Saturday, August 30, 2008

Northcape - Doesn't Feel Like a Long Way

Hear The Track Here

Northcape, in case you didn't know, has been a stalwart of Soundclick's electronica community for a good many years and yet, surprisingly, I've only ever reviewed one track, and that wasn't really a review per se. Distance was a track Northcape had donated to the Sinewinder CD (Ears International) (July 2006) SC's electronica forum project for the Habitat For Humanity charity. Because it was part of a much larger whole, I was unable to give each track the amount of attention I would normally give them but even so I wrote of Distance 'Northcape is my kind of electronica artist, one who uses mixtures of sounds to get what he is after. This pays off handsomely with Distance, an intoxicating blend of different instruments'. If I said that on such short review time, how much foaming at the mouth would I do with a whole track and the normal amount of time?

Sensitive viewers should look away now.

Should you know of my own music you will know that I am a man of detail. Not for me the tsk-tsk-tsk of most hi-hat rhythms, and apparently not for Northcape either because this track has some lovely touches in that department. Take a little listen to the first thirty seconds or so of Doesn't Feel Like a Long Way and you'll see what I mean. That same detail is also applied to anything else that happens in this track and - given the amount of time he's been doing this - all is as should be expected. Even down to the six minute running length; electronica is by nature a verbose genre that lends itself to extended workouts, which is not to everyones taste. Mine included.

It takes a particular kind of track to overcome some of my predjudices about the genre and and clean, melodic work areone of the keystones of that. It is a standout feature of this track and certainly the first element I took too, after the percussive phase. That's pretty much the way the track crept up on me. Noticing this bit this time, that bit next time. In that way, Doesn't Feel Like a Long Way, is exactly what it says. It might be six minutes long but you certainly won't notice it especially if electronica is your musical nirvana buddy.

Highly Recommended melodic electronica.

Crimson Summer - Sleepwalking In Reverse

Hear The Track Here

Crimson Summer is, according to the Soundclick webpage, a guy called Mark. Well, join the club Mark, most everybody on Soundclick (or any other site for that matter) is also a one man band. Crimson Summer is a new name to me anyway, even if he has been on Soundclick since 2004 and has thirty tracks on his page. I don't think people realise just how big Soundclick actually is. Even for someone who reviews well over thirty tracks a month I am still only scratching the surface of what is available. So, if you think I am ignoring you, think again.

As usual, that's my excuse and I'm going to be sticking to it too.

Billed as Alternative: Experimental (whatever that means) Sleepwalking In Reverse was conceived when Mark discovered a looping program (which one I know not). Don't know about you, but just the thought raises goosebumps on my flesh. whenever someone mentions such things I'm instantly transported back to the heyday of programs like Ejay. I know, for a fact, that making rock (of any stripe) is almost impossible in ANY looping program because of the dynamics of the genre. So, I was pleasantly surprised that Sleepwalking in Reverse was actually a very listenable, guitar oriented peice of alternative rock.

It appears to a composed of two distinct parts; a kind of jangly guitar peice over a spare, basic (and slow) drumtrack before it heads off into much tougher rock territory for the second section. While I do notice the segues between these styles easily enough, most people probably wouldn't. They would be listening because it actually does fit as Alternative and because it's a track that is cleanly mixed and presented. Not quite my style but if I was to make something like this, I would be proud to have come up with a track this stylish. It is, of course, merely a guitar instrumental but hey it is at least a good guitar instrumental.

Recommended Alternative.

We Are All Dying - The Reason

Hear The Track Here

A completely new Soundclick name to me (the first this month I think) We Are All Dying have been working hard to get a bunch of reviews so it was only a matter of time until they got to me. We Are All Dying appears to be a collaboration between Oliver Juster from Germany and Luke Stephenson from Australia. In their endeavours they are assisted by Marco de Boer from the Netherlands), Ryan Peters and Scotsman. No information on where the last two names live but obviously this is a world wide project.

God bless the Internet eh?

What comes out the other end is....well, different anyway. The Reason (which features the lyrics 'we're all dying' btw) is a very complex, unique and tremendously involving track billed as Other Alternative and its certainly unlike anything you have heard before. Although your initial impression is going to be of a very linear track, the more time you devote to it, the more it will show you. This must have taken forever to work out, and to keep that trance like state going anyway. It also has an absolutely killer chorus; featuring the bandname as I mentioned.

Because it's a multi-layered track, it will demand a fair bit of your time to assimilate and this is another instance where knowing and/or reading the lyrics while playing it is essential. It's essentially a polemic about the state of the world and our part in it, but when you combine that message with the music it becomes a much more powerful argument - especially in that chorus. Right now there are only two tracks on the band's page, this one and The Signal and I for one hope that there are to be lots more. A cracking introduction to something new.

MUST HAVE Alternative.

Dawn Sinclair - Just Like That

Hear The Track Here

I have long been a fan of songwriter Carole Douglas (Bolton Songbank on Soundclick), a very polished and professional composer. There is nothing I like better than a great song, and given that there are millions of musicians around us, there are very few songwriters. Finding the two Dawns (Sinclair and Diamond) on MP3 Unsigned has been a big pleasure and I look forward to their new collaboration. In the meantime, Dawn Sinclair gives us a bit of hip hop, a distinct change from the last track I reviewed; Golden Years (July 2008). Golden Years is the first track from the 2 Dawns project and is a lovely peice of traditional folk which got a Must have from me.

Go. Listen.

OK, veritable list of characters getting into the picture on this track, so thank God for cut and paste. The music is by Boyana Bjoern; the lyric by Dawn Sinclair; the female lead vocal by Coko Korinne; and the rap is written and performed by Pro20. The final ingredient is Sal Salvedore who is responsible for production and arrangement. Obviously then, Dawn is primarily a lyricist, and a good one at that. See, good songwriting isn't about verbosity, it's about tautness and precision, and the successful generation of images to go along with it. All things, thankfully, taken into account by Dawn (and indeed rapper Pro20 who supplies the rap lyrics). What really boggles the ol' brain cells though is that - despite having a LOT of cooks - Just Like That is slick, adventurous and a lot of good clean pop fun.

The fact is that this is about as professional a job as it gets in the unsigned world and I am amazed that this track worked out so well, so all kudos to everyone involved. I don't know whether one or two of these people oversaw the general concept or whether what I hear was totally organic (ie it just grew) but the feel and complexity of this track is bloody awesome. OK, I like hip hop and I like pop (and this is both) but, as I said at the very beginning, I love a great song and this is exactly that. Class production, arrangement and performance.

Highly Recommended (very) commercial Hip Hop.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mike-K - Just Passing By

Hear The Track Here

I haven't caught up with Mike-K's Saturday Night Rocks show over at Mixposure for a couple of weeks. Mike is currently on the move from one house to another and I have more work than you can shake a stick at. He made sure he got the latest track to me though. He is nothing but thorough. Speaking of SNR, it has long been a champion of artists I might never have heard otherwise. One such is Kephas, who I met in chat recently, along with his good lady wife. We joshed and hurled insults about to the manor born and fun was had by all.

Who said you need a REAL life?

The reason I mention Kephas is because Mike has played his tracks since forever, and because he appears on Just Passing By in collaboration with the man himself. Seeing as he is primarily a guitarist himself, he certainly gets to work with a lot of other guitarists. Kephas is a breed unto himself, a guitarist in the manner of Carlos Santana, with that whole Latin thing going for him. Actually the Santana reference comes because he has the same tone and capability of ol' squeegy face (Ed: I think he's referring to the facial contortions Mr Santana is capable of) but he is - to my mind anyway - a different feel.

Kephas is one of those guitarists that make every f-e-k-k-i-n note count, and its shown off in wonderful style in this Mike Kohlgraf Kreation. Now if you've ever come across Mike before in his musical guise you will know that he is prone to favour the smoother side of life, musically speaking. The style he has been developing of late dovetails beautifully into what Kephas always brings to any party and - in this one instance - even slides a nice smoothie past me. Splendid collaboration and one that could have been seen coming from miles away.

Excellent Latin Jazz. Highly Recommended.

David Deal - Where Are You Now? - A Rockorian Chant

Hear The Track Here

My first encounter with Christian rock artist David Deal was with, surprisingly enough, First Contact (February 2008), an overtly Christian rock track that I thought pretty good and worth checking out something else by him. Good job then, that he spotted my signup on POPspace, because I had my eye on this one when I reviewed First Contact. This version of Where Are You Now? is remixed and remastered and I didn't hear the original anyway in case I would have to review it. That's my excuse, so I'm sticking to it.

Don't be misled by the progressive rock label because this is a track that straddles God knows how many different genres. Where Are You Now? is an almost six minute wander through some of the worlds more spiritual places, much more Eastern/Buddhist in feel than anything else. This is probably one of the reasons I seem to have latched onto this track like gangbusters. Not just because it does explore a lot of my own favoured musical niches but because it does it in such a positive and fresh way.

Obviously the tried and tested monk chant is going to be at the heart of any track carrying its name and - to be fair to David - he has done a remarkable job. See, when you get a new sound happening, it's real easy to then go overboard on it. Not so in this case, this musician uses the device just enough to imprint it into the track and then goes off to several different sections that echo it; lyrically and musically. I'm going to hanging on to my copy for further study and I name this track...

Highly Recommended blend of styles.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Laroche - Immaterial

Hear The Track Here

Almost the first thing anyone creative does when encountering the internet music scene is start coming up with the most ridiculous names to call themselves?. Unless your name is Caernarvon Fartworthy Pyssed-myself (sorry Caern, ol' buddy) I see no reason why you shouldn't be known by your given name. I have always gone by my own name too, but that's probably because I might otherwise forget it. Anyfekkinhow, Nick Laroche (geddit?) is a Canadian electronica musician I've encountered once before with A Synopsis (May 2008), a very good indicator of just how much he has to offer.

The most striking thing about that track was the very high production standard, it was full of neat little audio tricks and judging from initial listenings to Immaterial this seems to be Laroche standard. Actually, I think the effects and the whole golly-gee factor of the production this time is much better, more focused on creating atmosphere. Aha! A lightbulb comes on over your head as you begin to understand I am talking about music designed to make your eyelids very, very, very heavy.... So heavy they are closing....


Don't run away with the impression that I think this track is a snoozer in that way, in fact Immaterial is exactly what I would want to hear when I wanted something to wind down - and yeah maybe even go to sleep too. Other than that, to be honest, I don't have a lot of time for the genre but - as ever - I do like to hear something done well and Laroche shows that he's got what it takes. Immaterial is a gentle, and relatively short but very effective lesson in the less is more school of thought. Can't say I was enamoured of ALL of the sounds (some of the plucked sounds grated on me) but that's a technical quibble. This is a fine track, by anyones lights and if 'a downtempo chill experiment with some trip-hop leanings' sounds good to you, clickee linkee...

Excellent Electronica trip Hop. Highly Recommended.

The SolitaireOne - Right Here On Soundclick

Hear The Track Here

Fourth time up (I think) for American blues rock artist, The SolitaireOne. Aha! A one man band that 'fesses upfront, gotta love that. I've been well impressed by the calibre and authenticity of this musician from the straight ahead blues of I Let My Baby Go (May 2007), the blues rock of Will It Be When I'm Gone (October 2007) a ridiculously laid back track that anyone familiar with American bar bands would understand immediately. Twenty Twenty (February 2008) though topped the lot, a classic rock track to it's roots and the first of his tracks that I could really get behind. Mind you, he's made more than a dent at Soundclick regardless of what any reviewer says; the blues is alive and well and on the internet.

Whether Right Here on SoundClick was or wasn't a contender in Soundclick's recent competition to write a SC anthem I have no idea. The SolitaireOne says he 'had writers block on lyrics for some time. It's basically a song about itself'' which is immediately obvious as the song gets into its stride. Vocals by the seat of your pants even. Obviously the classic rock formula comes into play again, this time with a much more resonant 60's flavour, as he cites The Kinks as one of his prime influences for this track.

You will have heard the music, or similar. a thousand times. The basic rock lineup is augmented with a supporting slide guitar that fits in the gaps well enough although I thought it sounded a bit thin in the mix. The track is absolutely awash with guitars, all of them delivering a very authentic sound. It goes without saying that music of this type should naturally be loose and IMHO Right Here On Soundclick skirts right on the very edge of loose, particularly lyrically. As good as the music is on one level, ultimately this is - to my ears anyway - a bit of a throwaway track.

Recommended Classic Rock nonetheless.

Daysahead - You Move Me

Hear The Track Here

Chris Bishop, head honcho at POPspace, is a deeply committed individual, both on the websites he runs, the music he makes and even the artists he chooses to champion. He would be down for my Hero Of The Year Award except he keeps blotting his copy book by choosing tracks for me to review that are listen only - and I hate reviewing that way. No way can you devote the amount of time to that as I would to a track I lived with. However, in the interests of world peace and equality, I'll do it. Because another thing about Chris is that the man has a terrific pair of ears, I've certainly not had any reason to doubt that since he's been choosing tracks for me.

Oh, btw, he's a musician too ;)

Daysahead are a four peice band; Kim Leachman (vocals), Steve Wright (guitars), Myron Carroll (bass) and James Barrett on drums. The track I've chosen is billed as Acid Jazz and indeed jazz does seem to be their main ouvre and that's fine by me. I definitely have a liking for most of the genre, especially the kind of thing Dionne Warwick pioneered, and that was the first musical reference that came to my while listening to the track the first couple of times. Obviously I know nothing whatsoever about this band other than their line up but it's obvious that what we hear consists of a LOT of experience. No disguising it.

Of course, no matter how much experience you have it means zip if you can't put to constructive use, and You Move Me shows that this band can do much more than that. It's a very slick affair, as you would expect given the genre, but the musical detail in the track does demand a strong, clear mix. One of the failings of a lot of unsigned artists is their inattention to the WHOLE sound spectrum and You Move Me is a lesson in how to do it right. A rhythm refreshing and moving as the track itself would have it. The icing on this particular cake is Kim Leachman, a vocalist's vocalist. She coaxes, purrs, sighs and pours sugar directly on your pleasure centres; a singer to treasure.

MUST HAVE Acid Jazz. (c'ept you can't have it so nrrr)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Can't Stop The Daggers - No More Looking For Escapes

Hear The Track Here

Hey look at that, it's kulamafi time again. If you had no idea that Chris Chattom (Guitars, Programming, Upright/Fretless Basses), Jon Partelow aka the aformentioned kulamafi (Vocals, Keys, Accoustic Guitar, Programming ), Emily Schalick (Electric Bass, Accoustic bases Upright & 5 string, Cello, bowing, backup vocals), Lionel Luchessi (Drums, Percussion, backup vox) and Ben Dumbauld (Percussion, Vibes, drums) made up Can't Stop The Daggers and that they are definitely destined for some big stuff. What planet have you been living on lately? As far as this reviewer goes (and a great many others too) Can't Stop The Daggers has been on of THE finds of the last year or so. They have made a HUGE impression in a very short space of time indeed. Looking at their latest news (playing live dates, recording later), things can only get better and they are pretty amazing already.

I apologise upfront about the amount of sycophantic grovelling I am about to do, but hey I love this band.

No More Looking For Escapes starts with an acoustic figure that is irritatingly familiar, or echoes something I've heard and I know I'm not going to rest until I've pinned that one down. Of course, all that waxing lyrical about what a great band CSTD are, is now well suspect considering that the last two tracks from this artist have been essentially demos, and mainly acoustic at that. OK, even taken on that level, this track has more going for it than most fine-combed, polished so called masters and for one simple reason. A dynamite song. Couple that with a very clean, totally unfussy mix and voila! instant high.

I liked Jon Partelow as HELLbus but I much prefer this side of his music and my hearts beats in my chest when I contemplate what the full band will make of a track as fine as this. Like their kinda/sorta stablemates, Azoora, Can't Stop The Daggers offer a very compelling image of what can only be described as future pop; a return to a time when lyrics, feel and dynamics were the driver of the song rather than a cash till. It's certainly the reason I so strongly champion artists such as these. If you think I'm laying it on too thick, I suggest you spend two minutes listening to this beautiful song and then tell me I'm too addled for this lark.

MUST HAVE (even in its present form). Chillsville.

Pilesar - My Friend Sunshine

Hear The Track Here

Not saying this to alarm you or anything but this next track may be a little smelly. It's a bit old, ya see. And you know what happens when things are old. 'How about something i did 10 years ago?' Pilesar chortled as he presented this peice of old tat before the Gilmore peepers. Once I had gotten over the initial (and usual) gag reaction - and coated the nasty thing in laminate - I decided that this time even Pilesar had gone a little too far. 'It's one of the first things I ever recorded on my 4-track' he continues as if he didn't notice my sudden green tinged suntan. Now, as if this shabby, shabby treatment were not enough, he girds his loins for one final statement. 'I have no idea what it's about or what it means'.

Wot, and you are looking to me for explanations?? Riiiigght...

One of my biggest problems when dealing with Pilesar is keeping a straight face (as it were). Normally I wouldn't write anything LIKE the amount of double dealing rubbish in any other review. When faced with this artist, all common sense flies out the window. Not sure why that is. Which counts in the same way that 'I have no idea what it's about or what it means'. Pilesar is most decidely a unique voice on Soundclick, and one I find surprisingly accessable considering that musically he is about as out there as it gets. The terms alternative and experimental just don't do this artist justice. Think Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart via The Residents and all points to the loony bin and you'd have it wrapped up in a straitjacket.

Some people think I kid about this artist, but this dude is seriously lethal to brain material. My Friend Sunshine is a case in point. Pilesar takes great pleasure in working with unusual sonic materials (to say the least) and it has always been one of the main attractions for me, not to mention his more musical live offerings. However, the Pilesar I absolutely relish beyond any is the absolute manaic who introduced Acka Fracka (October 2004), and of course Mandible, into my life. It's no good shaking your head and muttering that I am just as bad as him. As I said before, liking an artist as complex as Pilesar is a very personal thing and - like the man himself - I do love a bit of musical jiggery pokery. And remember one small thing about this artist that is not often mentioned: he does all of this stuff in a 4 track recorder. No, I wouldn't have guessed either.

Excellent far side of reality experimental madness. Highly Recommended.

Science Of Sound - U & I

Hear The Track Here

Hold on a minute, you have caught me at a most inconvenient time. See, I'm puzzled. I usually manage to keep things straight for such an old geezer, but somehow the connections that Tony Cummings makes are momentarily confusing me. Now, more about Tony in a minute, lets see some more of my current dilemma. I have always known that his musical alterego is Activeminded, whose My Star (July 2008) was his usual excellent standard. Now I have just discovered that the man is also behind Science Of Sound (aaahhh, the penny drops...) and I can't encompass all that information without going on a bender...

and that will never do.

U & I isn't that far removed from the style of Activeminded, so if you liked that, you'll love this. Like a lot of musicians in the POPspace/POPsphere, technical ability goes hand in hand with musical nous and this track shows Tony (in whatever guise he adopts) is a cut above most you are likely to hear. So the only really important question remaining to be answered is whether you would like it. S'no good looking at me like that, how the fekk would I know what you like?? Ahhh, yes, forgetting that I'm reviewing this for a moment there.... I've always found that relaxed electronic music, not matter what you call the genre, is most definitely a matter of personal taste. Some tracks I can really groove on, some I just can't stand from note one.

I've never been a great fan of ambient, which this kinda/sorta is, but I am a very big fan of class workmanship and solid, interesting, out-of-the-ordinary sounds and this contains plenty of both those things. The opening piano sequence, and the spiky, echoey plucked sound make a perfect counterpoint and lead in to the track proper. So, if you don't like the first 10 seconds or so, chances are this isn't your style anyway. This track gripped me from the start because it is an excellent, intelligent peice of music that sounds as good as it plays. The six minutes or so it takes up vanishes in a haze of musical blissout that'll do for most people looking for a great peice of music - of whatever stripe.

Class electronic chillout. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fear 2 Stop - Tears Of A Clone

Hear The Track Here

When I moved my reviews from other sites to Soundclick in early 2003, one of the very first artists I reviewed almost made me run away and start somewhere else instead. Luckily us Gilmore's are made of sterner stuff than that, and obviously I'm still here so... You would think, then, after all this time that I would be over the terror that the sight of a Fear 2 Stop track in the review list inspires. Well, not terror exactly but there is always a little twinge of impending doom - usually because trying to describe what they actually do is a sure sign that a major literary headache is on the way. They describe themselves as bizarre experimental electronica and I'd agree with that with a lot more emphasis on the bizarre than anything else.

Right from the start of this five minute venture into the wilder realms, you know this couldn't possibly be Kansas anymore Toto. Or even Texas (where the band hail from) or anywhere on the planet even. So don't come whinging to me that I didn't warn you. Listening to Fear 2 Stop has always been - as I've been trying to make clear - akin to walking a musical tightrope and it takes a long time to begin to appreciate where they are coming from. Had I been fresh to the band, I would probably have taken the running away mode described above because - no matter which way you look at it - Fear 2 Stop are and always will be difficult. No two ways about it. If I didn't know this band over a long, long period I would have said I think these guys are lunatics.

Of course, because I know them, I also know - beyond all shadow of a doubt - that they are lunatics, and always have been. It's an inspired, chaotic lunacy that has definite high points but it would probably help if you liked music that totally defied description. Take Tears Of A Clone, for example. Imagine someone chopped a track up into scattered peices, threw them up in the air and used them as they fell. Then they embellished the track with oodles of odd noises and wild veers of direction. Alll of which, as you can imagine, would take some getting used to. As far as F2S goes, this is an excellent track and almost exactly the kind of thing I know and love them for. Definitely no one around quite like these guys.

Highly Recommended Electronica.

Fluidity - Hansel

Hear The Track Here

John Paul Carroll is the name behind New Zealand's Fluidity, an artist I have become very, very familiar with since I first met him in early 2004. Don't ask me the name of the track because I have no idea; the review seems to have diappeared down a black hole in my filing system. Becoming so familiar with an artist has its pitfalls, insofar as you begin to expect the earth, moon and stars from them - and usually they have promised that in some way beforehand. Fluidity certainly has, as the string of Must Have's and Hightly recommendeds I've thrown his way over these four years. Mind you, as he know well, I do call a spade a spade; when something appears wrong to me - I say it. That's what happened with the last track....

Now read on...

I really like Fluidity's approach to rock songwriting and performing and have been through a few odd turns in his 'career', and liked most of them. Judging by Hansel, the songwriting strength is still there; definitely a track you will need to eye the lyrics to get the full picture mind. The fine rock approach that typifies a Fluidity track is also right to the fore, and as usual the production is as good as JP can ever make it. All of which sounds, I suppose, that coming right up soon is a big BUT. Well, sorry to disappoint you but not really. All musicians go through phases, and all musicians sometimes can't hear what other people hear and that's the way it should be.

The fact is Hansel is a cracking track, a rock aria stretching out over almost five minutes with some lovely lovely guitar embellishments in the time honoured Fluidity tradition. If you are a fan already, you probably have this already but if you like decent, intelligent rock music with the right kind of kick, this'll be it. There is no doubt in my mind, having lived with this track for a while that JP is in some kind of transitory state because all the familiar sights are there, but it has a lot of the same odd feel as Lost and Found. As a sign of things to come, Hansel in extremely encouraging and it is nice to see JP really stretching out like this.

Highly Recommended rock, with a distinct difference.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Road Apples - Beautiful Creation

Hear The Track Here

It's been a while since I last reviewed Canada's Road Apples, a classic pop rock artist I have liked in the past and recommended two of the three I've reviewed. Not a bad score, and a sure indication that this artist works in one of my favourite genres, no matter what it's called these days. Now personally, I've never considered the Beatles in any way Alternative and that is the prime influence in most of the Road Apples I've heard so far. Mind you, having lived with Beautiful Creation for a while, I'd say there is a definite Dylan influence at work there too.

I'm always for music that tackles difficult subjects and Road Apples has picked himself a doozy with this track. A co-write with Richard Bethell (who also supplies electric guitars and some vocals), Beautiful Creation is IMHO exactly that. It's also such a rock stomper you'll be hard pressed to stay still. From the opening barrelhouse style, exploding horns intro, establishes this as a track to be taken seriously. It takes a LOT of experience to make a track as multi-layered as this - even in something that appears as simple as rock.

Listen to this closely and there are all kinds of things going on, the arrangement is absolutely spot on in every respect; everything happens exactly as it should. If I was going by closeness to 'real world' production techniques this would be in there like a shot. There again, as I have discovered, it's actually about impact, drama and the ability to reach out and touch the listener and - given that you like a classic rock song - this touches every single one of those bases. Try as I might I can find nothing about this track I don't like and lots I appear to swooning about (the barrelhouse piano is priceless).

MUST HAVE pop song with a great back story.


Hear The Track Here

Apologies for shouting the title at you but that's the way Digital Adrenaline wants it so there ya go. As you know, I try and avoid any mention of the T words in my presence. In fact I have been known to heap copious amounts of libellous slander on any I find lurking around. The T words, as you might have already guessed, being trance and techno. Ever since I unwittingly got involved in moderating the forums on the old Ejay site, I experience extreme discomfort when faced with music of this stripe. Mind you, as formulaic as some of the stuff was, you could find the odd rough diamond and Digital Adrenaline was one of them. And no, it's nothing to do with her being female and gorgeous (Ed: although that obviously helps). After a long, long absence, Digital Adrenaline appeared on my radar just lately and I thought snagging a review would be as good a way of catching up as any.

It's been, what four years since I last heard anything whatsoever from this artist, so I was expecting something that showed the amount of time passed and I certainly got it. It's obvious that Digital Adrenaline has learned lots about production and presentation, and with techno that definitely helps. Although the track itself gets well hard - as you would expect - it's certainly not the world ending in sheets of fire. Mind you, the hard bits it does have are sufficent to do the job - even on a techno philistine like me.

It has to be said that Digital Adrenaline throws a hefty chunk of stuff into the mix, but there is still a certain element of repetition going on. Goes with the territory, I know, but there is a very fine line between too much or just enough. Luckily, even though this stretches out to almost five minutes, it doesn't feel like that. Obviously there is a fanatic devotion to the ol' four-to-the-floor, and given the genre even that wasn't too onerous a task. If you like the genre (Ed: and who doesn't) then obviously Digital Adrenaline should be given a looksee. Considering I regard the genre as Satans Sputum but I'm not foaming at the mouth (yet), so even timid old you could tackle this level of techno.

Recommended Hard Techo.

Mark Holley - Money Tree (Feat: Joseph Rodriguez)

Hear The Track Here

If you have been reading these reviews for any length of time the name Mark Holley will be well known to you. An MP3 Unsigned based singer/songwriter/producer, I've reviewed lots of his tracks, and many of the endless collaborations he's into. Such as this one, as it happens. The last Mark Holley track I reviewed was Wonder Why (May 2008) which also featured guitarist Joseph Rodriguez and his addition made that track work. They seem to have a good connection, Joseph's guitar style definitely adds more bite into what Mark comes up with. Mark Holley is what I would call a 'classic' songwriter, his work is always full of ideas both in terms of musicianship and lyrically. Although there are some of his tracks I've been ambivalent about, I'd say the overwhelming impression is of a confident, assured musician.

Almost all the structures of Marks songs echo the greats, in this case the Who surprisingly enough. Mind you, that's also happened in the past, and that's a good thing in my books. Mark explains that he was just having fun with a little techno tune and some nice fat cliches, then Joseph supplies some licks and off it went. What comes out the other end is a bouncy, rocky ode to the rat race and, as usual the production and performance angle of the track is covered every way from Sunday.

So if you are in the market for a decent rock track, Money Tree will certainly fit the bill. Being a long time afficiando of the genre, I did like what Mark and Joseph had accomplished musically, and lyrically this is well up to previous Mark Holley tracks. For my money, it was vocally that kinda/sorta let the side down but only because it tended to sound quite ragged once or twice as if Mark were struggling to get there. After a few plays that ruggedness became kinda charming but just that. A very decent song, and performance though, for all that, and I'd have no problem grabbing your ears and saying 'listen to this!'.

Recommended Rock song.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Iannai - Scattered Peices EP

Hear The Track Here

I'm sure many of you are experiencing a deja vu moment so let me put your mind at rest. I have indeed reviewed Iannai's Scattered Peices (June 2008) and liked it very much indeed. This review, however is centered on the Scattered Peices EP, in this case five themed tracks. So, what is it with EPs at the moment? Almost everyone I know is either releasing one or thinking about it, even me - albeit of a restrospective nature. Anyhoo, if you missed the initial review of the EP's title track, let me summarise. It's a tasty, rhythmic slice of IDM that actually works, moreso because it also contains a terrific electro-pop song. All the songs in this EP contain 'the story of a man who is scattered and lost. Each song describes his journey as he returns home and the pieces of a broken man finally come together'. Scattered Peices starts the EP off, then.

When It's All Over is track two, an exact compliment to the opening track, following much the same groove too. What is evident from the get go is that this is a musician who doesn't think small, and that he has the production nous to polish it to a fine degree. What it isn't, though, is a song as catchy as Scattered Peices. For sure, it's an excellent electronica instrumental with some tasty guitar work but outside that... It does provide a musical buffer between that track and Somehow You Knew, a classy, elegant track that creeps up on you in a most interesting fashion. It's a tad smoother than I'd normally like, but I can certainly see where this would appeal. Nice feel on this too, and again an instrumental.

Out Of The Pit isn't strictly instrumental, although you'd need a degree in Higher Gibberish to make out any of the lyrics, which I suppose is just as well when dealing with things from the Underworld. Speaking of which, this track kinda/sorta reminds me of. For my money, this is the one track I would come back to. It's got a wonderfully quirky sense about it, and a wicked groove. Finally Home is, as you would expect, the last track on the EP and like the opening track is a fully fledged song. Also 'a bit of ballad' as Iannai gladly admits, and with more than a hint about Pink Floyd about it say I and that's not a bad thing at all. Having lived with these tracks for a while I would have to say that the standout track was still Scattered Peices itself, but honours should also go to Out Of The Pit and Finally Home; great examples of what this artist is capable of.

Excellent electronica EP. Highly Recommended as a whole.

Steve Altonian - Holdin' On

Hear The Track Here

This is the fourth Steve Altonian track I have reviewed and considering that two of his previous tracks recieved Must Have recommendations from me, you can bet I was looking forward to reviewing this. A great part of that comes because Steve is, first and foremost, a songwriter of the old school, and there is nothing I like more than a good song, well played. Considering the short time he has been around this country rock artist has made a sizeable impression on many other reviewers too but obviously - like most genres - there will be detractors. A good sign of an artists popularity these days is by fan count, and Steve is doing very well in that department. I can't understand why his Soundclick Radio stations isn't into much larger figures because everything this artist does is tailor-made for radio play.

Someone commented that Steve sounds like John Mellencamp on this track, and I think that's a good reference point. Mind you, the quality of the production and performance IS well up to the most professional standards, and that may well sway some people to make such comparisons. It's well in that whole countrified rock pocket, and the vocal performance and arrangement fit into it like a glove. The kind of track you could listen to time and time again and still pick up new things from it.

There is a fine American tradition of this kind of material and Steve Altonian is a master of the craft. Again I urge him to start pushing himself through the various internet radio stations because he - and tracks as fine as Holdin' On - are exactly what these stations need. They need tracks like this because if anything is going to change the general perception of 'unsigned' musicians, it's going to be track like this. Undeniably professional to the bone and instantly recognisable by a large percent of the population as being 'real music'. As I've said many times before, I am a sucker for a great song and Holdin' On is certainly that and consequently it's yet another...

MUST HAVE country rock/pop song.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Band Of Asians - Enemies

Hear The Track Here

I think it would be fair to say that I am a 'soft' reviewer. Oh I carry a lot of venom right enough, but I'm not known for ejaculating it willy nilly. What really does it for me is music that just - no matter which way you slice and dice it - doesn't cut it. As music, as background noise, as anything. Very, very few artists have ever come close to making me spell it out to them. In the case of the Band Of Asians, they made me do it twice. Perennial survivor Patrick Lew (aka BOA and others) is not one to be fobbed off lightly though. This is a man on a mission, and his mission is to spread his music far and wide... OK, now let's take a breath, step back a bit and ponder on this first paragraph.

If, we muse, the music is so dreadful, what is the point?

Well, surely that's what this about more than anything else. Anyone who thinks they are likely to get rich and famous doing what we do, has got to be from another planet. We're here to have fun right, even raucous, cacaphonic fun? Weell, yes, but only just. Enemies is a track recorded (thankfully) in a real studio, so the usual painful experience of listening to their extremely lo-fi home recordings is at least averted. Whats comes across in the studio version is a much more coherent sound, even if the content is often not always the same.

Band Of Asians specialise in a form of guitar grunge and Patrick says 'Cory plays bass and lead guitar. Dave played drums. I did 75% of the guitar parts except the leads'. All well and good. The backline, bass and drums is fairly sturdy and a good bed for the guitar caterwauling that usually goes on top of grungy backlines. And that's where it falls apart somewhat. It's not a song per se, more like an extended guitar workout which is fine when it meshes but not so fine when it doesn't. There are noticeable out of time sections and the whole track has a stop-start quality to it. Mind you, its far better than anything I have experienced from this artist before and now I see what they are getting at.

Hey, it's a start I guess...

Cam's Even Song - A Touching Place

Hear The Track Here

In the world that I grew up in (on a planet similar to this one), children like me are taught that certain professions should be given respect. Chief amongst them, along with policeman and doctors, were members of the clergy. My childhood was coloured by this thinking. Unfortunately, my early youth exposed me to the uncaring and unfeeling side of a lot of so called religeous life, and it wasn't for me. Which was intensely painful at the time because I am by nature a deeply spiritual man. Add in some further mayhem caused to me (and lots of other UK people) by a radical Christian sect called the Children Of God and there would be no hope. Except, of course, there is always hope. My problems with anything that smack of this kind of religeous intolerance (of ANY stripe) causes me endless problems with todays Christians too - even though we agree on most everything.

Let's not go there is a very personal issue.

Except we have to because to deal with Cam's Even Song, and he is a very strong Christian, although I've never, ever found him in any way 'preachy' or 'overbearing'. In fact, its his musical lightness of being that carried a great many of his tracks - even the harder lyrical compositions. A Touching Place is a song about having 'a quiet place to touch God' and that is a sentiment I can definitely relate too. The absolute first thing that popped into my head as soon as I heard this terrific song was - surprisingly enough - how much like Springsteen it sounded. Now maybe that has something to do with the new way that Cam is producing his vocals, whatever it is it works a treat.

The very best thing though, as always with this artist, is the song and A Touching Place is a really good song. It's as sparse an arrangement as I have ever heard from Cam before, and I am sure that has a lot to do with the impact on this track, especially for someone who knows Cam's previous work. For me, it's very simplicity and the stark way it is presented make this a very powerful track, and a very marked difference to the Cam we know and love. It's actually a ballad too, which is never flavour of the month, but the spirit of this track far outweighs my usual predjudice.

Highly recommended Christian Pop. MUST HAVE for Cam fans.

Charlie Armour - Sleeping

Hear The Track Here

Charlie Armour works in a genre I truly despise, film soundtracks generally tick me off unless I am actually watching the film too. All a bit belt and braces, know what I mean? Surprising then that Charlie and I have found much to agree about since I first met him with Bebee Bubba (July 2006) which gave me no clue whatsoever that I was about to embark on a cruise of my worst nightmares - and yet find it quietly enjoyable. Charlie also has the distinction of actually scoring a movie, Aswang whose website will tell you more about it. I've even reviewed a couple of tracks off that too, and not found myself any the worse for wear.

Maybe I am getting acclimatised at last.

Given that Sleeping is accompanied (on his website) with Dreamer, you may run away with the idea that Charlie is a man who enjoys his kip. Not so, he's obviously a very busy boy and yaay prodigious too. One of the main reasons I admit, with shamed expression for my obviously heathen ways, that I find a lot of this musicians work easy to assimilate is that he generally keeps it short. It's a rare Charlie Armour track indeed that tops out at anything longer than a couple of minutes. Charlie fills those couple of minutes extremely capably musicially and technically and outside of my usual grumbles about instrumentals in general and soundtracks in particular, I have found Sleeping a useful tool to induce the state in myself.

Having just re-read that last part, I think I need to make myself clearer. To say that a track puts me to sleep is not what I meant at all. As you know, when I review, I load up my Ipod with a weeks tracks and play them constantly as I go about my day. I have been reserving this particular track as my last listen before closing down for sleep, and that says something about Charlie's work. There is always a high standard to the instruments used, and a tastefulness in arrangement that is Charlie's trademark. As I say, not my usual preference by a country mile but you can't fault the quality of the work.

Highly Recommended piano based Soundtrack.

Crockmister - Refugee

Hear The Track Here

It has to be said that I do have a welcome mat out for Crockmister whenever there is something new on offer. Mainly because Craig Sofaly (aka The Mister man) is the kind of musician and songwriter who is thoroughly professional in everything that he does, whatever the genre. One of my video highlights of late has been the video he made testing out his new guitar sequencer on a new track called A Long Dry Season (June 2008). A video that consists of him pressing foot pedals, playing a (sweet) guitar and singing. Oh yeah, you might yawn, there are a million other artists doing exactly the same thing, what makes this guy so different? The video is here, check it out and see why it's different and I'll get on with the review...

Most of us like to think that our music is a labour of love; and it mostly is. There's love and love, though. The kind of love that gets my respect is spending inordinant amounts of time getting it to sound 'just right'. Now considering this track has been a whole three years in the making - it's a collab, but more on that in a minute - the amount of love spent on it is almost obscene. There again, I have been known to spend a year or so on my own stuff so... Crockmister is the singer only on ths track, Howsie (who you may remember from past reviews) is the maestro in charge for this particular exodus set to music. So, song Crocky (and possibly Howsie), and music Howsie alone. Got that? Mmmmmm

There again, one listen to the opening movement to the song will show that - as good as Crockmister is - someone else is at the controls - and someone just as knowledgeable too, Try as I might I could find nothing whatsoever wrong with this track and plenty to absolutely love, from the blend of very different styles to the absolutely stunning - and I mean S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G arrangement. The kind of track to savour at least once a day. Again I am totally mystified, having been in the real world music business, why no one has picked up on Crockmister because I know he's out there working his butt off. He is, IMHO, one of the very best - and vocally unique - artists around and tracks like Refugee only serve to enhance his reputation. Big, big kudos mind for Howsie too. This is a gargantuan peice of work by anyones lights, and considering I always associated him with dance and jazz, a real revelation. Absolute blinder of a track, but don't take my word for it. I am on my knees begging you to taste just how good this unsigned music really is, have pity on a poor reviewer whydoncha?


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Larry Ludwick - Weary Waltz For Reuben

Hear The Track Here

Larry Ludwick is a name probably more familiar to Soundclick forum users as a reviewer in Critics Corner but, like all the reviewers working out of there, are musicians too. My first encounter with Larry was with Nod's Ascent to Dave (July 2008), a jazz peice that touched all the right musical bases and showed that Larry definitely knows what he's doing. A bit too smooth for my own particular tastes sure enough, but that's just a matter of taste. When it comes to recording a track intelligently and, above all, cleanly. Larry Ludwick cuts a damn fine track - whatever your preference.

The Weary Waltz for Reuben only reinforces my opinion. It's a markedly different track, a kind of folky Alternative and - surprise, surprise - it's a song. OK, it's a tired, worn out track, exactly as the title suggests. In all other cases to use the words 'tired' and 'worn out' when discussing a track would automatically signal the Kiss Of Death, but this particular jobbie just waltzes blithely by without a care in the world. If I thought it were either tired or worn out, I'd be pointing out the exits. Instead, that world weariness is an intrinsic element of the track and works a treat.

While I have nothing but admiration for Larry for placing the music so in the pocket, and the vocal performance just so; I did find elements of the vocals a bit sloppy. Now whether that was intentional or not, I'm not sure but it is noticeable. Mind you, you can never tell with this kind of material anyway, it's very looseness is also the glue that holds the genre together. Nonetheless continued exposure to this track did me no harm whatsoever, although I could do without the 90 year old ladies in flowery dresses asking for a dance every time I go up the High Street. Obviously they have no idea that the 'waltz' I was doing was the result of too tight underwear.

Highly Recommended rock waltz (I know, I know...)

The Peach Tree - Absorbtion

Hear The Track Here

The really good thing about reviewing as I do is the amount and variety of music I listen to, one of its drawbacks though is that you are required to say what you think. Having been on the other side of the review divide myself (and suffered the slings and arrows forthwith) I try not to be too hard on tracks with obvious flaws - which is why I am often described as a 'nice reviewer. Well, as The Peach Tree knows, it doesn't make criticism sting any the less. The key ingredient IMHO of making a real go of this online musical game boils down to one old fashioned word: perseverance. Usually in the face of overwhelming indifference or facile comments that mean nothing whatsoever. You fall down, you pick yourself up and it's one step at a indeed this artist has done.

Got to admire stickum...

Absorbtion (sic) is a brand new track from the album The Ghost Of Muses Past - as are all the tracks on his page, none his older works remain. A whole new leaf then? Well kinda/sorta again because Absorbtion turns out to be a very dense, if short at just two minutes, slice of electronic weirdness carried along by what sounds like a regular electric and/or bass guitar. Now I'm as game as the next man for experimenting, for daring to be different but that can only go so far because this is music we are discussing and sophistication doesn't always translate for yer average listener.

There is a doomy, off key edge to the track, not aided by lots of low end noise. I presume all this is intentional, as his the guitar figures that dot the landscape. I find it hard to say, even after lots and lots of plays, whether I actually like it or not. Essentially it's a (bass?) guitar instrumental, the electronica undertones providing that air of doom and menace that drenches this track. Mind you, it's only two minutes long and I'm not sure how you could carry such a simple routine any further. I'd be more than happy to try another one though.

MD-1 Project - I fcuked Aphex Twin

Hear The Track Here

'Hope this scares the crap out of you' MD-1 Project smirked while lobbing this one at me. Now from anyone else, I say FOAD, but I know this musician of old and I know that he really, really means it. See, we butted heads a couple of years ago about just such a track as this (surprisingly enough called The Fear (May 2006)) which I didn't 'get' at all. Sure it put the fear of God into me but touch me where I live, it did not. That probably says more about me than it does about Ricky Mancini (aka the Project). Obviously, he took not the blindest bit of notice at the time - and rightly so - and now decides its time for a rematch.

But that was then and this is now...

A lot has happened since then, not least of it being MD-1's prodigious output in loads of different styles, more especially collaborating with Melinda Mohn in Stella Polaris Project. This self styled 'freakbeat experimentalist' - an accurate description btw - has come a long way. None of his latest work has that real aural edginess that so marred those first tracks for me. Mind you, yer casual listener, wouldn't say that at all because oddness, weirdness and general musical mayhem (including Mel singing Twinkle Twinklie Little Star) is the stock in trade of this track. Then they'd be real busy cleaning up the mess induced when the main track kicks their heads in just around the 2 minutes mark. Presumably, knowing the man, that must be the time of maximum vulnerability.

So definitely not a track for your granny to be around - it might mug her. For the rest of us grownups I Fcked Aphex Twin is an excellent example of what MD-1 Project does best. You'll probably have to appreciate the finer points of sub-bass d&b style undercurrents, glitches, odd breaks, noisemakers by the bucketload and always, always bear in mind that is just the kind of artist who would demand to drive a train through the track just for the final o.mi.god effect. A seriously demented performance that you either like or not, but you wouldn't ever forget it once heard. That, to me, has always been the main criteria for rating anything termed 'experimental'.

MUST HAVE dubby Experimental (with the emphasis on mental).

Soul Dust - Cold

Hear The Track Here

I know this is going to be hard to believe but once, a good while ago now, Soundclick's heavy rock scene wasn't dominated by Avalanche. See I told you it was hard to believe. So where did I, ultimate rock animal that I am, go my teenage kicks from before the advent of the A word. I got it from Canadian heavy, heavy rockers Soul Dust. A few years ago, this five peice band where all over Soundclick like a rash and then - as happens from time to time - they disappeared from view. They re-surfaced last year with About You (July 2007) as meaty a slice of rock as any Soul Dust have thrown my way over the years and well worthy of the Must Have rating I gave it. This despite it being an older track (ie released prior to my reviewing it), and now I begin to see why there has been such a nother long pause between tracks (especially new Soul Dust material.
Our returning friends, however, bring some sad news...

Ron Twemlow (drummer) and Rock God vocalist Myk Shaflik have now left the band, which is a sad loss indeed. Myk has one of the best rock voices I have heard but I have a vague idea I'll be hearing from him again. So, up steps a new vocalist to front both Cold and Ocean, two brand new tracks just released. Rev is his name and beyond that not much else is known. Ron IS playing on these tracks but this is his swansong too. Now Soul Dust have always had that heavy rock thing down, so I cranked up my system in anticipation (Ed: meanwhile his neighbours were installing sound baffles to their windows and doors).


Weeell, not quite.... Cold isn't an instant headbanger, even if the first notes give that impression. It sounds a tad retro, and that ain't a bad thing. Mind you, that fine rock thing they had has been transformed (somewhat) with an infusion of what sounds suspiciously like prog-rock to these prejudicial ears. Musically it's as muscular as ever, thanks to SD's Dre who looks after that side, and Rev does a wild job on the track, spitting venomous lyrics hither and yon. It's a strange hybrid though and it took me some time to really warm to it. Nothing wrong musically or vocally, just not sure about the track. As it says, time will tell.

Highly Recommended heavy guitar rock.

Ron Gragg - Nothing But The Blood

Hear The Track Here

This is the third time I have reviewed something by Christian Rock artist Ron Gragg. Firstly as part of the Soundclick project that became the track from Cam's Even Song - Praise The Name Of The Lord (January 2007) and secondly in his own right with Bang Bang (July 2008). I've found a few things to quibble about but overall these things are as much a matter of taste as opinion anyway. The God I know and love made music the only language I'd ever need so who am I to say right or wrong. As you may have suspected, I am getting all sweaty in the pulpit because - above all things - it is time to get down (yeah!) on my knees (oh yeah) and pray (amen) I said pray (amen) that I get the tone of this review right.

(Ed: yeah, way to go Gilmore. The instinct of a bull moose.)

Nothing But The Blood is Ron's interpretation of the Robert Lowry hymn first published in 1876 and popularised lately by Jars Of Clay. This is obviously a peice of music dear to Ron's heart because it appears he has unearthed the original (longer) version that somehow got changed in most modern church hymnals. When reviewing Bang Bang I gave Ron a bit of grief about the tentative nature of the vocals and I don't have any problems on that score with this track. In fact, the vocals (and lyrics) are the star turn in this deceptively simple arrangement, and it is rightly given centre stage. His growly, laconic vocals are a treat to behold.

For me the true test of how good the track is, especially when listening to something of this nature, is how will it appeal to someone who doesn't like hymns and think most Christian Rock is pants? Well, if you took no notice of the lyrics or the songs original provenance, even the most hard hearted cynic would have to admit that - if nothing else - this treatment is a very good peice of musical work. On that basis I have to say I liked this immensely because it shows respect in all the right places, and a warm, welcoming sound that this artist should be proud of.

Highly Recommended treatment of a classic hymn.

Azoora - Temptress Ft Peter Garland

Hear The Track Here

I willingly put my hand up and state right upfront that I love this band like no other. They are, to use a popular idiocy, a Gilmore Flavour Of The Month. Sure I am aware of what kind of kiss of death I may be loading onto their shoulders but hey, I am in love. Fact is, ever since I reviewed Marzipan (March 2007), I have been a die hard fan which the band have only made stronger by a string of the best tracks I have had the pleasure of hearing - online or off it. Two things about Azoora make them IMHO arguably one of the finer groups around. The strength and capabilities of their musical prowess and the absolutely knockout production that encases ALL their work. Although I have likened their work to The Smashing Pumpkins that's only because I am searching for a lazy reference point. Tell ya what, check out both of their free EP's at 23 Seconds Netlabel and believe me when I say that this is the best thing you are likely to hear this year.

Now that all the plugs are out of the way (snigger) let me state that Temptress isn't actually an Azoora track. It's a remix from Rude Corps, a well known Soundclick electronica artist, with vocals from rocker Peter Garland (a name I aim to become familiar with). I feel I can't do these remix reviews without checking out all the permutations so thanks for the extra work Azoora you b******! Listening to the original I got vague (and I do mean vague) echoes of Simply Red when they knew what they were doing, and I got to like it because of that. Really good song and excellent arrangement courtesy of the Rude one.

As I mentioned, I have come to expect an outstanding track from this Azoora and I never been let down once. Ever. I would love to have been around to watch both Rude Corps and Peter's faces when they first heard what Azoora did to their track. That wide-open sound you associate with their own work is the centrepeice of the track, giving the quiet confidence of the original the power and aural drama a song like this requires. I suspect that Azoora member John Purcell is the main suspect for this lovely peice but the quality is - not to put too fine a point on it - fekking ridiculous. The kind of music that grabs you on passing and won't let go. As it goes, I would probably have raved about the original track and certainly recommended it but I'm sure that both Rudey and Peter would agree that Azoora took it to the next level.

MUST HAVE. Great song, world class sound.

Jodi Ann - Black Tears

Hear The Track Here

Despite my initial misgivings about Soundclick's change of style a while back, I must admit I have found a couple of those improvements very useful. The element I had most trepidation about was the whole 'friends' thing so prevelant on social networking sites. When Soundclick introduced that I did groan a bit but have since found it a great source of new people and new - dare I say this - friends. That's how I met Jodi Ann. OK, let me 'fess up. Y'all know I am a sucker for a pretty face, so it's useless to deny it, so when she asked me to listen to Black Tears how could I deny her?. I mean, look at that smile.

Harumph, harumph, back to business...

There is an air about her image and Soundclick page too that brings you to suspect that Jodi Ann is a serious lady about her music and even the merest of listens to this track will show you an artist who is comfortable in what she is doing. It's that professional edge that piqued my curiousity enough to pursue it for review and I was pleasantly surprised to see that Black Tears was billed as Bluegrass, a country favourite of mine. Black Tears is, obviously, aimed at the American country market - and that isn't normally a genre I like. In fact, there are some elements about 'Nashville' C&W that should have been strangled in the studio, all IMHO of course. The showbizzy side of this particular genre has its real stars (Dolly Parton being one of my own picks for that honour) but a lot more non-entities playing music so vacuous it makes me want to hurl.

I mentioned Dolly because the comparisons are obvious. No matter what I feel about Jodi Ann's music it would be filtered through that viewpoint. And Dolly is some big shoes to fill. Songs are what this is all about right enough, but it is also about doing with authority and conviction. On all counts, Black Tears delivers exactly what you would expect, showing that Jodi Ann knows exactly what she wants musically and gets it. Soundclick has a very vibrant and extensive country community, many of which I notice have posted comments on the track. All to the good because when you find something this good on Soundclick, you have to spread the word. Black Tears is a terrific song and well worth a listen even if country music is not normally your thing.

Go on, dare to be different. Highly Recommended commercial country (with a message)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Antennaheadz - Dead Horse

Hear The Track Here

Wade a minute!! Wade a minute! Didn't I just review The Antennaheadz a couple of minutes ago? Well, in this crazy world that sometimes happens running a monthly list so whaddafek??? A few years if you asked me to spend a while immersing myself in the musical entity known as Thomas J (he has too many guises to mention - obviously Antennaheadz is one of them) I'd have shuddered spasmically, projectile vomited for England and then donned my protective costume before I ventured forth. These days, I have to say, it's quite the reverse. While I have always admired and sometimes liked the wilder side this artist has pursued down the years, the latest musical step Antennaheadz have taken have been - to say the least - surprising.

When I reveiwed The Boy Who Took The World (June 2008) I wrote 'Thomas J/The Antennaheadz are getting right on top of their game' and Dead Horse is its logical progression. As I have pointed out whenever I have reviewed this artist lately, it is very difficult to make something that really works - especially in a lo-fi setting. Seems that every time Antennaheadz turn to this style, it works a treat. While The Boy Who...etc sounded more of a 60's throwback (charming, quaint, quirky) it managed to grab a well deserved Must Have from me, and that's no mean feat. Dead Horse comes right up to date with a kinda Celtic/folky arrangement that will literally lift you off your feet and swirl you round in a giddy reel.

If this is a Dead Horse, it sets a craic'ing pace and I want one.

Again, the basic lineup is part of this track's major appeal. Even the hum and spoken countdown add to the tracks 'pull in the listener' factor, and once you are in there that vicious ryhthm will take care of all other needs. Never one to be taken at face value there is always more to an Antennaheadz track than meets the eye. While the absurdly infectious music takes care of your ears, the more than serious lyrics give your brain the right massage too. Despite, that is, being a bit rushed at times so get a squint at the lyrics too. All in all, a blinder of a track in any genre, and an absolute stunner from this artist. Thomas has always trodden his own path and I for one am glad that I finally seem to have found my way there too.

MUST HAVE alternative knees up. Killer song too.

333maxwell - Carousel

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I am not by nature a hard reviewer, but I ain't a softy either. By God, I have my biases and preferences and I'm not scared of mentioning them from time to time (Ed: we humans know this as vacuous space filling). I am not know, for example, for clutching ballads to my puny bosom and in fact decimate most I hear. Takes a rare breed to make a ballad that I would like and 333maxwell has managed that at least. What (July 2008) is the not so offending article and is IMHO a very good introduction to what kind of musical ruckus Chas Holman (aka 333maxwell) make. Also, just as point of interest, 333maxwell is one of the over 100 artists on Soundclick from Zimababwe - a much troubled part of the world.

If all of that hasn't caught your interest maybe when I say this artist cites Captain Beefheart, Led Zepplin, Eric Clapton, Phil Silvers, Tiny Tim, Jimi Hendrix and The Singing Nun as influences you might buck up a bit. See, this artist really means that, as swift listen to any of his tracks will testify. Might as well as add George Harrison to that list to because Carousel has his sound all over it. Intentional or otherwise, it does give a listener a way into the track that they may not otherwise like. See, the 800lb pound gorilla in this conversation resides in this track being (yet another) ballad but again 333maxwell seems to slip this one under the mountain of predjudice I nurse about the genre.

I freely admit that a lot of that has to do with my own preference for good songs and clever, yet familiar settings and Carousel felt like an old friend on the first listen. Anyone even remotely touched by the whole Beatle sound will recognise much here and that makes it easy for casual listeners to latch onto. Essentially a track built around piano, nylon guitar and vocals, it is surprisingly powerful. Now maybe that is down to its familiar sound, or maybe its got more to do with the love and effort 333maxwell puts into it to make it work so well. I don't care either way because this is exactly the kind of track I would gobble up.

MUST HAVE nod of respect. Excellent.

Frankfurt Dialog Company - Do or Die (A summer song)

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Like many Soundclick users (yes, addicts sound about right to me too) I check in most days, usually to check my PMs ( a few) my forum posts (a few more) and anything else I need to do. Again in common with regular users, I feel sometimes it would be nice if I could get more comments/reviews/plays/downloads. I don't obsess about it like some I could point to (if I could recruit enough fingers) but, yes that sort of attention is important to every musician on Soundclick or elsewhere online. I came across Frankfurt Dialog Company because one of their members was kind enough to leave a comment on my page, I always respect someone who does that - and not necessarily for the ego boost it did me. To me, it shows a willingness to be part of something other than the 'marketplace' most of us seem to despise so much.

Just takes a little thought, right?

Obviously from Frankfurt (also home to Burp and Decollage btw) the band consists of 'Silke, Andreas and guests' and as the 175,000 plays I've seriously been missing out on not noticing this artist before. Class from the get go, as I expect from most musicians I have encountered from Germany, the musical performance being particularly inspired, a lot of which is down to Andreas Horchler. Aided most ably by Canadian Neil Numminen on bass (one of the highlights) and Carlos Carranza from Argentina on dobro (a much underused instrument IMO), this is a truly global track - so it really is stunning just how well this track has turned out. It's a testment to how relaxed and confident these musicians felt laying down this aurally splendid peice of music.

All, of course, would mean nothing without there being a great idea behind it. It's the heart of the matter, as the song itself says. The great idea being, in this case, Silke - a vocalist you are not going to believe. As much as the track will commend itself to you (if you know what you are listening to), its the vocals and the lyrics that finally put this over the top and head and shoulders above the crowd. Looking through some of the comments posted about this track you see phrases like 'beautiful', 'great', 'excellent' and more stars than exist in the sky, all of which should tell you that I am not alone in this opinion. So, check out this band and see what you have also been missing out on. Me, I'm going to kick myself a few times for missing this one in the first place.... Won't make that mistake again.

MUST HAVE breath of fresh air.

Pidgeman - Babylon is Doomed?

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Babylon is Doomed? F****** A, as someone once said. Don't know about you mon, but whenever me hear dat Babylon t'ing I think of reggae. Not something I would automatically expect from Pidgeman, an alternative rock musician from MP3 Unsigned I have reviewed a half a dozen times, without too much upset. Fact is, I do like a good singer/songwriter, especially when their chosen field is rock of the old school and Pidgeman fills those shoes very well. Babylon is Doomed is filed under Experimental which I find kinda confusing. What I hear is rock, pure and simple, and that's plenty good enough for me no matter what you call it.

It's a track that was, apparently. written, recorded and mixed in one evening, although there is a newer mix (this one) it isn't immediately obvious - even to my ears. Nope, what you hear is a ery strong, well performed song that will have much appeal both to his fans and new listeners. It's the song that counts at the end of the day and Babylon is Doomed is a terrific peice of work, lyrically and musically. Much more to the point, Craig Matthews (aka Pidegman) pours his heart and soul into expressing the sheer anger and bafflement the lyrics convey.

One of the major problems I have with a lot of the tracks like this I hear is that it is this close (holds thumb and finger microns apart) to being the real deal. As the string of highly recommendeds I have given to this artist will testify I do like what he is doing but sometimes I think the vagaries of home recording do songs as good as this no favours. If that sounds harsh it isn't meant to be, I really like this track. My point is how close it is to being a Must Have. I know Craig has a good rock voice, and this track does show that, there is still a drag on the vocals to my ears and that shows in a big way in the chorus. It's a powerful, dramatic chorus and I feel that that Craig is holding back way too much. This is (obviously) a highly personal opinion and I say it because I know that he can do it better. I feel it in my bones, ya know?

Highly Recommended nonetheless.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Azoora - She's Coming Dubmix

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Obviously I am personally well entranced by the four person band known as Azoora, at least judging by the string of Must Have's I've given them with every single track I have reviewed. Now, either they are paying me big bucks which is not so because I'm poorer than dirt, or they really are THAT good. Tell ya what, I'll let you choose. Take a listen to any track off the Tall Tales (2007) or Revelations (June 2008) EPs available for free download from the 23 seconds Netlabel, whose URL I am sure you can find yourself by now.

Meantime, we've got some new music to digest...

As you may have noticed its World:Dub listing is one of my own fields so you can bet I was looking forward to reviewing this baby. One thing you can always expect from an Azoora track is an outstanding production and sound and She's Coming is no exception. It's another Paul Loader/John Purcell composition so also songwise it's going to be about as good as it gets, especially if you like great pop songs couched in the kind of arrangements that signalled out bands like the Smashing Pumpkins a while ago. To my mind, Azoora are the latest in a fine old tradition of English music, and have the musical chops to prove it too.

For the life of me, I'm hard pressed to tell where exactly the dub element comes into the picture unless it's that echo reverb effect right at the beginning of the track. In most other respects this is yer typical Azoora track, and that's always an event worth looking forward to. It's a taster for the next EP and as such it's a fine follow on from tracks such as Restless and Be Here. Apparently, this is not even the final mix, just a demo but dammit, it sounds bloody fine to me and well up to the usual incredibly high standard I associate with this band. Fans of the band will jump all over this and I recommend you do too.

No question. Music of the highest quality. MUST HAVE (I can't wait for the final track).

The Antennaheadz - Butterflies

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So there I am at the end of the month, looking at an empty review list but I still have this one little track lurking in my To Do box. Obviously, somewhere along the line this one has slipped by me. Oh well. I'm sure I can persuade Thomas J (aka The Antennaheadz) that it's merely oversight and that I am not ignoring him. The last time I did that he bombarded me with the hardest tracks I have ever had to review. Just joshin', of course. Well, it's true that the tracks were hard but this musician has come a long, long way since then as the latest batch of Antennaheadz tracks have proved.

From 'use the door!' to troubadour in one bound. (Ed: I should really kill that one)

I've noticed yet another small innovation in his style insofar as he now credits Thomas J Marchant as songwriter so there ya go, fame at last. He is a well liked and respected musician and I think that anyone who has known him for a few years will have been surprised with his changing style(s) but nowhere more so than in his latest 'lo-fi/retro' singer/songwriter role. If you'd have told me two years ago that this musician was going to turn into a modern folkie I'd have asked if I could buy some of what you are on, so bizarre would have been the notion. he's making a surprisingly good job of it though as The Boy Who Took The World (June 2008) amply shows.

Butterflies is, in style and lyrical content, a throwback to a much simpler musical age when the likes of Syd Barrett was able to make some of the most intriguing music - with very little. Consisting of nothing more than an acoustic rhythm or two, a basic drumtrack, and the man himself warbling away on top, this is not really a track if you want aural splendour. If, however, you want a good song performed with a lot of dash (if not actual expertise) then this is yer man. Not in the same league as The Boy Who but an excellent Antennaheadz track for all that.

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