Monday, June 30, 2008

Barricades Rise - Blueprints EP

Hear The Track Here

Q: When is an EP not an EP? My answer is when it is more than 4 tracks and that shows perfectly how old and crusty I am. In this modern, new-fangled age EPs can be any size at all, but in the case of Nuneaton's own Barricades Rise, it numbers six. My last review this month also came as a request through my RebelRiffs blog and I've been living with it, after all six tracks take up some mighty ear room. Barricades Rise is a duo: Jonathan Coates and Michael McEntee, both supplying guitars and vocals and judging by their Myspace page, they are a live, gigging concern too albeit in the native Warwickshire and its surrounding counties. Sneer not, this is prime musical country; Coventry, Birmingham, Leicester all played important parts in musical history.

Hailing from Leicester myself, and having been heavily involved in the Coventry scene of a few years ago, I think I was expecting a particular sound but Walk The Earth - the first track - soon shot that assumption. Although it's a bit rough soundwise, Walk The Earth is a surprisingly mature production, something that is highlighted by certifiable Rock God vocals. This confidence and energy pretty much covers all of the tracks on offer, Smiles and Lies has some of the sound problems (vocals getting lost in the mix, kinda flat sounds) of the first track but again shows that songs are really what this duo are about. The Preacher is one of those tracks I wish I could see the lyrics, definitely one of the most dramatic tracks from the EP. Penelope puts a much more acoustic slant on what has come before and yet another track that stood out for this reviewer.

I was a bit surprised when I was finishing this review to find that the duo had recorded all of this on their own home studio, so now the roughness of some of the sounds comes clear. Nonetheless, the vocals ARE low on some tracks so nrrr. Paving Stones will certainly please those who like a more earthy, grungy sound and the thing rocks like nobodies business whereas Collapse reminded me strongly of the Who in their prime. All told, Barricades Rise deliver enough of an alternative kick to please most people, and the songs and performance help enormously. You can download Walk The Earth free here but you'll have to pay a bit of change for the rest. Is it worth it? Surprisingly enough yes, whatever little flaws it has - that's the beauty of home recording.

Refreshing take on Alternative. Highly Recommended for songs and vocals.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Nuff X - Tell Me Something (feat Jon Partelow)

Hear The Track Here

If your head is ringing from the name Jon Partelow, let me get you some silence. You may also know him as HELLbus and, lately, of the excellent Can't Stop The Daggers. Better now? Cup of tea? Slippers? (sigh) It's ironic that the last two tracks for the month of June are both from musicians who, IMO, had rocky starts to come out from behind and surprise the beejeebers out of most of us. I refer to The Antennaheadz and Nuff X. Both have forged their own, special sound and both of them are just now hitting their stride. I find that very heartening and I applaud this because they learned quickly, grasshopper.

Ah so...

Nuff X quicker than most realised that if he was to make a dent he would have to experiment and those early tracks paved the way for his unique take on weirdo electronica thingies... Mmmmm. He says he is a 'Breakbeat/IDM/Glitch producer' and that is a good general description but - as always - he is also an artist who will endlessly stretch those boundaries. Take Tell Me Something as a classic example of what to expect from a Nuff X track, except with the added bonus of Jon Partelow on vocals; sounding very gravelly too I might add. Still that is probably coming more from the very industrial sounding backing track.

Nuff's always had a nice touch with IDM, Truth To Be Told (May 2008) is another splendid example of what he does with the genre. Tell Me Something has a dark edge to it that hovers over the beginning like a black crow, giving you a clue what comes next - and it ain't pretty. Damn fine peice of music though and about as different as anything you are likely to hear in the electronica field, beware of its hard egde though it'd damn near chop your head off. The vocals give it an incredible anger, so top marks there too. I'm cowed, believe me, I'm cowed.

Very different blend of industrial, IDM and all points west. Highly Recommended.

The Antennaheadz - The Boy Who Took The World

Hear The Track Here

Who'd have thought a few years ago that Thomas J - a well known member of the early Soundclick experimental clique then known as Station For Imitation - could metamorphose into a geetar strummin' plaintive kinda/sorta folk singer? Well, you don't see my hand up here because I had no fenerking idea that the then bane of my life would turn into to put this?......listenable. Charming, even. I do like this new version of The Antennaheadz very much as past reviews have shown all too well. never thought I'd be praising the man either - it just shows to go you.

Or something like that.

Considering that we are absolutely swamped by endless streams of one man bands, there aren't many that actually sound like a one man band. Listening to the beginning of this track I instantly had a picture of a guy with a guitar, hi hat strapped to his legs and a bass drum on his back. It's actually an neat introduction, although there are going be people harping about lo-fi, but what do I and Thomas J care? What comes after that intro is what counts and on that score I'd say Thomas has got it just about right once again. Yeah sure, it's a bit wobbly and decidedly lo-fi retro (and very reminiscent of Syd Barrett's early work) but give it a play or two.

The Boy Who...etc is - like a lot of Thomas latest output - a song, first and foremost. As a musician he's always had an eye to odd rhythms and timings and the structure and flow of this track show it off wonderfully. Personally, I'm amazed at how good at this style Thomas has become in such a short time. It's all part of the learning curve, as the excellent outro will tell you and Thomas J/The Antennaheadz are getting right on top of their game. Give this bad boy enough time and, believe me, it'll steal you away. Get a beer for this man!!!!

MUST HAVE Alternative rock.

Charlie A - Metal Gear

Hear The Track Here

Charlie Armour has been a very, very busy boy lately and in fact had two tracks up for review this month. Yeeaahh, right. Even more so when one of them is the detestable Games Soundtrack genre - as if you hadn't guessed already from the title. So, make sure your swash is buckled and phasers set to stun because we are going where a million billion people have been before; cyberspace war without end. Add to that you and your mates can gang up and kill everything you see with absolutely no comeback, testeostrone levels are high gentlemen.

No, I don't get it either.

So never having played the game, it puts me at a disadvantage when listening to this track. Whether Charlie has developed a theme of his own or this is a reworking of something currently in the game, I have no clue and considering its only two minutes long, I'll not fuss much. Considering that I have always felt that Charlie A's technical and musical ability is very good, there is a looseness to this track that was evident immediately.

Mind you, that might also have much to do with the tone and tenor of the track itself. As you would imagine, it stomps along with groundstretching speed, pursued by dits and dashes (Ed: stabs, Gilmore, stabs!) of strings. It isn't as much a musical experience as an atmospheric one. At two minutes it isn't going to stretch anybodys time scale and it is worth a listen - I've heard far worse attempts at the genre.

A personal preference, I think. Taste it and see.

Rob Preston (aka Pink Bomb) - Passengers CD

Hear The Track Here

Sometimes I'm way too soft, especially when it concerns round shiny things. In this particular case we are not talking about coins of the realm, merely CDs. I often get sent CDs but don't very often review them because I have a) no time and no life b) one track per band is plenty enough, even for someone with my copious capacity for music. Still Rob Preston (aka Pink Bomb) chatted me up some flattery and viola! I get a 12 track CD and you get earache/eyestrain. Life, as they say, couldn't get much better. Well, actually it could and the reason this CD is getting the airing it is, is because when I reviewed What About Us (January 2008) it absolutely blew me on my ass, It goes without saying that this is a track from this very CD.

I've had to change my reviewing procedure a bit for this too so I've been living with it for a week or so, and the admiration this artist gained with that first track is very much enhanced. Hold On starts the proceedings and sets the tone and the bar is very high, at least on the songwriting/production side. It's a dynamite track though, full of neat little pop touches. Trust In Me starts like a Doobie Bros oldie before settling into a nice funk lope with excellent vocals, and the middle eight is dynamite; a very commercial sound. Jazz Mag, despite it's description, has more to do with modern dance, an electro dance track at that - but that's no bad thing izzit? However, before you know it you have acoustic guitar licks hitting you from every angle and that is very jazzy indeed. As if that isn't enough it raps!! What Can You Do gives you the slightest of pauses before Broken assails you earholes with it's lush strings and arrangement - one of my favourite tracks from the CD (along with Go Postal)...

There are three female vocalists on this track and all three of them sound great; Monique Lawson, Roxanne Conway and Marika Beckford and I have no idea which is which - and I don't even care. I can't say I am overly fond of the instrumental side shown by some of the other tracks but that's just a personal preference. Tinkly pianos and strings never does anything for me. I had issues with the mix once or twice but overall this is a CD that actually sounds good on any system. There are enough songs on it that I liked which got me through the ones I didn't particularly care for; much like any regular CD. Ahh, but then you wouldn't be supporting your neighbourhood indie musician, would you? You know it makes sense. Pop in all its varieties.

Recommended. (some of these tracks are on SC...)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

AJG aka Flyboi - Paper Route

Hear The Track Here

First time round for me with California based rapper Angelo Garcia (aka aka etc) who I discovered is sixteen, Paper Route being the first track of his new album and - coincidentally - the only track on his Soundclick page. Unlike a lot of rappers, AJG prints his whole rap to go along with the track which is absolutely fine by me but I would have also liked a bit of info about the beats being used. It sounds to me as if this were made for this particular track as opposed to being a pre-bought thing, and that helps enormously to sell the track - at least to me.

I know lots of people are put off instantly by the words hip hop or rap but that's just predjudice and misinformation because - even on Soundclick - there is much to like about some of the music. Although I found Paper Route a bit formulaic in layout, it's still done well enough - especially for one so young - and the production is particularly worthy. What this does is make both the rap and beat much more in your face than a lot of the hip hop you will hear from unsigned sources.

Paper Route has nothing whatsoever with delivering newpapers and much more to do with hip hop's endless fascination with riches and bitches, and there lies the rub. There really aren't that many people on Soundclick motivated by the 'GET MONEY AT ALL COSTS' ethic, and those that are tend to be hip hop/rap artists. So outside of the genre, this will probably not do so well. Having said that hip hop is by far the largest audience on Soundclick and last I looked this track was in the very high reaches of the hip hop chart and that ain't small change. For me though, this track was an introduction to an artist who has plenty of room to grow.

Recommended hip hop.

One Kid's Lunch - The Show

Hear The Track Here

FINALLY, after what seems like the longest wait known to man (or Gilmore anyway), I get to polish me ears with a new OKL track. Except it isn't quite as NEW as I would have liked but there again, I am a rabid fan of this band's particular style and output. "Sunday School" songs for grown-ups is how they describe themselves and I'd say that was accurate enough but the 'tendency to the weird' comment struck a much truer note. Fact is this American Christian Rock duo are often side-splittingly funny lyrically and have a serious problem with being serious. Or, in other words, NOT!!!

My kinda folks...

However, once again we find ourselves scraping up back catalog, even though the track has been uploaded lately. The Show is a reworked track and as much as I like to hear OKL, I do wish more for some really new material. (sigh) Still, the first couple of listens to this quite complex little track soon won me over to their side and I'll forgive them yet again. Much more poppy (although in a very complex 10cc-like arrangement) than I expected but lots of plays soon sorted that out.

One of the very best things that One Kid's Lunch bring to the party are some of the sharpest, wittiest lyrics you are likely to hear. Sure, taken one way the meaning could be clearly taken as a Christian message, but - like all OKL songs - there is always an element that would draw in everybody else too. This is definitely a track where reading the lyrics is essential to understanding the whole picture. It's one drawback is it's unfinished quality, but hey to get my hands on new OKL tracks, I'll pretty much put up with anything. You may think differently.

Recommended, thinking mans Pop.

Avalanche - The Rules Keep Changing

Hear The Track Here

Or moving the goalposts as we call it in the UK. Whichever one it is, it's a fernerkin major irritant, according to this new track from Soundclick's favourite rock band. Mind you, the main input for the song does seem to come this time from Mike Foster who is not backwards about coming forwards. In other words, he can be well in your face, as many people have found out. Strongly held beliefs is OK though, and so is a strong value system neither of which have - so far - been declared illegal. In light of that I'll do my usual thing of ignoring him when he's wrong and praising him when he's right.

Damn, I'm gonna get it in the neck for that comment!

'As a nation...and as a people...we are largely asleep' Mike opines in his very informative Producer Notes, which should give you a clue to the lyrical content of the track. Unless you have been living on Pluto their music should need no introduction: rock, with a little bit of rock and a whole lot of rock. Actually, I do them a disservice because they do actually cover a wide stretch of rocks endless subgenres. From the opening guitar chords it is obvious that Classic Rock is the name of the game and there aren't many bands around who do it quite like Avalanche.

All the little tricks I have come to expect from this band are on display, the left/right guitars of Foster and Mark Easton, the easy bass of Michael Corsini and the spot on drumming of Barry Easton. All ducks in a row so why then, I ask myself, am I not zapping off the walls? Truth is, I always enjoy Avalanche as a rock experience but I don't always connect to their songs. I think The Rules Keep Changing is probably a bit too Classic, if ya know what I mean. It won't stop me blasting it out to my neighbours - it is an Avalanche track after all - but it still felt more album filler than floor filler.

Recommended Classic Rock from one of the best.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Peter Paul Parker - Landslide

Hear The Track Here

Another musician that came to me through my RebelRiffs blog, Peter Paul Parker has set up residence in my house in very short order. The link above will lead you to a site where you can listen and/or download tracks from his latest LP Stepping Up. Aaah, but what would such a rash action get you? Well, some classic rock songwriting for a start and - in my books - that is more than enough to ensure that this artist gets a thorough going over. Listen, anyone who can come up with a chorus progression like this one is welcome any time...

I'm an easy date, I know...

Seems strange to me that a UK musician should base himself at Sonicbids (an almost exclusively US site) rather than one of the very much larger OMDs such as Soundclick or even, God forbid, Myspace. I feel pretty sure that the quality of musicianship on display on Landslide would almost guarantee a larger and more amenable audience. Still, mine is not to reason why, let's look at the music. Acoustic based, rock influenced is how the man explains himself but that says nothing about the warmth and sheer listenability of a track like Landslide. Put it like this, its a track that will surely make you look at the other tracks on offer.

As many of you are aware, I just love a good song, even moreso if it's vocally as rich as musically and Landslide features some beautiful harmony work, all set in a very efficient arrangement that ticks all the right boxes. Can't put me hand on me ticker and swear that this was the 'killer' track from this artist - and I am willing to bet there is one - but it's definitely good enough for me to hang on to for a while. A very professional offering in every way so if you like a bit of class pop rock in your life, get to know Peter Paul Parker.

Highly Recommended, great song, great arrangement.

Dark-i - Near U

Hear The Track Here

Question: why is that bandname so familiar? A: haven't got a fnerking clue, but its ringing bells with me. Either that or it's the thought of the genre Dark-i works in. So, let's take a wild stab at this. Daire Gleeson (aka Dark-i) is from the beautiful Galway, Ireland and its obvious that he's been around Soundclick for a good while. First time I've been asked for a review then, I suppose, so I'd better get to it. Carrying, of course, the usual proviso I employ when reviewing music of this sort; this is a personal opinion and just because I don't particularly care for the genre, I know what I like.

Feeble excuse, I know. I'm famed for it.

One of the things about techno that really grates my gears is that it's usually long-winded. Great if you are on the dance floor working up a sweat (or in my case a fatal heart attack) but not that interesting to listen to when you are in a more passive mode. Don't get me wrong, I love some of the sequences and the little tricks that techno musicians bring to the party but mostly I just want to mix it up rather than the static approach many techno artists work to. Having said that, two things make Dark-i stand out from the usual crowd.

The first is that everything you hear is the mans own hard work. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, you might think and you'd be dead wrong. Working with any of the programs associated with the genre - outside of the instant music packages that specialise in murdering it - requires a very steep learning curve and an understanding of how sound operates. Taken on that basis, Near U is absolutely worth a listen, nay even a download. It isn't a genre I have ever claimed to like to much but I can tell when it's done properly and Near U is bang on. Never thought I'd say this but....

Excellent techno. Highly Recommended if you like the genre.

I'ms a Meer - Breeat

Hear The Track Here

I'm surprised that its been a long time between releases (or reviews rather) because the last time I came across I'ms a Meer (don't ask) was with the equally oddly named Untld Mldyactual (February 2007). Not the usual thing with the Experimental electronica crowd. Usually I get inundated by every track they ever wrote and a couple from their mates into the bargain and all heavy, heavy duty WTF WTF. Mind you, Untld Mldyactual wasn't exactly what I personally would call experimental, unless you counted messing around with some things in Fruity Studio and generally misbehaving. I even read the Untld Mldyactual review just in case I was really nasty to them, but no it's quite a tame review considering...

Aaah but I'm older now.....and a LOT crankier :D

From the getgo, Breeat is a lot more structured (and electronic) than its predecessor and has an almost DnB feel about it in places that I think works really well. Great intro too; the kind of thing that will drag you in by your ears before you could blink. While you are still trying to work out the 'copyright infringment' crack you are essentially sandbagged by the track and if you've listened this far (about a minute or so in) then I'll put money that you'll then listen to it through to the end. Even though I don't have a lot of time for what I would consider 'straightforward' electronica, Breeat has lots going for it.

Certainly if you like either breaks, DnB and or electronica in general than you wouldn't be wasting your time with this track and who knows it may well end up soldered to your hard drive. It's fresh sounding enough to win over old curmudgeons like this reviewer and that isn't bad going. It's the little touches that got me though; that intro and another dose of the same (kinda/sorta) as an outro, and all the shucking and jiving of the track itself. Electronica with a point, who'da thunk it?

Recommended Electronica.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Crockmister - A Long Dry Season (Video)

Hear The Track Here

All of us, to a man or a woman, love a nice, flashy bit of kit. OK, well feast your eyes on this. If you have no idea what a Electro-Harmonix 2880 Super Multi-Track Looper is when its at home, don't worry your head about because - with the help of my mate Craig Sofaly - I am going to show you something to make your jaw drop and the drooling to commence. Craig Sofaly being the real name of one of my all time favourite artists, Crockmister. Professional in every respect, Crockmisters music is in a class of its own.

By all means, check out my extravagant boasts...

A Long Dry Season, first of all, is a video; basic in appearance, just the man and his (very nice) guitar. The real fireworks come when he starts to play. He starts off with a percussive muted sound, adds a very cool walking bass figure then starts to jam like there was no tomorrow; creating leads, flourishes and counter rhythms and that's all just to get the track started. For fans of Crockmister (and there are many) it's the songs and vocal sounds that typify his output, one tends to forget that he also makes all the music going on behind those great songs.

The best thing about A Long Dry Season is that you actually get to see him doing all these things and I for one am well impressed. Not least because this is one of his better songs, elevated to ridiculous heights by doing it all in real time and live. An awesome achievement made all the better because Crockmister (bless him) allows you to download the video and play it at your lesuire - for free. As much as his music is highly commercial, Crockmister has always allowed free downloads and that is to his eternal credit because its artists like this that will put unsigned music in its rightful place. If this were the real world, this guy would be a massive star, as it is, here is his live bootleg video.

A unique internet musical voice. Brilliant video. MUST HAVE.

Project Overseer Productions - A Sol To Remember

Hear The Track Here

Now, now calm down dear, calm down. Of course I'm not about to start reviewing the entire POP site here, that would be too silly even for me. Noope.... After months of tracks being selected by POP's site guru Chris Bishop, this month we get to turn our sights on the man himself. Project Overseer Productions is what he was known as when I first met him four years years ago, and he scored a whole bunch of hits with me at the time so its curious to see that now he is a media mogul ;), what effect that has had on his music. S'funny, you know. The most influential people in this little scene of ours, are often some of the most overlooked talents too.

Can't imagine why that is...especially in this case.

In the end days of the MOD scene, it was swamped with trackers (as they were called) who specialised in space opera - in effect verbose, overblown, pompous and highly stylised music. It put me off the genre forever so whenever I see a title with a space connotation I get an instant shudder. A Sol To Remember (from the album Red Planet) had an 'oh dear' ring to it long before I applied it to me ears and that shows how deep my loathing is. See, the one thing this particular music has to do - more than anything else - is to convince you of the unimaginable: the reality of space flight. I have yet to hear many examples of this genre that actually worked as intended. Mind you, this is from a pair of ears that first took flight with Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun from the early Pink Floyd.

Stylistically, A Sol To Remember treads the familiar modern path to the stars, there is enough drama, light and shade to satisfy even the most frequent of fliers. See, I'm not sure I really agree with the whole semi-ambient approach to the subject, I will always prefer something more propulsive. A Sol To Remember is, of course, a spotlessly clean and flawless track that flows through the ether and into your mind with consummate ease. A known standard for this excellent musician and - believe me - it's only the genre that's keeping me from giving this one the big nod. A relaxed, yet varied tour of the cosmos in under four minutes, what more could you ask? Naked stewardesses is not an option, ya understand.

Highly Recommended Space electronica.

Prash - Asha Ke Badal

Hear The Track Here

Prash is a guitarist and songwriter who has given this particular reviewer a lot of pleasure over the past couple of years, I have lots of his tracks in permanent storage and after a few initial plays I'm already convinced that Asha Ke Badal (Clouds Of Hope seeing as you asked) will take it's place amongst them - and I don't even like the track that much. Well, let me clarify that somewhat. Essentially, my introduction to Prash has been through his rock work and only every once in a while though one of his superlative World music tracks (he's from Mumbai, India); all of which have been replaced on his SC site with 'demos of songs for use in Hindi Films'

I have huge respect for Bollywood and its influence on Indian musicians of all stripes but I have to say its more sugary moments are to be avoided and - in that respect - this track shares some of that aura. There again, demo for a fime, fair enough, right? Well, let's go a bit further. Asha Ke Badal is a track Prash wrote for a charity helping to children in underdeveloped rural areas in India; the charity site is here. All the music is created by Prash and the Indian Classical vocals are courtesy Pt. Abhyankar and together they make a wonderfully warm and flowing track.

My problems are obviously more of style than substance because as usual I could nothing technically awry with this track - a standard which Prash attains every time. There's a lot more than Bollywood in the track and that outweighs my own stylistic misgivings enough to enjoy the track once it starts to stretch out and really show what it is capable of. Its a beautifully worked peice of music, fair enough, and I'm sure the cause is glad to have its use because it shows that Indian musicians are every bit as compassionate as their friends in the western world. Don't worry about understanding the lyrics, just go with the flow and experience some of India's finest....

Highly Recommended World music.

Pilesar - Hurry Up and Wait

Hear The Track Here

I've certainly been at Soundclick for long enough to recognise that life on this site - like many others - goes in cycles; you get busy, creative, interactive periods and you get the doldrums when nothing much is happening. One of the highlights of SC life a couple of years ago was the incredible outpouring of weird and wonderful tracks from a field I had least expected it from: Experimental electronica. Or just plain noise to some people. Names such as Guanoman, drt, mandible were names that struck dread into yer average listener. None more so than the infamous Doctor of Dissonance, weirdly wonderful Pilesar. Granted his work just has to be an acquired taste, but I stand by the claim that he is one of SC's most original artists. Been a dogs age since any new tracks though, so I was pleased to see Hurry Up and Wait slither into the list this month.

If you go to the man's new site you can download pretty much his entire output, collaborations and all and discover whether you get the taste or spit it out. Described beautifully as ' playful, intermittently brilliant nonsense, conjured on a four-track using a bunch of cheap instruments', Pilesar's music is probably some of the most challenging music around - when he doesn't have his tongue firmly wedged in his cheek of course. The one thing not to lose sight of here is that Pilesar is an accomplished, innovative musician - no matter what it actually sounds like, everything is where it should be.

Albeit in a strait-jacket.

As much as I like the weirder side, I also like the Mothers Of Invention/Zappa side of his music which Hurry Up and Wait is an honorable member. Accurately billed as Alternative Country, this is a light, throwaway track that will definitely please the many Pilesar fans, although to be honest it probably won't venture much outside of that and that's a shame. Hurry Up and Wait is a song (gasp) and sounds suspiciously like it was recorded live and added to later because the mix is well into the lo-fi end of affairs. For my money, as a long time Pilesar fan, I liked the relaxed feel of the track and appreciated the wry lyrics and who knows, you may too.

Recommended Alternative Country.

Crave - Can't Wait

Hear The Track Here

Crave is a new name to me and by the looks of it, new to MP3 Unsigned too. Crave are brothers Craig and David (geddit), both vocalists who have apparently played in bands for the past 14 years. There are only three tracks on the band's page; a rehearsal track, a work in progress and this track. Rock is the genre and it's a genre that has many illustrious 'brother' acts and my own favourite section of the genre is the rock based, harmony vocals that I'd assumed this was an example of.

Assumptions, who'd 'ave 'em eh?

Because of those assumptions Can't Wait struck me as much more rocky than expected, and give the mix you would be hard pressed to tell that there was a second vocalist. Come on. though, we all have our limitations to work with right? Indeed we do but out here in this world the bar is really, reallly high. Of course it doesn't matter whatsoever if this is a hobby, but why then put music up for all to hear? Can't Wait is actually a decent track, if a bit flat of mix and linear in construction. All a bit samey, if you know what I mean.

A lot of the music you hear these days has a throwback to earlier times. During the dog days of the 1970's pub rock surfaced and has been an influence ever since. Workmanlike, capable bands churned out a great many tracks that sounded like Can't Wait and they did find an audience, albeit small. As will, I suspect, Crave. Their brand of rock has all the right ingredients, and MP3 Unsigned is beginning to gather a passel of decent rock (as in the old school) bands. I have to admit that Can't Wait didn't strike me that much as a song, but as a decent rock work out yes, very tasty.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Amadeo - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

Every once in a while I get review requests through my review blog, as is the case with Amadeo, a request I have shamefully late in fulfilling. There again, now that I've had the experience of the man and his music I am never - I mean NEVER - going to be late again. Why? I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable about this music stuff, and I know when I come across quality but this time even that hyperbole escapes me. When I say that Amadeo is a major talent, I am well prepared to stick by my view and defend it at all costs. Not that it makes any difference, when you have friends such as Bob Dylan checking out your music, who needs to know what I - or any other reviewer - think?

There's endorsements, and then there are endorsements. Know what I mean?

Simple fact is that Amadeo is an original, and extremely accomplished musician and a KILLER songwriter and I don't get to say that too many times. Take a listen, if'n ya don't believe me, to Going To Baton Rouge an absolutely spot on (in every way) slice of American musical pie. Ok, better yet, once you have listened to that track (and you will listen, o yes you will), make sure you've left enough room for Pass On Through, a beautiful vocal collaboration with Skyeblu who is indeed 'as beautiful as she is talented'. Amadeo's warm, husky tones sit extremely well with her winsome, sultry and emotional performance. A killer track in every single respect - the level of professionalism is nothing less than jaw dropping.

Pheeewww, **** me have I run out of superlatives yet?

It's easy to do when faced with work of this quality so if you get your lazy butts in gear and get over to his Murdock Mansion (Ed: he means Myspace) you can catch these tracks and a great many more my wits are too shattered to describe. Some of the comments about this guy being 'the next Bob Dylan' jar with me somewhat and does neither artist any favours. I can say that the kind of quality I've always personally associated with Mr Dylan is definitely present in every way, from the calibre of music to the sheer gold of the songwriting and performing skills. Amadeo is a next nothing, he's a one off. A diamond. A treasure. Far and away the best thing I am going to hear this year, that would be a fair bet. Now I suppose I will have to reactivate my own Myspace account so I can download these beauties... (hint hint)


Cam's Even Song - America's Idol

Hear The Track Here

As one of Soundlcick's most prolific artists, Cam's Even Song, will pretty much have a song that almost all of you would like. After all, there are 202 to choose from and - speaking from experience - I'd say a very good percentage would be very good indeed. In case you have no idea what I am chattering about, Cameron Bastedo is a Soundclick veteran of many talents; reviewing and making music chief amongst them. He has also been a past Artist Of The Year (2006) for this reviewer which should furnish a clue as to how highly I regard this singer/songwriter/producer.

As someone who was deeply immersed in the music of my youth (Beatles, Stones, Bob Dylan et al) I am bound to like the easy on the ear, lively sound that Cam's Even Song specialise in. What really seals the deal, however, is the man's unerring ability to churn out a great song. The list of these (and the Must Have's that accompanied them) stretches on and on which makes reviewing more a pleasure and less of a chore. He's got Simon Cowell in his sights this time (who hasn't) in a splenetic attack on the whole 'Idol' experience, an attack it so richly deserves. Mediocrity made by mediocrities and sold to sheep. Baahh, I say. Baaaahhh...

There's only one reality. Ignore it at your peril.

America's Idol shows Cam's pop side, with some lovely progressions, although that chorus with it's high backing vocals took some getting used to. There is a lovely home-made, almost retro feel about the track that - in other hands - I might have misinterpreted as mixing inexperience. However, in this case, I know for a fact that this is exactly how Cam wanted it to sound and - truth is - it actually shows the song off to better advantage. The vocals are clear and concise, well up to this artists usual high standard and the rawness of the backing track wears off after very few plays. I'm sure that America's Idol will take up residence on my hard drive with its many bretheren. There again, I am a confirmed Cam fan of long standing. Cam in full spate. Death to reality television. Yes to life!!

Highly Recommended topical Pop from a Soundclick master.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Iannai - Scattered Peices

Hear The Track Here

My first encounter with Iannai was a very pleasant experience. After reading that Ian David (for it is he) was a Contemporary Christian artist, I leapt to the usual assumptions before you could say 'holy **** Batman' I might as well not got my panties in a bunch either because Just Enough For Me (May 2008) was indeed just that. A smooth peice of nujazz that showed labelling can be tremendously misleading. Mind you, as good as that track was, it wasn't really something that could float my boats.

Smooth anything brings me out in an unslightly rash.

Scattered Peices is absolutely, 110% right up my street and exactly the right track to show that Iannai has more than a few tricks up his sleeve and this one is a doozy (Ed: I think he means excellent, a one off). Billed as a Electronica: IDM track doesn't really do justice to this track because it is so much more than that. Heavily reminiscent of '80's electropop (in structure and style), this track shows that Iannai knows how to make a song work.

There's a take-it-easy, low key feel to this track despite its insistent rhythms that makes you lean back into the song like a comfy chair - and that was just on the first couple of listens. The more I played it, the more entrancing Scattered Peices became showing signs of being a track that would stand up to repeated plays. Certainly this track has opened my eyes to the possibilties this artist brings to the party and is the best track I've heard so far but after only two, I guess that's not saying much. Whatever, I'm keeping a copy of this one.


Between Worlds - Between Worlds Overture

Hear The Track Here

I could have sworn I have done a Between Worlds review before but my trusty filing system tells me no, and when it says it in that tone of voice it's a done deal. I've certainly been aware of them, first on the original Project Overseer Productions site and then on Popspace and I know I've heard their music once or twice. This choice is Chris Bishop's pick this month and is a peice of music inspired by Hans Zimmer. Aaah, film music even, taken from the Between Dimensions album...but I don't like film music.

Now there's a familiar whine.

There again, if you think of Between Worlds Overture as a peice of classical music, the nausea does subside somewhat. As you would expect, this is a long (seven minutes plus) track stuffed full of those odd little moments that make tracks like this happen - at least for me. To sustain my concentration, especially when you are being as laid back as some of this track is, you will need to keep throwing new things in the ring and this track does that admirably.

There are inspired sounds and neat production tricks galore, along with the more seriously classical movements all of them rendered wonderfully in a clear, uncomplicated mix. Mind you, it would need to be, the amount of stuff it has to showcase. This is not a track that lends itself to a quick listen, and of course you should have more than a passing interest in the genre, but overall and despite its length Between Worlds Overture never wore out its initial promise and should be a welcome addition to anyone who enjoys a good space opera.

Highly Recommended blend of Ambient and Classical.

MD-1 Project - Latinotekk

Hear The Track Here

Or LaTinoTeKK to be absolutely precise but I'll be ****** before I do all that fiddly caps stuff. For all those people who have no idea what day it is, let alone who or what an MD-1 Project may be, let me cast some light. I have known Ricky Mancini (aka MD-1P and one half of Stella Polaris Project) for a couple of years now and I've mostly enjoyed the experience. There has been a time or two when sandpapering my face with a nice slice of extra-coarse would have been less painful, but the one thing that is true of this artist is that he can often be raw. If you are of a nervous disposition and tend to chew your nails when under stress, best to avoid some of his more extreme stuff otherwise you'll be up to your elbows in no time.

'Hard House Techno... Rocktronica' the man crows in the song comments and I gotta admit he has a point because those are the closest points of reference. Like a lot of MP3 regulars I have noticed how much Ricky Mancini has upped his game since I came across Area 39 (February 2006) and it's all to the good. I think there has been considerable overspill from the Stella Polaris collaboration and that has tended to smooth out some of the rough edges that gave me so much trouble earlier on. Moreover, the increasing sophistication of his slice and dice production is giving his music its own style; for sure, you won't have heard much quite like this.

It's got a weird, off the wall lilt to it that will take some getting used to but the way the elements combine to chuck the track along is a revelation and should be a must listen just for that. Then take into account the Spanish vocal cuts, the distinctly World sound of the percussion and I sure as **** take my hat off. This must have taken forever to stitch together and it's a sign of the increasing confidence and reach of this artist to cover absolutely ALL the bases in one track. Not once, in this interesting, complex track did I feel anything other than a wow factor. Sure it may be a bit strange in structure and style but it sure pumps along nicely enough. Probably the best thing I have heard from this artist yet.

MUST HAVE dance (kinda/sorta)

-LMS- - Empire!!

Hear The Track Here

-LMS- (aka Last Man Standing) is a rapper from Miami that you will have come across before, especially if you are corrupting your eyeballs with these reviews. I think I've done - lemme see now - four or five tracks by now and - LMS - topped it all by getting his first Must Have from me with The End Of The World (December 2007). Empire will be the first thing I've heard since that track so its been bigging itself up while waiting for review. 'On the backs of slaves is how they built it...' the man states in the song comments. That sentiment and the accompanying Parental Advisory should give you a klue for the kiddies....

Or not....

I find it ironic that a few years ago another President referred to the USSR as the evil empire and now here are a great many of its own citizens using the very same phrase to describe the state of their own nation. I know better than opening the can of worms labelled US domestic policy but -LMS- more than covers it with this lengthy tirade against the state of the nation. Beats produced this time by Hazardis Soundz, providing a very decent platform for the man to get his chops in and this is an angry and bitter voice he employs to get his points across. Its a voice I think will find many resonances amongst his countrymen and women.

Yeah, but do it f****** rock?

Absolutely. Solid as a brick ****house and with the same flow and organisation I first noticed with The End Of The World in terms of the rap, and an interesting and diverse backing track that plays an active part for a change. All told, it makes yet another solid track from this artist who just gets better with each release; tighter, stronger and with this track, angrier. Based on content, and the fact it is hip hop, I suspect this may be passed on by a lot of people and that would be a shame. This is a track that actually takes a stand and says what it thinks, all you have to do is agree or not and - that's politics. Music? Well, that one is easy.

Highly Recommended, highly topical hip hop.

Steve Altonian - New York City Cowboy

Hear The Track Here

Steve Altonian will be a name familiar to those few who inhabit the Soundclick forums, gotta hand it to him, he gots the self promotion thing down. Nothing wrong with that of course. This is a big place you have to do SOMETHING to get peoples attention. Hee hee, and we all thought it would be soooo easy. My introduction to his music came with Tell Me Why (January 2008) gaining him the distinction of being among the first Must Have tracks for 2008, which should tell you what to expect. Tell Me Why is a terrific Country ballad, sung with great style. That track had been available since September so it's nice to see that I'm a bit more timely in catching up with this one.

New York City Cowboy uses much of the same instrumental line up as his previous track joined by some very atmospheric slide guitar fills that send shivers down your spine. What Steve proved to me with his first track was that he is a dedicated, serious musician with his own vision and - seemingly - the ability to put it all together to make some very, very commercial sounds. Although Nashville is mentioned in the song, the country going down in this track has little to do with that city. It has heart and soul for a start and Nashville seems to have sold its to the major pap producers.

Steve Altonian sticks to the basics; a good, solid song, plenty of space in the arrangement and faultless performance (although I'm sure he may disagree with that. Most seasoned musicians would, but hey, they are all damn perfectionists anyway. From where I am sitting New York City Cowboy is a worthy successor to Tell Me Why and even surpasses it in some ways. The warmth and humanity in this track, lyrically musically draws the listener in regardless of description. A good song, well played will always get the attention. Splendid stuff.

Highly Recommended and MUST HAVE for fans (that's me)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wreckless Music (Ejay) - So Focused (Stand Up)

Hear The Track Here

Hip hop has come a long, long way since its early beginnings in the streets of New York in the early 1970's. Like many people, my first exposure to it was courtesy of Malcom Maclaren in the late 1970's but then I had the good fortune to spend most of the 1980's working in NYC recording studios and witnessing first hand many of the names that were to make it big in the genre. All of which fired up a definite love in me for the arts (of all kinds) that this movement threw up not the least of them being the music, the dancing and - my own favourite - the graffitti art. It was the music that caught and held me though and with the advent of the internet age, it has returned to it's original roots.

With all its original faults.

Hence many of us on Soundclick feel beseiged by peep-my-s*** wannabes who have no clue to how clueless they are and that isn't a healthy position for the genre to be in. As hard as I am on other genres, I have a special hard on for wannabe rappers, as many have felt to their cost. Wreckless Music have skated on the thin edge a time or two and I haven't yet heard a track that would make me go YEAH, although I've recognised that the basics are there. Although never more so than on the first WM track I reviewed Gemini (September 2007), a very fresh sounding double rap that actually worked a treat. Still, to his credit, I haven't had to really throw my toys out of the pram and thats saying something.

Although So Focused suffers somewhat from the same lo-fi problems his other tracks have, it's a much more pointed, clipped appproach than I've heard before. It's all about flow at the end of the day and on that score Wreckless Music just delivered the goods, no matter what you might think about the production and the music. The best musical accompaniment to a tight rap is a sparse one and Wreckless scores again with a very basic, but highly effective, arrangement that serves to punctuate the rap perfectly. Oh and it has a killer chorus, especially if you like the genre. Now, this is what I've been talking about. When it works, it works and no argument and this one works a treat soooooooo.......

Excellent indie hip hop. Highly Recommended. (I'm keeping my copy).

The Peach Tree With Pixieguts - Confuse Me

Hear The Track Here

From the three tracks I have already reviewed from The Peach Tree it has become obvious that here is a musician not short of a few ideas, in fact he's got loads. That's doesn't mean to say they all work though. As much as I've liked things from this Australian electronica artist, I've also found things that I can piss and moan about. 'Well, **** you Gilmore,' you may shout, 'give him a break at least he's trying' and you'd be right. The problem is that I get asked to review it, and that means I have to say what I think. Don't get me wrong, I think The Peach Tree is an excellent musician who is developing his style, but it isn't there yet.

Confuse Me, as you can see, is a collaboration between The Tree and Pixieguts (aka vocalist Marie Craven). I have seen her name around in my travels but this is the first time I have ever heard anything from her. The vocal on Confuse Me consists of just four phrases; mental extensions, where are we, confuse me, excuse me repeated at varying levels and speeds. Why that's fine, it IS techno after all; a genre not noted for its lyrical skill - and taken on that level it does exactly what it should do. Be an element of the music. I don't think the flat vocal mix helped to bring out any of the nuances of Pixieguts' vocal though, which can play a large part in the proceedings - even in techno.

The Peach Tree obviously supplies the musical feast and he keeps the lid nailed down on this track pretty well with a solid bass sequence stitching the beat into place. Mind you, you would have to be mental about techno to get much more from this track than a monster headache. That isn't to say it isn't worthy of a listen or two, it is. Taken as a straightforward techno track, I've heard a lot worse. Where it falls down is in the general lo-fi sounds (raw even) and the kinda slapdash way sound levels are dealt with. I liked the whole chop-everything-up approach and thought if that had been developed more, this track would have had longer legs.

Pidgeman - Gotta Find My Way

Hear The Track Here

First track out of MP3 Unsigned this month is from yer old rock buddy Pidgeman. Regular readers will know the man and his works of course but if ya don't here's a thumbnail sketch. He's a home produced rock musician from Coventry here in the UK and considering that he is a home producer comes up with some very decent tracks indeed. Out of the last five tracks I reviewed, three got a highly recommended from me and that usually means a higher standard of performance and production than most you are likely to find. In fact, Let Go (Free Your Mind) (May 2008) still sits on my hard drive getting the odd workout.

So, on a technical level I don't find much to argue with in what PIdgeman has brought to my ears, but where he hasn't scored has often been down to his vocal abilities. As I mentioned before, Craig (aka Pidgeman) has a passable rock voice and when it fits with a track it works, as Let Go will show you if you give it a listen. The problem I find with this track is that the music and lyrics (courtesy of Dawn Sinclair) is that it is so good, it needs the touch of a killer vocalist - and I think even Pidgeman would agree with me on this. Make no mistake about what I am saying here, this is a killer rock ballad, and nothing else would make it the final (dare I say magical) ingredient.

This, mind you, from a well known hater of rock ballads in general and weepy, I-lost-my-baby-girlfriend-wife-dog rock ballads in particular. I can however, recognise when it's done properly whether on a commercial or indie basis and this track does the business; as I say listen to the power this song contains. It's a very standard, heard it a million times structure which does, in fact, sound quite dated but is saved by the power of the performance and the quality of the song. No matter how hard I tried though, I strained with the vocalist. I don't want to go too far with this because I like what this vocalist does - when it fits. This does, but it shows the strain too - at least to my ears. A killer vocal and this could have been a Must Have and that's a major difference for me.

Highly Recommended nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pretendo Game Project - Sonic 1:Scrapyard Zone

Hear The Track Here

Don't be looking at me like that. I don't make this stuff up, ya know. If I did maybe I could avoid coming up against a) videogame scorers or b) alternative musicians whose definition pushes several different envelopes of tolerance - usually within the same track. Now, now, don't panic. I'm not going to go into attack mode (at least not yet) because I haven't finished explaining where I find myself. Patrick Lew is a name that may press several alarm bells for you and he is the face behind Pretendo Game Project and Sonic 1 - Scrapyard Zone is a remix of one of the games levels. I have to say that Patrick scores very highly indeed when I view the mountain of my own predjudice he's constructed for me to climb - before I even get to the music. Mind you, I know that Patrick is a brave, brave man and he can take a licking and keep on ticking.

Full marks for that so let's try to ignore the sound of knife sharpening eh?

So, before I tear the this track let me state that I am no Sonic fan, even though my own children have made a habit of forcing it on me from time to time so I wouldn't know the original from a lump of cheese. I do like to hear the soundtrack, but only when I am playing the game. From my limited exposure to the game I can see that Patrick (oops) Pretendo Game Project has definitely got the sound and pace of the thing right but it all rings somewhat hollow, almost as if there a peice missing.

Now that may just be my own dislike for chip tunes (which is what this essentially is). Coming from a tracker background I understand the process but have none of the fascination for it that Pretendo Game Project so obviously does (the Soundclick page has lots of these tracks from all different games). So obviously you should like to listen to this kind of track to get anything out of it, and to be fair I did like this within the context; it's tuneful and a mucher tidier aural package than many he has delivered to my ears. What I find myself thinking is that - no matter what we think - the guy sure is industrious and more power to him for that.

Recommended chip tune remix for those with square eyes.

Mike-K - Down The Street

Hear The Track Here

Way back in the dawn of internet music, as we've discussed many times, making music on the computer was a difficult and time consuming process. After we had weathered ourselves on the tracker (MOD) scene many of started to explore the emerging world of MP3 and programs like Fruity Loops, Rebirth and so on. One of the programs I came across at the time was the infamous Band In A Box, a MIDI program that does exactly what it says. When I was trying it out I found it kind of limiting as all the sounds leaned strongly towards the bland. Sure it could be tweaked somewhat but - for me anyway - everything came out kinda 'samey'. The reason I seem to be writing a software review is because Band In A Box is the base of this new Mike-K track.

Just in case you have lived your entire life off-planet, Mike Kohlgraf (for it is he) is a guitarist/songwriter working out of the USA who I have reviewed n dozen times. He is a Soundclick veteran as well as being one of the most influential figures around through his Flavour Of The Genres stations on Soundclick to his pioneering live web shows(firstly on Songplanet but now on iMusicScene). A man, indeed, of many talents. Mike says that Down The Street is 'just having fun with BIAB!'. and I have to say he makes it sound a great deal better than I was ever able to but his music is from the softer side of the spectrum so I guess it fits. Certainly what comes pouring into your lugholes (Ed: ears, obviously) sounds very decent indeed although the hi-hat sound worried me the more I played this track.

Mike has been on a lead guitar jag for a while and Down The Street is the logical successor to his collab with Christopher Martin Hansen on Guitar Blues (May 2008). When I reviewed that track I moaned that it was inevitable that Mike would suffer in comparison to Chris and I'm glad that Down The Street redresses that impression. Mike is a very good guitarist in his own right and this track shows that off to perfection. It's a kind of countrified rock that allows Mike to pick to his hearts content and very well he does. It's full of light, bubbling lines that tickle your ears. Sure, you should appreciate a straightforward approach and like guitar instrumentals - which I do - but I think Mike should feel proud of this neat little track.

Highly Recommended Southern Rock.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Alchemystic - Gold and Jade

Hear The Track Here

It's funny what will trigger people to put electrons to eyeball and send me an email about a review I've written. Admittedly I don't get too many of them and when I do they usually follow a certain line - especially if I've bad mouthed a track considerably. Sometimes though, I get the odd disgruntled 'wtf are you on!?!?' email pinning my ears back because I directed them to something they considered worse than clubbing baby seals. Such was the case with Alchemystic's Machines Of Madness (May 2008) in which Our Hero successfully constructed a working, very lively industrial site to deafen us with. I got a few emails about that review and - reading it back - thought I had made it quite clear that this was a track that had - how can I put this? - scrotum tightening properties.

Some people can't take a lead lined hint, can they?

It's nice to see that Alchemystic has abandoned his hard hat and iron toed workboots and clambered into some extremely fetching gauzy Oriental floaty thing with Gold and Jade. Much more the Alchemystic we have come to know so well. 'A journey to the Far East' he says which, as you know, is my own particular route. Given the quality and style of past Alchemystic tracks, it didn't take me but a minute to settle down into the track. See, the one thing you can guarantee about this artist - even his more out-there stuff - is that it will be as sonically detailed as you have come to expect from him.

Gold and Jade goes a way beyond that in my estimation because, bless him, he has at least made the effort to use the correct sounds to achieve his objective. If you are aware of how rich a field World music is, then you will already know how difficult it is to pull off authentically or originally. Admittedly, Gold and Jade have a much more 'soundtrack' base than some of the more purer strains of the genre, but it still carries enough of the essential elements to be correctly labelled as world music. At just over three and a half minutes, the track seems considerably shorter which shows just how engrossing it can be. However, I am fascinated by the genre so I am bound to like a track as well presented as this, but you may find it stirring too.

Excellent world music soundtrack. Highly Recommended.

Big Wheel - Too High

Hear The Track Here

Although I have done my usual share of Big Wheel tracks over the last year or so, there has been a noticeable difference. Many of the Round One's track I have reviewed this year I have reviewed under his Big Wheel Remixes personna and - given that they are all remixes - they are pretty decent tracks one and all. Having been bitten by the remix bug myself a great many years ago, I do understand the fascination but - when push comes to shove - there is nothing like original material. The last pure Big Wheel track I reviewed was Get The Funk (February 2008) and showed that the man can get down with the best of them.

Wait! Wait, a very far cry from the electronica tag he usually wears eh?

Welp, fear not, because Too High brings him right back to where he started in 'chillage, danceage, noddage and grooveage' which is Big Wheel speak for DnB laced treats. I've always liked this side of the Wheel in general and his DnB in particular, being one of my own favourite genres. I've often used DnB backlines in my own music, and on Too High Big Wheel brings a smoothness (nay wholeness) to the track that is just blissful - simply because it couldn't possibly have sounded any other way,

'Curtis Mayfield meets George Benson' Big Wheel says in the song comments and I see why he made that particular connection; Benson for the liquid flowing guitar and Mayfield for the arrangement and accompaniment. Takes a brave man though to take on such massive stars and in other hands it would have probably ended in tears before bedtime. In the case of Too High, I'd say that it was an apt tribute to two of the finest musicians America has produced. Sure, you will need to have a strong stomach for sultry, high steppin' funk and smooth vocals but hey, that DnB backline may do the trick just as well. Whatever it is, Too High is a great blend, if a little smooth for my own tastes.

Highly Recommended blend of funk and DnB.