Thursday, February 28, 2008

dcallen - The Main Intermezzo

Hear The Track Here

Last, but not least, dcallen. Not yer average tail end Charlie though; an artist that 'makes electronic music for people who don't like electronic music' and I'd say that was dead on. I've been a fan for years, the testament being the amount of this artists tracks I have cluttering up me various hoardy things (Ed: I think he means hard drive(s)). Long time member of Soundclick and one of its most successful exponents concerning the old bleepery (Ed: I think he means electronica. I'll get him at the next para...) dcallen was absent for a while but reappeared here in the middle of the year. If you think you know what electronica sounds like, I'm absolutely certain this artists intrepretation will change your mind as it has for some many others (including yours truly).

Ahh, but that was then and this is now.

He's always been a bit of a flash git (Ed: sigh. He means someone smarter than he is) on the musical front, and that's why he has become so well known. dcallen does like to challenge himself and - surprisingly enough - I can't remember all that many times when he didn't deliver over and above. Alongside some stunning tunes ( of which Intermezzo is one btw) Dave (for it is he) also puts ENORMOUS effort into getting everything to sound just so. For me, and a great many of his other fans, it's that attention to audio fidelity that singles this artist out.

Obviously then, The Main Intermezzo is a bit of an ear cuddler, and it's a lot more electronica than other works by this artist. It's a tough, hard edged almost electro-pop style that dcallen effortlessly pours melodies into like a man possessed. Like a great many truly original artists these days(especially on Soundclick), dcallen makes a point of saying that he is only doing this for fun, but the amount of work and effort that goes into making each track tells a different story. Love for the music will do that inspirational thing every time I say. Go on, get spoiled and wallow in a bit of what does you good.

Wide screen magic. MUST HAVE electronica.

Rw B-More - Lets Dance Ft Hassan

Hear The Track Here

Hot on the heels of one NYC hip hop artist on the list this month (4th Down Records) along comes Rw B-More, an Elmira NY based rapper. Although he spends some time bigging himself up on his page, his comments on how the music came about are surprisingly blank. Is this hand made? Home produced? In some ways it sounds like it, but in others not. For example, the main musical track, in itself, is pretty reasonable and sounds well made; the contrast between that and the vocals couldn't be starker. The positioning of these two tracks (4th Down and Rw B-More) back to back was sheer chance, but it highlights perfectly what works in hip hop and what doesn't.

Just in case I was in danger of having me ears run away with me, I listened to a couple of other tracks on his page before writing this review and it only confirmed my opinion. On other tracks he doesn't seem to make some of the obvious mistakes, and could well be a decent rapper. Let's Dance doesn't try real hard to get you to do just that, in fact the beat is kinda pedestrian. It is lightened whenever the main vocal enters the picture, and that is the part I am questioning most about its origins.

Wtf does it matter? I hear you ask.

Well, it counts ya know, to at least credit something you have lifted wholesale from somewhere else. If the part is indeed home produced shouldn't B-More be making mention of it? B-More raps reasonably although it isn't the rapid fire, bob and weave you may be more used to. When you ally that with the track's inbuilt drag, it would be hard to get the thing to move, know what I mean? And so it proves, because every time I heard this track I was mentally willing it to speed up and hit a groove that worked. All of which couldn't possibly hold a candle to the section where B-More tries to sing along with the main vocal. I don't cringe often when I listen to music these days but that is guaranteed to do it to me every time.

Pass for me.

4th Down Records - Struggle To Live

Hear The Track Here

I have to say, in my own defence, that I have been aware of 4th Down Records for a while but I think this is the first time I've ever had a reveiw request. S'nice to do a bit of hip hop, after all it is THE predominant genre on Soundclick and can truly number its audience in millions. I have also had a taste for the genre for many years and am always happy to hear what Brooklyn NYC has to offer because it's a special musical place, as I know from personal experience. 4th Down and it's artists Muggsy, Damien Rivera and Showtyme have a lot to live up to...

Struggle To Live is produced by Soundclick beat machine Anno Domini who I've bought to your attention a couple of times before. The track they lay down here for Muggsy is typical of their work, dense, driving and very fresh sounding. The opening four bars will drag you into the track before you could say what the fu.. and the tension is sustained from there on out. I've reviewed some hip hop artists who take on such creative music tracks like this and completely lose the plot. It is to 4th Down and Muggsy's eternal credit that they let the music breath beneath their rap.

Speaking of which, another thing about the Soundclick hip hop scene that always amazes and astounds me is the amount of people who think they can rap. Riiight. Listen, remember the tension bit I was talking about with the music? Well, IMHO good rappers take that heightened tension and spew it out as lyrical bullets aimed at the centre of your brain, making a relentless, unstopabble force. The kind of thing you learn growing up in somewhere like Brooklyn. Flow is the essential ingredient and Muggsy brings that to the party big time. It's a great shame it carries a Parental Advisory because - aside from a little lightness of sound - this is exactly the kind of hip hop that should be better heard and understood.

Top class hip hop/rap. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pivotal Spark - Numb

Hear The Track Here

Pivotal Spark are a new name to me and, I suspect, Soundclick too but lets not hold that against them. The band revolves around Brian O'Rourke (gtr and vocals), Billy Pike (gtr and vocals) and Steve Furr (percussion) all of whom hail from Florida USA. Given that lineup you'd be right to assume this is either an acoustic band or some kind of Alternative outfit and you'd be right on both counts. What comes out in the mix is pretty much what you would expect, its not a lineup you can do overly much with other than make sure the instruments are crisp and clear - and they are.

The percussion sounds like bongos of some kind and - surprise, surprise - in this track they actually sound like they fit. I'm sure we've all been in those extended jam sessions around our mates when - under a cloud of smoke usually - someone decides they can play the bongos and then proceed to demolish any attempt at structure. The bongos in this case never step on the guitars or the vocals and that is something to be praised. Numb is a pretty neat song too, in that acoustic American way we have all come to know so well.

The combining of O'Rourke and Pike's vocals are obviously the main treat in store for the listener, although they are no slouches on the guitar either. Numb isn't on of those intensely wordy tomes you might expect with such subject matter (the choices in life and their consequences) and that neatly dovetails with this song's relaxed, worldly attitude. For sure (listen to me, I sound like a f****** Valley girl) acoustic fans are going to like it, as - I would imagine - would soft rock fans. For this reviewer, this is an interesting introduction. Enough to make me wonder what else they have tucked away on their page.

Excellent Acoustic rock. Highly Recommended.

Smashed Toy - Tangents

Hear The Track Here

Smashed Toy is yet another old name to return to Soundclick activity lately, and another welcome return it is too. A few years ago Smashed Toy (along with Ad Fielding, Stompp, Fahrenheit 451, dcallen and others) were the Soundclick electronica scene and it was a source of some great tracks. Going back through my reviews of 2004 and 2005 I find that Smashed Toy and I weren't exactly happy together until he came up with Way Back When that it started to click for me. The last review of Smashed Toy I did was part of the Sinewinder 2 CD (October 2006); an excellent representation of what Soundlcick's electronica sounded back then.

Like ALL of the artists I've mentioned Smashed Toy has been very quiet for at least a couple of years, so what gives exactly? Did they all go on holiday together - at the same time? Enquiring minds want to know. Actually, on second thoughts, it may be best not to know that. As I mentioned in pretty much all those previous reviews, Smashed Toy's electronica is usually of the darker, edgier variety and Tangents is no stranger to that rule. This is a very dense track in more ways than one, but well worth it especially if you like electronica with muscles.

Despite its Electronica: Triphop labelling, Tangents goes a lot deeper to cover the almost eight minutes of running time, so its a sure bet that you'll find much, much more than a few bleeps here and there. As I say, if anyone sane had to listen to 8 minutes of 4 to the floor bleepery, they wouldn't be sane for long. Where this track scores is its willingness to experiment (especially with textures and tones) and it's brick-wall-in-the-face production. I admit I don't really have that much of a taste for electronic epics generally, this this is worth making some room for.

Intelligent, experimental electronica. Highly Recommended.

Monday, February 25, 2008

M J K - Movin On

Hear The Track Here

Currently enjoying his second Soundclick number one with this track, Florida based R&B singer M J K is having a whale of a time. He featured in my year end review of 2007, grabbing Tracks of The Year every which way, but if you've ever heard this artist you'll be nodding your head in understanding at these comments. To call him a singer sounds so flat, he radiates emotion is what he does - in common with all really good vocalists. He's also got an extremely knowing ear for what best suits the material, making sure that the listener is gripped from the first moment.

Oo-eer missis!! Sounds quite naughty.

Stylewise, this is the logical successor to Lose You (December 2007), a beautiful song in a classic arrangement. I guess because M J K produces everything you hear, his arrangements (the music anyway) tends to be sparse. In this case (as with Lose You) that sparseness is the only counterpoint to the vocal pyrotechnics going on above it. Although his material is usually R&B flavoured, there is a distinct pop flavour to his songs AND his vocal delivery that sells the track more than any genre tag ever would.

The truth is, M J K is one of the best singers I have heard, and it's even more to his credit that he's doing it this particular way too. In the time he has been on Soundclick, his beautifully crafted songs of love and longing have won him a great many fans - especially of the female variety. My only complaint about Movin' On (and it's a small one) is the delay during the intro is just too overdone... In all other respects, this is yet another in the string of gorgeous songs this artist has become known for. As the tracks roll in, my esteem for this musician increases; he just seems to get better and better.

Ace Pop ballad. MUST HAVE

The Antennaheadz - Nancy

Hear The Track Here

You know you are in trouble when you get to the stage where you can't wait to see what Thomas J is going to dish up next. Like fellow musical contrarians from back in the day, Fear 2 Stop, Thomas J in his Antennaheadz guise has been playing some blinders of late. Never in my wildest dreams, and I've been reviewing this artist for over four years, would I have ever believed that I would have handed him not one, but two Must Haves in a row. The cheif reason is that Thomas has branched out mightily from his experimental beginnings, although even his new material has that lunatic edge about it. Aah, but that would have to be there, wouldn't it? Being responsible for any number of alter-egos is tiring.

Where Thomas seems to have wandered into is the lo-fi, acoustic alternative end of things and he's surprisingly well fitted to it. Both must have tracks featured this sound, and of course mustn't forget the vocal tones of the man himself which is an integral part of what makes this work. The same could be said about Nancy; there is the voice, there is the guitar but there the similarities end. What brings the track down more than anything else is that it's well... Let me put it another way, the guitarplaying is desultory, the same couple of chords for around four and a half minutes. Sure they are joined by drums and bass eventually but the bulk of the track rests on the vocals.

Which would be fine if a) you had some stimulating/evocative lyrical content or b) if you had an arrangement that was a bit more complex than this extremely linear track. Don't get me wrong here, it's not that I don't like this track, I do. There again, I am a long term fan of this musician in all his guises and he knows that. However, reaching a wider audience than me or him means that the track delivered is the best possible. As it is, this is nothing like as inventive as the two tracks we've already discussed (Mr Panache and Loveless Blues) and wouldn't appeal outside of fans and admirers.

Lo-fi Alternative, in the Antennaheadz stylee. Recommended for fans.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Can't Stop The Daggers - Changing My Mind (Azoora Remix)

Hear The Track Here

Can't Stop The Daggers is Chris Chattom, Jon Partelow and Ben Dumbauld and if those names don't sound familiar to you then you would certainly know of Jon Partelow's alter ego HELLbus, who I've brought your way a time or two. Speaking of which, I've bought Azoora to your attention the same time or two (Jon collaborated with the band for a while) so the one thing that should be clear is that you are in for an aural treat. Nothing any of these people do is ill considered and they are always worthy of checking out - especially if you like music that is really Alternative - not to mention have extremely high production values.

All the main food groups. Bring it on!

Reading further I discover that this is a John Purcell remix of a CSTD track; you'll find the original on the page as well. I approached it from the other direction of course and only caught the original while writing this review, but it's always worth referencing the original. Certainly in this mix there is a finished polish, especially on the vocals, that lifts it considerably further than the original version. High (January 2008) was indeed a high and after gaining a Must Have from me and a 'true meaning of a power trio' quote to go along with it, and Changing My Mind is a step in a completely different direction: pop.

Well, kinda/sorta..

Changing My Mind is a mellow alternative rock track that again shows how well the three musicians mesh together and it's nice to see the bass really stepping out on this number. Luvverly. What defines this track though, and the band for that matter, is the attention to detail and their ability to nail the track just right. John Purcell did enormous work bringing this to its proper aural sound and more power to his elbow. When you are looking for standout tracks musically and technically, I can think of no better place to start than either band (Azoora or CSTD). In the meantime, settle down for a chill out and slap this onto your preferred aural device and see what I mean. Class all the way, matey...

Excellent modern rock ballad (kinda/sorta). Highly Recommended.

Slippy-T - Bleak

Hear The Track Here

So there I was yapping, at the beginning of the month, that I was really pleased to see so many old faces on this months review list. None more so than young Rob Taylor (aka Slippy-T), a musician and singer I seem to have known forever. What is it now? Four? Five years? In that time I've watched him through all manner of moods and styles and - what's that saying now? - he's definitely paid his dues. In that four or five years Slippy has become well known and respected as a musician and as a songwriter, but he has been exceedingly quiet the last year or so. That's because the real world is chomping on his butt on a regular basis and like all of us - he finds it difficult to have two lives.

I just assign tasks to my multiple personalities, much easier that way.

Bleak 'ain't a pretty love song' according to the man but knowing this artist, it probably won't describe the music either. Can't really imagine the Slippery One wandering over to the Dark Side. Mind you, I never expected him to venture back into one of his old stomping grounds either, so from now on, I'll put nothing past the ol' rascal. Techno, as you well know, is not one of my faves and this is where I first met this artist when techno was small and very, very formulaic. The reason Slippy-T stood out is because he was always different, and of course a very individualistic vocalist.

As you'll find out by listening to this...

See, no matter what you say, experience at this game does indeed count for a lot, at least in the manner in which the music impacts on a listener. These days there is a much tougher edge to Slippy's vocals; a kind of world class edge. I've always liked him as a singer although it took a while to be fully comfortable with his style, but these days the impact is immediate; visceral. Mind you, you will have to listen to the track a couple of times because there's a fair bit of techno noodling to start with. I wonder if long term Slippy fans will agree that we've never heard this singer sounding so assured, confident and cocky as hell. Welcome back mate, f**** the real world.

MUST HAVE techno. (Ed: seriously? Gilmore applauds techo? Nurse! The screens)

T'ain't techno, it's vocal dynamite.

Fluidity - Secret Window

Hear The Track Here

John Paul Carroll (aka Fluidity) has been chomping at the bit all month and swearing mightily at this reviewer. So what else is new, you may ask. Welp, I have been extremely remiss and obviously slipping rapidly into senility because I seem to have almost forgotten him this month. It was only the incessant burning around my ears that finally convinced me that I had better get on with it. Gawd knows why I've forgotten this track on this list, I downloaded the damn thing early enough but somehow it obviously slipped out of my written list.

How's that for craven apology? Hey, best I can do...

'I think i wrote this song in quazi, paranoid-delusional state' JP states in the song comments to which we would comment, so what else was new? It's actually one of the joys of Fluidity tracks, the lyrical axes this artist has to grind are legion. Believe me, I have reviewed most of them. As I mentioned when I reviewed Best Behaviour (January 2008), I don't think I have heard this artist singing with this much confidence before and I'm happy to say that this is a change that seems to have taken.

Not only does Secret Window find Fluidity in fine voice but he's gone all experimental (well, for him anyway). This track shows just how much this artist is pushing his own personal envelope and boy is it paying off. Yes, you obviously have to get used to hearing him and his material but I reckon even a casual listener will get a buzz out of this incredibly moody, clever track. For us fans of fluid, it's getting better all the time. The sophistication JP is bringing to bear on his music and his style is inspirational for those of us following what he is up to. A rapidly maturing musician and songwriter of a very high standard. See, told you I shouldn't have missed this one out... Classic Fluidity. Mean, moody and something else that begins with an M.

Highly Recommended Alt Rock

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Corey Drumz - 4Ever Love

Hear The Track Here

Looking back I notice it's only been a year or so since I first became aware of Corey Drumz, but the impression he has made during this time is positive. As it should with the kind of musical pedigree that follows this NYC based hip hop artist. As I've mentioned previously, I know some of the area's musical history personally and I definitely recognised that distinctive quality in the first Drumz track I reviewed The Retribution (January 2007), a harrowing and graphic soundscape that stands out for its excellent lyrical quality and diamond sharp production values.

And you don't get to say that too often about hip hop, let me tell ya.

Written and performed by Kirk Bananno and Corey Drumz, the beats and production on this are from Flawless Beats so its a given that this should cook up right. It does too, except it does make for a bit of a noisy track; a lot going on to take in first time around. Still it is a good mixture, if a litle rough in sound. It's not the first Flawless Beats track I've reviewed and I'm sure it won't be the last and is musically well up to their usual standard, Special mention should be made of the glitchy acoustic guitar figure that is a main element in the track - wonderful.

The real stars though, are Corey and Kirk Bannano, who sound so at home on this sleek R&B track, you'd swear it all came from the same mind, rather than the collaboration it is. Although I can't stand the softer (soppier even) side of modern R&B, I di like it when done well and here Kirk and Corey delve into the rich vocal harmony traditons the city of New York is justly famed for. Their vocal combination is warm, beautifully pitched and a joy to the ears. Like a lot of Corey Drumz tracks, the more you plays them, the more you get out of them and that proved to be the case with 4Ever Love. It isn't as good as his last track (To Let You Know, which got a Must Have from me last month), but hey it's still streets ahead of most.

Excellently performed R&B. Sweet, Recommended.

Buried Talents Band - In The Garden

Hear The Track Here

Its amazing how I am getting much more attention through the blog these days and in fact, Buried Talents came to me this month through the blog NOT through Soundclick even though they are on the site. I don't mind where the tracks come from really, but it does show how much time you have to invest in Soundclick to find its real community. As opposed to collecting friends as if they were so many stamps, that is. Buried Talents Band is a six peice (5 guys, one woman) Contemporary Christian outfit from middle America so maybe they will supply my much needed shot of country this month...

Hey, stranger things have happened.

There is much wordplay on the band page about one of the singers sounding like Neil Young and the others to sound like CSN and, to my mind anyway, those are bold claims. Neil Young, in particular has long been one of my favourite musicians on the planet, so I'll take it with my usual mountain of salt. To be honest, I can't see the comparisons on this track, despite it being a reasonable enough track on its own merits. OK, we aren't talking state of the art recording here but these days that shouldn't make that much difference, given what can be done post-production. For sure the song could do with tightening up sound of the sounds, the bass for example is almost buried.

Which is a problem because most of the vocal is pretty low end too, and that makes that part of the spectrum even muddier than before - if that were possible. Artists of a Christian bent don't, as far as I know, usually come in for a lot of stick for their views but sometimes it can be overwhelming for yer average listener. Artists who have found favour at Soundclick such as Cam, One Kid's Lunch and others do so because their music usually trancends the genre and - for me anyway - this is where In The Garden failed the most. There is nothing wrong with it, and as I say the band play their parts well enough. There is, however, a distinct lack of drive in the track (and the vocals) that I found not so enlightening.

Still, maybe that's just this track.... let's try another.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Duelling Winos - Year Of The Wino

Hear The Track Here

Those who know me well know the queasy face I adopt when faced with folk. It has never been a style I went for even when I was young and deluded all them beards and serious s***, no ta. I have, however, an abiding love for true folk music, and often go out of my way to grab chunks of it. The ethnic kind, ya know. There was more of a trace of that in Chris Rea (December 2006), the last Duelling Winos track I reviewed. Essentially it was what saved the track from my usual deadpan folk putdown, see the one thing the Duelling Winos do do well it's serve up a wicked lyric.

With an opening phrase that is a dead ringer for the opening chords of Sloop John B, Year Of The Wino quickly establishes its folk credentials quickly becoming a kind of jig/reel that is highly reminicent of The Pogues. Except with added rough edges if you can imagine that. Definitely about lo-fi as you can get, but that is really the point of such music and - as the man used to say - it's a toe tapper. Percussion is supplied by what sound like castanets but could equally well just be spoons and very effective it is too.

I know I always tell you to read the lyrics while listening to tracks but Duelling Winos tracks are so worth the extra effort and Year Of The Wino delivers its usual complement of smart lines. The Pogues reference again pops up because of the way the vocals are delivered; that flat, atonal drawl that's not always in tune but sounds like it fits anyway. Because of that, I think a lot of people probably wouldn't be drawn to this track, but hey with folk that was always the way. I'm sure the Duelling Winos couldn't give a rats arse anyway because they are too busy having fun...

Excellent bit o' the jig. Duelling Winos style.

Butterflies For Breakfast - Love Me, Shoot Me

Hear The Track Here

I first came across this Texas four peice band when I reviewed Four Leaf Clover, a warm accessible pop track that the real world music business should be salivating for. Alas, it's a bit difficult to see when your ass is wedged firmly up your ass, but enough of such freakery, lets get back into the sunshine. Meanwhile here, in OUR real world, we get to hear yet more from BfB and that is surely the music industry's own look out. There they are casting every side alley of LA and NYC for talent and the other 99% of the country is fekkin infested with good musicians. Damnit, these are even YOUNG musicians.

I know us old farts haven't got a chance but hey, come on...

Working the strand of rock pop that fostered Weezer, The Pixies et al, Butterflies for Breakfast show that they are capable of constructing a decent song and performing it well. There again, that is what they showed in Four Leaf Clover too, although that failed to make an abiding impression with me as I suspect Love Me, Shoot Me will eventually do. I have no doubt that this band has a killer track or two under their belts but the two tracks I have heard so far are not it. Workmanlike, capable and neatly done, yeah. Exciting and dramatic? not really.

Although I like individual tracks from the genre (early Weezer were very good) I can't in all honesty say I am that fond of this style. I know it sounds completely dumb but it sounds too American to me. Which is funny, because I spent a big part of my life living there and have a wife and children that are American. For me, there is a distinct difference of meaning between alternative rock in the UK and USA, and unfortunately this track falls into it. This is purely a personal opinion of course, because there isn't much wrong with the track at all, except for a certain lack of get-up-and-go.

Recommended Alternative.

Skymobil - Here For A While

Hear The Track Here

Another review request that seems to have come solely through my reviews blog, Skymobil isn't a name I am familiar with at all. According to their myspace site they are a Power Pop trio (Yann, Vince and Nice) from Paris, France and that's about it. In this case the music is going to have to do most of the talking because there is not much else to know about the band. Here For A While isn't exactly what I would call Power Pop, but whats in a name anyway? What it most reminded me of - in structure and in sound was of The Stranglers

Certainly there is a punky feel to the track but that may be down to the three peice line up which - no matter which way you slice and dice it - is somewhat limited. Nonetheless. Skymobil do kick up a very attractive sound, the sort of track that would definitely make you stop and say 'who is that?'. Now in my books, getting that kind of reaction is exactly what music should do and it is a testament to the skill of whoever mixed this track. All the elements of the track are clear, placed exactly so; an excellent production.

Have to admit that I couldn't for the life of me figure out any of the words until I started finding out about the band, because the singer sings with an accent (he would, he is French after all). The song, though, is pure Anglo-Saxon in sound and style and is pretty neat, certainly nothing anybody could object too. At its heart is a charismatic, engaging song that has power and emotion in equal measure.

Very tasty. Highly Recommended power pop.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

TheSolitaireOne - Twenty Twenty

Hear The Track Here

Having an Influenced By list that includes BB King, The Who, The Animals, Creedence Clearwater, Tom Petty, Steely Dan, Howlin Wolf guarantees two things. One, the musician(s) involved are either foolhardy souls searching for a butt kicking or two, that they actually know what they are doing. The blues is a broad church and part of that is blues rock to which this track whole-heartedly belongs. It liked the last track I reviewed I Let My Baby Go (May 2007) although I had reservations about the vocal style being used and small niggles with the track itself.

Although some of the same problems dog Twenty Twenty, its innate rock swagger a la Rolling Stones make sure that I am quick to overlook them. Nothing serious anyway, just a kind of home produced problem I guess. As you may have guess from the first paragraph it's time back in time. Early 1970's and the sound of Creedence Clearwater are the mainstays of Twenty Twenty, at least in the vocal sound and the musical sway. Some of the leads are vintage Stones sounds and very well done too.

Repeated listens only reinforced these impressions, especially vocally which is the part that grew on my most. There is some of the same vocal tentativeness that marred his last track but taken as a whole Twenty Twenty more than acquits itself. Don't be fooled either by the Southern Rock tag either, this is pure, classic rock and you can take that from someone who like through that particular day. Instrumentally and technically this is a fine peice of rock despite my usual little niggles, so if you like the sound of it - chow down!.

Highly Recommended Classic Rock

Through Crosshair Eyes LP - Carmen Finestra

Hear The Track Here

Here is another long time Soundclick artist trying on a new guise. Regular readers will probably remember me UK hip hop encounters with Newcastle based Stained Art (or Stain Online even). Sure, it's all a bit home produced but to my ears it sounds fresher than a lot of mass produced pap that stands for hip hop across the water. Stain is a young, intelligent rapper who knows what he wants to say and generally gets its said in as unfussy a way as possible. It's been a while since I've heard from him so it's nice to welcome him back with a whole new project to feast on. So, I might as well make an honest job of it right now and say that I wasn't that impressed with this track, and I most definitely wanted to be.

I've already mentioned the lo-fi element and that has become more noticable on this track than others, now maybe that's because this is a rough mix, in which case fair dos. If this is the final thing though, that could be enough to turn some people off. The real fly in the jam pot is the one thing hip hop demands more than anything else - a coherent, flowing rap. As I said, the UK has a long tradition of poets, and an even longer tradition of performance poets including (my own particular favourite) John Cooper Clarke whose Ou Est la Maison de Fromage? LP is a masterclass of the style. Stain (as a performance poet) has much in common with Cooper Clarke, the same dry, laconic Northern drawl although Stain carries - by far - the heavier subject matter. It's also one of the main reasons I've liked him so much in previous releases.

As a written piece of work, Carmen Finestra shows exactly what I am talking about. Try reading the page of lyrics first because they are well worth it. Best to take a cup of tea with you though because there is a LOT to take in. That same verbosity is also a problem in the way the rap flows, often sounding as if the words are being forced to fit. Although the chorus is carried only by one voice I can sure hear a kinda terrace-like refrain happening there, the kind of chorus that is bellowed at the top of everybodys lungs. The pluses did finally win me over to this track, and hey I'm probably the only one who would ever notice anyway. Again this artist shows great promise, now if only it could all get tightened up a bit...

Excellent, if flawed, UK hip hop with a difference. Recommended for the content and chorus.

Joseph Rodriguez - Metalbossa

Hear The Track Here

You would think, given the amount of time I have been reviewing internet-only music that I would have pretty much heard everything under the sun. Not a bit of it. New things are coming up all the time as you are about to discover. Now I've laid some strange mixtures on you but believe me, this next one is a doozy. Imagine, Joseph Rodriguez thought, if you could blend heavy metal with (say, for instance) bossa nova. Being a man of action, no sooner had he thought it, it was done. And he was banging down my door asking for a review already :D

Heavy metal and bossa nova? Come on, I HAD to listen..

In one way I am glad because Joseph is a fiery guitarist in the Carlos Santana manner, or at least he sounds like that on this track. Like a lot of capable musicians, I'm sure he has a few different stances which I guess we find out in later reviews. So Metalbossa is going to assume that you like rock music, especially of the more complex kind and have a thing about guitarists. I have all those afflictions so I am bound to like a track with this much rock going for it.

Or am I?

My first indication I was heading for trouble was when I could have sworn I heard something that sounded suspiciously like music Yes would have made in their prog-rock heyday. And therein lies the trouble for me in this track; merely a preference thingie. There is no disputing either the quality of the playing or the production (except it faded out extremely abruptly) because on this track Joseph Rodriguez shows he can shred with the best of them. I like the kinda patchwork way the bossa nova all fits into this too but not enough to get over my own personal dislike of this genre. Nonetheless, I be listening to some more of this artist, you can take that to the bank.

Highly Recommended blend of styles.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mike-K - Why Am I So Blue

Hear The Track Here

It suppose it was inevitable that this collaboration was on the cards all along. Mike Kohlgraf (for it is he) has worked with Jim Miller and Christopher Martin Hansen individually and now here he's roped in Jim's wife Lisa into the bargain. Can't fault the man for his acquistive streak. In a way, it's a bit unfair to review a track such as this because my esteem for all concerned is about as high as it gets; each in their own way has much to contribute and offer to this indie scene. The question remains, can they cook or are they just too many chefs?

Find out right after the break.

As you would expect from such august company, technical and instrumental perfection is the aim and the goal and in that this quartet succeed beyond expectations. Absolute diamond sound under wide open skies, what more could you ask for? Well, the song and the performance to go with it right? Again, as you would expect the bar is set extremely high. The combination of sax and lead guitar licks is a treat for the ears giving this jazzy blues tune a style all of its own. Add to that a solid backline of drums and bass and an icing of Lisa on vocals and it's not going to go far wrong is it?

To be really honest, I'd say that although I like Lisa as a vocalist in her own right, I don't think material like this suits her style. I hope she will understand the reason I say that. It takes a particular skill to interpret this kind of music, and it isn't necessarily a vocal skill. Understand me, I love this kind of music and the 'torch song' tradition to which it belongs and that is the reason why I say this. As it is, Lisa couldn't make a bad job of it, it isn't in her nature and I suppose I should go and stand in the corner for saying all this but hey, if I can't be honest with my friends, what is the point? She does a more than workmanlike job on it and nobody but an old curmedgeon would be picking such holes... In all other aspects this track is untouchable, and that also says something.

Impressive jazz blues. Very Highly Recommended. MUST HAVE for SC history/posterity.

Policy Overkill - And Another Thing

Hear The Track Here

Its been a while since I've reviewed anything from Policy Overkill, purveyors of music with that kind of sounds that (and I quote) 'you get when you run Kraftwerk and Wumpscut through a meat grinder'. Nice. My last review of this artist was Happy Havoc Industries Overtime Mix (August 2007), a forty five minute exploration of everything electronica has to offer and a lot more besides. Look, it's no good shaking your head and saying you don't believe me. 45 minutes for a track? An album maybe. Ahh, but that's not looking at the world from an Overkill angle is it? Put yourself in this guys shoes and 45 minutes seems like a warm up session.

OK. Serious now. (Ed: riiiiggghhhhttt)

All musicians (virtual or otherwise) collect little snippets of work that doesn't seem to fit anywhere. I know, I am followed by an ever increasing cloud of creative detritus from which will eventually emerge my next tracks and their corresponding snippets. That's the way And Another Thing came about and Mr Toxin (for it is he) puts it far better 'It felt like I was working with afterthoughts, like those bits of conversation you want to add after the talking is over'. Hindsight rock, anyone? Actually, there ain't much of the rock about Policy Overkill, him being an experimental artist and all. Experimental electronica that is, so if you think I was about to promote some more 'moise' tracks, relax.

I do like the work of Burp who effortlessly seems to meld rhythm with experimental electronic sounds, and that is what I can best describe And Another Thing; an exercise in varying rhythms. It's a pleasant enough tune, in that plucky, plinky style that is much in favour. Personally, if I want to be serenaded by bells I'll buy a cheap alarm clock. Still, that's a personal preference and I'm sure that there will be plenty of takers for this well put together slice of electronica. And, whatever you do, get past the 4:30 stage of the track because it's got some surprises tucked away.

Electronica of the plinky kind. Recommended for all fans of plinky, plonky.

(Ed: and that was serious, was it?)

David Deal - First Contact

Hear The Track Here

I find it hard to believe, having done a little reading, that David Deal actually comes from Africa. I think it's more like not noticing the location field somewhere or other. Much the same reason I give for most of my songs ending up in the Gnomic Pronouciations genre (the default on certain sites). I jest, fo course, but not about David Deal coming from Africa. Judging from the song and its content, I'd hazard a guess and say that Mr deal originates in the land of the free, the USA. Fine. Fine. He could be African-American.

Fair point, now bog off and let me get on with it.

Have you noticed the amount of rock I seem to be getting just lately? David Deal, as you may have gathered, is a rock musician and First Contact can stand up and be counted as a class rock track. Provided a) you like rock with a distinct American flavour and b) don't mind overtly Christian lyrics. I have no problems with any of those things which is why I latched onto this extremely clean sounding track almost from the get go.

Admittedly I was more interested in what the musician was doing at first, but then those lyrics began to impinge on my fading brainpower. To be sure, it's a lively, well put together track that I am sure will find its own level of listeners although I tend to think it would be better placed (for exposure that is) in the Christian Rock field where it rightly belongs. Eventually, after more than a few plays, I have to admit that the overall impression changed somewhat, but only insofar as I didn't exactly bond with the style so much once I got used to it. Nonetheless, its a fine effort and David Deal deserves checking out further....

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Big Wheel - Get The Funk (Session Mix)

Hear The Track Here

This week I have been mostly listening to the line 'big wheel kept on turning...' from the Credence Clearwater version of Proud Mary. Now, considering that I hated that track first time around, and I've hated it ever since its amazing to me that the merest brush against Soundclicks own Rounded One should induce such repetetive catatonia. I am hoping, while I scribble these words, that the antidote to this incessant yapping in my mind is writing this review so lets get on with it so I can get back to my life... So, Big Wheel.. Wot a guy. It seems funny that the first time I ever heard any of his music was with Far Away (July 2006), he seems to have been around forever to me. Mind you, that's also because I have been through his material lots and lots of times and always found something worthwhile.

What a change some water under the bridge makes...

These days Big Wheel has stepped away from electronica becoming much more a standard musician (you know, the kind that actually play instruments), and more power to him for that. So what we have on Get The Funk is Dave Cutler on bass, Matt Gallagher on lead guitar with Big Wheel supplying coffee, cakes and real ale along with inputting his own musical contributions. Which, as we know from experience, can be prodigious. The list of BW tracks resident on my hard drive is adequate testimony to that.

Something else is obvious too. This musician has a bad case of the funk. The man is totally into this lately and that's not a problem for me, I've always liked funk. There are two distinct strands though; the standardised floor fillah so often evoked by the word or the more technically and musically adventurous style personified by Bootsy Collins and george Clinton. Get The Funk has that classy sophistication to it, especially in the intro and the uses the keyboards are put to; the piano in the intro being a special treat. For my money, though, I think this could do wonders with some serious vocals because right now - as good as it is - it's just another instrumental.

Excellent funk work out though... Chah!! Highly Recommended.

Superhuman - Hellucination

Hear The Track Here

God, I wish I were. Superhuman, that is. I find out later that Dave Kelly (aka the aforementioned alpha human) is merely superhuman, he's Irish too. Which, of course, amounts to pretty much the same thing in my book. Now then, if you are wondering whether I am dragging the Blarney Stone around with me to curry favour with advanced beings, think again. I'm merely going to try and sell it to them. Speaking of advanced beings, I seem to be showered with Rock Gods at the moment with the bulk of them originating out of MP3 Unsigned.

Superhuman is the latest, and presumably the best :D

The boy knows how to rock sure enough but ever since I had me brain warped at an early age by Rory Gallagher (not one of THEM brothers), I've known that Irish guitarists can b-l-o-w fiery chunks of rock everywhere. Certainly, Superhuman is of the frets-on-fire-ouch-me-fekkin-fingers school, dropping scorching leads everywhere he can find a tidy niche for it. Before I found out about this artist, I had been aware of the Gallagher feel in the track, so it wasn't exactly a surprise to find he came from Dublin. I would imagine, given the title, that you would have to have some firepower at hand to create such a vision, and Superhuman comes very c-c-c-lose.

Sorry, nerves. Shredded, even.

Which is exactly what Superhuman sets about doing on every note of Hellucination and considering it's just shy of three minutes, that would be all most normal human could take. Joking. I know a guy who has every lead he ever heard memorised, and he'd have a field day with this track; bar after bar of riffs. Normally, this would have me yawning because while I can appreciate a fine guitarist, I much more appreciate their ability to touch me rather than the other way around. Superhuman does that, but I'll listen to some more tracks yet to see how varied this obviously competent guitarist is.

Instrumental rock. Recommended for the mad axeman within you.

Largo - One Nation (Digi-Generation)

Hear The Track Here

Now you that politics and me are sworn enemies but even I had to agree with Largo's comments for One Nation etc. he admits that he has 'a great concern about Hillary making it into the white-house'. Welp, join the club mate and there are a few of us out here - and it has NOTHING whatsoever to do with her being a woman either. Anyway, that the politics out the way, now pull up the rug and lets paaarty!! Largo, although relatively new to Soundclick has made a few friends in the short time he has been here, especially through his review thread on the Critics Corner forum. I'm always glad to see a new reviewer around, especially when they know what they are talking about.

'bout time somebody did eh? ;)

One Nation is - at heart - a great song, no doubt about it. The way David Katsikas (aka Largo) puts it all together is exceedingly good too; here is a musician/vocalist who can deliver with some style. There is no doubt in my my mind whatsoever that a track that features a JFK quote in it can often be incredibly tacky but the snippet used in this track fits right in there. Style? Well, f****** if I know actually. I can tell you that despite a rough, cramped mix (at least on the equipement I used), the song powers out with enough punch to turn some heads.

I've been puzzling for days how to describe this ingenious little track. Ingenious insofar as having so much sound like so little, this track is tight. It'll take a while to work the layers off it. That's once you get past the roughness mind but I do recommend you give it a listen simply because its a great track, with some class vocals (complete with the usual 'lectronic f***ry. My best guess at style? Parliament? Howard Jones? Robin Scott? You tell me.

Excellent song, marred slightly by a rough sound. Highly Recommended electro-pop.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fear 2 Stop - Gondola Of The Dead

Hear The Track Here

I get this eerie feeling that I have listened to this or reviewed it before but such visions are commonplace when dealing with the peculiar (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). Fear 2 Stop have given us more than their fair share of horrors of all kinds over the years. After a while, you become desensitised to it. Or at least that is my excuse for - dare I say this? - actually kinda liking what they do, and more so especially over the last year or so. If you no idea what I am wittering on about, two words will instantly clue you in (counts on fingers ) One: experimental; two: noise.

So that's what 'a gleam of apprehension' means then...

Anyway, back to the not-really-a-plot. 'Imagine,' Fear 2 Stop exhort in the song comments 'zombies spending a romantic weekend in Venice...' Eh? Talk about losing the plot. Okay, I'll go along with it. After all, this Houston based outfit have led me astray many times and - weirdly enough - it is often worth the effort. For a while there, I kinda thought that we had turned the corner on the really out-there stuff but most of their latest tracks do return to some of the same ground that frustrated many people (including this reviewer) with their early work.

Don't get me wrong, o judgemental eyeballs, I don't mean that Gondola of the Dead is rubbish. It isn't, especially if the collision of horror (zombies et al) and the electronic f***ry that is state of the art Fear 2 Stop sounds like an interesting and worthwhile use of your time. Of course, most people would shrug and move away, being assailed by shouts of 'move along, nothing to see here' but there are always some ghouls who really get off on traffic wrecks. All of which, sounds surprisingly like any number of the F2S tracks I have reviewed over the years. If you have acquired the Fear 2 Stop habit then you will already know this, can't see how this might appeal to a larger audience though.

Zombies eat venice!! News at 11.

Wired Ascention - Dark

Hear The Track Here

I'll get to the name in a minute but here's something a bit interesting... This track was paired with another 'prog-rock' this month and - surprisingly enough - I managed to get past both of them with foaming at the mouth and attacking complete strangers. Both things being, of course, brought on by exposure to a musical genre I loathe and despise to the very core of my being. It's something that both tracks had something to offer that was definitely out of the prog-rock ordinary. I suppose that is why everything is still standing and I am remarkably calm. Now, Wired Ascention? Who? (shrugs shoulders). ASM Studio I know from old POP days, and lo here is in a band. OK, so now I know a little of what to expect. Which is why it completely took me by surprise...

...all eight minutes plus change of it.

I know! I know, can't trust your ears these days. Welp, Wired Ascention come to the prog rock revival armed with a secret weapon, namely the aforementioned ASM Studio who has - by definition - more electronic toys than God. Now in some cases that would be a problem - usurping the Diety is not a wise career move. However, putting that electronic kit to use to power some of the most rhythmically interesting prog rock I've had to wade through in a good while is smarter than yer average bear. The other half of the partnership Tony Mazza, is a guitarist I have already reviewed in his band Waiting For Helen, although that experience had not prepared me for the fireworks and emotion he pours into this track.

Here is a musical partnership that works a treat, giving the listener real value for money. Kinda weird thing to say when the track is freely downloadable, but let me clarify. To me, a peice of music is like a book, or a work of art. The more times you play it/study it/construct it, the more you get out of it. Or at least you do if the musician(s) knows what they are about, and both these musicians obviously do. Truth is, this was a keeper for me from the get-go because of the depth (and pacing) of the track, and the sheer beauty of the guitar playing. I know rock isn't to everyone's taste and I know (from experience) that it makes some people violent but hey, a cross between prog rock (kinda/sorta) and electronica? Only one word for it my friends. Sweeeeeeettt....

Unique blend of styles. MUST HAVE

iOD!NE - NYC Subway

Hear The Track Here

Like Batman, I love it when a plan comes together. Take, for instance, my first run in with Canadian rock gods iOD!NE (and that's positively the last time I am going to write it like that!) when I was blown away by Meander (December 2007) and laid a Must Have at their feet. The reason (well the main one anyway) is that I am an insatiable rock junkie and I need my regular fix - this band supplies enough of that to get me to the point of overdose. Which, I guess, is the whole point cos it's only rock and roll, innit? See, what I like most about rock is twofold; a tight band and a jaw dropping guitarist, throw in a good vocalist and hello Hog Heaven. Admittedly, it's all a bit flash and seriously pongs of prog-rock but with performances like this, Iodine are entitled.

Yeah, keeerrrrannnggg.

Like Meander, NYC Subway has been remastered by Andrew Britton who definitely deserves the namecheck; what you hear is powerful enough to light up anyones skull. The track was inspired by hours and hours of playing games such as F.E.A.R and you can hear the game references everywhere, from the kinda loopy rhythms to the bleeps and clips familiar from arcade games. OK so what does this have to do with rock exactly? Well, let me put it this way, it looks very bizarre laid out in print like this but believe me it actually delivers an epic of construction that could only be called by one name. It shall be named prog-rock.

Aha! Is it time to run away yet?

You all know my feelings about the prog rock genre so you would expect this track to have a bumpy ride. It's to the skill of the band at delivering such material, but you better believe it may be a challenging peice for some tastes. Especially if you only like music that goes whumpa! whumpha!! As it is, the band throw enough musical nous into the mix to keep a grizzled old prog-rock cynic (that's me folks) interested in it enough to give it the requisite playlist workout. Again, it shows that Iodine have what it takes and I would imagine that they are a terrific live band. Having said all that, this is a noisy track that blunts the production and that only becomes noticeable after a few plays, but nonetheless the music does win out.

Atmospheric rock. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sumit - Farewell

Hear The Track Here

I have to admit that I do love the blues, and I do love blues rock as equally and I had been grooving on Sumit's Changes (November 2007) for days before I realised I was listening to de blooz from the other side of the world to the Mississippi delta. In fact, Sumit is an Indian born artist which surprised the hell out of me because - if nothing else - Changes smacked of authenticity. It was also a knockout track in every way, making it into my year end awards for 2007 which is no mean achievement for a first track. Suffice to say, the second track - Whiff Of Home (December 2007) - didn't make me rave so much but I was always one for high hopes. Still good enough to gather a highly recommended though...

Q. What is it about India and rock? A. **** knows. But it works.

Farewell is the third Sumit track to come my way then and co-incidently is 'the first song I (Sumit, that is) ever wrote, recorded 13 years later. Billed as Classic Rock, it has more than a touch of Pat Metheny about it, which means that you should find it 'fiddly' enough for your ears. In other words, there is plenty here to keep your attention, especially if you are known to prostrate yourself before Rock Gods. I mentioned before that whoever sings on these tracks has the vocal tones of a young David Bowie - and the musical standard is just as high. Class classic rock, even.

Stylistically too, it owes much to the shadow of the Bowie who used to rock like a mofo, before he became too rich and famous to care. What gets me about this track (nay ALL of this artists tracks) is the amount of sheer confidence the band display, and the authentically western sound they come up with. With a sound and style halfway between the UK and America (and the finer musical points thereof) Sumit could be one of India's Rock Gods. Certainly if this band played live they would gather fans by the armful, no doubt about it whatsoever. A bit too complex for an instant hit, Farewell pays off with repeated playing and then it becomes well special.

Highly Recommended Classic Rock (by way of India)

Cam's Even Song - Words You Said

Hear The Track Here

'A song about pain' Cam says in his song comments. Hold on, can this be? Cam? He of the fluffly, joyousness of life? Aaah, but those who know Cam's Even Song know that the cuddly bunny side of his work has its dark side, and as I have mentioned a time or two I think on balance I prefer his heavier work. The tracks that have really affected me from this amazingly prolific musician have always been the Biblically righteous tracks, the really serious side of Cam. Funnily enough, although Cam's not exactly an overt Christian (at least not by my definition) his tracks with that content are by far the most powerful IMO. Those are the tracks I have tended to keep and revisit over the years.

As you do.

Words You Said, although not being lyrically that heavy, still carries that inner power than Cam can seem to bring to his work when necessary - although the vocal treatment sounds odd. At least at first. Odd is another word I wouldn't quickly associate with this artist but for sure the first and second times I played this, the vocal didn't sit right. Got me a bit worried actually because it isn't like Cam to do something like that. You only have to listen to the acoustic express train (honest!) that propels this particular track to see that this is an artist who takes care to get it right.

First time. Every time.

I really like when Cam gets on his Doomy Dylan vocal style on, and there is certainly a tinge of it in his delivery on Words You Said but - as I said - it didn't sound right. That's because sounds like a cross this time between Dylan and George Harrison and once you get used to it, it sounds as right as it gets. Actually being a long time lover of all things Travelling Wilburys, this track sounds as if it could have come from that august band. A finer compliment couldn't be had. Cam's cadence confounds.

MUST HAVE for fans and Highly Recommended even so.

Confusion Said - Find Another Way

Hear The Track Here

Anyone who says that there favourite place is Steveland is going to do alright by me. No matter that in my own little universe I like to refer to it as Steveworld, simply because I have the most enormous pretensions to grandeur known to man. Confusion Said is the culprit and - as it 'appens - it also features a Steve. Steve Calapp to be precise and if the name isn't ringing any bells that's because you've only been on Soundclick for about five minutes. Back a few years ago, a rock band of the finest strength roamed around Soundclick like a wounded beast. Initially called the Ty Kaufman Band (ah him!) and later known as EL84. As well as featuring an axeman par excellence in the aforementioned Ty Kaufman (Ed: now in Blue 42 as if this isn't confusing enough already) it also featured yer actual Rock Voice, embodied in the tonsils of Steve Calapp.

When I reviewed Blue 42, I commented about the absence of Mr Calapp and I definitely felt the track that final vocal touch; it's nice to see the situation redressed this month. Confusion Said is Steve, Steve Dominguez (Ed: Damn it IS Steveworld!!) and Josh Bechere and being a trio the music is pretty much what you would expect save for the track having an acoustic edge to it that is surprisingly effective. Not surprising though because even the slightest listen will show the listener that this isn't gonna be one of Soundclick's many wannabes; here is the sound of experience. My only quibble (and its a teeny one) is that there seems to be some high end interference (especially noticable with the cymbals). There again, considering the band are whipping up this earstorm in a kitchen, that is chump change and hardly worth mentioning.

What comes out of this is a masterfully arranged, powerful rock track that touches every base in its search for the perfect riff; four and three quarter minutes of some fine, fine rock. All three musicians contribute vocals, and some very tasty playing along with them, but if that ain't Steve Calapp on the main vocal then I'm a deaf Chinaman called Wha Da Fuk. Take a listen and - if you know anything about rock - hear one of the best rock voices I have heard in a good while. As if that weren't enough; the arrangement of this track is just perfect; it winds, it unwinds going every which way. As an indication of how good it is, it has already been a Soundclick number one and it should be back there again.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Adam Fielding - Distant Activity

Hear The Track Here

Letting my eyes wander down the review list this month it was immensely gratifying to see some older Soundclick faces reappearing after a long absence. There again, in Adam's case it might have been because he was banned for being a naughty boy, but that's probably a malicious rumour put about by...well me, really. Not one to suffer fools gladly is Mr Fielding and more power to his elbow for that. Anyfekkinhow, way back when Soundclick's electronica forum was really buzzing, Adam Fielding was one of the names most often bandied about. Certainly he is one of the very few artists who - singlehandedly - changed my whole attitude about what electronica could or couldn't be.

Adam has always been a particular favourite of mine because he wanders into some areas of English electro-pop that have always fascinated me. A lot of the early work I reviewed owed a large debt to the electro-pop of 1980's bands such as Depeche Mode, OMD, Howard Jones and Distant Activity sticks closely to that style - even down to its seven and a half minutes of running time. Mind you, you probably won't even notice that time slipping my, you'll be too busy either bouncing or gawping at the scenery flashing past your ears.

One thing about Adam's work always stood out from others; his very high production values and his effortless ability to string endless melodies together. All of that is on display on this track and I have to say I am chuffed to bits to have a new Adam Fielding track to play after such a long time. It brings it all back you see, and even brings a tear to this grizzled eyeball (Ed: Gilmore's only got one ey-ee!). There again, y'all know me by now and you know I'm going to be able to back up these brave (yeah and even foolhardy) comments by pointing your ears towards Distant Activity.

Electro-pop symphony. Luvverly. Highly Recommended.

The Legendary Fred Miller - Paranoid

Hear The Track Here

For brevitys sake - and my poor abused fingers - hereinafter shall be known as TLFM. Fred Miller is a self confessed 'porch musician' who doesn't pay any attention to current musical trends but who is nevertheless 'on his own path'. An accurate description of around 90% of Soundclicks members I'd say. Having chewed me way through several TLFM compositions, I must admit to a sneaking liking for the old cove. I am also one for being 'on his own path' so I am bound to be a kindred spirit - and obviously biased. I have said before that this is one artist whom the term 'probably an acquired taste' was made for.

His output, to be fair, has been prolific and somewhat adventurous (especially with his work with his son), which is miles better than that promised by the first TLFM track I heard. I'll let Fred sum it all up for you. He says 'Folk Rock Blues mix. Unique style. Layered Vocals' and that is exactly what you get, all bound up in the inimitable style that will endear some people to this artist while making others shudder in disgust. Me, I see nothing wrong in aspiring to be a competent 'porch musician' and Fred is doing a pretty good job of it. Although it should be stressed at this point that audio fidelity here isn't exactly quality, but it certainly isn't as dire as some I have heard.

I spent ages wondering how I was going to describe this exceedingly curious track; a sort of cross between the vocal manipulations of Bobby McFerrin and the dry-as-dust tone and delivery of Tom Waits. That is closest approximation I can come to, although as I said quality is very different. Again to be fair to Fred, he makes music that he enjoys and that enjoyment (for me anyway) makes him an artist I would listen to, simply because I'm curious as to know which way he will go next. Definitely not going to be everyones favourite but hey, what can I tell you? Fred Miller is cool OK?

Certainly different. Recommended Porch Music.

Side Seat Driver - People

Hear The Track Here

When it comes to yer actual rock, I have to say I prefer the English variety (especially when it comes to Heavy Metal) but nonetheless have a special place for rock that can only have come from one other country; America. America, home of the mad axeman, the screaming vocals and big, big hair. Stretching back to the Golden Age, Side Seat Driver plumbs some obvious rock influences but they still manage to come up with something fresh, dirty and (God forbid) musically exciting. A particularly hard trick to pull off, let me tell you, when faced with an old rock warhorse like your reviewer. Remember, I saw most of this stuff first hand when it was happening all those years ago. ANY band is going to have to go some to keep me amused.

Chris Bishop (he who must be obeyed at POP/Popspace) has this as his choice this month and he knows full well how picky I can be (especially about rock) and - bless him - he's picked a winner again. In style, People is the bastard child of 1970's era Doors, crossed with large helpings of speed metal and gonzo rock. Looks like nothing in print but if you know your rock, you'll know that sounds like a very unlikely combination. It is, but by God it certainly does the trick in the 'lets stun my ears' stakes. Classic rock that sounds exactly how you would expect - in an American stylee.

The Doors influence comes through in a couple of ways, in the lyrical structure and flow of the peice and in the vocalists voice which has definite echoes of our Jim lad. The song though, is thoroughly slap-bang up to date though, an amazing cross between the rock styles I have described above. For me, whenever I see the term Classic Rock, or Hard Rock as this one is, I expect songs with meaning, intelligence and an audio fidelity that lets the guitars do their thing ie blowing yer ears off. People has all of that and more. Rock of the very best kind; red meat for a starving populace.

MUST HAVE hard rock.

Stella Polaris Project - Dragonfly

Hear The Track Here

Fourth time up for current MP3 Unsigned darlings Ricky Mancini (aka MD1-Project on the same site) and dulcet toned Melinda Mohn who collectively make up Stella Polaris Project. As it happens, I have been snowed under over the past month with CD's of all shapes and sizes, including Orphans, the latest from this duo. Regular readers will remember the impact this duo have made on me, getting into the year end reviews on the space of a couple of Orphans tracks - Hello Anonymous (October 2007) and The Question (November 2007). The main reason for this seemingly insane frothing at the mouth is because Stella Polaris Project are doing something very different with a very tired genre: electronica. For those who know Ricky Mancini's solo work, that'll come as no surprise - he has always been one to severely push the envelope.

That's caused a couple of problems in the past but I have to say - in my defence as it were - that IMHO teaming up with Melinda has rubbed a lot of the rough edges of his work. He is still as wild sonically as he ever was, but then Melinda's own instrumental and vocal work leavens the incredibly hard edge Ricky generally brings to the party. Bovver boots music....(Ed: He'd better understand that's a joke eh?) Anyway, to get back to the point, since I have had the CD it has been played consistently and Dragonfly has become a well known track to me. Although (again IMHO) I have to say that my all time favourite Stella Polaris Project track is still Hello Anonymous but Dragonfly is another of the CDs highlights and an excellent starter for the CD itself.

MD1-Project has made a whole career out of glitching/cutting and otherwise mangling sound into unwholesome shapes and on Dragonfly he is applying it to what is pretty much the rhythm track, giving the whole thing a light, skipping-on-the-surface feel that couldn't possibly be described in print. Melinda is at her most sultry, squeezing out the notes between huge dollops of honey - reminding me strongly of our own Alison Moyet and believe me that is a compliment indeed. As I said earlier, it is that special combination of these two quite different talents that make Stella Polaris Project stick out from the norm, and I absolutely guarantee you are not going to hear anything quite like this anywhere in the electronica field.

Outstanding song. Outstanding band. (another) MUST HAVE.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Charlie A - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

Like a lot of online musicians, Charlie Armour spreads out a bit in terms of the kinds of websites (always in the plural) you are going to find him on. Like a lot of us, he is finding that there is a big payoff in being on lots of different sites. I'm taking two tracks of his on this time; one based over at POP and one from Soundclick (where he is known as Charlie A). For those of you who are still bewildered and mouthing 'who?who?' like a bunch of nocturnal rat eaters, I have reviewed this musician a few times but I first met him when I reviewed the hilarious Beebee Bubba (July 2006) a class peice of electronica featuring his neice Lauren. I really liked Broken China (January 2007) too and it made it into my year end review so it shows Charlie's music has some legs as well as being an immediate listen.

Symphony Y is the track to be found on Soundclick and is as good an introduction to this keyboard player as you are likely to find - especially if you like your music with a hefty chunk of rock running through it. If it isn't having full on congress with the whole prog rock thingie, it's certainly doing some serious flirting with it. As such, I shamefully admit, it isn't going to be the kind of thing that floats my boats although Charlie - as usual - definitely delivers the goods. Enough so that even someone who doesn't particularly like the genre, wouldn't object to a listen - and neither should you.

Pharoahs Curse is much more my kind of track, right from the very start and - I suspect - a much more recent track than Symphony Y. For all of its sparseness, Pharoahs Curse has a rounded, full sound that wraps itself around your ears; it helps that it also has a world music feel it would be hard to deny. About the only thing that really crunches my gears about it is that it is too short. I tell ya, Charlie A knows how to put an interesting and flexible soundscape together as this track will show; with some great sounds being used too. I'm not normally taken by this whole 'soundtrack' thing, but Charlie's produced a beauty in Pharoahs Curse.

Highly Recommended for Pharoahs Curse. An artist well worth checking out.

Nuff X - Stillborn

Hear The Track Here

First up this month is the originator and prime exponent of Nuffcore, Nuff X. It would be best not to go scrabbling through your musical terms for nuffcore because you probably won't find it. Only those in the know (and on Soundclick of course) would know Nuff's particular ability with the ol' electrons. Having said that, he has gone into yet another mode with the last two or three tracks; a kind of UK tinged Alternative but with less of the whiny than usual - which, as we well know, is a definite plus. The music has gone kinda lo-fi as well but not to the detriment of the music - or the song - which is what helped them to a couple of highly recommended's just lately.

no' bad no' bad....

You are only as good as your last track though, so lets see what we can make of Stillborn. 'Tried to do something that had a good piano hook' Nuff explains in the song comments, although your first listen won't give you that impression - fairly typical for Nuff as it happens. It's a good job I wasn't expecting a pretty-pretty piano peice - this is Nuff X we are dealing with after all - because you certainly don't get it. What you get is a piano phrasing that keep you hanging by the seat of your pants, along with a dark, intense, almost threatening atmosphere.

Nuff X to a T really... ;)

Personally, I think Nuff has enough confidence to pull all this 'I made all this music' posture off, although its fairly obvious he needs to either sharpen up the sound to let the vocals punch through. Well, actually sharpening up the sound would enable there to be some separation and air between the instruments, as it is, it's all a bit dense and - dare I say it - kinda wooly. Still, it shows just how far James Bacon (aka the Nuffster) has come since first venturing onto the scene some years back, and is a good example of what he has to offer. I do add, however, that Nuff tends to do things his own way, and that may put some people off. But hey, **** 'em.

Dark, intense Nuffcore. Not for the faint-hearted.

Stan UK - Lostforwords CD

Hear The Track Here

I first met Neil Archer and Tim Smith (aka Stan) when I reviewed Revelation [Summer 67] (December 2007), I liked the track and certainly noticed that these chaps know what they are about. Revelation wasn't, to my ears anyway, what I would have assumed to be their best work, to which they replied that I should listen to their CD to get a better idea of what the duo could do. The eleven tracks that make up Lostforwords certainly paint a much broader picture and show that the time, effort and money they invest in what they do pays off - with a couple of provisos. As much as I wanted to, I couldn't ignore that small tang of 'home produced' that permeates this CD, but I suspect most people wouldn't notice so whaddo I know..

Stan aim squarely at the intelligent end of pop and, for the most part succeed. I do have reservations about their style and the way it is laid down; they are songwriters deep down and the music has a thinness that is disconcerting - at least for this reviewer. Lostforwords is the title track and starts off the CD and is a very accurate representation of the rest of the CD and it is in this very first track that I noticed the lack of life in the vocal mix - although it works in the rap (provided by Blake Eerie). Like a lot of Stan's tracks, it has a cleverness about it that may win it listeners and considering it's a little over four and a half minutes long it covers an awful lot of ground.

Now that I do like.

I've compared them to 10cc and I see no reason, now that I've lived with the CD a while, to change that opinion. There is a strong singer/songwriter feel about all the material that makes up the CD and I suspect that Stan may well become an acquired taste in their field. There have a lot of collabs happening to including the glorious Maria Daines on The Lounge Lizard which sounds exactly as you would expect - not a track to savour in the dark. For my money, this is THE standout track on the CD but that is because I am well biased where it comes to Maria; although it took me a while to get acclimatised to the delivery and tone. Not something I expected, and that's a fact. It is that lyrical and arrangement smarts that finally get me to the real meat of this CD though, and that I find I can highly recommend, even though I find the CD itself a bit patchy; almost a song portfolio. As I said before, being as truthful as I can be, I think the game could be upped several notches yet before this really catches fire, and one of the first areas to concentrate on is depth of sound. It's nice when people send you CDs but it does put the onus on the reviewer to be particularly scrupulous about any negative comments, but then again I can't ignore what my own ears tell me either. As always, these are personal views and you guys may well hear it differently.

Whatever, I do advise checking Stan out for some superior pop.. (and the Maria Daines track is a Must Listen)