pohmelye - The Spaghettification of Dr Vostok

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Radio Pohmelye, an artist from Helsinki, Finland impressed me with his technical abilities but not, unfortunately enough to make the review that noticeable. Sure, it's a given that not everyone can come up with the goods every time but I have to say that (in general) Scandanavian musicians stand a better chance than most. Radio Pohmelye is no slouch at getting the track to sound right either, it's more a question of waiting for the right track to come along rather than wondering IF the right track will ever come along. After all, achieve a certain level of professionalism at this game and then its just a question of getting the songs right.

Easy when you know how.

The Spaghettification of Dr Vostok is - at first glance anyway - musically the sort of thing you would expect having listened to his first track (Sunday Morning Workout, December 2006). It also has some of the same - I won't say flaws, because that wouldn't be the right word - oddities that made that track listenable on a musician level but what your average punter might get from it may not be the same experience at all. We - musicians, that is - listen to tracks because we want to know how others did that bit and that bit there Joe Q Public just thinks it's rubbish or its not and that kinda depends on the level of a: hummability or ; b: atonality or sheer out and out predjudice against anything that smacks of being different.

There's no doubt, as even the most cursory of listens will show you, that Meddi (aka Radio Pohmelye) certainly knows his crotchets from his quavers; a very common event for musicians from Scandanavian countries. I'm told it has something to do with the way that music is taught in schools there. Who cares, because speaking as a fellow musician, I like what this artist comes up with but it does have its little quirks that make it harder to grasp than it should be given the musical thought he's putting into it. The Spaghettification of Dr Vostok is a full musical production that has much appeal, if you like a bit of musical whimsy (lots of la la vocals etc) then look no further. It's on the Radio.

Oddly catchy musical vision. Recommended for its inbuilt giggle factor.

One Kid's Lunch - Victory

Hear The Track Here

It's been a bit of a quiet year for One Kid's Lunch so far, although OKLdave has been throwing out material hither and yon from all other points to keep the pot boiling. Bless 'im. 2006 was studded with little OKL gems, all of which helped them get considerable mentions, a Track Of The Year and a Top rating in my year end reviews. Maybe they were all a bit puffed out after all that excitement eh? Poor likkle lambs. S'far as I can remember Maybe (April 2007) is the only track I have reviewed this year. Either that or Dave has finally finished clearing out his musical closet so they can get to the newer stuff.

Yeah, that'd be right.

I'm a firm fan of the 'here's some instruments, let's have some fun' school of music, which is probably the main reason I like this duo (Dustin and Dave, the Double D) but that wouldn't be the whole truth. I like them because of their style of music, the way they express themselves through it and the droll humour that often pervades every inch of space. Just as an example of that, take a look at their song titles and comments (eg: a song titled Nah whose comment is 'on second thought... or; a song titled More with an 'is that it??' comment). Silly? Childish. Yeah but.... nrrrrr. Shifting their genre slightly, One Kid's Lunch early Beatle phase has passed and now they are growing some rock muscles - or at least that would be your first impression of Victory.

I swear to all that is holy the first reference I got from this track is ZZ Top and believe me, that's a wake up and smell the coffee moment. I always liked the sheer swagger of the Bearded Ones music and I think that's why I took to this straightaway, despite it being quite a departure from usual OKL fare. At bottom though, as always with this artist, is a great song with plenty of attitude and lots to say. In this case, OKL wrestle with Christ's victory over death and - in the process - taunt His Grim Reaperness righteously. You can almost imagine the rotten vegtables being hurled at him. Victory is fast paced, highly engaging southern rock that shows me that OKL can rock out when need be with a capital R-A-W-K. Oh, according to the plot of this song death is a fly and Jesus is the swatter, so that's alright then.

Excellent rocker (with just enough cheese). Highly Recommended.

1969 - Planet Earths Midnight Creature Show[

Hear The Track Here

China, being the most populated country on the planet, should be absolutely awash with musicians but you wouldn't know it by checking out Soundclick would you? Search on China and you get a grand total of 165 artists, search on NanJing and you'll get four; one of which being self-acclaimed 'lonely planet boy' 1969. Is it that Chinese musicians don't know about Soundclick? As sure as shit there are thousands of young, energetic musicians there, that I know for a fact. China has an excellent musical scene and it would be nice to experience it more through Soundclick. OK, rant over, let's get to the music.

1969 is a one man band (you may also know him as blue zeppelin) who works in Alternative who does a very impressive job with echoes of early Bowie both in song construction and delivery. Hey, if you are going to influenced by anyone it might as well be someone good right? There again, I did notice that he cites Marc Bolan as an influence and I can hear some of that as well. The music, though, is much more complex than anything the pop pixie would have come up with - much more Bowie. What comes out the other end would come as a major surprise if you didn't know that the musician was Chinese.

Gor'blimey guv is about right.

It takes a while to get moving, you have to get past a sci-fi intro that is kinda rough soundwise, but once you get into the heart of the track you will forgive it anything. Especially if you like the musical references I cited above. Although, I think I would have to say I would have liked a cleaner sound but put up against the song and its arrangement, it's something I can definitely live with. There's definitely a 1970's feel to the track, 1969 probably spent ages putting it all together and - given the fullness of sound and instrumentation - it's come out of the process extremely well. Definitely a track I'm going to have hanging around for a while. Surprisingly enough, he also reminds me of Soundclick artist melv in sound and in presentation and that - believe it or not - is a high recommendation.

Life On Mars? Yep, we are being watched. Highly Recommended for 1970's rock freaks.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Laura Amelia Smith - Truffles

Hear The Track Here

Regular readers will know that I pretty much review anything that comes down the pipe and I think that is one of the ways my own tastes have changed along the way, because I find some incredibly young artists doing some very good things and I find that heartening. Laura Amelia Smith is a 12 year old (yep, you read that right) Australian who had made three tracks so far, this being the third. Although I couldn't put my hand on my heart that her music had in any way knocked me out, it was certainly proficient enough to get my attention. So between Laura's Bop (February 2007) and Waist Deep in Popcorn (March 2007) it showed that Laura's work was interesting, more especially for her age than her dexterity.

Small fingers, ya see...

As I noted on both occasions though, it's her accomplishment at this age that makes it interesting because you can imagine what she might do with more years under her belt. Anyways, Truffles is the third tune up and its immediate impression upon playing was that this couldn't be Laura - or someone had helped her (a lot) with production. Either way, it's a lush, wide open space that will captivate any listener lucky enough to wander in it's path, it certainly did that for me. Moreover, the more I played it, the more I began to notice the little changes of pace and mood happening between the instruments, all a considerable improvement on the lady I had heard previously.

As a guitarist, I recognised her initial style but Truffles brings it a lot closer home. Even a more accomplished player would get a kick out of the way Laura puts this tune across. Age means nothing in an aural dimension matey, get a load of the pleasure this track brings along with it. Essentially an acoustic solo guitar peice augumented by lush strings, spheres, Truffles is so full of little musical surprises that even more seasoned musicians would be proud to call their own. It's not without it's little problems; there is a massive glitch at 2:20 or so and the sound from that point on degenerates slightly but it doesn't detract from how good a track it is musically. 12 or no, you either know what you are doing or not, and Laura shows growing confidence in herself and it shows.

Excellent instrumental, relaxing and invigorating. Highly Recommended (even with glitch)

Road Apples - A Perfect Hell

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Click the weblink above and it will take you to a place that promises 'original tunes by a songwriter in Canada - guitar-driven rock music with an "alternative" edge' and no - for the first time in ages - this review is not about Cam Bastedo. Nope, Road Apples is the musician I have in my sights and although he shares the same musical ground as some of Cam's work (beatleish pop to be precise), his approach is different enough to be distinctive. When I reviewed August (November 2006) I really liked its dedication to the cause of this particular field and gave it a highly recommended as I did with Fly Away (March 2007), a knockout collaboration with Alchemystic.

S'no good looking for a download link, you are going to have to pay for this jobbie or takes your chances with whatever player you can get to work in the Soundlcick maelstrom. Therefore, I might add, it raises the stakes considerably when it comes to reviewing a track. After all, free is free and money is money. What would I get then for my hard earned 99c? (Ed: that's around 51pee in real money) Well, you'd get a 128kb/s file for a start and - to be honest - the least I would have expected would be a 192kb/s rendering. Small potatoes I know - writer checks to make sure he spelt potato right - but these things cross your mind when you cross someones palm with silver. However, it's the music you are paying for innit? So is it worth it. Certainly is if you happen to like Road Apples, and I do - but there again I get to listen free too...

Damn, life is suddenly full of dilemmas...

A Perfect Hell is a cute little ditty about the first 'special forces' military group of World War 2, inspired by a novel by the same name. Not sounding very beatleish at all, is it? It isn't, this is a much rockier, harder sounding Road Apples - partly technical, partly emotional. Considering the subject matter (read the lyrics, it is helpful) A Perfect Hell is surprisingly listenable in a meatier, almost Power Pop production that is unexpected. While there is some question of the sound quality here and there, songwise this is a powerful, considered performance delivering a polemic on the nature of war. OK, I see that look in your eye; you still want to know if it is worth your money, right? Well, I'd give that a considered yes because - if I were being honest about it - I'd want a less flawed rendering or maybe a higher bitrate for the joy of actually owning it. Hope I made myself clear here because this is a moral minefield.

Listen before you buy, but this is a tough choice.

The Bob Lazar Story - Greengold

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I've encountered The Bob Lazar Story a couple of times in the past and considering the genre they are working in (prog rock, long one of my most hated genres) I've found good things to say about all three tracks. Now, to the smartasses who are cracking on about me saying good things about everybody, FOAD. See, things are never what they seem. Although I've liked previous tracks, the genre will always stop me really breaking out into a sweat, even while I notice that Matt Deacon (aka TBLS) not only is an accomplished musician he also knows how to get it down digitally too.

Not a bad trick, and one that stops me noticing the genre too much, Smart.

Greengold is, apparently. 'an ode to everyone's favourite algae drink - the Spirulina Smoothie' and don't ask me what that is cos I haven't a clue. If it ain't coffee coloured, I ain't interested, know what I mean? The Bob Lazar Story is a bit adept at using unusual timings (Greengold, for example, is in 7/8) and I think this is one of the reasons I keep listening longer than most. For someone spoonfed a diet of four beats to the bar, as most people are these days, music made in other timings can sound well odd. Slip into the first say thirty seconds of Greengold and you'd swear that these people are on aceeeeedddd. Or an alternate universe.

There again, me little munchkins, this is the land of prog rock and seen in that light, Greengold sounds exactly like it should. So slippery it's like trying to nail water to the wall. My problem with the prog rock style is that it is all about the 'technique' and not about the heart and soul of the music. All well and good in the hands of virtuoso performers; like two week old porridge in the hands of lesser lights. Matt Deacon, fortunately is one of those rare musicians it is interesting to hear and he varies enough for his music to sound fresh rather than turgid. Greengold is a bit of a feat of instrumentation and arrangement and certainly if you like that side of it, there's plenty here to gawp at. Taken as a straight bit of music too, it has lots to offer - provided you can get past the strange timings. Me, I liked this one a lot and it shows how dedicated to making the genre work for The Bob Lazar Story than most of the competition.

Exhuberant prog rock. (Ed: is there such a thing?) Recommended

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Matan - Brand New Blood

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Fourth time around for Matan, a young Isreali singer/songwriter who has been around Soundclick now for around a year. Although his initial impression wasn't too favourable, I've certainly warmed up to him since then. When I reviewed The Gate (April 2006) I commented that it was 'interesting, but not exactly gripping'. That was partly down to the song not being sung in Matan's own language, displaying a distinct accent when singing in English; and partly because the music was uninspiring. Hey, can't win 'em all, Travelogue (July 2006) didn't do much to dispel that initial impression but was - underneath the lo-fi production - a cracking little song Gromit. Err, hold on. Not Gromit. That's just too silly. The Flood (March 2007) really bought the songwriting aspect to the fore and was again a song to be savoured so by now it should be obvious that with this artist, the song IS the thing.

Which is probably good really because his tracks are decidely lo-fi so it won't do for those who like to gawp at aural splendours or goggle at the technical wizfuckry of stupidly good production. If, however, you are always on the lookout for a decent song then Matan would certainly fit the bill - accent or not. Brand New Blood, like all his previous songs, doesn't stray too much from it's acoustic/voice base but the little additions Matan makes to it (some string sounds, some etherals whooshes and the like) certainly hep to raise it above the normal 'look at me I'm a singer/songwriter' crowd. As usual, also, the song that is Brand New Blood is head and shoulders above most of that genre. This would be a class song no matter who did it.

To give him his full due, Matan has definitely progressed loads since those first tracks and Brand New Blood just shows how far he's come. Put it like this, if I'd put this out there is no way I'd feel ashamed of it. In fact, it's soft rock accompaniment ideally suits Matan's vocal delivery showing what he does in its best possible light. Sure its lo-fi, it's a little rough in some of the timings but hey I will always overlook that for the feel and tenor of the track. I said, when reviewing The Flood, that it was probably his best track yet but I was wrong about that. This one is. From the way the little touches enliven the proceedings, to the laconic, almost bored vocal delivery Matan adopts, this is a winner especially if - like me - you are a sucker for a good song.

A rapidly maturing songwriter. Highly Recommended Pop Rock song.

Denny Schneidemesser - The Magic Of Rain

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Seeing as I might appear to spend my entire life pissing and moaning about some of my least favourite genres (techno, trance, 4 to the floor electronica, film music, games soundtracks, weepy ballads - God, the list seems endless), I still manage to find some good tracks from these fields despite my antipathy. I'd never heard of Denny Schneidemesser until I reviewed Freedom's Calling (April 2007), a track well over six minutes long and a film score to boot. Surely I did the dirty on it? Actually, no, I ended up quite liking it for it's style and intricacy and even recommended it which - for the genre - is a miracle. The magic ingredient that won over this hardened heart? For one so young, Denny has a fine grasp on the concept and delivery of cohesive, detailed music, and time and experience will only sharpen that edge more.

In other words, one to watch.

Denny is from Potsdam, Germany and if you know musicians from that country you will know that they generally attain a high standard of production and performance, and Denny is no exception. One of the things that won me over to his first track was the wonderfully clean production on it. The Magic Of Rain is another slice of film music, this time just over five minutes long and -according to the song comments - is a 'orchestral piece with modern elements, jungle percussion and warm strings'. Tell you what, here is a test. Take a listen to the first twenty seconds of this and tell me that you don't agree with me, Young he may be but he sure knows how to produce spectrum filling music - whatever you feelings may be about the genre it's in.

Had the piano solo had a bit more edge/bite to it, I would have loved this the first time I played it. Like his other track, the more exposure you have to it, the more it's going to grow on you. I know that Denny is using some pretty decent kit to get these sounds so there is no surprise at their quality. I wonder, though, what he is using to master the track with because - once you get used to it - there is no doubting that the entire tracks lacks that sharp edge music like this deserves. Full bodied, stirring phrases and elegant transitions mark this out as being something special. As I remarked on reviewing Freedom's Calling, his main competition is going to be someone like Sound Radius, but Denny has definitely got the musical chops to get there.

Highly Recommended (gulp) film (gulp) score. (Ed: Nurse!! The screens...)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cam's Even Song - Stingray

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And now the Guinness Book Of Records (Soundclick branch, sec: Algernon Weasley) really should announce that Cameron Bastedo (aka Cam's Even Song and all its disguises) gets an award as being the most prolific artist on SC. However, the real kick in the ass is that most of the 180+ tracks he has on his numerous webpages and aliases are wonderful. Really. Look, take that disbelieving, snot-nosed expression off your face, and have a listen for yourself. Somebody (I think Chad Yochum) said that Cam's music was breezy, timeless, nostalgic and I think I'd agree with that whole-heartedly. It's one of the reasons I have most of his 2006 output stashed away on my hard drive, and the reason he holds the dubious honour of being my Artist Of The Year 2006. Cam manages to sound different in almost everything he puts out, even when you know that it's all coming from him, it still makes you shake your head like a horse maddened by flies. Now WHERE did that image come from :D

Envy, my friends, sheer, unalloyed envy.

Now it's already a given that Cam's Even Song cannot be AOTY two years running (no-one can) so does he settle back in his tawdry glory? Not flipping likely mate. Gonna Sell something to a Telephone Salesman! (February 2007) was his first Must Have for this year and My Castle By The Sea was his second; each a study in what Cam's Even Song do best. Make great songs, perform them with style and innovation along the way making some of the most fun music you are ever likely to hear. I agree that Cam has a certain style that does require you to explore what he does over a matter of time. It's about adopting a particular taste and its the way that I came to see Cam's music and the way many others did too. Cam's music has so many sides, it should be glassed over and called a greenhouse; every single track has something different to offer.

Stingray is so different, it made me double take....

Arrrggh, I screamed in frustration, cccahhhhhmmmm onnnn, you can't be serious???? Of course, even Cam says in the song comments that Stingray is 'a silly song' and indeed it is. If I didn't know Cam better, I would think he'd been hitting the waccy baccy a bit too much (ie adopting a horse feed bag and filling it to the brim then chewing the lot. But look again at the lyrics and - whatever you do - don't dismiss this track out of hand. As always, Cam's music has a habit of sneaking up and mugging you when you least expect it and by the fifth or sixth play I was beginning to get the wider picture. Which I must admit, I was quite pleased about because my first impression of this track gave me a massive turn when I contemplated reviewing a Cam track I didn't like. I'm not sure what created this first impression but it is highly mis-leading. While Stingray isn't among Cam's finer works (and probably doesn't even aspire to be), it's still a class little number.

Got your snorkel? Flippers? Dive! Dive!! Dive!!! Recommended whimsy.

Fluidity - Apologetic Me

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Out of all the components that go into making our music, there is one area I am absolutely rigid about; drama and excitement! What, you ask, we can get that through music? Of course, young grasshopper, but you may have to rummage around in the Soundclick bin before you come up with something that tasty. Take, for example, yon John Paul Carroll (aka Fluidity) a NZ based rock musician who knows his stuff and isn't a-feared to rock out when the need takes him. Truth is, like a lot of SC regulars, I have developed a taste for his work which - initially - I thought sounded a bit thin aurally. Mind you, that was a problem he sorted out quickly enough as you can hear by listening to I Write Songs Not Cheques (May 2007) or Negative Slant (April 2007) which show exactly what Fluidity means in sound terms.

Built on rock and roll.

As a regular reviewer you get to see various facets in most artists output and I think I've seen most of them in the acres of Fuidity tracks that have come my way. I have compared him to endless people and - in rock mode - he reminds me most of the energy and drive of (gulp) Status Quo. This years tracks from this artist in particular show that Fluidity is settling into his own groove very successfully and, along the way, giving us some very high energy, straight ahead rock tracks in the time honoured classic fashion. Although Apologetic Me is billed as Pop Rock, it's rock in tooth and claw, but with some excellent vocal touches that make the track interesting and exciting to hear. See what I mean now?

From its opening chops, Apologetic Me, sets itself up to power effortlessly, the vocal sounding surprisingly Cure-like (another comparison I have made in the past) and - as a casual listen - it impressed immensely, especially when cranked up to wall shaking levels. Although it's not without it's little niggles, I think this is one of John Paul's finest efforts to date. Oh and btw did I mention that this r-a-w-k-s. As in kerrang! More listens show the song to better light and again JP shows his lyrical individuality coming up with - this time - a tale of regret and wishful thinking that makes much more sense once you'd had a careful squint at the selfsame lyrics. Especially the 'right guy at the wrong time' sections. Along with drama and excitement, I will also want visions in my music and JP's new songwriting maturity shows that he is a man of many visions. IM(very)HO, one of the best Fluidity tracks yet.

Highly Recommended peice of rock fun.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Christopher Martin Hansen - Dos Sol Etude

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Obviously, if I mention one (Alderman in the last review) I have to also drag in the rest of the crew, namely Jim Miller (of Jim-n-Lisa fame) and Christopher Martin Hansen because they all seem to be connected at the hip at the moment. Also it was only a couple of months ago that I was complaining about not hearing enough of CMH and boy, has he made up for that lack in a very short time. Chris, like Alderman and Jim-n-Lisa are long standing Soundclick veterans with track records longer than most newbies can imagine so it's pretty much taken for granted that these artists are never going to settle for second best. Jim Miller, in particular, has a fine ear for the right production and mix (he has his own mastering site) and that - to my mind - is what CMH has missed on previous outings. There is absolutely no doubt of CMH's technical ability as a guitarist, as pretty much all of my past reviews have stated - moreover every other guitarist I know seems to be a CMH fan.

Gotta be something there guv, I say.

Jim Miller supplied his superlative (and highly distinctive) sax skills, the drum track and production on this track and - as CMH states on the song comments 'bought this song to life'. I can't testify to that because I don't think I heard the original of this, but hey, a CMH/Jim Miller collab is certainly a treat to be savoured. Dos Sol Etude turns out to be a track about a binary solar system, and their relationship to each other and I'd say that was an accurate description of what you will hear too; both Jim and Chris have a tremendously fluid instrumental style which really helps the track to establish itself early. For sure if you are already a Jim Miller and/or CMH fan you will just love this to bits; the counterpoint between the sax lines and the guitar lines is hair raising.

Granted it is billed as New Age and it does have a whiff of that about it, but both artists virtuosity raises it out of the usual hippie grabbag the genre wallows in; there is a lyrical quality about their work that shines through this track like a beacon. Jim Miller's performance is - as usual - faultless and his knob twiddling (Ed: he'd better be talking about the recording process) is a wonder to behold. As many of you know I hold rigidly fascistic views about what makes or breaks a mix and young Jim's yet to put a foot wrong in that regard. The combination of these two musicians alone would have been enough, but to then come up with something that truly sounds like an amalagm of their individual talents makes this irrisistable to fan and and new listener alike. Here's a track for anyone who takes the 'unsigned music isn't much good' theory too seriously. On the strength of this, unsigned music has never sounded finer, or in ruder health.

Two Stars from two (SC) stars. 8 fekkin billion from me of course. MUST HAVE.

Alderman - Sunset Over Andama Sea

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BTaking into account the absolutely ludicrous positioning of Soundclick's Critics Corner forum (ie it's right down at the bottom of the forum list) it is no wonder that the fall-off of posting in there is so noticeable. This has been - in the past anyway - one of the most fruitful, useful and informative (to a normal listener) place to come to see what on SC is good, judged by their own peers. God only knows why this change was made, but personally I can see only disaster if it isn't fixed and fixed soon. Take, for example, my reviews and my signups. There was a time when I would get over 30 tracks for review in less than 24 hours; since the forum change I'm lucky to scrape past 20, and that isn't because no-one wants the reviews. They just don't find it any more.

Alderman has been a firm favourite of mine ever since I first met him on another site about four years ago. I have a ton of his tracks on my hard drive; and he has been in my year end reviews every year since I started them. So, it's a given then that I would like pretty much anything that comes from his direction from the collabs he does (Jim-n-Lisa, Christopher Martin Hansen et al) to his own material. Matter of fact his last track (Visions, March 2007) was both his own work AND a collaboration - with CMH and was deemed a Must Have track by me and I've heard no reason to change that since. More to the point it is by far the best track I have ever heard from this artist and that, I suspect, has to do with the calibre of people Leif (for it really is he) chooses to work with. Suffice to say that this is one track I looked forward to reviewing, I have heard it before (on Mike K's Saturday Night Rocks radio show) and was blown away at how neatly the man had managed to sneak some of my thunder.

Well, I say 'my' but of course that isn't the case.

There be fekkin millions of people making World Music but I do look at it as being my 'home' genre. Alderman has flirted with the genre before in various ways, but never to this point making an out and out world music track. In lesser hands, I would have been shovelling shit in all directions by now, but Alderman has learned enough to know how to do it and how not to overdo it. Inspired by his recent trip Alderman has put the experience to use in making an aural diary of the event. Got to hand it to the guy, he's gone a long, long way on the authenticity front - there are some gorgeous world sounds in this track. As Alderman himself states, it's a tad more Indian than anything else, but there's enough regional differences within the main instruments that it'll do as a quick thumbnail ramble through the area's musical delights. Therefore, you should probably have a taste for ethnic instruments (of the Asian subcontinent particularly) but if you like the genre, you will take to this like a member of the Anatinae family to molecular liquid. (Ed: he probably means like a duck to water, but the drugs are obviously kicking right in).

Highly Recommended World music. An authentic gem.