Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kristi Starr - Electric/Make God My Friend

Hear Electric OR Make God My Friend

A few days ago I reviewed a few tracks from singer/songwriter Kappa Danielson and promised that I'd also be reviewing her twin sister, Kristi Starr. If you remember I really liked what Kappa does - a very clean, country-ish sound and some very tight songs and in many ways Kristi isn't much different. However, whereas Kappa is straightforward in style and presentation, Kristi's grasp of the songs nuances absolutely blows me away. I hate to do this (because they are as good as each other) but Kristi wins hands down for this reviewer for two reasons. She writes absolutely killer songs, the kind that rip your heart out while making you smile fit to burst, and then delivers the killer blow vocally. Kristi has an outstanding voice, full of warmth and heart, and she has the most intense way of putting her lyrics across it sends shivers down my spine.

That's what I got the first time I listened to Electric, an absolutely knockout song delivered in awesome style. Again, like Kappa, there is nothing fanciful about the production; this is just a woman, her voice and her guitar. Tell you what though, go take a listen and then come back and tell me that it didn't move you. 'My soul belongs to God, my body to this earth, me I'm electric from the sound of my heart to the dirt' look pretty good written down but poured into your ears like liquid gold, this track snatches you up from the first line and doesn't let go. Since I first discovered Kappa and Kristi I've been back to their sites time and again but this track has definitely had the most interest for me. Absolutely class performance and a song that is indeed electric.

Make God My Friend took me a while to get a grip on, although its initial appeal was every bit as strong as Electric. Now that I've had time to become much more familiar with Kristi's songs, I think I prefer Make God My Friend. Lyrically, its exactly what I love, a beautiful story told with great conviction by Kristi who again shows she can worry lyrics like a professional. For me, it is her unerring ability to absolutely NAIL the vocal EVERY time and the clean, uncomplicated musical accompaniment. I know, at this stage, I am absolutely doomed to love this singer/songwriter but - believe me - this is one of the finest things I have seen/heard this year and I don't throw compliments like that around freely.

Awesome talent. Songs to stir the hardest heart. MUST HAVE.

Caveatbeats - My Peace/piece

Hear The Track Here

Corey Carter (aka Caveatbeats) is a new name to me and is not, as I first assumed, one of the endless 'beat factories' that Soundclick seems to attract. Nope this beat machine comes complete with rapper who also happens to be Corey Carter too. Over the past year or so I feel that the hiphop side of Soundclick has opened up to the possibilities of being reviewed by any of the many, many reviewers now working out of Soundclick's Critics Corner. It wasn't always so, indeed a few years ago, months would go by without me so much as getting a sniff of hiphop. There are some uncharitable souls who would say that's a good thing but I happen to like hiphop and I'm glad that Soundclick has some very good exponents of the genre.

Mind you, it has its share of no-no's too...

One of the main problems - at least with Soundclick hiphop, which tends to be overwhelmingly home produced - is the distance between the idea and the execution. Getting the beats to jibe with the rap is, to my mind anyway, THE most important thing to get right and its surprising how many hiphop artists miss that target. My Peace/piece narrowly avoids that fate, but that isn't to say that it isn't without its problems. To my ears, the rap is a bit too laid back, where it does it work is in the chorus but that might be down to the echoed vocals that are happening there.

My Peace/piece is a song about - I guess - the gun that Caveatbeats either covets or owns. Well, we got to write about something, haven't we? Of course it does mean that not many people are likely to pick up on it because of its content and those that do listen may not be overly amused. Which is a shame because, as I say, the ideas are good and the way the track sways along is very fresh but the mismatch between the rap and the music keeps getting in the way. Certainly this is good enough for me to want to hear what else this musician has to offer.

Recommended hiphop.

Mike Prather - The Music Of You and I

Hear The Track Here

Considering that I am well on the way to Doddery Old Fart, I still have excellent recall. There was a sense of smugness then when I saw this track come up for review. Surely, I asked my smug self, I have heard Mike Prather before. Indeed, said the equally smug answer, but I bet you didn't know that it was so long ago? I readily admit that I was a bit surprised to see that I had reviewed It's All The Same To Me (September 2007) almost two years ago. My, how time flies when you are having fun. Mike Prather is a Texan singer/songwriter whose straight ahead style and uncomplicated delivery won him some fine praise from me at the time. Of course, that was then and this is now.

God, I do so wish I could do an evil cackle... I can never get the dough to rise (Ed: ?? ????)

Mike doesn't go in for any frippery, the song is the thing and that's as it should be because Mike specialises in making guitar accompanied country/folk songs. Definitely more country oriented than folk but totally, totally acoustic; the only embellishment being the addition of double tracked vocals at the relevant moments. This was also one of the features of It's All The Same To Me and obviously this is a musician who knows when something works well - even something as basic as that.

The Music Of You and I will be over in a blink (it's not even a minute and a half long) so it'll be no stretch for anyone to listen to it, but would it be worth it? Certainly if you like Americana, and/or country folk and appreciate an excellent song written in that genre. Both tracks show that Mike Prather is a very good songwriter with a clear sense of what he can do best, and where best to use his skills - and it shows with quality songs, despite their pared-down, lo-fi style.

Excellent country song.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fear 2 Stop - Possibilities

Hear The Track Here

Don't quite know where this should have come in the list this month but with Fear 2 Stop there is often confusion - more on my part than on theirs I might add. Its been a while since I've heard a brand new Fear 2 Stop track but I am assured that Possibilities is that rare event. On of the reasons I look forward to new tracks is because it helps to chart how they are developing - an essential element to understanding what Fear 2 Stop are all about. It's no good shaking your head like that, Fear 2 Stop have ALWAYS, but always sounded like this - in fact, its a bit of a trademark.

The song comments state that its a track 'with a reggae-inspired groove and some cool synth guitar licks' although I think its stretching the imagination to breaking point. Fear 2 Stop are a take it or leave it kind of outfit, they play their own particular groove not taking to much notice of what anyone is saying or thinking about their material. I think that attitude has helped them to establish themselves at Soundclick as a band you are either going to love or hate. Unless you are a fan of course, in which case its equal doses of love AND hate because - another halllmark of this trio - they tend to wander wherever the track takes them.

I think the marriage of rhythmic elements adds immeasurably to Fear 2 Stop's aural signature as I said of their better (ie more accessible) tracks and Possibilities have definite possibilities. No I can't believe I just said that either. The depth and textural quality of the production gives this track a much greater attraction than some earlier tracks, albeit in a kind of PIL way. There are even sections where the whole thing starts to rock out, and that is a bit of a departure for this often opaque bunch. Now given that I've already stated that I am a fan it should come as no surprise that I'm keeping this, but you have to make up your own mind.

Fear 2 tread. Strange, disjointed wonders. Highly Recommended experimental electronica.

Charlie A - Cracks In The Wall

Hear The Track Here

Running a random signup like I do, you definitely get some coincidences. It was pure chance that Nuff X's Sometimes I Can't Stop Staring At The Sun came back to back with Charlie A's Cracks In The Wall. The link between these two tracks is Nuff X who apparently had a lot of input into this track and, judging by the collaborations he has done in the past could prove to be a winner. I spent a good while wondering how such a combination would work because they are quite different musicians; each with their own specialty. Having said that I've known both musicians for several years and I know their standards so my hopes were high but Cracks In The Wall surpassed all that and more.

At first glance it doesn't seem like something that could steamroller you into the ground as soon as look at you but Cracks In The Wall has a strength that is surprising. Charlie A, it should be noted, is usually found constructing beautifully rendered soundscapes whereas Nuff X is a well known destructor of such bourgeois pretensions and an equally well known aural steamroller. As such, its pretty easy to spot who did what but that in no way detracts from the impact it makes on you especially if you like your DnB licks hot and sweaty. In all collaborations, its about influence and in this case I think the overall influence of the track is Nuff X.

It starts in typical Charlie A fashion though, with a lovely piano line that repeats as the track builds. This is demolished around thirty seconds in by Nuff's first wave of stormtroopers. Charlie fights back with a haunting oboe-like section which is sliced to peices by Nuff's heavy metal division. The crumbs are stomped and then scattered to the four winds by the full assault on the senses that is a Nuff X trademark. Personally I find this combination of Charlie's smoothness with melodies and Nuff's razor sharp instrumentation really appealing, and I'm sure you will too if you know of either artist. If you don't, you might find a stirring (in more ways than one) instrumental that does more than most to cool that fevered brow.

MUST HAVE blend of orchestral and DnB.

Nuff X - Sometimes I Can't Stop Staring At The Sun

Hear The Track Here

From being the king of his own particular brand of glitchy, breakbeat electronica (lets call it Nuffcore for the sake of argument) Nuff seems to have wandered into a few pastures new over the past few tracks, and that's always a good sign. Especially when he takes his nuffcore bag of tricks (massive use of glitches, cut up sounds and other assorted aural mayhem) into an IDM (Ed: Intelligent Dance Music for those with no intelligence, no sense of rhythm and tone deaf) style that I personally like a great deal. Having said that I am well aware that overall musical lunacy doesn't score points with a large section of Soundclick's (and elsewhere) listeners - it would be way too out there - if you into electronica in any way this track will definitely do it to you.

I first came across Nuff X in early 2005, when he was just starting out I guess, although he had already been on Soundclick over a year earlier. Like many of us, he had his ups and down but has proved - consistently - over the years that he knows what he is about and isn't likely to stop for anyone. My kind of musician, know what I mean? Sometimes I Can't Stop Staring At The Sun is absolutely classic Nuff stuff; an underlying theme and with more aural twists and turns than you can shake a stick at it will take a while to sink in. Once it does though, it will stay - Nuff tracks have a habit of doing that.

No doubt that he's got some great little tricks going on in Sometimes I Can't Stop Staring At The Sun that I haven't heard from him before and - if anything - he gets wilder with each successive track but never totally overboard. Mind you, this track skims right on the Crack Of Chaos especially towards the end which definitely should not be listened to be anyone who is on hallucagens, certain kinds of skunk or intensely paranoid individuals - it would be like chalk on a blackboard. As it is, every time I listen to the track I feel like my ears have been sandpapered flush to my skull. I marvel that it could be such a pleasureable experience. As I say, Nuff X is definitely not for everyone but if you like your electronica neat, then this is meat and drink for you.

Wild, glitchy, exhuberant ride. Highly Recommended IDM.

Stealthspectre's Experimental Insanity - Haunted Realm of The Undead (Vox version)

Hear The Track Here

Stealthspectre is a new name to me, and to Soundclick, but he has already thrown himself in the deep end by opening up a review thread in Critics Corner - and a very welcome one at that. Nonetheless, I find myself thinking, do these people not know what they are letting themselves in for? The deluge cometh and all that old bollocks? The problem with reviewing is that a) you either get buried under the never ending requests or b) you do so much you burn up within days of starting. Doesn't make you any new friends either or help to promote your own material, all valid reasons why people take up reviewing in the first place. What it does do though is expose you to a never ending stream of music you may not have heard had you not been reviewing. (Ed: speaking of which are you going to do any reviewing any time soon?)

Sheesh, some people....

Haunted Realm Of The Undead is billed as Goth Metal which in fact is a genre I have lots of time for. There are lot of really good Goth metal bands although - it has to be said - not many I've found on Soundclick, the best being Gretchen - or can somebody tell me different? I am well into a spot of musical insanity so I must admit I was looking forward to this popping up in my playlist - and you know what? It didn't let me down, and that is a surprise. SS states that he is new to making music and this is only his third stab at putting vocals on a track but other than a couple of technical faults (mainly in the vocal production) Haunted Realms is a track that will probably stay on my hard drive for a while. As I say, I do like a bot of Goth. In fact, it would be fair to say that I am completely obsessed with the look and style, if not exactly on the same wavelength as far as lyrics go. Nonetheless, good Goth carries with it a sombre beauty along with its inevitable tale of doom and this track accomplishes that well.

Stealthspectre has the right voice for it too, although - as I say - the vocal production doesn't really let the full tenor and timbre of his voice to shine through and that, I believe. would help this track enormously. Put it like this, the music is so well done that the vocal (its too compressed, muffled) doesn't stand out anything like as powerfully as it should. It really isn't that often that I am impressed with first tracks, and my liking for the genre probably has a lot to do with it, but Haunted Realms is an extremely decent song in many ways and should gain Stealthspectre some more willing listeners and I will be looking forward to hearing more from this intruiging artist. Keeper for me despite a small quibble.

Excellent goth metal. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kappa Danielson - Plastic Doll/That'll Be Alright...

Hear The Track Here

I was over at You Tube a few nights ago checking out Crockmisters channel and - before I knew it - I was engaged in a 'random click' loop, watching anything that took my fancy. It's that kind of site, ya know. When, however, I clicked on a Kappa Danielson (Kathy Ann Danielson to be exact) link I stopped dead. Since then I've added her as a favourite and a day doesn't go by without me swinging back and having a listen to her material. The main reason is because Kappa (and her sister Kristi Starr) are great country songwriters, absolutely awesome singers and very, very decent guitar players into the bargain. I'll be reviewing Kristi separately a little later, so lets move on. Don't go to Kappa's page expecting the usual glitz and rhinstonery of commercial Nashville country, this is just a woman, her guitar and her voice and that - I guess - is what impresses me most.

Plastic Doll is the track I first encountered and it established instantly that Kappa gets so much enjoyment and joy out of just sitting, singing and playing; it was a bit of a jaw-dropping moment. A Plastic Doll she is most definitely not, as the words of this wonderful little song state and the proof is in the confident, precise playing and the the absolutely fresh, clean, free way she sings it. If I could have downloaded this song right there and then I would have done and been busily trying to tempt her onto a music site like Soundclick who would go nuts over her. That'll Be Alright is the next track I glommed onto and if Plastic Doll hadn't nailed it for me, That'll Be Alright certainly would have done. It's a bit more commercially oriented than Plastic Doll and has already been covered by another You Tube musician - never a bad sign.

Kappa is a lovely guitar player, fluid and precise and always pushing the song forward. What she is doing isn't that OMG but there again when she sings the whole thing locks together so well you forget everything. Like all the best music around, Kappa is doing this just for the fun of it and it shows in her videos and shines out of her music. Moreover, when she opens her mouth, the voice of an angel singing directly from the heart overtakes all other considerations. For a classic example of that kind of emotional performance I suggest you also check out the very basic video for You Believe, which for all its black and white, low light graininess shows exactly what keeps me coming back to this singer/songwriter time after time. Oh, btw, she's no slouch at bluegrass either so nrrrrr Finally, if all this hasn't convinced you, check out her version of Deeper Than the Holler (Randy Travis cover) and see what you may be missing.

MUST WATCH country songs - just for the joy of it.

The Antennaheadz - I Don't Sing

Hear The Track Here

As yet Thomas J (aka The Antennaheadz) doesn't seem to have been struck by the Curse Of Gilmore. See, when I started picking out Artist Of The Year back in 2003, I've not had a great batting average. By that I mean that Nad Sylvan, Jim-n-Lisa, Maria Daines and Paul Killington all went on to better things, but have kinda dropped off the map as far as Soundclick activity goes. The Antennaheadz, like Cam's Even Song before him, keeps right on churning out his lo-fi meisterwerks as if a grubby award from me is nothing. Nothing, of course, is exactly what Thomas got, other than the warm applause of many of his peers and (hopefully) and expanded audience. Certainly as far as Soundclick forum activity goes, he seems to go from strength to strength, and musically the man is absolutely unstoppable.

It goes without saying that you should have a healthy liking for lo-fi, one-man-and-his-dog productions; basic instrumentation, almost live production and not much else. The thing with Thomas J - at least these days - is the song. Front and centre. It's also the reason why I have become a confirmed Antennahead myself, but I'm seeing the doctor for that and hoping that it will clear up soon. Thomas's inspiration seems to be coming from somewhere between 1950 and 1970, so take your pick where. I've likened him to all kinds of odd people but - when all is said and done - always with that special Thomas J sound and approach.

Rough, roguish but with infinite charm.

I Don't Sing is Thomas in full spate, sounding suspiciously like Pete Shelley (of the Buzzcocks drrrr) against a rhythm track going at full pelt. Add electric guitars, bass, drums and endless amounts of gobbing and this would be a punk track. As it is, it's a pleasant enough listen, albeit extremely short at almost two minutes long. Mind you, I have a definite taste for this artist so even for me, two minutes is better than nothing. It might well whet your appetite to check out some more of this artists work, and I do urge you to do that - The Antennaheadz are one of Soundclick's more recognisably different artists; albeit in an acoustic stylee. Me, I could have done with another two or three minutes of this but that's just being greedy.

Highly Recommended lofi tomfoolery.

The Forcefield Kids - No Signal

Hear The Track Here

One of the brightest sparks in my own personal hiphop charts is in fact an English rapper who we all know as Stain(ed) Art. While it would be true to say that being English I am duty bound to like home grown hiphop, it's also true that Stain(ed) Art is worth it. An excellent rapper is an excellent rapper, whether he's spouting in Swahili or Ebonics. Ever since I first came across him back in 2005, Stain's extremely wry, entertaining and often enlightening lyrics has always been a welcome sight on my review list. Everything changes, however and maybe this particular change heralds great things. Stain, ya see, is 50% of The Forcefield Kids; the other 50% coming from producer/deejay Sleepy - who, btw, is not a dwarf.

I've already reviewed one of this duo's tracks; Little Miss Star (January 2009) and really liked what I heard, to be sure it was different enough. I'm not sure if No Signal is going to be on the upcoming EP Home from Mutate Records but I see no reason why not, at least from Stain's angle. I'm assuming that the musical content is coming from either both guys or from Sleepy and the song credits three people, but whichever, its a fairly classic hiphop lick that comes across - the sort of thing you can hear from any self respecting Soundclick 'beat factory'. That's a compliment btw because - believe me - this is a tough, tough market. I'm not sure whether the vinyl scratches or intentional or whether I have a bad copy but for me, it was a bit superfluous. The music revolves around guitar and a high, tinkly lead line that works surprising well, especially when the organ sound backs it up.

The real joy for me, as always, are the lyrics and Stain's own way of putting them across, He's always been a bit of a gobby geezer and time has just refined that. He's also always been very opinionated and is liable to pick up on all kinds of themes and images to put his point across. In this case, it's a fairly harrowing personal tale and you really have to understand the lyrics to really understand the tone and tenor of the musical accompaniment. Stain, though, is one of those rare rappers who is not afraid to display his lyrical ability by posting the lyrics. He is proud of lyrics and so he should be and I do urge you most strongly to read the lyrics while listening to the track - and bring a box of tissues...

Excellent UK hiphop with a cautionary tale. Highly Recommended.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sad Hill Cemetery - Whiskey and Sin (Road To Salinas)

Hear The Track Here

Sad Hill Cemetery is much better known to Soundclick denizens as Road Apples, a Canadian rock musician who I have reviewed favourably in the past. Sad Hill Cemetery is a new alter-ego 'for my more acoustic, country-sounding music' RA states in his blurb. Now anyone who knows this guys rock persona will already be aware that he is a musician to be taken seriously, and judging by Whiskey & Sin we need to add Sad Hill Cemetery to the roster. Obviously to really appreciate this track and this side of the artist you would like country and/or Americana, and I do admit I have grown a taste for it over the years.

The track is actually a four way collaboration between Lou Quarmwater, JCMosquito, Michael Hughes, and Road Apples and definitely nails the genre right on the head. I'm hearing the faintest of echoes of early Bob Dylan in the vocals and The Travelling Wilburys in the arrangement and production and - for my money - that's a very good selling point. The best thing about the track, IMHO, are the lyrics - although the music and performance are no slouches - because 1) they tell a story and 2) they are intelligent and evocative of an America long past. Even if it has some uncomfortable parallels in our modern day.

Always a sucker for a good song, me.

Providing you like the genre, Whiskey & Sin (Road To Salinas) is a great track, full of classic American folk sounds and structure, exactly the kind of track I particularly warm to. I am only too well aware that people will often discount something because it is labelled either folk or country and a great many of the tracks I have personally reviewed and liked were much more Americana than either of the genres I've mentioned. It's a smart blend of rock, country and pop and - when done properly - can be tremendously uplifting. I certainly found Whiskey & Sin that kind of track, although there was a certain boominess in the mix which I suspect is down to the amount of recording the vocals and other parts took up. Nonetheless, a very listenable track indeed.

Highly Recommended Americana with a tale to tell.

Divine Nature - Antar Naad

Hear The Track Here

I've known Chris Bishop (owner and sole prop; POP and POPSpace) for around four years, and in that time have become well acquainted with his taste, which is surprisingly similar to mine. Regular readers will already know that this is a man with very sharp ears, many of his choices have walked away with glowing reviews. Moreover he always seems to choose tracks that have something else going for them other than the music, and that holds true of Divine Nature too. From what I can gather this is a collaborative project in some ways similar to David Pendragon's Tribe World Ensemble insofar as the guiding light appears to be an American, with an Indian (I think) collaborator. Whichever it is, judging by the list of planned releases, you can bet your life these guys have their work cut out.

I think that Rajendra Teredesai and Ninewells Music (India and USA respectively) are responsible for Antar Naad (the first track to be released from the Divine Dimension album). Although I was able to download the track, it no longer seems to be on their POP page, which is a bit of a problem. No matter, Bhakti Dhyana is the only track on the page right now but it will give you pretty much the same kind of buzz that Antar Naad gave me, and maybe Antar Naad will go up sooner or later. Essentially both tracks are meditative music of a high order (and I don't mean New Age here folks) with a distinctly eastern feel.

Hey, hey Gilmore, that's right up your street isn't it?

Yeah, but even Eastern music has its horrors. See, one of my problems is - like many other human beings - that I do equate these extra long, soundtrack-type with New Age and that genre has long plundered eastern music, and not always to the good. Can't say the same about Antar Naad because it is exactly what I was expecting from the Meditative Music tag. Six minutes of true aural bliss out that would do equal justice in a documentary about the Indian subcontinent. Its one of those tracks that put images in your mind from the very start, aided by some superb instrumentation and a razor sharp production. Some lovely Indian flute work in this track too, and that alone is worth listening to.

Excellent meditation material, everybody say OMMMM. Highly Recommended.

Superhuman - Distortion

Hear The Track Here

It used to be that world class shredders (Ed: fast guitarists) were a rare event but these days I'm always tripping over them. That's not to say that I actually LIKE the shredding side of metal because I'm not so sure I do. Too much of a 'look-at-me-going-as-fast-as-I-can' playground thing attached to it if ya ask me. The shreds the thing, not the tune that underlies it. Mind you, I quite liked Hellucination (February 2008) and I was - I think - pretty kind to it. Not sure why a year has passed since that track but that's probably down to me being busy - Superhuman's probably been spitting out tracks like bullets while my eye is off the ball.

What do you mean, isn't it always? I resemble that remark.

The names I hear bandied about uber-shreddies Satriani and Vai (being the most named influences) always get applied to guitarists of the same stripe and many of the comments on this track go that way too. Personally I couldn't tell a Satwhatsit from a hole in the ground but I do know what I like to hear from a guitarist more than anything else; attention to tone. In my books, it's all about getting that tone right, otherwise it just sounds messy and disorganised. And I'm not just talking about guitar tone here, I mean the general tone of the song in which the string bashing takes place.

Like a woman, it's all about good structure (Ed: Oi, I saw that!) Like I need another guitar instrumental, right? Well I do, but only when it has structure, pace and meaning rather than a gratutious display of nimble fingers. This is twice now that I've been unable to level that charge at Superhuman because Distortion hangs together perfectly, damn I even like the drums pounding along like a steamhammer in my ears and that doesn't happen often with this kind of track. Nice detailed work, that's for sure; a track for aspiring guitarists everywhere.

Highly Recommended Shreddies rock.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sponsored By Poverty - Friends Forever

Hear The Track Here

'Mike and Brandon are great friends, but there may be a little more to their friendship than meets the eye' Sponsored By Poverty's Soundclick page informs us. Sounds more like a soap than yer actual music, doesn't it? 'Mike and Brandon have been playing together now about four years, and they are closer than a g-string between two butt cheeks' it goes on, giving you some indication that maybe Mike and Brandon like a bit of a laugh. Good job then that their genre classification is Comedy because you couldn't take all this seriously right? Why are you all looking at me as if I just farted? You don't take this seriously do you? You do??

Damn, for the first time ever, I am rendered speechless.

Citing the excellent Flight Of The Conchords as one of their influences, is a smart move, and gives you a pointer what to expect. What you shouldn't expect is much in the way of musical accompaniment; a guitar and a couple of voices and that's all she wrote. Moreover, its a most basic recording, pretty much live straight one take jobbie. Nothing wrong with that of course. My problem with so called comedy tracks is that they are so often not. Up their own ass with the cleverness of it all maybe but rarely that funny. To be blunt and to the point, I didn't actually find the track LOL funny but it has a certain wry appeal.

Friends Forever is actually a dialog between two friends (Ed: Gawd, nothing like stating the obvious) who have what can best be summed up as a love/hate relationship; exactly the kind of tension that keeps best friends, best friends - if you see what I mean. Being close friends with someone else is pretty much like being married - except without the sex. You still get to know their every irritating little habit and yet you can't get through the day without touching base with them at some point. Friends Forever shouldn't be listened to because of its musical exuberance (it has that) or its sonic brilliance (it doesn't have that) but should be listened to as an accurate vignette about life with our best friends.

Excellently wry take on friendship. Recommended for the song.

333maxwell - Culture Wars

Hear The Track Here

Welp, 333maxwell has thrown just about every other genre at me, seems only right and fitting that he should now delve into a bit of soundtrackery. Electronica:Tribal is the genre it goes under and to be honest, I think I'd agree with that absolutely. Personally I loved this artists jazz work as my Must Have's for Post War Dreaming (September 2008) and After Hours (November 2008) - both of which ended up in my Tracks Of The Year 2008 list and rightly so. It has to be said that he hasn't fared anything like as well with some of his forays into electric blues but that's probably down to my own prejudice than anything 333maxwell is doing wrong. Whichever track you may pick, it will show that this is a musician who takes time and trouble with his work.

Culture War is actually the soundtrack for a pictorial video Chas Holman (aka 333maxwell) is making about Afghanistan and its larger meaning, so its kinda odd to that electronica rears its techno head. When you hear the track, though, it becomes pretty clear that the electronica element is kept to a minimum, because the track relies on a lot of analog and organic sounds. Seeing as I dabble with gazillions of organic sounds from all over the world in my own work, I am super sensitive when I hear tracks using them, but 333maxwell delivers in high style - even to the point where I even surmounted my own sheer terror when faced with the word 'soundtrack'.

Aye, it's a morbid fear, I know.

The more I listened to Culture War, the more I got from it; it's a deceptively easy listen. That might, however, be down to my love of world music, of which this is a shining example. In his jazz work Chas impressed the heck out of me with his selection of instruments and his mastery of the exact atmosphere needed to pull it all off. Culture War is in the same class; a moody, evocative piece that has you spitting out sand and screaming for water before the first minute is up. It's edginess creeps up on you though, coming through as you get used to the tenor of the track. It certainly whets my appetite for seeing the complete video and that - after all - I guess is the whole point.

MUST HAVE world music (kinda/sorta)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Musicarian - Friendship knows no East or West

Hear The Track Here

At this stage of the game, I know a great many musicians from Asian countries such as India and Pakistan (home of Musicarian) and all of them - to a man or woman - hold as much fascination in Western music as I do in Eastern music. Don't know about you but I consider that a wonderful thing, something to be cherished. Musicarian obviously thinks much the same thing because here's a track saying pretty much the same kind of thing. Friendship sees no East or West is 'a guitar instrumental for the Friends around the globe' and Musicarian certainly has a few of them including this reviewer. I first met this amazingly fluid jazz fusion guitarist in 2004 and loved what he was doing then but suddenly he went AWOL, turning up last year with a blindingly good fusion piece called Get Your Soul Reborn (November 2008) showing that he had lost none of the spark and gained much in the way of production nous.

Essentially Friendship etc is a track about the many friends Salman Anwer (aka Musicarian) has made on Facebook but that could well be extended to the wider musical community he has been part of over the years. I can't put my hand on my heart and swear that I am a big fan of jazz fusion because I'm not. Most of it bores me to tears, when it isn't enraging me with its insipid vapidity. Mind you, I do like a tasty guitarist regardless of the genre they choose to work in, and Musicarian is a rare one. Musicarian, rare one? Geddit??? Moving right along because there is nothing to see there, I have compared this artist to Santana, Clapton and even Kephas and all of those comparisons hold water.

Except the bit that Salman brings from his own roots...

What singles out this plank spanker from the millions of others around is the way he puts his solos together, stitching Western and Eastern scales together seamlessly - all encased in a shiny, completely unobtrusive backing track. The venerable Mike-K and I have had a long standing conversation about music like this, and my seemingly endless dislike of it. Nonetheless, quality shines through - as Mike so often proves - and good ideas and faultless playing and production will win me over every time. While not being as sonically inventive as Jeff Beck in the same field, Musicarian never fails to keep me entranced while listening to those fingers working their own particular magic.

Splendid jazz fusion guitar instrumental with a touch of the East. Highly Recommended.

Tedd-Z Cookbook - Boy (Sacred Remix)

Hear The Track Here

Take a Pop structure lovingly constructed by D-connection (aka Drainage) - after one abortive attempt - add some honey and sweetener to the mix by adding some Essence, throw in the anarchic, often chaotic top layer of one Tedd-Z and you have the Cookbook's remix. Somehow, along the way transformed from its Pop roots to Electronica. Take a listen to the original here because it is a neat track in and of itself. Quite what Drainage and Essence were thinking when they entrusted it to the sticky fingers of Tedd-Z we will never know but I know this musician/remixer for a great many years and I know that when he gets involved with a project anything can happen - and usually does. This isn't necessarily a bad thing because Tedd-Z has spent many years honing his particular sound and style, but it is something that should be treated with a certain amount of caution.

Now personally I can take huge amounts of Essence but almost a minute of her whispering sweet nothings in my ear couldn't stop me shouting at Tedd-Z to get on with it. It's almost two minutes before any meaningful musical contributions enter the picture and - for my money - that's one of the longest intros I've ever heard. Mind you, in a tune that stretches out over six minutes it might not seem much but to my ears it seemed very l-o-n-g. The track finally got some serious meat on its bones after the three minute mark and became a sort of drums and bass track, adorned with the same Essence sample that the track had begun with. As I say, I can take endless amounts of Essence but - to be honest - think the use of vocals on this is definitely overdone.

Having said that, I seem to be in the majority of one to think this, at least judging by the comments posted on this track. While I agree that Tedd-Z has put his own dark interpretation on the track, I still came away from this remix thinking that - musically anyway - I have heard him do much, much better. The thing about a Tedd-Z remix is that he has this habit (a good habit mind) or completely re-writing the track and while that often works, in this case I remain unsure. I say this, mind, after spending some considerable time prising the damn thing open and the intro STILL bugged the beejeebers out of me. There again, maybe I shouldn't have listened to the original in tandem with this but with remixes I always do that and found that I actually preferred the original D-connection/Essence version. There again I was always a cantankerous sort.

Recommended Electronica.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Can't Stop The Daggers - Too Many Lights

Hear The Track Here

Like most internet musicians - if they were being honest with themselves - I live in a rose tinted world where record business executives regularly cruise the net looking for the 'next best thing'. Also, like most internet etc, I can be a right smug bastard at times because of knowing that - no matter how quick record execs are - I'm a damn sight faster. Over the years I found many 'next best things' all of which languish, to this day, in the slough of despond we refer to as the net. So, it would be fair to suggest that I am, in fact, completely tonto, a few sandwiches short of a picnic or - in simpler terms - stark raving bonkers. I KNOW that the chances of ANYONE of merit being picked out this way is about as likely as me pulling Jennifer Pearl...er.....sorry..meant to say Jennifer Connolly (Ed: woof! woof! on both accounts anyway) It isn't the way the net works, even for the likes of Artic Monkeys, Lily Allen et al. If you REALLY believed that 'the people' made them then you need a quick lesson on how down and dirty the music business can get.

Oh and btw, I HAVE found the 'thing'. I've known it for some time.

Can't Stop The Daggers lit up my life (and everybody elses apparently) with High (January 2008) and continued with a blinding run of tracks throughout last year, supplying me several Tracks of the Year and almost gaining them Artist Of The Year status. It doesn't mean much, of course, in the scheme of things but hey, if it keeps me smug I'm down with that. Seriously though, on Soundclick right now are some fine, fine bands but CSTD are just exceptional - no two ways about it. They have a pop sensitivity (and some serious hookage) that I've heard very seldom in RL let alone in our little internet world. If you think I'm trying to drown you in hyperbole, go take a listen to High, Changing My Mind, or Go Driving Fast. It wouldn't be fair, I don't think, to judge a band as accomplished as CSTD on Too Many Lights because it is - when all is said and done - a rough mix of the studio version. One thing is for sure, it's going to a right pig to mix, there is a lot going on in here.

Which isn't par for the course in this case.

The reason I get the chockablock feeling is because of that rough mix (its a track from their upcoming album) and the amount of parts it contains. Don't get me wrong, when this is mixed and polished to perfection this is going to be a world beater. Partly because the five people who make up CSTD are excellent musicians and partly because their songwriting is of such a high standard. Consequently, Too Many Lights, is one of those tracks it is essential to live with before making up your mind. Structurally as complex as a Bruce Springsteen song, this takes a while to sink in - even for a diehard CSTD fan like me. Its a kind of Indie waltz, if you can imagine that, and that is unexpected - as is the string quartet (The Urban Quartet) guesting on the track. The time you spend with it is - as usual - well worth as you start to recognise the quality of the vocals, the depth and extent of musical activity and, finally, the wholeness that only a track like this can convey. I can't wait to get my hands on the completed version but this bodes very, very well.

Rough mix of a certified classic. MUST HAVE indie.

The SolitaireOne - Finally Heard The Word

Hear The Track Here

The SolitaireOne (a one man band as it 'appens) has been making a noise (and name for himself) quite successfully on Soundclick for some time and, along the way picked up many fans and listeners. Yay, you all cry, break out the champers!! Until, that is, I tell you that most of The SolitaireOne's output happens to be blues. Blues rock, maybe yes whatever but at bedrock the man and the blues live together. Its surprising but blues and blues rock is one of the absolute staples of the internet music scene. It might not fair too well in the harsh real world but on the net it has many fans. Take, for example, the amount of comments expressed on Finally Heard The Word. Most of us count ourselves lucky getting a couple of comments per track so the amount of comments for this track shows just how acceptable the blues is these days.

Fine by me because I love the blues, and not just because I am a miserable English grump.

For someone who actually experienced the 1960's, Finally Heard The Word is like saying hello to an old friend you haven't seen for 40 years, as warm and comfortable as your favourite slippers. That's fine for old codgers like me but surely it couldn't appeal to today's kids? Wouldn't they notice the roughness of the mix, the thinness of sound, the odd muffled note? Would they ****!. What they would notice is how fresh, raw and exciting it sounded, like a bucket of water in the face and just as refreshing. Meanwhile miserable old English grumps like me would complain (see above) that it wasn't up to some stupidly exacting production quality that only I - and vampire bats - could even identify.

While Finally Heard The Word did indeed tickle my ivories, I must admit that it did come at the expense of things I wouldn't have been happy with in other situations. The excellent backing vocals were kind of squashed into a corner of the mix where centre stage may have been more effective and when the piano solo came in, my heart sank. This is where the track should have taken flight for the end but the dullness (and boominess) of the piano sound completely threw it for me. Personally, I admit that I love the track very much but for all the wrong reasons but being a miserable etc, etc my opinion can be easily discounted because - when all is said and done - this is a track with warmth, heart and a great song to it.

Highly Recommended Blues rock.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ejhooker0is0my0name - Apologize

Hear The Track Here

So listen, whatever you do, don't go banging on about the name aiight. We know this artist much better as either Wreckless Music (Ejay) or even Certified Block Niggas but - as the band name suggests - this US based rapper's real name is indeed EJ Hooker. Whatever name he goes under, you can pretty much bet that it would be an interesting listen and - once or twice - well worthy of mention. I've always like what he does with the rap but - like many indie hiphop artists - marrying the right beats to the mix is often where the wheels start falling off the wagon. There again, I have made that mistake before with this artist and have found that its best to give the amount of headroom he needs to work his particular magic.

Truthfully, the first time I heard this, I wasn't that impressed and was kinda wishing I wouldn't have to write this review. There's a roughness to the sound of this track that definitely put me off, it was only the star attraction in the track that kept me coming back for more. Once my ears had adjusted, the track grew on me like gangbusters because - surprise, surprise - it was a clever, intelligent rap yoked to an absolutely killer vocal hook that - once heard - cannot be put down or discarded. Mind you, you WILL have to play the track more than a drive-by so best download it I say...

At this stage of the game, I am absolutely smitten with the vocal (and the song it carries) and I am left wondering if this is EJay singing as well as rapping. If that is the case, then this guy should be doing much, much more of it. The combination of the smoothness of the vocal and the hard, abrasive rap is wonderful and certainly one of the best Wreckless tracks I have heard so far. Apologize carries a Parental Advisory and I cannot for the life of me figure out why, it should have a Great Song Advisory so I guess that's up to me to remedy.

Great song. Highly Recommended hiphop.

The Peach Tree - The Other Side

Hear The Track Here

Say what you like about Australia's The Peach Tree (and I often do, as you may have noticed) got to give the guy top marks for bouncing back, and always, but always in a completely different direction. Now sometimes this seems to have worked and sometimes it hasn't. We are just getting over our last spat with Hold On (February 2009) and he's back with something completely different. Where Hold On was a song, albeit kinda metal, The Other Side is classically inspired and a solo piano piece. See what I mean, chalk and cheese? Certainly he's not afraid to try just about anything including '5 short pieces of classical music involving piano and strings' which you will find ONLY at the download link above.

Fur Bunni3 (the name of the whole project) was 'made on request for The Peach Tree's biggest fan, Bunni3' and The Other Side is the last of those tracks on the Internet Archive page. Mind you, all five tracks are short, there isn't one over 2 and a half minutes long and are well worth listening to - if you are of a classical bent. Essentially all of the tracks are a series of musical progressions with a kinda/sorta central theme linking them together. Certainly it would (and did) make sense to me to listen to them in sequence to better understand what The Peach Tree was about here.

On that score, I have to say that I loved the style and tenor of A Classful of Dreamers Seated Next To The Window and is probably my favourite part of the five pieces. It leads into The Other Side which I had been listening to alone and found it a good piano solo piece but not something I would normally be shouting from the rooftops about. There isn't really a lot you can do wrong with a good piano sound, and indeed that is the case here. The only thing I would recommend is that you do listen to all five pieces because, as decent as it is, The Other Side doesn't cut it alone other than being a nice piano solo. When you listen in sequence, it's the logical outro.

Classically inspired piano and strings compositions.

MD-1 Project - Progressive Uprising

Hear The Track Here

Whenever I see the word trance I come out in big red spots, a red mist appears before my eyes and I start to foam at the mouth, hurling invective hither and yon. Not, in any sense, my favourite genre simply because I've never found it challenging enough for me to want to wade through more than thirty seconds of the stuff. Ricky Mancini (aka MD-1 Project) gets enormous delight of winding me up as you can see by the fact that Progressive Uprising is a trance track. Right around now, with any other artist, the sight and sound of nee naws and wonderfully tasteful white clothing would be apparent and this review would smell distinctly of smacked butt. There again, MD-1 Project is not yer normal trance artist.

He is a man on a mission.

His mission, which he has obviously (nay gleefully) accepted, is to - to put it bluntly - fuck with your mind. Over the years I have been reviewing this extreme instrumentalist I have developed a taste for his completely off the scale electronic fukry, even - it must be said - when that electronic fukry happens to be in a trance stylee. See, that's the nub of the matter. No matter what genre this artist chooses to graze in, you can bet your life that it will come out sounding like nothing you ever heard before. Progressive Uprising is more what I could call soundscape with a distinctly experimental edge; especially with the sounds and their placement are concerned. If you want a track to just waggle your skinny butt to, this will do the trick. However, take it from one who knows, when you are 'somewhere else' (Ed: an obvious reference to being off your face) this track is awesome just to listen to.

One thing is for sure, the sand-blaster sound technique MD-1 Project perfected on so many tracks isn't that obvious, unless you count the bewildering amount of parts this contains. It's even - dare I say this - a bit laid back. Not that it doesn't have its share of thrills and spills, I've already mentioned the way its packed to the gills with sound events; there is an underlying tension coming from the lower end instruments that is definitely edge-of-the-seat, duck-before-its-too-late ominous that throws a whole different slant on the track. I didn't notice that at first, it took a few plays to register but once I did, it made the whole track make much better sense. Having said that, there are bound to be people who's reaction to this will be 'huh?'. That's what I like most about MD-1 Project, he was never the kind of guy to play it safe.

Highly Recommended experimental trance

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pilesar - Snort Thruster (Live)

Hear The Track Here

Listen, whatever you do, don't go clicking on the link to Pilesar's page without adequate preparation. You would need a pair of shades (the page background is well glare-y), a suitable tranquiliser for those more chaotic/quixotic Pilesar moments and a definitely leaning towards the weird and wonderful. If you have all that, then your name must be Steve Gilmore and I claim my five bucks reward! I am definitely one of Pilesars most fervent fans, I have tons of his work on my various hard drives and he never ceases to amuse and amaze me. No doubt while driving the rest of humanity quietly around the bend but that's neither here nor there. Fugem as Pilesar and I say often.

If you can't take a joke, don't be one.

Speaking of jokes, don't be running away with the impression that Pilesar is a musical madman. Well, actually, he is but in every single thing he has ever done there is a solid musical mind behind what often appears to be random, unassociated noise. And that's not to mention the live stuff. OK, I joke, but not by much. Over the years I have come to appreciate more and more Pilesar's live tracks because that musical playfulness he exhibits in his recorded work is - if anything - strengthened by the live experience. Certainly, it would the strangest gig you are ever likely to experience this side of the Horsehead Nebula, not an area noted for its more tolerant attitudes towards lunatic human beings.

Pilesar is a master of the 'I wonder what would happen if I did this' school of music composition as Snort Thruster adequately shows. Whatever it is, it always manages to plaster a huge shit eating grin on my face and judging by this live track, the audience's too. Essentially Snort Thruster is a rhythmic exercise using voices and drums which doesn't sound up to much when written down like that but provides over five minutes of ridiculously good aural entertainment with its echoes of the wonderful Bobby McFerrin. It's just the man and his assortment of tape machines, rhythm and percussion tools and the seat of his pants and it works wonderfully. IMHO, Pilesar is one of the most innovative, intriguing and hard working experimentalists around and if you haven't tasted this (very) strange fruit yet, it's about time you did.

Class musical lunacy, LIVE. MUST HAVE.

Artificial Wonders - Today, We Close The Door

Hear The Track Here

Wouldn't really say that the experience of reviewing The Warmachine Part 3 Redux (February 2009) really introduced me to Artificial Wonders and it looks like we are in agreement. Today, We Close The Door is, I am assured, NOT a game soundtrack - for which I am very, very grateful. Nonetheless, the tingle down my spine when I noticed it was billed as Film Music didn't bode well. I'm not really a big fan of anything that smacks of soundtracks which is why - I suppose - my review of his first track was lukewarm, to say the least. The music (what there was of it) was quite reasonable, but its extreme shortness and style didn't give me anything to hang onto to describe whether the larger catalog of this musician was worth trawling.

Mind you, Today doesn't go much further than his previous tracks, weighing in at a puny one minute, forty two seconds. Does this mean, I ask myself, the whole fourteen track project this is a part of (see FAWM 2009 for more info) comes in at - tops - twenty minutes? Not that it really matters of course because you either like soundtracks or you don't and Today, We Close The Door is yet another example (albeit brief) of a composer that seems to have all his ducks in a row but I can't help wishing for a piece long enough that I could really sink my brain and ears into. By the time I've started to register this track, its over.

It's a simple enough piece, scored sparsely in the time honoured film music tradition and I can definitely see this being something that could be extended into something with a little more meat on its bones. The whole point of FAWN 2009 was to write fourteen songs in a month and, amazingly, the whole project racked up some 7375 songs over the month from musicians from all over the world. Artificial Wonders contribution to this is an album called Stories To Tell and all the tracks from it are available on his web page. Which has me wondering if I wouldn't be better served by hoovering up the whole album, at least then I'd be able to get a good, man-sized bite on this musician.

Moody film soundtrack, but short, very short. Recommended

Peelington - Broken

Hear The Track Here

Peelington is an absolutely brand new name to me from MP3 Unsigned and he (I presume it is a he) doesn't have a lot to say on his web page either. An Indie artist who has apparently been writing songs for ten years or so, he's already picked up some very influential MP3 Unsigned names to champion his cause, which is always a good starting point. Shows the man has the networking skills to do the biz at least. Funnily enough, the vocals and the song really reminded me of my old friend Cam Bastedo (aka Cam's Even Song) and that - I think - got me past my initial frustration with the track. Uh oh, I used the F word in the first paragraph didn't I? That can't be good. It isn't as bad as I make out though because the tune/song is sound, I think Peelington just needs to concentrate on his arrangement more.

Tighten up, less is more and all that bollocks.

From a songwriting/lyrical angle, Broken definitely has potential although I'm afraid this is pretty much a bare bones approach to it, definitely what I would call a demo. Nonetheless, it has ideas and a certain style, certainly enough to struggle through the massively overlong intro which IMHO could do with losing at least a minute and not lose it's impact. The track really starts to liven up with a terrific staccato guitar lead line that I could have done with more of, and at a much higher sound level and if it could be in stereo please.... The final couple of minutes of the track is where the heart of the matter lies and - with the right arrangement and production - and a nip and tuck here and there, this track would kill from fifty paces.

As it is, it is full of basic production no no's but I am a well known finicky bastard so you should take that with a grain of salt. Its an absolute certainty that most people will notice the length of the intro and may not even get to the song proper but they would definitely be missing out on a rough diamond. Personally, having lived with this track for a while, Peelington should have a certain amount of pride about his vocal ability and basic ideas. What he should do now is listen to other artists who work in his chosen field to see how high the technical bar is, and work more on a (damn I hate to say this) 'finished product'. He's a good vocalist but the vocal mix doesn't bring out the full warmth and colour of his voice any less than the instruments, which sound thin and stand somewhat apart from the aforementioned vocals. Decent, probably unfinished, song.

Worth a listen if you like the sound of it though.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mokee Dugway - Twelve (So long to city song)

Hear The Track Here

Second time around for Italian musician Gabriele D'Urbano (aka Mokee Duway) whose Not Enough (December 2008) certainly perked my ears up, despite it being nothing more ornate than a guitar instrumental. Not Enough showed that the man had style, nous AND control over what he was producing, certainly the right kind of introduction anyway. Gabriele first wrote this as an instrumental way back in 2001 but along comes Matt Tyson (who he? Maybe Mokee will tell us) this year and puts himself up for lyrics, vocals and drums - shades of Phil Collins eh? Well, as it happens, the drum sound that's happening here is VERY Phil, huge building-sized toms, extravagant and elaborate patterns and all..

AND its kinda/sorta prog....

Normally I'd be sharpening my knives but his first track showed me that Mokee Dugway is an artist to be taken seriously - regardless of genre - and Twelve cements that impression in stone. It also introduces this reviewer to a lyricist/vocalist (and yay even drummer) I would be more than happy to hear a lot more of. Thankfully, it has none of the normal bombastic look-at-me-being-glorious tat that prog rock artists insist on foisting on our poor jaded ears. Point of fact, Twelve (So long to city song) is a lovely track in every way, a great song, absolutely top class production and faultless performance from everyone involved. Matt's vocals sit so well in the track it's a lesson in proper balance between voice and instruments.

It's five and a quarter minutes of life zip by so fast the first time you hear it, you are still trying to assimilate the intro by the time it ends. In between - given time to settle in - is a whole world of wonderfully realised music, whatever genre you want to apply to it. To be sure, it is definitely prog rock in feel but its underlying melodic strength would win over even the most cynical of reviewers (Oh hi me!). The truth is that I was floored by the quality and beauty of this track from the very first play, and constant exposure to it only increased that a thousandfold. Great song, great performance, great vocals and outstanding production values, this is exactly the kind of track I would be more than proud to point to as an example of just how good unsigned music can be in the right hands.

Awesome piece. MUST HAVE.

AvMo - When I'm Gone

Hear The Track Here

'The masochist will step up to the plate once again' chortles AvMo as he thrust this track into my hands. Now that's quite surprising because I thought I had been pretty tame over the four or five tracks of his I have reviewed. Mind you my bitterness has been known to soak through almost any platitudes I am uttering so who knows? It has to be said that AvMo's music and style haven't exactly won me over yet because even I have to admit I have been lukewarm about his music in the past so maybe the man has a point. Moreover, he cautions me on a couple of points about When I'm Gone and that's never a good sign.

Now maybe he gets to see the real me... :)

Its a good job that he did indeed warn me about some 'timing issues all over the joint' because on my first listen that's probably where this track met its gory end. Still, got to give the track more headroom than that, at least AvMo recognises that there is still work to be done, and that's always a healthy sign. ' I still love the layers and textures I used' he adds and I think that - having lived with this track and its timing problems for a while - I would tend to agree with him. There is more than a touch of basic home production on the track though and - for my money - that may detract more than any timing problems. Most people don't really notice these things anyway but the 'demo/wip' feel of this track might put many off.

It's a bit of a slow build actually. I found myself going from not very impressed at all to thinking that - given its small failings - it's actually a decent song in need of tightening and more arrangement. It appears to be a song about dying and leaving a partner and/or loved one behind, and consequently comes across as pretty sombre too. Musically, its pretty much what I have come to expect from AvMo, a soft rock backing track that you would have heard once or twice. What it's most in need of is a major tidying up, there are odd things happening almost constantly but after a while I put that down to the basic slap-it-all-down-and-see-what-happens nature of what AvMo has to work with. I now needs some thought as to the overall feel and flow of the peice. I'd be interested to hear what happens with this once that occurs.

Decent song, very 'demo-y' sound.

M S L - 4 Variations on a Theme

Hear The Track Here

Don't really get a lot of out and out classical music on this review beat. I get to review great wodges of faux-classical stuff courtesy of any number of artists but straightforward music from dead white dudes, meh. When I first met MP3 Unsigned's M S L, he was just starting a Music Major course in his native Florida but the music he was pumping out at the time was largely electronica and/or dance. It was only when I reviewed The Thread Of Life (March 2006) that I realised that he was capable of such detailed, intricate music. It wasn't the be all and end all of course but it was a fine start along the way. Now he's two years into that course and 4 Variations on a Theme is his project for his music theory class. To do well, they had to write (from a teacher chosen melody) 'a harmonization of the theme, and write 2 figural, 1 chromatic, and 1 character variation'

And you guys thought music lessons would be fun :)

Based, so MSL tells us, in the 'secondary theme of Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata Mvt. 1' this track was apparently completed over a weekend, which seems like a little short to me. Now if you've ran away with the idea that I'm some kind of classical music buff, best think again. Like the bulk of the worlds population, I like some bits but the majority of classical music leaves me as cold and stiff as the dead white dudes who wrote it, However, I am a bit of a fan of ol' Ludwig Van, especially his piano pieces and 4 Variations on a Theme is an extended keyboard workout on a very recognisable piece of music that should please even the most philistine of ears - in other words, mine.

Because the whole track revolves around the central theme there isn't a lot that it can do, but its the way that MSL pieces it all together that makes it work for me. If I hadn't have known the story behind the track I would have thought it a nicely rendered, slow building classical piece that had both pacing and melodic content. The transition from straightforward piano, piano and organ, piano and strings and the full monty of classical rock is almost seamless, allowing the track to build nicely; the orchestral ending leads you out beautifully and comes as a bit of a surprise. Not sure how well MSL will do on his course with that but judging by the comments and my own reaction, the boy did good.

Lovely classical exercise. Recommended.

Larry Ludwick - Wendy's Song

Hear The Track Here

Although Larry Ludwick's stated genre is Electronica I have always thought of him as being an Alternative kinda guy. A songwriter with keyboards and a guitar, if ya like. God knows why I should think that because to my certain knowledge Larry is pretty much genre-resistant. Anybody who can work successfully with someone as out there are Dead Company needs to stretch out further than most. His last track, Somnia (February 2009) was, in all respects, an electronic kinda/sorta new age thingie which even managed to survive my own scathing hatred of such tracks. My point is (Ed: Oh thank God, there is one), it's funny the way your mind categorises people even when you are old enough and ugly enough to know better.

Over the year he has been around Soundclick, Larry has snagged more than a couple of ratings from me, usually for his songwriting skills; somehow the instrumentals don't see to score as highly. There again, that's because I do love a good song and he does have a touch with those. Take Wendy's Song for example, written for one of his oldest friends (45 years and counting), Larry says about the song 'before its too late, you have to tell loved ones what they mean and have meant' and I couldn't agree more and what better way than in a good song.

In many ways, the predominant influence here just has to be Neil Young; in songwriting style and in performance, the echoes are undeniable. Again, some big shoes to fill but Larry brings the tune home admirably, aided by some great lyrics and an easy, laid back feel. Hand on heart, I couldn't say I really like this kind of material, but I can recognise its appeal; especially to those more inclined to the country/folk field. There's a considered, almost stately feel to the track that grabbed me at the beginning and never let go and it was this that finally convinced me that - regardless of what I felt about the style - this is an excellent song and should become one of Larry's more successful tracks - should there be any justice.

Terrific song. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Deer Tracks - 127SexFrya

Hear The Track Here

Contrary to popular opinion I don't review every single track that comes before my blog or in my email, there just isn't enough time in a day, know what I mean? What I do is pretty much pick and choose which tracks I want to highlight and that - I'm afraid - is down to my own personal choice. So why should I review The Deer Tracks as opposed to (say) the Joe Bloggs Band? Well, I have been around the Internet music scene for long enough to know that there is one country in the world that always, but always, chucks up artists that are well worth checking out. God knows what it is about Sweden but it is IMHO one of the most productive countries I know of for interesting, innovative musicians who know how to both make their music AND market it.

Neat trick if you can pull it off.

Considering the amount of Real World attention The Deer Tracks are getting (an NME review no less!) and that they are signed to a record label, you would think someone like me who only reviews unsigned artists wouldn't really be interested. Normally I wouldn't but where Swedish musicians are concerned, I have a definite blindspot so nrrrr. Anyway, the REAL reason I am reviewing this band is because they are both unique and accomplished and well worthy of checking out. Believe me, you are not likely to hear anything like this anywhere else. Originally a duo (David Lehnberg and Elin Lindfors) the band has been beefed up for live appearances, although I'm not sure how many musicians are actually playing on 127sexyfrya. The thing that interests me about The Deer Tracks, more than anything else, is their use of beautifully haunting melodies, slices of glitch techno/trance and many varieties of electronic drones, buzzes, whistles and wails.

If that doesn't make you want to listen, you have no interest in anything.

I think I got the download link off the email I was sent about this band but there is a video of this track on their Myspazz page that will do the trick for you. With its odd combination of toy-like leadlines, its glitchy percussive elements and the incredible brass band/orchestral sound they achieve isn't enough to make your head spin, the combination of David and Elin's vocal parts would do it. There is a kind of ambient, almost Enya quality about the vocal lines that gives the track yet another dimension - making this a band absolutely impossible to define or categorise. Personally I have nothing but admiration for any musicians who bring instruments such as trumpets and clarinets to the party and use them in such a way you are hard pressed to sort out which is playing which. Essentially, 127Sexfrya is one of the most distinctive and different sounds I have heard in a long, long while, and the other tracks on their website only serve to show that this difference isn't just on one track but across their whole catalog.

Excellent, different and catchy as bubonic plague. MUST HAVE

The Dead Company - Watching The Chrysalis Open

Hear The Track Here

Jon Bushaway, prime motivator and bottle washer of the famed Dead Company, has long been one of my favourite wtf artists. I can't put my hand on my heart and swear truthfully that soundscapes (industrial or otherwise) are my favourite genre but by God when they are constructed and played properly they can attain a majesty and grandeur that far outweighs the actual elements used to make them. Surprisingly enough, I have known a great many soundscape makers over the years but none that have quite touched me the way that some of Jon's work has. Admittedly, a strong musical stomach is necessary to extract every bit of goodness out of a Dead Company track, but that has never been a problem for me. Unless we are talking about their more darker (and I mean REALLY dark) compositions which - being brutally honest - scare the poop right out of me.

Not a pretty sight.

Where this musician most appeals to me is in his choice of instrumentation. This is a guy who uses whatever is at hand to construct some of the most delicate, yet intricate of musical structures you are ever likely to hear. Take Watching the Chrysalis Open as a prime example. Normally I cannot abide go-to-sleep music, which you might know better as Electronic Ambient, having cut those particular teeth at the hands of one Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno (Ed: that'll be Brian Eno to you oiks), erstwhile founder member of Roxy Music and all round musical oddball. This is a man who walked away from fame and fortune to almost singlehandedly invent the whole Ambient thingie. Also, obviously, a man hated by many for exactly that reason. Personally, I've heard good and bad variations on this genre but on the whole cannot stand the stuff; elevator/airport music at its worst.

Mind you, if I WAS going to sleep, Watching The Chrysalis Open is the ideal soundtrack to snoozeville. Full to bursting with the longest electronic sweeps known to man (also a TDC trademark), tons of tinkly stuff and heavenly chorales by the dozen, its a sonic treat for the ears and the mind. Don't expect too much in the way of structure or propulsion though, it isn't that kind of track even if it does have an underlying theme. Better just to get yourself comfy, close your eyes and drift away. Not something, to be honest, I want to do while being about my daily business (where my review tunes get their proper workout) but I have managed to fall asleep to this track more than once since it came into my possession.

Class relaxation techniques. Highly Recommended electronic ambient.

Stuary Godfrey _ When You're Gone

Hear The Track Here

Wtf is a 'special relationship' anyway? Not the way I see it at all. Like Stuart Godfrey, from my earliest memories, I have had a love affair with the United States of America. First as a young child obsessed with western movies, later as a young musician who used America to sharpen my own musical knowledge and expertise. Also like Stuart I spent several years living there, marrying one of its many daughters and now find myself a father of American children. In fact, I consider myself as much an American as I do English; I cannot see the differences between our two countries. Other than the fact that a HUGE pond separates us, the things that define us as people (along with the Canadians, Aussies and the Kiwis) are the principles we hold in common.

Special relationship my ass, it's the family stupid! (Ed: OK enough of that soapbox!)

Surprisingly enough, the UK has long been a good market for US country music, and there are many English musicians who have managed to make a living out of this most American of musical genres. Stuart, who lived in Arkansas for a few years, picked up a love for the genre while there, and is now back in the UK putting that experience to use. A comparative newcomer to Soundclick (and MP3 Unsigned I notice), he only has five tracks up on his page at present, When You Are Gone being one of them. There is an old saw that goes something like 'write about what you know' and I've always absolutely agreed with that. This musician too has taken it to heart with some highly personal songs about the things that matter in his life.

When You're Gone, for example, is about 'a new start and reflecting on what you have to give up for it' which is something I also know only too well. To better understand the point of the song it would be prudent to read the comments the artist has for this song. 'Yeah, but is it any fekkin' good Gilmore?' you shout. Well, Stuart is doing himself no favours whatsoever at rendering the file at a measly 48kbps, which while making for an easy (1.3Mb) download does absolutely whatsoever for anyone with decent audio setups. Matter of fact, I'd love to hear this even as a 128kbps track. As it is, the version I have does show a clean, clear production (mind you, the instrumentation is quite light) and a very decent song. Obviously it's home produced on a shoestring but I'm absolutely certain it can sound better than this version and it should because the song truly deserves it.

Decent country song, marred by below par rendering. Recommended nonetheless.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

N Talekt - Stay A While

Hear The Track Here

When I first met N Talekt when reviewing I Got U (February 2006) I wrote 'judging by this example there is some way to go before he is the ****' and that - for me - is some pretty strong criticism. The problem, as I see it, is that the one area that is most competetive of all on Soundclick is the hiphop genre. Let's face it, there is a LOT of crap out there and we really don't need any more. The bar on Soundclicks hiphop scene is actually pretty high; a lot of the beatmakers see to that. Where it generally falls apart is when a rapper takes those beats and murders them under a nondescript, bland or profanity filled rap. That is pretty much the barrier that N Talekt crashed against a couple of years ago and since then, he's been applying himself as Diamond (Decmber 2008) and Keep Dreaming (January 2009) amply show. Both tracks, btw, got a highly recommended from me and that's a long way from what I first wrote about this hiphop artist.

So Cold appears to be the title of his latest project, with Stay A While being one of the tracks from it. There are a couple of other So Cold tracks on his Soundclick page but Stay A While doesn't appear to be one of them so hopefully N Talekt will be along soon to provide you with a link. For me, the key to enjoying hiphop is the marriage of beats, music and words, and that balance is hard to maintain. Its not a question of stuffing the track as full as possible, or rapping as fast and loud as you are capable. Nope for me it's a case of riding that beat, the musical touches helping to define the emotions the rap is conjuring up. A feat I have found almost impossible with the softer strains of the genre.

No doubt that Stay A While is from that category, a love rap if ya will.

Not my favourite part of this genre that's for sure, but to his credit N Talekt doesn't overload the lyrics with the usual saccarhine coating that is IMHO the bane of this style. It's also a frisky little beast and that always helps to put this kind of track across better. Despite it's laid back opening and laconic rap, the music charges along as if its ass was on fire, helped by some excellently rendered percussion. Much more to the point - with a couple of not-so-right moments (odd tunings in the vocals) - N Talekt's rap takes the lead, his pacing and flow is as good as most of the better hiphop artists. No idea who he roped in to do the music and beats but this is a very good example of what Soundclick's hiphop community have to offer. Tight music, tight rap. Take your coat off and stay a while.

Highly Recommended Indie hiphop.

Fortune - Jamaica

Hear The Track Here

Soundclick is suffering an embarrassment of rock riches lately. A couple of years ago, good rock bands were very thin on the ground, these days you can't turn around without tripping over one. Mind you, GREAT rock bands, now that's another story. For the longest time Avalanche have been my staple, with the odd aside from other bands, but a couple of months ago I had the good fortune (Ed: DOH!) to run across Fortune, a six piece, gigging band working out of Boston MA. All Sold Out (December 2008) absolutely BLEW me away, as indeed did When The Time Is Right (February 2009) and showed that not only did Fortune have some great music, but also some of the most varied styles I have ever heard; real life or otherwise. Admittedly, I became a fan immediately because I do recognise gold when I see it and Fortune presses all the right buttons for me, and many others too I am glad to see.

Seasoned Soundclick regulars will testify to anyone who will listen that this site is awash with great music, and indeed that would be true. However, there are very, very few Soundclick artists that I - or any other reviewer - would consider perfect in every way. Skilled, adept musicians, outstanding production qualities and intelligent, interesting arrangements mean nothing without the magic ingredient; top class songwriting skills. Fortune seems to have all of that wrapped up because - try as I might - I cannot get over how polished and professional this outfit is. At this stage of the game, if I was asked to choose which of their tracks shows them best, I couldn't answer. Now I've reviewed three Fortune tracks, each one has been markedly different; in feel, tone and structural arrangement.

As many of you know, reggae and its numerous offshoots, is my own favourite musical ground and - consequently - I tend to be rather harsh when I feel not enough deference is being paid to the style. Given that Fortune are six white guys, their version obviously reflects [i]their[/i] roots so it's a rockier skank than what I consider real reggae. Nonetheless, this is a VERY hard genre to nail, and to their eternal credit, Fortune pull it off in great style. Musically, the performance of this track is absolutely breathtaking; from the close harmony vocals to the wild instrumental solos that pepper this track, it shouts out quality with every note. Underneath all of that though, is a wicked song of praise to my favourite island in the sun, and I absolutely love it. Sure, it's undoubtedly rock based but hey, grab a rum, a big fat one and you'll never know the difference.

State-of-the-art song of love for Jamaica. MUST HAVE.

Pidgeman - Not Another Love Song

Hear The Track Here

First track out of the MP3 Unsigned bag this month is the indefatigable (Ed: wooahh Gilmore!! Big words!) Pidgeman. Since I first met him while reviewing Misery Loves Company (September 2007 Pidgeman has been a regular visitor to my review schedule so at this stage of the game I probably have almost a dozen of his tracks reviewed. Although there is a fair smattering of Highly Recommendeds amongst them we haven't always agreed on what constititures a good track. Nonetheless, this UK based rock musician/songwriter, is always worth me checking out because I know - sooner or later - this guy is probably going to give me a track that will toast my ears off. So the only remaining question to be asked is...

...is this it?

Not Another Love Song (Ed: oh thank God for that) was written for Valentine's Day and - as Craig (aka Pidgeman says in the chorus - 'I only write them when there's something wrong'. I never write them but that's because I am a crotchety old bastard and totally beside the point. What This Is Not Another Love Song is is a kissass rock tune, big drums, excellent guitar sounds and a very, very decent tune indeed. To be sure, it isn't the killer tune I mentioned above but there is a certain standard that Pidgeman reaches - in performance and production - that makes any of his track immensely listenable because underneath the bombast lurks a talented songwriter with a predeliction for great rock hooks.

It's one of the best sounding Pidgeman tracks I have ever heard; solid, and relentless and every time it came up in my review playlist I embraced it like an old friend. Mind you I am partial to good rock songs so no surprise there eh? Wherever possible in a review I try to give you a sense of the track using whatever musical references I can apply. One that I have NEVER applied to Pidgeman's work (nor ever will, I suspect) is that he sounds like Status Quo. Sure he writes the same kind of breezy, immensely catchy classic rock songs but for my money, he always sounds more American than English - especially in his songwriting style. Nope the only comparison I could come up with this time is Cheap Trick - try it and see. If you like good, sold rock songs then you won't go far far with this little beauty.

Excellent classic rock song. Highly Recommended and a MUST HAVE for Pidge fans.