Tuesday, July 31, 2007

RAF21 - Asian Life

Hear The Track Here

Last track out of the bag this month is from RAF21 (aka Raf Beaudon), an electronica artist from France. I reviewed his I Have A Dream (December 2006) and liked it a lot. It's a great blend of classical references, played to perfection and sounding wonderful. I can't say I am a great fan of the whole new age thing, especially the sounds but when dealt with by someone who knows a thing or two about musical coherence, even a philistine like me can learn to love it. I think what it comes down to isn't so much what musicians in these genres (ambient/chillout/newage whatever) actually play, as the weak, knock-kneed insipid sound it's couched in. There again, it is music for sprawling about too after all so I suppose the way it sounds makes a kind of sense.

Now being of the world music persuasion, you can bet that I was waiting for this baby to come up the list. The title is a dead giveaway, isn't it? Mind you, having gone from classsical to world in one bound, who knew what RAF21 may come up with? So, the great day dawned and this track first started getting a proper going over and the first thing I discovered that it does indeed fit the bill quite handsomely, although the first couple of listens threw me a bit until I started to notice the Chinese instruments around the third or so play. As with his first track I reviewed, there is a fine musical sensibility at work here and it shows in the careful way the track unfolds.

There is the slightest easy listening feel to it, even after repeated plays, but there again a lot of modern Asian music does have that quality and - to my mind - gives the peice extra resonance. I also think it probably wasn't helped by the factory sound of some of the instruments, but you deal with what you've got. What shines out - as always - is the sure musical touch that Raf brings to the proceedings, giving the listener a ear-blissout they are unlikely to forget. Despite all my p***ing and moaning, I like Asian Life a great deal, it's a lovely peice of world music that most fans of the world genre will lap up.

Recommended World music.

Suspeckt - Push My Keys feat Epik

Hear The Track Here

Suspeckt is a relatively new name to me as yet, having only reviewed one track so far, but it's only a matter of time judging by the way he is slamming review requests in ;) He is a Hip Hop artist who as obviously been around a while (he has 24 tracks on his page) but so far I have heard only Bad Dream (June 2007) which was a very decent stab at a genre that is difficult to master at the best of times. To be sure, I was more into the musical side than the rap, which I felt was a bit too hesitant and jerky to really do the business. Still, the music saved the day and got it a recommended from this reviewer.

Push My Keys is (as you may have gathered) a collaboration with someone called Epik, about whom I know nothing. I presume that he is one of the vocalists on this track but more on that later. One of the first things I noticed was that there is a noticeable swishing on the hi-hats which probably means this is some kind of rendering problem, and that never helps. Moreover, the beginning of the track has much of the same hesitancy as Bad Dream although it does pick up considerably after the first minute or so and eventually ends up being a very reasonable track.

These things are easily fixable, although pepping up the beginning may prove tricky. Musically, the usual suspects are there; endless piano figures; strings all of which sits well in the mix. Again, the ideas that Suspeckt has going on here are not really helped by the way the song struggles with the timing from time to time. The second section of the track helps IMHO to put it across as being almost a good track, but as we all know almost isn't the same as... well, ya get my drift. It is obvious too that Suspeckt is carrying this off with the minimum of gear and considering ALL that, this is still worth a listen or two providing you bear in mind all I've said.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sleutelbos - Koffie Koffie Koffie

Hear The Track Here

I first came across this Dutch Experimental artist when I reviewed his classically inclined Hang 'Em High (nothing whatsoever to do with the film of the same name btw) and I have to say I quite enjoyed the experience. I do like huge swatches of the classical music field, especially Chamber Music and Hang 'Em High was of that variety and - as a consequence - the track got a highly recommended from me. Not bad for a first track but seeing as this artist is supposed to be an Experimental/Electronica artist I'm hoping that this time we get some bleepy bleepy instead of weepy weepy.

Yep, I am an incurable optimist.

Kofffie Koffie Koffie (as well as being the mating call of computer geeks worldwide) is - in this case - a laid back, almost jazzy track sung (presumably) by the artist himself. Beware though, the lyrics are in Dutch, so best not to try and prise any sense out of them - unless you happen to be Dutch of course. I get the impression that the song probably revolves around our great need for the two main foods groups of our existence: coffee and pizza, although I wouldn't be willing to take any bets on the accuracy of my translation. Whatever it all means, what it means musically is yet another variation on a theme, something Sleutelbos seems to like doing.

The whole thing is well tongue in cheek (Ed: he means a bit of a jokey peice, but he's too English to say it proper like wot I do) and - as such - it's quite funny. Mind you, like a lot of musical jokes, it wears off pretty quickly and then you discover that, at base, this is much more of a novelty track than just about anything else. OK, so it IS a good novelty track, but that doesn't change it's basic limited appeal - especially for listeners who maybe wouldn't like this style to start with. It's a track I could recommend listening to once or twice, just for a giggle, but long term this may prove irritating to the extreme. So, I'm still waiting for this artist to deliver a track that is experimental rather than a straightforward musical exercise. Mind you at just over two minutes this isn't going to strain anyones ears.

An interesting sidetrack, but only for a couple of plays.

Savanna Roots - Echo

Hear The Track Here

Third time around for Savanna Roots, bandname for one Stephen Bennett, a 17 year old multi-instrumentalist from Austin, Texas who has made a favourable impression so far, judged by the tracks I have heard and reviewed. His chosen genre is Power Pop, although I'd be my usual cantankerous self about the labelling. To me Power Pop is a quintessentially English sound, and certainly not the heavily rock influenced American strain. I tend to think that Savanna Roots belongs much more to the Alternative side of the fence, or even rock because that is what underpins his music.

Still, what's in a name eh?

My friend and fellow reviewer Cam Bastedo absolutely loves this artists work and I have to admit I haven't had that reaction to his music yet, although what I've heard so far is enough to keep on checking him out. Echo has many of the same attributes that have lifted his previous tracks but - once again - this is most definitely not power pop. I'm sure if I were a PP afficiando and I came across this track I may have some harsh words to say about it. On the other hand, if I were looking for a bit of alternative American rock then this would go down a treat...

See, on that level Savanna Roots works a treat, and I know it's unfair to keep banging on about this but I think this mis-labelling is also hindering as well as helping to spread the word about this artist. Having gotten a few of Stephen's tunes under my belt now - and Echo is a worthy choice - I can see what Cam has been shouting about. Obviously it goes without saying that Savanna Roots have the nous to do the job well - as I've commented before - but I'm still awaiting that special track that raises him above the norm. Only my personal opinion as always, but as good as Echo is it's still a bit too 'normal' for me. Shouldn't make any difference for anyone else I presume, and I can guarantee you'll have a good time with this track - provided you aren't looking for Power Pop in particular.

Recommended alternative rock.

Newtwon - Breakdown

Hear The Track Here

As we approach the end of the month it's nice to see there are still some new names left for me. Amidttedly I do have my Soundclick favourites but I do much prefer reviewing artists that are new to me, it's always nice to get a surprise. So, Newtown Who dey? Well, judging from what little research I did, Newtown appears to be a he and a one man band, not that that should make any difference. What would make a difference, however, is the genre (experimental electronica) and the 'impossible to explain' tagline in his webpage title. If that wasnt enough of a clue, the artists expressed liking for 'noise, shown by his bigging up his tracks on his web page. Well, slap me over the head with a wet fish but I didn't have a fekkin clue that SC had a noise genre, let alone a chart full of it.

As someone once said, be afraid. Be very afraid.

I consider myself a fairly open minded listener, especially when it comes to music that could only be described as noise or 'shit' as some (obviously uncharitable) people would have it. Sometimes there is a point to noise but not, sadly in this case or any that I can make out anyway. It is a mixed blessing that this track only stretches over a puny two minutes and change of time, because that's about as much as any sane person could stand. I doubt that I would go so far as to label it shit though because it isn't; what it is is unformed, raw and very, very, very noisy.

Some of that I can absolutely lay at the feet of Newtown's software of choice: Apple's Garageband. Having had a couple of run-ins with it, my impressions were not favourable. Secondly, it is obvious that Newtown is new to this musical malarky and (if you listen closely) you can make out the bare outline of something struggling to get to the light. I very much doubt that too many people will take the time to even find out that much about this track, so there's not a lot more that I can say. For sure, I'm not going to make a judgement about this artist with one track, let alone one so raw and unformed.

So, better have another one eh?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Nuff X - Some Kind Of Beautiful

Hear The Track Here

I was pleasantly surprised a couple of days ago with the surprise re-appearance of Stompp, which then took me back to memories of the glory days of electronica with Adam Fielding, Fahrenheit 451, Stompp, and other great musicians. It was them that really turned me on to what GOOD electronica was all about, and it was their influence that made me aware of Nuff X back in 2005. At the time though, I wasn't exactly enamoured of what Nuff was about - after all I had received earache from the best and he was still a relative newcomer. Fast forward a couple of years and you'll find Nuff front and centre of the same electronica pasture, having carved out a pretty impressive niche for himself.

And well deserved it is too.

Some Kind Of Beautiful owes much to early 80's electronica vocally, but the musical backing track is surely one of the most experimental I have ever heard from this artist - and that is a very good thing, Nuff is big into glitch sounds and here he's mixing them with the brew I mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph. What comes out of it all is a track that could well have come from any successful Goth band, but with some decidedly rock sequencing, all of which makes this a standout track IMHO. There again, y'all know that I have a taste for people daring to be different, and Nuff X seems to be doing that more often than not. Looked at that way, Some Kind Of Beautiful is definitely a logical progression.

The track has a heavy grunge/industrial sound that really puts across the idea of impending doom, and it's absolutely chock full of interesting little production twists; all of which is going to make me a very happy bunny. But what of the other longears out there? What would they get from it? Well, almost anyone who can tell the difference between noise for noise sake and someone who thinks long and hard about how to present what (on the face of it) could be construed as exactly that, but is something much more than that. The way Nuff has crafted this together is - for me anyway - it's main selling point; and the reason why I'm giving it such a high rating. I love different, I love edginess and I love a smart production and this has all three in abundance.

(IMveryHO) MUST HAVE, but a Highly Recommended even for those with weak musical stomachs.

Friends of Friends - Right Direction

Hear The Track Here

One of the tracks that seemed to turn up everywhere you looked in 2006 was Table Fate by an artist called HELLbus. Aaahh, now you know what I'm talking about eh? Yep one of the biggest Soundclick success stories of the past year, HELLbus - basically a one man band sometimes masquerading as kulmalfi - has become a staple sound in my home, and many others. So whytf am I bleating on about HELLbus? Surely Friends of Friends should be the subject matter. Yeah, but there I have ye, varmint. See, young kulmalfi has been stepping off the 'bus just lately. He even turned up tinkling the ivories on a recent Azoora track; cream mixed with cream - yummy.

There is no information on the Soundclick as to who or what constitutes Friends of Friends, but I did note that this is a track that is still be added to (live drums, extraneous noises etc) but we deal with what we got right? Reading between the lines (and the use of the word 'we') I presume that FoF is some kind of collaborative effort and we'll leave Jon (for it is he) to explain further. Certainly Right Direction does has a touch of the demo about it, but not so a casual listener would notice. Nitpickers would, and I did but nonetheless all I would ask for is more definition on the instruments and a denser sound (one that would probably be provided by the aforementioned live drums). Yep, a good mix and then this track would rock.

Not that it doesn't do that already but the arrangement, performance (especially vocally) and feel of the track kinda demand a much more serious mix than this rather lightweight version. At bottom, Right Direction is an incredibly well realised Alternative rock song that has so many echoes of other things I could listen to it for hours (haven't yet, but I am getting there...) It's the kind of track you can feel instantly at home with, especially if this genre already floats your boats. There is an almost classic rock feel to some of the instrumentation (there's a Who synth line in there, as well as a Stones rhythmic lilt) and it's that kind of detail that will keep me listening to it while I am waiting for the final mix to appear. If that mix turns out to be anything like as good as the song, this will be a shoo-in for a Must Have. As it is....

Highly Recommended. Class song.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Soul Dust - About You

Hear The Track Here

After a while at this game (Ed: I hope you are talking about music here and not the oldest profession) you get used to the ebb and flow of the online music scene. Artists appear, establish their presence then go off and start doing the same elsewhere, so things tend to get patchy where you first discovered them. So it's a very, very welcome return then to Canadian rock exports Soul Dust who I last reviewed - errr lemme see now - a year ago exactly. Infectious Greed was the track I slobbered over on that ocassion, giving it a Must Have rating which it warranted in every way because even if the heavy rock didn't get you, the song behind it certainly would. Adequate testimony to the combined talents of Andre Bourget, Hilton Hartwell, Ron Twemlow and Rock God vocalist Myk Shaflik; a band that truly sounds as tight as they should.

So that was yesterday, wot's today's news?

Well, yesterdays news asherlly. About You is not, as I thought, a new track. In fact it dates from mid-2006 and was somehow missed by this reviewer which is surprising since I really like Classic rock and Soul Dust are one of Soundclick's best exponents of the genre. As a long term rock animal I like nothing better than to have my head slammed repeatedly against a nice fat wall of rock and Soul Dust have never failed to come op with the goods in that department. Unlike a lot of their continental contemporaries, though, they don't use too much of the US strain of rock histronics merely concentrating on eloquent playing and cracking songwriting skills to get them by.

As such then, About You, is right up there with some of the best Soul Dust tracks, many of which got a Must Have rating from me - but they would wouldn't they? I have to admit to a tiny twinge of disappointment that this wasn't a new, new track - if you know what I mean - but beggars can't be choosers. An older Soul Dust track will still contain more fire, pace and energy than most newcomers. The sort of band you ache to see in a live environment because you know they would fekkin own the place, their music would demand that kind of reaction. Combining all the qualities of the seasoned professionals they are, no one on the planet rocks quite like Soul Dust, but don't take my word for it. Go get some.

MUST HAVE Classic Rock.

Mike-K - When I Think Of You

Hear The Track Here

Mike Kohlgraf (aka Mike-K) and I suffer from the same curse, and it ain't necessarily the first curse that automatically sprung into your minds. Nope, our curse is that we are way too soft on the rest of you. Like me, Mike is probably better known for what he does for other artists than for the thing that bought him here in the first place - his music. He has been a long time Soundclick stalwart, forum moderator (now there is a thankless task) and - of late - chief cook and bottle washer over at Songplanet where his Saturday Night Rocks show has become a staple hangout for a great many artists - from all websites. As you may have noticed, Mike has taken a sabbatical from SNR for a couple of months and I can well understand why. See, doing all this stuff generally means that your own material takes a backseat, so it's nice to see that Mike heralds this sabbatical with a new track - or at least I think its a new track. Even I've had to cut down on reviews to fit my own releases for this year in, so let's hope there'll be more...

When I Think Of You, Mike promises, is a 'smooth rock' track although what that means generally veers towards the middle of the road, not a favourite spot of mine. However, he is aided on this track by one of my favourite musicians of this scene: Christopher Martin Hansen. Which is a problem in and of itself. See, IMHO artists with the talent and originality of CMH usually tend to take over and make the music their own, which is what he promptly does here, So it's a given that - whatever Mike may have done - it sounds like something Christopher would come up with. Sooooo, if you like cool, dreamy guitar drenched instrumentals then grab a lughole full of this track because it doesn't come much better than this.

As always though, this kind of material is going to be a question of personal taste.

Having spent time with this track, and knowing both musicians, I found it easy to get past the initial OMG phase and concentrate on what Mike has wrought here. As I said above, if you like the genre, you will love this because its taste is impeccable. The middle lead guitar is courtesy of Mr K, as is the rest of the musical backing track, and it shows that Mike is no slouch at throwing licks around either. What's more, the fit between their two styles is just perfect, each performance dovetailing neatly into the next. Although the genre itself doesn't blow up my skirts, I can certainly appreciate the time, patience and skill it took to make this little beauty. Mind you, though, whats with the extra loud kick right at the end?

Highly Recommended (and a MUST HAVE for Mike-K/CMH fans)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Alchemystic - Echoes From a Dead World

Hear The Track Here

Alchemystic is probaby having the best year so far on Soundclick, and judging by the strength of his output lately, it is likely to get a whole lot better yet. Looming on the horizon is the mans first Ambient track, after having delivered so far this year - let me see now - World Fusion, Classical, Jungle and Caribbean tinged reggae. Nothing like keeping a listener on their toes, and it looks like Alchemystic is determined to be head genre-bender for this li'l community, and for that he should hear a hearty round of applause. Out of the four or five tracks I've reviewed this year, almost all of them got a Must Have rating and that's pretty good going by my calculations.

And you gotta hear Di Good Life (Caribbean tinged reggae) to understand this fascination....

Hand on heart, Ambient is not a favourite of mine but I looked forward to hearing the track anyway because anything by this artist would be worth listening to. The reason most ambient doesn't appeal to me is because I don't like musical wallpaper, and a lot of the genre has that quality, even at the hands of someone as well versed in the dark arts of production and presentation as Alchemystic. He set out to make a musical vision with 'the desolate feel of a long-dead alien world' and it does indeed come close to evoking those kinds of images, especially with the sporadic effects used as filler.

However, and as always, Alchemystic can't JUST do the genre, he has to outdo it too. I can't say I have heard ambient being quite this ambitious before because Echoes From A Dead World isn't just yer standard collection of random sounds and sweeps and spheres that take months to unfold... Granted there are ALL those things in this track, but not like you would recognize them Jim. Fekk knows what it it that Alchemystic does with his music to make it sound so good (regardless of genre) but this track is a classic example of that art. I'm sure that any Eno-head will absolutely slobber over this, as do I from a techical angle but stylistically I can't get close to this.

Class all the way. Highly Recommended.

Mean Scene Project - Breaker

Hear The Track Here

Second time around for Mean Scene Project seeing as I reviewed Redline last month and was favourably impressed with the track although it sounded a tad too American alternative rock for my tastes. However, every genre is a very broad church, and I think what comes across most after listening to these two tracks is that, behind all this, is a keen songwriter sharpening his skills for all he's worth. No bad thing as it happens, and where better to do it than in public?? Certainly the two tracks come from the same artist (MSP is Sean Telvin basically) but Breaker is by far the more attractive track, in many ways.

I am a big fan of all styles of American music, but some of it does sound kind of parochial to me. I'm sure that Americans have the same problem, some UK and European sounds are not understood there at all, or barely tolerated. However, in my world, a song is what it's all about and in this respect, that crosses any boundaries. The way that Breaker is presented is proof that a more universal sound works, but what seals the deal is the song and lyrics which are the real stars of the show.

Starting with a panned acoustic guitar mastered with so much high range it'll give your tweeters a hernia, Breaker oozes confidence and energy and builds well. Its a mix of that rangy rock perfected by the likes of the Boss (Mr Springsteen to you) and more up to date references. I would be true to say that I did have some issues with the final mix but that is always such a personal matter - even more so when you are dealing with acoustic instruments. However, the song and the casual style it is delivered in are what counts and if you like a good song with a good arrangement then this will do it. If you like the very best of Alternative Rock, this will fit that bill too.

Highly Recommended.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cameron Pierce - Sincere Design

Hear The Track Here

Go far enough back in my reviews and you'll come across the first time I reviewed Cameron Pierce, a young Canadian artist who was then going by the name of Latmat. The Road Is Long (November 2003) proved to be an excellent, if slightly lo-fi homage to - you guessed it - The Beatles. At the time I mentioned that I would be keeping an eye on this artist, little did I know that it would become an occupational hazard because - in the years since - Cameron has given us some truly great tracks, in many differing styles. So much have I become used to his sound that I figured he had pretty much set his own style. But no.....he had to fiddle and tinker with what was already pretty pleasureable...

and come up with a little masterpeice of understatement.

The first time I played Sincere Design I had to go and syringe me earholes out because I couldn't believe what they were trying to tell me. I was expecting - well Cameron. What we get is some other character, a much LARGER more in-your-face character as if Cameron had undergone a quite massive sea change. I exaggerate, but not by much. Any long time fan of this artist is going to get the shock of their lives when they fire up this little beauty, not just because of the vocal treatment but because of the overall solidity of the track on all levels. I've always rated Cameron as a vocalist, and his treatment of this track shows just how long his own personal road has been.

At this stage, after thirteen gazillion plays, this moody, magnificent track is firmly embedded on my hard drive and is - in my ever so 'umble opinion - the best thing I have ever heard from Cameron. Many pats on the back for that, for sure, because if you are a musician you will not be able to fault the quality of this track, but as a listener this is likely to knock you on your ass. Some of the vocal delivery reminded me of 80's electro-pop vocals, especially Soft Cell. Now to use that reference in conjunction with something from Cameron Pierce is something I never thought I would be doing, but I'm so glad I am doing. Excellent (gulp) ballad from an acclaimed Soundclick favourite.

MUST HAVE for fans, Highly Recommended nonetheless.

Matt Henderson - Easy

Hear The Track Here

Matt Henderson is a new name to me and is (I quote) 'me, a synth and a computer'; an accurate description of the majority of the artists on the indie scene. Alternative is the sub-meadow we'll be gazing in and that genre has thrown up some nice tracks in the past, usually American. By co-incidence, Matt Henderson is also from the United States, Lansing MI to be precise, not a name engraved in the annals of music but hey, there's always time. A bit of further digging elicits the information that Matt is also a Murdoch Empire artist by the name of Yoiksandaway, and has just become a dad.

Aaahhhhh. See, reviews with a heart.

Now y'all know my views on so-called 'power ballads', most of them aren't worth the notes that make them; but here is the exception to the rule. A large part of that has to be down to the musical and lyrical vision of the artist, a thoroughly professional arrangement and performance that brings out the heartbreaking sob-a-thon so beloved by softies. It's arrangement is enhanced by the sparsity of instruments, but what instruments are used are used to great effect, The strings, in particular, are used to perfection, even the whiny high strings that are the bane of the power ballad style. That says shedloads about Matt Henderson's commitment and capability.

The real stunner in the package is the vocal performance of (I presume) Matt himself. Not only is the vocal exquisitely produced, it's also sufficently to the front of the mix for the full power of the lyrics to make their impact. I hear shades of Elton John yes, but a myriad others besides and all of the same stellar quality. Good singers are hard to find, really good singers are like hens teeth - when you find one you want to hang on in there for the ride. Since I found Easy one of the most professional, polished and satisfying tracks I've heard all year, it's a foregone conclusion that I'll be paying close attention to what Matt comes up with next. Whatever, I am a sucker for a great song, and Easy is all that and more. He shoots, he scores.

MUST HAVE song, performance and production.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Decollage - Next Move

Hear The Track Here

I'm very strict when it comes to people bleeping at me. I don't like those random, irritating bleeps, buzzes and whirrs and I do like my music with a backbone. So therefore I tend to keep my electronica intake to a managable level. Unfortunately, the disappearance of Refrag has left an enormous hole in my reserves, as indeed it has in everyone elses too. I am slowly getting back up to speed with it helped (as always) by the irreplacable Burp and others. Over the past few months, I've also been getting my fix from 'friend of Burp' and fellow Munich resident. Decollage. Although her music is decidely looser, her style is extremely similar to Burp's and that can never be a bad thing.

Having said all that, Next Move takes a sideways step from the pure electronica she has been doing, and is a lot rawer in sound than previous work. There is a very recognisable guitar riff in this track, one which I've employed myself once or twice in various guises, and I think it's this sound that gives the track its raw feel. It may also be the high pitched synth that slices your head off right at the start, it may be a little too hot in this mix. Decollage uses that guitar sample in an interesting way. It's a straight ahead, head banging rock riff that kills when used in the right context. Now, surprisingly enough, I find it gets to me when it's used in another context.

See, going on about what is right and wrong musically about this (or any other track) is irrelevant to me, does it work is the question I want answered. Decollage offsets the rhythm of the samples and places it kind of astride the main rhythm rather than part of the rhythm wall. As such, it actually gives the track that extra edge it needs. Next Move follows the same experimental path her previous tracks have explored and is an interesting essay on what decollage has to offer us - although as I say I prefer her more rhythmic tracks. None the less, a few plays soon wore the kinks out of this track and it's initial oddness faded away leaving a beefy, energetic slice of musical mayhem in its wake.

Not for the faint hearted though, Decollage thrives on s'per-i-ment-in...

Fear 2 Stop - Social Deviation

Hear The Track Here

After a string of really good tracks, this month we are going back into the past of one of my favourite bands this year: Fear 2 Stop. For those people who haven't been around Soundclick for a while, you may find yourself reading that sentence more than once or twice. Obviously the last time you were here was back in the days when Fear 2 Stop were flailing around trying to find their own sound, and I was tearing my hair out in exasperation. Well, I have good news, those days are now long past. Over the last year Fear 2 Stop have blossomed into one of SC's finer experimental outfits, despite that very poor start.

Speaking of which, this is one of their very first tracks...

So why no new track this month? Well, family affairs have got in the way of recording so Billy Castillo decided that he should drag out the very first F2S track ever - so I guess it's back to the hair pulling routine for me. Hopefully, though, it will only be this one off because I know that more new tracks are being worked on. Billy writes 'this dates from summer of 2002, and is one of our very first songs as Fear 2 Stop. This was the first "true" F2S song. Although it was uploaded in 2003, it was recorded in August of 2002. This is fun to compare to what we are now' Well, maybe for some. Remember I lived through most of those 'early tracks - I joined Soundclick around the same time.

Billy's wife Dana and friend Raymond make up F2S so if the name is new to you, don't go by this track - do check out their latest stuff. They were then an experimental outfit with the emphasis on strange, obscure, odd with a decidedly lo fi approach. Social Deviation could have only have come from that band at that time being nothing much more than an exercise in beats, prodded by a wandering (literally) bassline so best not to expect sophistication. While I personally like this track, I think it's very starkness will alienate lots of listeners but there again that is what F2S were about at the beginning. As a curio this is an interesting listen, especially if you know the bands musical history, and much more listenable than earlier other tracks but not much more outside of that.

For fans only, probably.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Big Wheel - Keep On

Hear The Track Here

When I discovered that Big Wheel has only been known to me for just over a year, you could have knocked me dahn wiv a favver, guv. Damn, it seems like forever. I didn't say that out loud, did I? Having made his bones through electronica in general and drums and bass in part-ic-u-lar, obviously the Large Round Thing has decided to branch out a bit - in this case into breakbeats, with added funk no less. Now over this year, I have got to know and like Big Wheel's style and the highly recommended I gave to my first review track with him (Far Away in July 2006) has been added to considerably since then. So, trying out a new genre?

Yeahhhh, gimmie soma dat... Uh. Funky. Uh Uh funky,,,,

I've long been a fan of da funk and Big Wheel starts as he means to go on with a beat that sucks you in from the first, down and dirty. It doesn't let up much through it's six minutes of life so it'd best to have water to hand before you attempt to ride this beast down. It is so worthy of it though, as I discovered once I had played it for all its worth while deciphering the way in which it had been put together. Breakbeat is a kinda Frankenstein business, a bit of this, a bit of that, eye of dog, claw of eagle and all that but - when done with style and intelligence it becomes something special to behold.

That isn't to say that the Large Round Thing is the new Breakbeat Messiah but hey, this is very, very credible for a first effort. I love the cut up, sewn together scene anyway and Big Wheel takes to it with ease; from that insidious beat to the supercharged funk through the many, many layers the arrangement takes you through; Keep On is a jigsaw puzzle that works a treat as a coherent peice. It's that, for me, that marks this out as being special. I know how difficult this style is to master but Big Wheel's doing fine by it already. There's an infectious quality about the whole track that emerges fully after the third or fourth full play that had me nodding me head, tapping my feet and believe me that's not something you want to see. Better to grab a listen to this excellent peice of dance music (whatever the sub genre).

Keep. F-F-F-unk!! Highly Recommended.

Superbron - Time Flies When You're Having Funk

Hear The Track Here

Another newcomer (at least to me) this month, is Superbron although judging from the stations playing list, he's been around long enough to catch some of the sharpest ears on Soundclick. He's from the Netherlands and I see you sagely nodding that you already knew this was a one man band. But in this day of miraculous science, even one man can become an orchestra and assembled heavenly choir. Thank I'd better stop there otherwise I'll be getting truly delusional (Ed: uh oh, too late). Although Superbron is classed as a general pop artist, Time Flies is (allegedly) an Urban Funk track.

Which as we know can hide endless horrors...

Hand on heart I don't think this track is in any way bad, but I feel it may get a limited audience simply due to the absolutely straight way it is delivered, almost machine like. Nahffin wrong with that Gilmore! you may well shout, but I feel the lack of light and shade. It's blindingly obvious that Superbron knows how to string this stuff together because it's arrangement is intricate (sometimes distractingly) and the playing - the guitar especially was faultless. And therein I think lies this tracks major problem with this reviewer. Yes, it's all the things I want to hear, but it is poured into your ears like a souless automaton.

Harsh, Gilmore, Harsh.

There is no doubt that Superbron sweated buckets over this production and those who know me well that I go out of my way not to seriously diss someone's work. In this case, it is probably down to personal taste, and not a lot more. I haven't much of a taste for the blander side of funk, especially delivered in such a linear way. Mind you, this has the feel of a new track and with a page of 51 songs to choose from, it would be a crying shame to judge this artist by this rather pale offering and - as I say - it is most definitely a taste thing. To Superbron I'd also like to say that I'd like to review another track, one that may be more representative of what he does - because I don't think this is it.

Kole McRae - Bob The Zombie

Hear The Track Here

By the looks of his Soundclick pages, Kole McRae has just pitched up here so it's a given that you won't have heard of him yet. Well, do the neighbourly thing and go over and see Hi, or if you are a fellow Canadian you can say eh?. Ahh, your face fell when I mentioned the C word didn't it? Because, like me, you are amazed at how many of them are online musicians and - much more scarily - how many of them are that good. Remember, if you will, that my own Artist of the Year 2006 was also a Canuck; Cam's Even Song.

It must have something to do with that mountain air....

Kole is an electronica artist although there may well be those who would dispute that. For people who like the bleepy side of life, this will sound like a pale imitation of the genre. More like one bloke with his keyboard. Materially too, Bob The Zombie is a pretty standard electro-pop tune that has lots of flaws but somehow manages to come out of the experience whole - provided that you understand that this is very much home made, and sounds it. Like many musicians recording material at home (or in the garden shed), songs and arrangements tend to sprawl, timings and tunings are suspect and (worst of all) some ideas that should have been left off the final mix somehow stay in to the bitter end.

Listening to Bob The Zombie isn't a bad experience, just raw. I liked the approach to the song and - given some practice - the vocals should really power the song. The voice stretches noticably but nonetheless still manages to carry it off. Musically, this is pretty pedestrian with a mix to match, and the ending vocal acapella really should have been left off - as should have that extremely irritating crash cymbal that obstructs almost everything in its path. It might have seemed like a good idea while making the track but is incredibly irritating after a few plays. All in all, this track shows that, despite everything, Kole has something to offer - hopefully as a serious musician. Here on Soundclick, as everywhere else in life, presentation is pretty much the whole game; it has to sound good enough for the listener to want to keep playing it.

Still, it's early days yet, and Kole may yet surprise us.

Mountain Pearls - What I Should Have Known Before

Hear The Track Here

A couple of years ago you could take it as read that all the tracks I reviewed came from the sites I mention in my blog, namely Soundclick (far and away the biggest indie site online), MP3 Unsigned and Songplanet. Since I put the whole shebang online in the blogging world, tracks come to me from everywhichaway, as does this one. I presume either Mountain Pearls read the blog at some point or were introduced to it because they asked me if I'd bend an ear to What I Should Have Known Before and of course I caved in without a whimper. Nothing new there then. So who or what are the Mountain Pearls?, seeing as most of my readers are on Soundclick and not the Murdoch Empire....

They are a Americana folk trio (if you have no idea what that's about think Chairs...). give a huge yeehaaawww and lets get to yodeling... They are three of them (I guess the word trio gave that away), Bobby, Charlie and Elvis (Ed: so that's where he went to...) and they make the kind of music that can (I quote) ' be listened to and enjoyed on a back porch,under the shade of a big tree, with you favorite beverage in hand'. I'm sure they have more sides to them than this but the Chairs comparison is apt in this case; this is definitely a feel-good track.

T'ain't just for Yosemite Sam's either...

There is a growing recognition that the more modern forms of country, while paying tribute to a great old tradition, are in fact re-working and re-structuring a genre that - up until this internet age - seemed moribund and half dead. Obviously wouldn't have been so if the record business had seen some sense in bluegrass for the masses, but hey it was ever thus. While Mountain Pearls production is not up the the aural blast that powers the Chairs, their musical skills and the innate good humour that goes into making music as timeless as this will stand them in good stead. I have long been a fan of this kind of music and Mountain Pearls have just added themselves to my 'watch these guys' list.

Highly Recommended Moonshine.

Fluidity - Jades Song

Hear The Track Here

Being a right lazy bar....bar.....bar...person, I only learned that Fludity is to be come known as John Paul Carroll when this track came up in the review list. He's definitely lazier than me though because he hasn't got around to changing it on Soundclick yet so just remember you read it here first. What? What? Yes, I KNOW that the mastermind (some would say criminal afore it) behind Fluidity is a geezer called John Paul Carroll therefore the name change would make sense, wouldn't it? Either way, he could call himself fekkin Noddy for all I care, so long as he keeps pumping out tracks that rock the socks off most other, so called rock musicians. Mind you, I have developed a taste for his material, especially the last few releases which have seen some seriously smooth moves in the songwriting department.

This track is garishly emblazoned with an Album Track tag so I guess this is meant as a track for his next album 'Gosh there must be a new CD soon'. Seeing as this is all beginning to sound a bit Python-ish let's put the music on... JP states that this is an early version to get critiques and is 'in no way finalised'. Even the quickest listen will confirm how far this artist has come in confidence and production skills since he first arrived here in early 2006. It will also show listeners that if this is one of the artists unfinished (as yet) tracks, then the final version should indeed be smoking. As it is, although I have some grumbles (more on that in a tic) this is a class track, performance and arrangement; production is still ongoing obviously.

I've really grown to like this artists sound, which is quite distinctive once you have acquired the taste; it's an interesting cross between early English pop (60's) and 70's rock that works on all levels. It helps that JP knows his onions and - as I've said before - he well lives up to the bandname, this a very competent guitarist. He's come on gangbusters too on the songwriting front and IMHO Jades Song promises to have long legs and will become one of his better known tracks. There is nothing, nothing, in the world better than an artist feeling his chops, and the sense of fun the musician is having is evident in every note. Niggles? I had a few, but JP knows them full well I suspect. Vocals mixed better, better definition on all instruments and that's about it. Can't critique, I like the track too much, just finish the damn thing already.

Don't wait. Grab now. Highly Recommended (albeit rough) rock.

Mobi - The Band

Hear The Track Here

Mobi. Not to be confused with the other, arguably more famous Moby. Mobi is itself a contraction from Mob Barley, the artists full name; which itself has an uncanny resemblence to the name of a late reggae superstar (hint: not Toots Maytal) and if you've been following all of this so far - well, I'd like some of what you've been smoking. To add further confusion to the mix this Mobi is a Finnish musician who happens to play (wait...wait...) Smooth Jazz! Talk about enigma's, riddles and dilemma's, I think I should probably smoke some more of what I've been smoking before I create more verbal thickets. I've reviewed one other track from this artist, Smokey's (June 2007) and although I (kinda/sorta) liked what was happening, I didn't think much to the sounds used.

Ah well, another day....

Smokey's also makes an appearance in The Band, because it seems this is a song from Smokey's house band. All of which is in fact down to the brain, ears and fingertips of Mobi, being a one man band. Actually the more I listened to this track, the less contrived it started to sound. Sure it IS a bit odd at first hearing Mobi introduce the various members of the band, especially when you are aware that there is only him but continued listening brings out the detail of the introductions and also provides some vivid images of what Smokey's clientele would be like. All in all - at least on this side of it - a very nice likkle track indeed.

Uh oh. That doesn't sound good, does it?

Don't ask me why, but the slight accent on the vocal may be offputting to some but I kinda liked that rough edged, sleazy-eazy delivery, it helped to set up the mental picture ya know. The music is as smooth and effortless as you could imagine and this is IMHO a much better sounding track all round, although the brass sounds are still a problem and there is at least one distinctly odd sounding lead line . Seeing as most people would never spot the difference in the brass OR spot the dodgy lead, so I guess it don't matter. If you have a taste for smooth jazz then Mobi is definitely worth checking out; judging by the linkage from Smokey's to The Band, he's creating his own little blue note universe and peopling it with some decidely shady characters.

Excellent Jazz with a story. Recommended.

Azoora - Be Here

Hear The Track Here

Have to admit that the inclusion in the review list this month of Azoora has been much looked forward too. Certainly the most significant find this year for me, although I first came across them when I reviewed Life Of Fantastic back in September 2005, but there have been lots of changes since. Marzipan Demo (March 2007) showed a whole new, and extremely professional side to this band and was raved about so copiously by this reviewer I spent days cleaning up the mess. A class track indeed. They followed that up with Desert Storms Demo (May 2007) yet another musical and technical marvel; a great song encased in a splendid production and arrangement.

How could they possibly top two Must Haves?

Thank fekk it ain't about that eh? Be Here is a TOTALLY different beast and the first time I tried to ride it, the ground and I had intimate congress within the first few seconds. However, I was ever the intrepid hero (Ed: Mmmmmm) and refused to be cowed by this musical version of a curveball from an artist I had very high hopes for. First of all, the production on this is soooo full it's bursting at the seams, almost as if you couldn't cram any more in there, and I think that is leading to a blurring between the different instruments. Mind you, to my ears this sounds a very middle based mix and could well be straight off the board - as it were.

What makes it hard to grasp is it's arrangement, which takes some getting used to and now - with hindsight - I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it's because the whole latter part of the track in an endless build, sounds odd but works amazingly well, or whether this is a track that's going to take some time to sink in. Whatever it is, I'm on my umpteenth listen and I'm still puzzling over it. However, I think I'm even firmer of the opinion that this is an 'off the board' mix and that a final version will sound sharper and cleaner. Of course, I could be totally wrong about and this is what Azoora actually aimed for, if so it certainly is different. I have no doubt I'm going to ages making me mind up about this one, because I do like lots of things about it...

Very interesting arrangement, ain't sure about the mix. Recommended for different.

L'Antennaheadz - Lies Two

Hear The Track Here

The Antennaheadz as waz, If the name sends a small frisson of fear down your spine, you will have had contact with this bunch of sonic aliens in the past. If you feel relatively fearless then you have absolutely no idea who the Antennaheadz are and what they can do to your mind. Let's have a small recap. The outfit (one man band actually) came from the demise of alter ego Station For Imitation and when I first heard LoL oMG wTF!!11!! (Bingo Bongo Mix) (January 2006) I wrote 'this could very well be the start of something very interesting indeed.' So the burning question of the hour is has it been? I have to say that, on balance, it has been a shift in direction for Thomas J (for it is he) but it still often carries with it the musical cantankerousness of a lot of SFI's output.

In other words, expect a good earwaxing. Bafflement optional.

The strange truth is that I have developed, over the years, a steady liking for life on the edge but - even so - The Antennaheadz have yet to make a lasting impression on me, I think that's partly because the material veers wildly from one thing to another, one acoustic track even, makes it kinda difficult to pin 'em down. Me, I just file them under 'ornery' and leave that one alone. Having said all that, Lies Two lies this side of the wtf line, but you'll need to like electronix n 'sperimental in equal amounts to really get anything other than a headache from the track. There's a nice production on this, and that is not something I get to write often about this artist; it certainly helps the track out enormously.

Essentially Lies Two is yer basic electronica with lots of repetition, it what happens to it in this artists hands that makes it just that little bit different to - as it were - make a difference. It's a track well centered in the 'less is more' school so don't expect much in the way of aural fireworks - except a solid guitar section. It builds nicely once you get used to the jerkiness of the snare and all in all I think Antennaheadz should feel well proud of this track. There again, I DO have a fascination for the odd and obscure and that is definitely not gonna be right with some people. Therefore if you are new to this side of the musical street best to approach with caution because Thomas J has never, ever taken prisoners. Me? I like this and that should tell you something too.

Well put together mix. Recommended for fans.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cam's Even Song - What do ya' Got Within?

Hear The Track Here

Now wtf can I ever write about Cam again? After acres and acres of yadda yadda about his songwriting, arranging and production skills, the man still never ceases to amaze me. After a couple of silly months of tracks he has decided to revert back to the Cam's Even Song that I truly love the most. When this artist gets on his bible-bashing (not literally, lyrically), quasi Bob Dylan preacher jag, the man can't be beat. Although I've liked and kept many of his lighter tracks, the songs that have really made an impression have been this style. Brother Eli, Just The Truth On Christmas and the incredible Face The Music (The Ballad of 4 Lepers), all of which make up the 184 tracks you'll find on his page.

Not Artist of The Year 2006 for nuffink, ya know.

There is a looseness to the playing and arrangement of this track that I found off putting at first. All in a wtf moment which is not something I have attributed much to this excellent musician. It does have to be said though, that this isn't the usual tidy fare we get from this artist, even if the song is well up to his usual standard. I'm not sure exactly what it is about the musical backing track that sets my teeth on edge but something is definitely odd in CamLand. Mind you, that's like saying its gonna rain in England. Odd and Cam are both three letter words that mean the same thing; always expect the unexpected. Believe me, What do ya' Got Within is all that and more.

It's also an excellent slice of Cam being all evangelical (in a nice way of course) on your ass and, as I say, it is definitely a side of Cam's work I have a lot of time for. Funny that this time there don't appear to be any lyrics online but its pretty easy to pick up and definitely on the short side at just over two minutes and change. I have a feeling that its oddity may well wear off as I play it more and more, and that I am definitely going to do because this is a cracking song. For those people who know just how good Cam can be in this department this is gonna come as a real treat, even if you have to step over the roughness of the track to get it it. Cam, as always, is in excellent voice.

Has to be said; rough as a bears butt. Top song though. Highly Recommended.

Gary Teed - Forbidden Love

Hear The Track Here

Gary Teed (who you may also know as Gare) has fallen foul of the Law of Gilmore; that being that I will undoubtedly forget someone's track and have to make copious amends. In fact, I think I should have reviewed this track a couple of months ago but when you have tracks coming at you from every angle of cyberspace, it gets a little tricky keeping up. Especially with real world issues getting in the way all the time. (Ed: every excuse but the real one. He's just old and senile and extremely forgetful). For some reason, although he still maintains the Gare presence here on Soundclick, there are no songs on the page and even this one you will only get on Songplanet.

Eggs, baskets; that sort of thing springs to mind right now....

Gary has a couple of strings to his musical style; sample based and his own (mainly acoustic) songs and if I were being honest I much prefer his home grown style. There again, I am a guitarist at heart and I do like to hear a good song played well in the instrument and Gary has certainly come up trumps a couple of times with that. Both Back Home (February 2006) and If Not For You (September 2006) got a recommended from me on that basis. Forbidden Love, as well as being the Lolita swamp the title promises, appears to be a blend of both of Gary's two styles and by golly, I think he has something. Although, I have to say that it is obviously home produced, but - as the songs says - well put together and it RAWKS. Something I haven't attributed Gary with before.

So well and good eh?

Weeeelll, hold up there varmint, let's not get ahead of ourselves. As I say it odes have a tinge of home production on it and that will spoil it for some people. All I see, however, is that Gary has massively amplified what he already had going for him and bought himself a whole new direction to head into. There is much bawdy talk of seeds, planting and juices so those people who shudder at such sauciness probably shouldn't clasp this particular asp to their breast. For the rest of us though, this Gare may come as a surprise to you too. Well worth a listen even if its just for the song, which is well gigglesome. This was back to back with Cam's new track in reviews and this does indeed sound somewhat like Cam, and I hope Gary takes that as the compliment I mean it to be.