Friday, July 31, 2009

Ofelia Dorme - Sometimes Its Better To Wait EP

Hear The Track Here

The last track up this month is a six track EP that came through a request to my Rebelriffs blog. Ofelia Dorme are a four piece band from Bologna, Italy and I'm glad they approached me to review this EP, and that is just from my cursory listen to To Wait (the opening track) while downloading the whole EP. Damn, what a great track this is, so catchy it hurts. More to the point its got the ultimate deal maker in Francesca Bono, whose vocal shines out of this track like the talent it is - and what a voice. Brrrrr, know what I mean? New Pieces of Science (track two) shows that not only can this band deliver extremely high quality product, they also know EXACTLY how to wring every nuance out of their music.

I think this material is self produced and a huge pat on the back for everyone involved is well in order; some of the best overall sounding tracks I have heard this year. It's the quality of the songwriting and performance that nailed me though and I suspect you'll probably be influenced by them too. See, I do like my music to be intelligent, to do things I wouldn't have expected, to challenge what is considered 'commercial' In two tracks, Ofelia Dorme had satisfied that need and 6.17 (track three) went so much further, showing that all the material has considerable chops.

Bells sounds almost German in its style and execution, and it adds to the charm of the song; a beautifully recorded acoustic piece that raises bumps on my arms. The kind of track of track you need to lie back and enjoy. This World starts like a Paul Simon song on speed, then REALLY picks up traction when the main song kicks in. Another absolutely top class production and another great song. The Ballad Of The Bitter End completes this really stunning collection of highly complex, yet very listenable songs. This EP is definitely something that should be listened into its entirety, it will give you a great insight into this band. Whatever the EP's title, in this case it's better to grab and run!

MUST HAVE what? rock? acoustic? Whatever, best thing I've heard all year. Don't miss this.

Cinnabar - Naked Eye

Hear The Track Here

OK, here's the skinny direct from the Cinnabar Soundclick page ' for fans of: Genesis, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Queen, Esoterica. Now don't say you weren't warned. Mind you, the combination of Gary Judge, Matt Tyson and Mokee Dugway (collectively Cinnabar) definitely made me sit up and listen when I reviewed Visit With A Vision (April 2009), the first of their tracks I had heard, even if I heard each of the members individually before. It's a complex piece, a blend of classical and rock that actually works. If you imagine that melding these two sounds is easy, even with samples, think again. It's a very, very hard thing to pull off convincingly and Visit With a Vision did it perfectly.

One of the first songs, I am informed by Cinnabar, that is written using a 7/4 time signature which should automatically raise the red flag of prog rock warning. Hand on heart, as much as I try, I simply cannot abide prog rock in any degree but I do recognise it's validity as a genre - if not to me personally. For example, my very, very first exposure to this genre came way back with The Soft Machine and pre-fame Yes. There is no doubt in my mind that what Cinnabar have captured here is extremely close to the sound the original Yes were making back then. I don't think, though, that Naked Eye was made with that in mind, it's just an incidental byproduct.

Outside of jazz, how many other musicians dabble in weird and wonderful time signatures? Most of the population get lost unless there are exactly four to beats to every bar, and a nice lyric to mangle and distort. Obviously, Naked Eye is not for your average music fan then but if you like music to be (a bit) challenging, while retaining some melodic content then Naked Eye should do the trick. To be honest, there are huge parts of this track I do like and would like to see more of (those harmony vocals, some beautiful piano licks and the sheer weight of musical ideas) but even so it's prog rock leanings would still grate on me. Yeah, sad I know...

Highly Recommended prog rock tinged pop song.

Big Wheel - Love Is In The Air

Hear The Track Here

Seeing as there are a lot of new faces on Soundclick at the moment, this might be the right time to introduce an old face. Big Wheel recently re-appeared on Soundclick a while ago after a year's haitus. I first came across this electronica artist in early 2006 when he delivered a series of really excellent IDM/DnB/house and even a drop of funk tracks until he dropped off the face on Soundclick. Fire (embryo) (May 2009) soon showed that not only was Big Wheel back, he was firing on all cylinders. It's a nine minute plus jaunt around some of the more rhythmic parts of the Big Wheel armoury and gained a Must Have from me.

Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Ahhhh.

I have to say that this enthusiasm was greatly tempered when I had visions of this track being a remix of the turgid John Paul Young disco song. The only time it ever made sense to me was when sung by Rupert Everett and Colin Firth in the St Trinians movie, then he truly was comical. Needn't have worried though because, as the man says, '[I] just wanted to make something sweet and groovy'. That's exactly what he has done and any reference to the OTHER track of the same name is completely exorcised. And thank God for that eh?

While it's true that this version is also a disco track, that's only loosely and - to my ears - in the time honoured Big Wheel fashion. He's always had a good ear for catchy little licks and interesting progressions and the same is true for Love Is in The Air, despite it being fairly straight forward disco fodder. I don't know, maybe time has calmed my eternal fury at the whole genre, or maybe Big Wheel knows better not to rub that sore spot, who can tell. While you ponder on that thought, do grab a listen to this very slick slice of dancefloor.

High quality disco (no, honest Guv). Highly Recommended.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Larry Ludwick - Noted Rain

Hear The Track Here

Although Larry Ludwick has only been on Soundclick for just over a year, it's amazing the impact he has made both in the Soundclick forums and in his own musical endeavours - as his ratings will testify. Doing very nicely, thank you. As indeed he should because when this musician was introduced to me with Nod's Ascent To Dave (July 2008) and Weary Waltz For Rueben (August 2008) I automatically jumped to the assumption he was a smooth operator, music so slick you could skate on it. Since then he has consistently demolished every single one those assumptions with a range of musical styles that could bewilder a wildebeest, let alone us poor schmucks racing to catch up.

Gazelle-like is not a word I'd apply to this audience...

This time we find our hero Larry tall in the saddle romping throughout the land of Yeeehaaawww. If I didn't know Larry better, I'd be off and running too but I know that even in Alternative Country, this is a musician with safe hands. Personally I have a soft spot for all things country (except the glitz of Nashville) and in particular Americana which this track rightly belongs to. At heart, I think Larry would have to admit that its songs that float his boats, as much as his instrumental work is right up there. You can tell by the amount of work and love he pours into them, the emotion he drags out of them.

One of my biggest gripes against American songwriters these days is the sheer amount of schmaltz that hangs around the genre like a ghost at a wake. As personal as Larry's songs can be, he never dips into the maudlin, he never takes the easy way out. All good stuff as far as I am concerned, in other hands this would have me running for them thar hills (where there is undoubtedly gold). Noted Rain is an excellently produced, well performed classic country rock ballad and you KNOW how much I hate the B word. Unless its in the hands of the old whiner himself, Neil Young and funnily enough Larry even sounds like him.

Excellent Country(ish) song. Highly Recommended.

Closer Productions - Herb Off The Curb

Hear The Track Here

Or shotting as its known in the UK. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you're too damn old. I suspect, that despite the thirty plus songs on this artists Soundclick page, Closer Productions is newer to Soundclick than appears. As you might be suspecting, Closer Productions is also what is known as a 'beat factory' - almost a cottage industry on Soundclick. In other words, beat factories make instrumental tracks that people can lease and then rap over them. Many a would be rapper on Soundclick uses this method and it usually works. Mind you, we are talking about the biggest independent hiphop scene (and therefore market) online right now and the competition is fierce.

Yes, as in grrrr...

If you have ever had to go shopping for some greenery (hint, hint) and you had to do it right out in public, think of the state of alert you'd be on. If you weren't that psyched out about it, then you were probably the one dealing out said greenery. A bit of an unnerving experience, or that's what my mate said ;) Anyway, Herb Off The Curb manages somehow to convey that tenseness into this excellent little rhythm track, along with the elation at knowing you have it in your hand. Or... yes, maybe I am reading a little bit too much into this...

Obviously it's going to be more use to those people actually looking for beats to work with and seeing as a few of these read these shoddy goods, maybe I can become matchmaker. For the usual fee, of course. So what would I get for my quid/buck/yen/loon/euro? Actually you'd be leasing an extremely interesting and varied musical track that sounds fine on its own, all it needs now is for you to come along and f*** it right up. Now, was that the right expression? I suspect not but there is no doubt I'm probably going to be reviewing this in another form, it is that good.

Highly Recommended beats instrumental

The Empires - Love Is The New Black

Hear The Track Here

The Empires, who I came across a while ago, are confusing me. When I reviewed You Won't Make a Fool of Me (December 2008) it was obvious that this particular side of the band was - in fact - a guy and a guitar. Not that I have anything against song demos you understand, I've heard enough of them to be able to tell what I'm hearing. You Won't Make a Fool of Me as it happens was actually a really good song. After all, there isn't really all that much you can do with a guitar and voice, unless you happen to be blessed with some unique talent. As good as You Won't Make a Fool of Me was, it wasn't unique. In my closing statements I wrote 'I'd want a bit more meat on the bones before I'd commit to anything with any certainty'.

Well, Love Is The New Black certainly helps on that score because it does sound like a band this time - the fully monty as it were. Like the first track, this one shows that The Empires do indeed know their own genre well, because fans of alternative will like this a lot. Unfortunately the track is marred somewhat by some out of tune vocals and a general wooliness of sound, especially in the louder sections. Now probably most people won't notice these things, in which case terrific, but it does qualify my enjoyment of the track which is a shame because it is a good song.

It took me a while to pin down what else was bugging me about the track but I finally decided that (only IMHO of course) the arrangement meandered a bit too much for its own good. What should have been pace and excitement turns into a leisurely stroll with a sing along chorus thrown in for good luck. If it sounds like I didn't like this track, think again, I did. I like songs like this, I just like them to work as well as they can and, personally, I think this could have been better. Still, as it is, its good enough.

Recommended Alternative

Conory - I'm Still In Love (Directors Cut)

Hear The Track Here

Third time around for UK based musician Conory and out of the three tracks at least two have some extremely good reviews from me. Mind you, he made a big impression on me first time out, and that always helps. Conory is an Alternative musician, although he tends to stretch the genre somewhat but not, as it happens on I'm Still In Love (Directors Cut) which is about as Alternative as it gets. The term alternative to me means a good, usually guitar based, track with distinctly rock overtones and a vocal to match. I'm Still In Love has all those and is a killer track into the bargain.

Especially if you are in a retro mode.

Reminds me a lot of the classic songwriters, and that for me is its main appeal. There is a loping jauntiness to the track and definitely a Doors feel about the whole shebang. All good things in my world that's for sure. The track is produced as clean as possible, leaving the track to stand or fall on its own merits and its a sign of how good a song it is to need so little musical backup. That's not to say that the track is sparse musically, it isn't. There's lots going on, in a rock kind of way, but nothing gets in the way of the main event - the song.

I personally liked the differences in feel between the straight ahead verses and the more laid back chorus, although the chord progressions in the verses came a close second. It took me a while to properly appreciate this little beauty so, as good as its first impression is, I do advise setting a bit of time to get to know this track - it is well worth it. Conory has always impressed me with his abilities but I think this is - by far - the best thing I have heard from him and one of the best listens I've had this year. Bowie eat your heart out...


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bright Midnight - Floating Feather (Sleepy Mood)

Hear The Track Here

A brand new name to me (and Soundclick apparently) Bright Midnight is a Alternative: Post Punk artist from the Lone Star state (Ed: Texas) who cites some very interesting influences. Ahhh but does the music and/or ethos of those influences come to bear in the music the musician makes? Unfortunately not, in this case although I can see a lot more modern references so much so that one Soundclick reference should be one Thomas J Marchant, whose approach to music is remarkably similar. Obviously a lot of the problems with Floating Feather (Sleepy Mood) have more to do with Bright Midnight's recording situation, as will be obvious on first playing this track.

Lo-fi is the name of the game then, but believe me I've heard a lot, lot worse than this. Like a lot of home producers, I think Bright Midnight has a problem with self-restraint, both performance and arrangement. For example, Floating Feather could easily have lost a minute or so and been none the worse for the cut. The vocal, also has that specific 'home produced' sound that seems to accentuate even the mildest deviation from vocal pitch. It doesn't happen often, sure enough, but enough to make me hear it everytime this track came up on my playlist for the week.

Although the tune and performance are carried out with a fair bit of energy, it doesn't - to my mind - cover up the tracks problems. Sure I can appreciate little bits, some of the ideas are particularly interesting but overall I found the whole thing a bit scrappy. A track of ideas, rather than a coherent song. I suppose a good thing that could be said is this is a track where nothing repeats itself, and it would be a good thing, providing it had flow and to my ears this track didn't. Mind you, it's early days yet, and I've reviewed tracks similar to this from musicians who learnt very quickly from being in a community like Soundclick.

Rough edged Alternative (still not sure about the post punk thing...)

Zone Music Inc - Shaper

Hear The Track Here

Considering that Jerry Miller (aka Zone Music Inc) has been on Soundclick for fricking ever, I am surprised that I don't seem to have ever reviewed any of his music - certainly read enough of his posts :) Zone's musical frolicking ground is pure unalloyed electronica, glittery in every aspect. Citing references like George Clinton, Jean Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk should give you a really good idea of what to expect and surprise, surprise Shaper doesn't let you down. Now I am a big fan of the beginning of both p-funk and raw electronica so I am bound to get Zone's angle on this so there is my bias right out in the open.

I'm well aware that there are a great many people who don't respond well to electronica, so obviously best to stay away from this. If, however, the names I mentioned raise your interest then by all means grab a listen to this track. It's base certainly stretches back to Kraftwerk but has shades of Yello mixed in there too. Whatever, it works, and tracks this ambitious don't usually manage that trick. Certainly, it kept me amused while listening to it a few dozen times and THAT is a surprise; normally by that time my electronica threshold is running on empty.

Shaper is surprisingly propulsive, and it's that feature that will initially drag you in, long before you notice the little touches that make that impetus really fly. Like all good instrumentals, it flows from feature to feature rather than cuts, exploring a progression to it's conclusion as it were. There are a great many musicians on Soundclick who claim to make electronica and indeed many do. It may not be electronica this catchy or involving though and that's a fact. Wonderful nod to the past in a track that's as fresh as a daisy.

Highly Recommended Electronica.

Mike-K - Shuffling Along (The Drunken Shuffle)

Hear The Track Here

The man. The leg end. DJ, Soundclick stalwart and musician, Mike Kohlgraf (for it is he) has been around longer than me, which means he must be well up there in the Methuselah stakes. Hey, you are only as old as the music you are playing and the women you are fondling so I contend that both Mike and I are 12 in real terms. So nrrr. Anywayyyyy, As much as I admire Mike for his dedication to the cause of indie music, and really respect his ears, with his own music we often disagree. Most of that problem is down to my own antipathy towards anything smooth - outside of a pint of beer that is.

He has been quiet of late, the last track I reviewed was Jazzy Blues (February 2009), an intense collaboration with Kephas that hit all the right spots - for jazzy blues. Mind you, the track before that - Mad!! (January 2009) - was the side of Mike that I most prefer - the rocker and Shuffling Along - The Drunken Shuffle is that same straight ahead, no nonsense, no compromise rock of the old school. Mike's getting some lovely things happening with his lead work, that's all I can say. The tone on the guitar on this is superb and Mikes playing is fast, furious and toe-tappingly good.

Moreover, the whole track smacks of care, devotion and attention to detail, a not unusual trait for this musician but I think Shuffling Along stands out somewhat more than previous tracks. The whole arrangement and production is livelier, punchier than I recollect Mike doing before. Or maybe the break between tracks just made my ears better :) Since he has worked with Kephas I've noticed more and more a much more expanded, almost Latin, feel to the instrumental that IMHO works a treat. It seems like you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks - now go fetch!

Highly Recommended no nonsense rock guitar instrumental.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

- LMS - - Blind

Hear The Track Here

Its been a good long while since we last heard anything from Miami based rapper Last Man Standing (aka - LMS -). The last time I reviewed any of his material was Empire!! (June 2008) whereas he had kept me happy with some very slick raps over the preceding two years, a bit of a hiphop highlight of the time IMHO. The change (or rest or whatevah) doesn't seem to have done him any harm, because Blind will show that the man is right back there, as lippy as ever. As a rapper, LMS has always got respect from me even if the musical backings occasionally leave something to be desired.

This is definitely not the case with Blind (produced by Hazardis Soundz) because the track is absolutely right on the money and features one of the catchiest vocal samples I have heard in ages. Blind is a bit like a cut of slice of rock (the soft jangly kind) mixed with some hefty beatz and I KNOW that opening vocal from somewhere. The end result is a welcome return to LMS and certainly one of the most coherent and edgy tracks I have heard from him so big kudos to everyone involved I'd say. A track to be proud of.

One thing I have learned about indie rappers, they absolutely will not post lyrics online and usually I can't be arsed to try and figure them out and go more for the flow. LMS is one of the few rappers on Soundclick who I will take the time to get the sense out of the words, and that has always been the case from day one. What makes it a pleasure with Blind is that its such an easy track to play - and as commercial as all get out. A great collaborative effort and a very, very strong performance from a rapper who has always shown promise and Blind is about as good as anything at there, and so catchy it'll probably infect from the first listen. Tick tock boom!

MUST HAVE topical hiphop.

The Schwa Sound - you so hip!!

Hear The Track Here

OK colour me puzzled. I could have sworn on a stack of bibles that I had reviewed The Schwa Sound before but I can find absolutely no trace of the event outside my fevered imagination. Surely, you would think, I'd remember music that was 'neo buzz post alt rockin out' or even the slightly less lustful 'solid riffin buzz rock'? Alas, t'was not to be unless nixon1972 (for it is he) can enlighten me further. There again that depends on the state of this review so I suppose I'd better get on with it before I'm accused of wasting peoples time...

...not an unknown occurrence.

You so hip!! is a very satisfying slab of power rock which slammed into my consciousness from pretty much the first play. Fair dos though, it IS rock and I always find that hard to resist. I must say that I loved the retro sound of this track, pulling this together took a lot of effort. The Schwa Sound is essentially Kevin Boyle but helped out in this case by Chris Bakos (bass) Bill on drums and mastered by Steve Duff. It definitely sounds like a team effort too, big, meaty and right to the point. A lot of this punch comes from the mastering and its nice to see a musician making that extra effort. Even if he is a Sufferin Man ;)

The list of influences The Schwa Sound cites contains a great many of my own favourites including, I note, Neil Young (in his Crazy Horse years). Neil Young has delivered an absolutely blistering series of festival appearances throughout the UK lately, including headlining Glastonbury where his set was one of the best live sets I've seen in years. That same energy and excitement (and yes a tinge of Young in Kevin's vocals) is what really makes you so hip!! so well......hip. It's a given that you like rock of the old school but this still sounds fresh and rocking enough that it should turn a few heads.

Excellent rock treatment. Highly Recommended.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rob The Rockstar - Clap Ya Hands

Hear The Track Here

Another review request from the Rebelriffs blog, this time from MP3 Unsigned based hiphop musician Rob The Rockstar. Can't quite see where rockstar and hiphop mix but hey, we all know its been tried often enough. Still maintain that the only one that actually worked was Run DMC and Aerosmith. Still, it's just a name, right? Absolutely nothing whatsoever on Rob's page about who he is or where he comes from so obviously this is one musician who wants his music to say everything for him - as it should be. Mind you, MP3 Unsigned looks like its going through a fairly extensive revamp so the fault may lie with waiting for the new, updated site to take effect. Have to say, on the sites behalf, it's looking REAL good. If you haven't been there in a while, maybe it's time for a little swing by...

and tell 'em Gilmore sent ya....

Having been spoonfed a lot of demo quality indie hiphop over at Soundclick I have become inured to a lot of it - and that's probably a shame but par for the course. It's extremely gratifying then that Rob The Rockstar seems to grasp the principle that less is more, delivering in Clap Ya Hands a very slick piece of listenable hiphop. Moreover, the man has done it with a stunning funk feel that sneaks up and mugs you and you are going to love it. A few things need to snap into place for me to really get behind a hiphop track, principal amongst which musical ideas has to be top of the list.

And its amazing how many fail right there.

Ideas, musical progressions that make sense and propulsion and a lyrical flow that dominates are almost the entire winning recipe. Finally, I do like to hear a rap/hiphop artist who delights in their ability to - literally - play with the language and in Rob The Rockstar we have a very able lyricist indeed. Some lovely lines in this excellently produced and performed smokin' little track and I will put money on it, you hear it once, you are sold. It's a given, of course, that you should like hiphop and unsigned hiphop at that but Clap Ya Hands is way above the norm in every way that counts.

Highly Recommended hiphop.

Charlie A - Going Backwards

Hear The Track Here

For those of us who know him, Charlie Armour has been a very welcome addition to the little scene we all inhabit. Its a sure sign that an artist is mixing well when he starts to collaborate with all and sundry and Charlie has almost made a career of it. Not only that, he's a very nice chap into the bargain. Not that this would save him if he delivered a turkey to me (or any other reviewer) especially when his chosen musical frolic field is none other than Gilmore Nemesis #1: Film Soundtracks. It's a good job then that Charlie has become somewhat fire and bomb proof because of his musical skills because - believe me - this isn't yer normal filmic wonder. Nope, Charlie actually uses a fine sense of melody and pacing to make a piece of music that could stand on its own two feet - regardless of genre.

Got to love that attitude.

'Life is like this sometimes, when you think your going forwards your actually stepping back without even knowing but this song is about that' Charlie says in the song comments. Obviously aware of the one step forward, two steps back rule of modern life. I swear every time I played Going Backwards I could see an enormous desert stretching out in front of me, such is the instant high this quiet, seemingly inoffensive track delivers. Charlie has always been a bit of a dab hand at encapsulating a feeling in two minutes or less and IMHO I think he's outdone himself this time.

No if I were being brutally honest I would have to admit that this doesn't do much for me, but I wouldn't expect it to because I don't particularly enjoy Film Music anyway but I do like (and recognise) when a track creates a certain mood. Going Backwards did that instantly with me and didn't stop even after the normal run of plays. Along with that knack for a good tune, Charlie never puts a foot wrong with instrument choice either, as Going Backwards amply shows. I have no problem imagining Charlie scoring a real film one of these days (he's done some shorts already...)

Excellent Film Soundtrack. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Dead Company - How Do You Feel Now

Hear The Track Here

Over the years I've had a few opportunities to work with spoken word artists and - for the most part - enjoyed the experience. I think it's probably the main reason why The Dead Company caught my attention when I first stumbled on them in early 2003. At the time the band was a three piece with the main vocal role being picked up by one Sean Boyle (aka Black Circles), but it was the combination of Jon Bushaway and Sean set the pace for a great many people around at the time. Groundbreaking was not the word, to this day I have never had another experience like it, and I've encountered more than my fair share of musical oddities. Nope, TDC were special then, and they are special now, Sean's place being more than ably filled by one Larry Ludwick - a name many Soundclicker's are well aware of.

It's the combination of Jon Bushaway's sombre musical vision and the intense lyrical style that have always been one of the major hallmarks of this artist, and one of the serious draws for me. I was always attracted to the musical side of their work at the beginning, even the most soundscape structured pieces because I recognised what was successful at: painting musical atmospheres. The twist in the tail is the WAY The Dead Company uses these elements to either frighten you senseless or shock you rigid. The Dead Company, as you can well imagine, do not take prisoners.

Nope, torture is much more fun.

Mr Bushway has always been a dab hand at fearful, glance over your shoulder music and How Do You Feel Now is a shining example of how to tighten people's minds tighter than a tick. Nervous people REALLY should avoid this like the plague. I am perfectly well aware that music of this type couldn't appeal to anything but tiny sliver of the music-loving audience, but that sliver is certainly wide enough to sustain The Dead Company for many more years yet. I am amazed that the feeling and style of How Do You Feel Now is as close as dammit to the way it sounded back in the day. Not for everyone but God, I really like this sound.

Highly Recommended experimental mood music.

Patrick Lew's Band - Sailormoons Date

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Patrick is a (and I quote) 'Rebellious Chinese rock star' although there may be more than a few people who would argue the toss about that one' Rebellious certainly, at least as far as most musical rules go. Patrick, bless him, delights in baffling and confounding almost everybody who comes into contact with his music - including this reviewer. In the six years I have been reviewing Soundclick artists there has been an ever changing rota of musicians whose idea of what works directly conflicts with all known natural (and supernatural) laws. Patrick merely happens to be the one holding the torch right now. Yeah but, you say, you are a cranky, sad assed old buffoon who wouldn't know cutting edge even if it jumped up and slit your scrawny, wrinkled neck.

My, my we are feeling feisty today...

Take, for example, Sailormoon's Date. When I first played it, I thought maybe Patrick had slipped an actual tune to me but no, there were plenty of wtf moments but not as many as on some of his more notorious tracks. In fact, Sailormoon's Date sounds positively normal and I never suspected that one day I would use that word in conjunction with anything from this quarter. If, like me, you are fascinated by Japanese anime, the the name Sailor Moon will already be extremely well known. Now a worldwide phenomenon, the cartoon features the usual plethora of underage females and deep, seemingly mystical plotlines. Here, is where Patrick and I are in complete agreement - Asian women really are the best.

But not, I contend, the under age ones.

My only real quibble about this track (also another first I suspect) is that the whole tune is carried almost entirely in high register and, I have to be honest, it started to really grate on my after a while. Mind you the same thing happens to me with some anime shorts music so guess it's about right. As I say, possibly one of the most musical tracks I have ever heard from Patrick Lew which shows that - despite his record - he has all this stuff inside him. We just haven't see it come out of its nervous state yet. Gawd knows why it would be nervous though after some of the stuff he has made us all listen to, better is a blessing. I think you'd have to like both anime and soundtracks to really get much out of this but for Patrick, it's positively commercial.

Recommended Anime soundtrack.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thomas J Marchant - Nancy 2009

Hear The Track Here

In what seems like a lifetime of reviewing tracks from one Thomas J Marchant - in all his various guises - I have dished out some harsh judgements, especially in his Station for Imitation personna which never sat well with me. However, things turned around somewhat when he adopted the name Antennaheadz and - surprise, surprise - changed tack quiet dramatically. Loveless Blues (October 2007) scored Thomas's very first Must Have ever from me and Mr Panache (November 2007) did the same, indicating that the change of direction was a passing phase. Since then not only has he become my Artist Of The Year 2008, he's gained a few more high rating from me into the bargain.

Matter of fact, I reviewed the original of this track and - to prove that not everything was rosy always - I wrote that 'this is nothing like as inventive as other tracks we've already discussed and probably wouldn't appeal outside of fans and admirers'. Having said that, the original featured just guitar and vocals for the most part and I know that Thomas has improved that side of his work considerably since then. As lo-fi as the original was, so to is this extended mix, although in a totally different way. One thing is immediately obvious so I warn you ahead of time, the vocal is totally swimming against a tsunami of reverb and delay and takes some getting used to.

Mind you, I felt that about some of John Lennon's early solo work and it took a while for it to sink in so I assume the same will be true here. I mention Lennon because that is the overriding influence at work here - intentional or otherwise, the comparison is obvious. There is a fair bit of clipping from that deep well of reverb too and that is a shame. I think, re-reading my original review, that I didn't think Nancy was that good a song and - unfortunately - I think I still feel that same, even in this slicked up modern retake. I think, however, that this may well appeal to people more than the original and that's definitely a step forward.

Recommended Alternative alternative (if you know what I mean).

Michael Vincent Fusco - The Philandering Marsupial

Hear The Track Here

Third time around for Californian Michael Vincent Fusco, an electronica musician who has fared surprisingly well by me considering that the first two tracks - The Angry Block (April 2009) and The Bashful Ghost (May 2009) - were couched in my least favourite genre as games soundtrack material. It's to Michael's great credit that both tracks had much more going on than most games soundtracks you are likely to hear. Moreover, with none of the painful repetitiveness that is prevalent in so much of the genre and that is a massive point in this musicians favour.

The Philandering Marsupial is another addition to Michael Vincent's growing menagerie and - lo and behold - this one happens to be a breakbeat track. Yay, indeed. In all of the tracks I have heard so far, it is obvious that this musician has a feel for the rhythm side of things as evidenced by the pumping backline of both the previous tracks. On this track Michael Vincent takes that to its logical conclusion because The Philandering Marsupial is almost nothing but rhythm, so I guess a taste for breakbeat and/or drums and bass is going to be a prerequisite to really enjoy this track.

To be sure, it isn't a track to set the world on fire, but there again what instrumental could be? There is a certain limiting factor that will ensure that tracks like these will have a short shelf life. There again, I like what Michael Vincent is up to, and especially so on this track because it is much more down my street than previous tracks. The Philandering Marsupial has some excellent DnB production tricks (multi-triggered kicks, percussion effects) that keep you listening, even if you don't particularly like instrumentals. Considering that it's just three and a half minutes long, it packs so much in you would swear it was longer. I reckon that Michael Vincent Fusco is one electronica musician it would be worth keeping an eye on.

Recommended breakbeat Electronica.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Densyl - Music Is My Life

Hear The Track Here

I certainly didn't think it fair to judge Canadian country pop musician Densyl by I Love You (May 2009) because as much as the style grated on me, the overriding emotion of the track - a love song to his wife - was a bit too personal for my tastes. I suspect I am not alone in this, there is a certain strain of Country music that is cloying to the extreme and I Love You was a classic example of that. There again, I suspect his wife loved it, so what the hey... Anyway, that was then and this is now so lets get one thing straight. Although I don't particularly like waltzing in the middle of the musical road, I do in fact have a fairly open mind about it so long as certain ducks are in order...

Yes, ducks.

Prime quacker just has to be a good song and Music Is My Life is indeed that. I have to admit to a short sigh of relief when the track started kicking me up the butt because I surely would have hated to do it to him again ;) Music Is My Life is a sentiment almost all of us recognise in some form; we might wander off the track every once in a while but we always end up back with the music in the end. Densyl gives this urge a credible voice in this easy going, but effortlessly punchy song. Apparently it was 'Crossover country rock (remastered) No1 country rock song on Broadjam' and I can easily see that.

S'all about kwality innit?

Personally I am so glad I had a chance to see the real meat and potatoes this musician has to offer because Music Is My Life is exactly what I like; organs, guitars, harmonies yeah yeah. Its also highly relevant lyrically too, especially if playing out live is part of your existence. Ultimately though, what lifts this track is the arrangement and production, it packs a lot into three and a half minutes all of it performed solidly with not a hair out of place. For my money its a clever blend of rock and country with possibly more rock than t'other but whichever it's a damn fine listen. Perked me right up, it did.

Highly Recommended Country Rock.

Mr Smith - Damn It Man ft LA Kid

Hear The Track Here

Next track up through the Rebelriffs blog is from New Jersey (oooh, what exit?) hip hop musician, the enigmatically named Mr Smith. Actually, it could be any one of his crew (Aim High Ent, DJ Esso, Money Malc or DJ Major) as well but we'll leave that one for now. I've actually had decent luck with hiphop tracks through the blog which is heartening because this is a genre I do like - with certain notable exceptions. To be honest, if I were force-fed a diet of what passes for commercial hiphop these days I'd be vomiting copiously within seconds and dead within a minute. Remember, folks, to have soul you got to have a heart. For me, the heart stopped on commercial hiphop some time ago.

Over the last few years, thanks to some excellent stuff I found on Soundclick my faith in the genre is much renewed, even more so since my blog started attracting requests from everywhere. For my money, Mr Smith falls most definitely into the Alternative hiphop side of the fence and that's fine by me. See, what I want most from a hiphop track is energy and an interesting arrangement and a rap that makes sense, even if it does have to use profanity. Intelligent rap with a decent line in wordplay (and no profanity, other than the mildness of the title) is almost unheard of.

Damn It Man is exactly what I want, from the excellent synth stabs to the pumping bass/kick combination; and a bass synth riff that dares you to get up dance. One to play as loud as possible that's for sure, largely due to the splendidly clean, precise production and mix, but also because this is one track where the beats and rap back each other up big time. Especially in the killer chorus this track sports, but be prepared to wander round humming damn it man for a few days. I did. That effect is only just beginning to wear off but the track just keeps getting better.

MUST HAVE Indie hiphop. (damn it!)

Daniel Eboli - Redemption

Hear The Track Here

As a reviewer I probably am harsher with the genres that I work in, ie more judgemental about the tracks structure and feel, performance and - of course - the ideas behind it. Nowhere is this more so than my own chosen World music field. Many have come a cropper with me by describing something as World music when its patently obvious it has nothing to do with the genre, other than an instrument or two. Nope a true World musician to me is someone who can work and mold the many disparate instruments and textures from hither and yon and make it into a living, breathing whole. In short, a piece of music that lifts the mood; one of those tracks you can't wait to hear what comes next.

Step forward Daniel Eboli...

As usual while downloading the track I glanced over his artist details and noticed a couple of dreaded words; ringtones and soundtracks. I needn't have worried though because Redemption is exactly what it says it is. It feels a whole lot shorter than its three minutes and that's a sure sign I am enjoying a track. Whenever it had finished playing I had the urge to hear it again, just because it sounded so damn good the first time round. 'Space orchestra and an imaginary Theremin' Daniel says in the song comments and that's giving you the bare minimum. In this case, thank God, we have an orchestra that actually sounds like an orchestra.

The joy for me with World music is that once you gain a certain competence, the music you make becomes more and more original; more something that is part of the composer. Daniel Eboli is a very welcome to the cluster of World artists I would listen to voluntarily and seeing as this is the first track I have ever reviewed from him - shame on me. Nonetheless after an introduction as powerful as Redemption you can bet I'm going to watching very closely from now on. Excellent work all round, great ideas, wonderfully realised sounds and a sense of fidelity that fits like a glove.

Highly Recommended World music.

Pilesar - Save Village from Evil Spirit

Hear The Track Here

Be careful with this - in many ways - but mostly because there are two versions of this on Pilesar's Soundclick page and, if you are not used to this artist, the live version may damage important parts of your brain. I adapted to this hazard early on and am almost through on the patented brain protector needed to approach this extremely idiosyncratic musician, in the meantime I wear a tin hat when reviewing his work. Or, failing that, a common colander will suffice. Having reviewed endless tracks since encountering this musician back in 2004, I have always found it wise to be prepared for anything.

And the b****** still keeps surprising me.

Over the last year or so I have noticed a definite tightening up on the good ship Pilesar, the ideas are more focused and much more fascinating. Whether that is down to Pilesars increasing capacity to take this onto a live setting and enhance his experiments there or whether its just a product of his development. Whatever it is, I like it and I want a whole lot more. Save Village from Evil Spirit is brand new and the title track of an upcoming Pilesar album which is well worth looking forward to. Its not true, obviously, that I listen to Pilesar with metallic protection, he's the kind of musician that gets under any protection.

As I say, I find the genius of what Pilesar does amazing. Now maybe I am deluded and its just some guy making noise for noise sake and everybody else is deaf to it. I tend not to think so though, because the one thing I noticed from the start with this musician is how sharp he is at getting his vision right. Not comfortable listening I'll grant you and Save Village is positively commercial in the extreme compared to some of his more out there compositions. Now the first thought you may have when starting this bad boy up is that THIS is an out there composition. Uh uh. Nuh huh. This is a light-hearted trot into the heart of the African jungle, as seen through Pilesar's endearing gaze.

Highly Recommended experimental out thereness.

David Pendragon and World Tribe Ensemble - Irish Blessings

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The Wizard Of Aus, got to love that monniker... In case you are wondering I describe David Pendragon, musician, producer and all round whizz in matters technical. He is also the main mover behind tribe World Ensemble, for my money one of the brighter prospects I have come across over the past couple of years. TWE is a massive, world wide collaboration consisting of some 25 artists dotted here and yon, all carefully sewed into a whole by David. The kind of tracks that makes most peoples jaw drop. On occasion, I get to play some tracks I review to real live people and I never tire of seeing the look on their faces when I play a TWE song. Unsigned, unknown music, no good?

As fekkin if. Don't get better than this. Period.

Damn, I feel like that should be followed by a Must Have and I haven't even got to talk about the track in question today. Irish Blessings is an older track from The Gathering album, a couple of years old now but hey these are tunes that weather well. Even the merest glance at this track will show that, and don't let that tinkly intro fool you, this is a meaty track when it needs to be. London has always had a pretty lively Irish community, so the showband concept is well known to me and this is the source David Pendragon and TWE are tapping - rather than conventional traditional Irish music.

Who cares though, sod the technical guff, feel the quality at work here. Now I am the very first to admit that there is a certain sort of semi-ballad that really ticks me off and in any other hands, a track like this just wouldn't work. It's a sign of this groups dedication to the art that not only can they pull it off, but they create a lovely piece of music and a beautiful, meaningful song into the bargain. Can't say - hand on heart that the intro did much for me, the the tune itself sings of the Auld Country. If you think you need to polish up your vocal production skills, here's an object lesson in getting it just right. The backing vocals on top of that are just sublime and definitely lifts the track enormously. May the road rise up to meet you indeed...

MUST HAVE (terrific song and performance)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fortune - Influences

Hear The Track Here

Slowly but surely I'm working my way through Boston, MA based classic rock outfit Fortune's entire catalog and considering that I've reviewed about six of their tracks and given them at least four Must Have's there has to be something shaking. Yeah but Gilmore, you are the rock animal right? Wellllll (waggles hand) yes and no. Yes I am still fascinated with the music of my youth (rock, classic for the headbanging of) but only to a certain degree. See, there were aspects of both the British and American rock eras that are probably best forgotten but like bad pennies, they keep reappearing...

Yep, that prog rock monster again...

There is also a certain strain of American rock that really grinds my gears, its all way to perky sounding for me. Like the blues roots it sprang from, rock is gritty, earthy. Still best not go there, it's an oft repeated tale. One of the main standouts of any Fortune track is the absolute unswerving attention to production detail, for my money it singles them out as much as the fact that they are a live gigging band. Can't help but get a bit tighter as musicians when you play live a lot. Fortune put this experience to excellent use making a prog rock tinged series of great songs.

Influences, for example, carries all the hallmarks of classic rock, veering into prog rock, funk rock and all points south. If you really like/liked the sounds of Blue Oyster Cult (who this reminds me most of) or even Boston themselves then Fortune is ready to smile on you. I think one of the reasons Fortune manage to get over my enormous prejudice against prog rock is to do it with such style and pizazz, and to make it an integral part of a complete song - rather than the ego trip it often tends to be in that genre. Much more to the point is that - once again - Fortune prove that they know precisely how to put a world class song together.

MUST HAVE (getting to be a habit) classic rock.

333maxwell - Big Band

Hear The Track Here

Anyone who has been on Soundclick's forums over the past two or three years will be well aware of Chas Holman (aka333maxwell). They will also be aware that this is no one trick pony, 333maxwell has straddled more genres than you can shake a stick at and very successfully too. Out of all the areas of music he wanders into, my own particular favourites are his period jazz compositions which is why Post War Dreaming (September 2008) and After Hours (November 2008) still rate as my most played 333maxwell tracks. The man definitely has a touch and feel for the genre and as much as I like the more modern stuff, this is what I would choose every time.

Big Band gives the whole game away, except of course it's all smoke and VST mirrors. Chas calls it 'a one man band experiment' He played all the horn parts except for trumpet, and obviously supplied the usual backline of bass, drums etc. If you have heard any of Max's work, you'll know the standard he brings to the party, this isn't a slap dash musician. As he says, nailing a simple bass line in one take and getting it just right is an extremely difficult thing to do. As if that weren't enough, THEN you add in getting the period detail right. On that score, I have to say that the drum and brush work were right on the money.

Funny that for a rock animal like myself, I also enjoy the whole big band thing and have grown to love the sound of wind instruments, particularly horns, clarinets and saxes; all of which get a look in on this excellent excursion into the world of big band swing. I feel I have to highlight my favourite instrument in the track is the lead clarinet in the middle of the track, splendid tone and wonderfully played that man. So while the whole massed 333maxwell take a well deserved curtain call, let me just issue one small caveat. Obviously big band swing jazz isn't every one's flavour of the month but if you want to hear what something akin to what those bands sounded like live - Big Band gets awfully close.

MUST HAVE swing jazz oh yeah halleluyah!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Papa Baloo - Keep It dDown

Hear The Track Here

That faint whiff of smacked butt that lingers around this review is because I apparently rattled on about drugs in my review of Papa Baloo's Sticking It To The Man (June 2009) and - consequently - missed the whole point of the thing. OK, furry muff. Mea culpa and all that. 'This isn't about drugs, so you cant waste the review on that subject again' I am informed as Keep It dDown enters the fray this month. Sorry, but I don't think I've ever wasted a review before but....'this is all about the music' Papa Baloo insist - and I wholly agree with them. Which is why I also wrote in my review that 'I did, in fact, like the track but I think I'd want more than a musical joke before I could decide whether Papa Baloo were in fact 'the s***!' and I'm glad (although surprised) to get another listen to this band.

After all, first impressions and everything....

Psychedelic Rock is the name of the game and - as I said in my previous review - Papa Baloo deliver it 'amiably' and keep relatively true the original sound of the genre. It's also obvious that there is a sense of humour at work here, and one of the things I most liked about Sticking It was the jokey atmosphere it engendered. It is a hark back to the late1960's blend of pop and blues and - in some ways - has the shambolic approach to the process patented originally by the Rolling Stones. It doesn't therefore say anything new to me, but I guess I am not the one this is aimed at. If you had no idea where the inspiration comes from you'd either like it for its ramshackle style or not.

Keep It dDown (dB standing for decibels, even a joke in the name see!) is pretty much what I expected given the previous track. There's a sub-Doors feel to it which helped me to appreciate it more but, in my heart of hearts, I knew this doesn't have the kind of legs I look for in tracks I keep. I'd say this was probably a good band to see live, they would probably be a lot of fun but listened to in this way I don't think it comes across as much as the band thinks it does. When all is said and done, the music is indeed the thing and IMHO this is good enough, especially if you like psychedelic rock but - given the competition out there - there would have to be a way better song underneath it than this for it to start really opening this band.

Recommended nonetheless because it is good time rock.

Wake Of Destruction - Run from Me

Hear The Track Here

First time around for Miami based 'one man synth-pop operation' Wake Of Destruction who made his presence known quickly in the Critics Corner forum of Soundclick with his reviews and comments. Always a good place to start I think. So, lessee, there are only two tracks so far on Soundclick, this being one of them. Both songs are part of a album project called Confessions of a Serial Seducer whose songs cover 'love, sex, betrayal, and devotion' (Ed: What? No food??). Run From Me being a song about a man changing (or being changed by) the love a woman holds for him....

Been there, saw the writing on the wall - along with the dinner...

Personally I love synth based pop as much as I loved the original 1980's electro-pop scene, and Wake Of Destruction could well be the logical lovechild of artists such as Howard Jones (who he kinda/sorta sounds like). Obviously too, this is a songwriter who takes the job seriously, painting pictures with his words that is as good written as sung. A bit of a mouthful though at six and a half minutes but nonetheless a very worthwhile listen, especially if you do like the original electro-pop sounds. Wake OD has obviously spent a lot of time listening to music of this type and either created it purposely or it soaked in so well its coming out in his own music.

Whichever, it works...

Something bothered me about the overall sound though, and kept on picking on me right through the review process. There is something quite harsh happening in certain of the louder sections, much more noticeable at very high volumes and particularly affecting the vocals. No one else but a bat-eared geek like me would even notice but it did spoil my enjoyment somewhat because - as many of you know - I like my music VERY loud. It's a small thing though, musically, lyrically and performance of Run From Me is right on the money and shows that we should expect big things from this quarter.

Highly Recommended Electro-pop

Violent - Ambilent Sunrise

Hear The Track Here

Chris Bishop - sole prop and owner of POPspace and Project Overseer Productions - and I have a long standing collaboration. He feeds me the main food groups and I regurgitate it into these reviews. So far, in the time we have been doing this, he hasn't put a foot wrong, every single month his track picks up an extremely good rating or even - God forbid - the odd Must Have. His pick for this month is German `Electronica` outfit Violent which is odd considering that their one and only track on the POP website is Ambilent Sunrise which Chris gleefully assures me is 'near ambient work'. I say gleefully because he knows damn well that music to snooze by is not my usual diet but I'm up for anything....

But Violent???? Mmmmmm. Let's wait and see.

Chris wrote his own review of this track and used the phrase 'would make a pretty good sound track for a film/media project' which is the absolute KOD (Ed: Kiss Of Death) for me. Why do I have to find out these things while downloading? Don't I know yet how biased, narrow minded and prejudiced I am? I needn't have fretted though, I should have listened to the first thirty seconds of this track to see that - once again - Chris knew exactly what he was about. In fact, I personally think that Ambilent Sunrise has more to do with World music (my own groove) than either Ambient or Electronica, some of the samples being used are ones I've used myself in my own compositions.

Still, whats in a name huh? Of much more importance is the music and Ambilent Sunrise is very good, knitted together with an almost seamless arrangement and production, all aided by the use of some extremely high end musical sounds. What it shows me is that Violent are certainly capable enough to come up with some surprises, although - for my money - Ambilent Sunrise was a tad too long and with maybe too many ideas for its own good. Having said that, I am impressed with the uses they have put the various ethnic sounds to... Reminds me of somebody but I just can't put my finger on the name... :)

Adventurous blend of Ambient and World. Highly Recommended.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fear 2 Stop - Jetta Ride

Hear The Track Here

Billy (Castillo), one third of Fear 2 Stop is an endlessly surprising guy, now I discover that he speaks German - or, like me, is adept at using the endless translators available on the web. 'F2S sind die Meister von allem, das techno ist' he posits in the song comments for Jetta Ride which - Google translated - means 'F2S are the masters of all that is techno' There again it could be instructing a native of Spleekip, Outer Mongolia where exactly to insert that drainage tool, only Google - in its instant wisdom and never-do-evil-ism can tell for sure. As a further point, I wouldn't have stated with any authority that Fear 2 Stop were indeed said masters of techno because - to my knowledge - I have never heard them make any. Techno, that is.

Experimental on the other hand, yay verily, and by the bucketload.

The Jetta, of course, being of the Volkswagen variety - hence the German I suppose - but quite what that has to do with the musical content of Jetta Ride is a matter of conjecture. I have a tried and true method of dealing with Fear 2 Stop's particular blend of experimental (whatever the genre is, you can bet F2S will experimentalise it), I just let wash over me several dozen times and see what sticks. It's always been a bit of a hit and miss process but - over the years I have been reviewing them - it's been a good and often positive experience overall. So whatever you do, don't expect this to be yer average 4 to the floor techno-fest. Fear 2 Stop have way too much on the ball to fall for that old turkey.

What you get from this miracle of Houston engineering (Wassup Maan Engineering) is the usual Fear 2 Stop fayre: solid steel bassline, a drum track put together by the Jolly Juggernaut (who happens to be also seriously drunk at the wheel) and an always changing scenery of analog and digital sounds to make the journey seem less frenetic. Die-hard fans (like me) will instantly recognise that inimitable F2S sound but - truth is - I didn't think this track as strong as some I have reviewed in the past but it does show what Fear 2 Stop do best. If indeed I can use the term best here. That's the problem with bands like Fear 2 Stop, material of this nature is bound to appeal to a minority of noise nuts...

Recommended aural mayhem from an inexhaustible source.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Whitman Speck - I Spit Hate

Hear The Track Here

Here's a good one. Hands up all those who know what death rap is. It's a crazy, mixed up world out there and you can bet that there is someone out there to document it all for you. Enter the frame one Whitman Speck. Named after not one, but two serial killers, Whitman Speck's vision first surfaced for me with the sublime Suburban Hell (September 2008) which went on to become one of my Tracks Of The Year 2008. For hiphop tracks, believe me, that's rare. There again, Whitman (or Adil as I prefer to call him) is a singularly impressive musician as both Suburban Hell and Dead Or Alive (February 2009) another blindingly good track that shows he is no one trick pony. As serious as a heart attack is the name of the game in tone, tenor and lyrics...

So when he says I Spit Hate, better believe it.

Regardless, I've always found this rap artist to be well worth listening to because he's sharp as a razor. He's always one of the only rap artists I've found interesting in every way. Having said that, the subject matter and sheer weight of swearwords are not to be taken in any way lightly - hardcore rap it definitely is. Having given that caveat, I Spit Hate is yet another example of how on the ball Whitman Speck is when it comes to it. High speed, machine-gun delivery stuffs the words into your ears with a vengeance that will take your breath away.

Ally that to a slammin', banging roadhouse beat and you have what I am coming to know as classic Whitman Speck, hard as nails and ready to lay into well.....just about everybody really. This guy doesn't have a chip on his shoulder, he has the whole McCain product line and - ahh surprise, surprise - it's especially sharp when it comes to ladies of the female gender (Ed: isn't that a bit redundant Gilmore? Speaking of which...). Where this rapper gets away with it is the keenness of the beat, the tightness of the flow and the sheer relentlessness of the graphic violence evoked by some fierce, fierce lyrics. A horror movie, set to lyrics and a backbeat of stone and I thought it was amazing. Not nice, absolutely not nice, let's be sure about that - but still amazing.

X rated MUST HAVE death rap

Minimack - 1-2-3

Hear The Track Here

Just because he's been away from the forums for a while, don't assume that PA (Pennsylvania, USA) based hiphop artist Minimack is kicking back and hanging with his b******, or maybe not after listening to the plotline of Ain't Gotta (June 2009). Although I personally found it valid and even exciting it is still a pretty intense ripping apart of a relationship told in an extremely graphic way. But, after all, this is hiphop and if you know anything about current musical trends.... Still, mustn't dwell too much on that festering sore eh? Next thing you know I'll have pulled out my soapbox and lead-lined my throat for a marathon rant...

So, business as usual then?

First off, be aware that 1-2-3 carries the ubiquitous Parental Advisory so if swearing and or violent graphic images upset you, go away now. For the majority though, maybe inured to it?, listening to this track will show one of Soundclick's more promising hiphop/rap musicians getting busy with the attention to detail I have come to expect from him. The music and beats are from - so Minimack writes - 'Cynial Productions' but I think that must be an actual mispelling, no doubt he'll let us know. It will be worth knowing too, because this combination of music and Minimack's increasingly confident sounding raps delivers in high old style.

I am a big, big fan of the early days of hiphop and it's almost poetic approach (whatever the subject matter) and - to be honest - I have rarely found modern artists as relevant. More to the point, the ethos that permeates 1-2-3 is the powering of the rap and again a great example of the beat and song fitting together as if born to it. Although there is a considerable repetition in the backing track you don't really notice it because the rap demands that you pay attention. Can't say I have heard Minimack sound any better on any of the few tracks I have reviewed so far. Solid, sharp and wonderfully produced hiphop that speaks volumes for the whole 'unsigned hiphop is crap' school.

Excellent slice of hiphop, served hot. Highly Recommended

Silvertrain - Waiting 2009

Hear The Track Here

Silvertrain and I have a long, long history, and lots of ups and downs but God bless 'em they have immense stickability - in more ways than one. Although they have yet to repeat the glory days of 2003-2005, I have fond hopes of a return to the Silvertrain style that The One To Blame CD. The problem is getting the two members into the same place at the same time and the real world has other ideas about that. Speaking of which, those with long memories will remember that I did review Waiting (November 2006) and truth to tell I wasn't that impressed at all. This from an act that had gained countless Must Haves from me in the distant past.

See, lots of ups and downs...

The original track was slated for inclusion into the Nine Lives EP (August 2007) but it rightly lost out along the way - Nine Lives btw is a classic example of what John Brandon and Ritchie Allen can do when you DO get them both in the same place at the same time. The thing that appealed to me about Silvertrain - who have lots of other fans besides li'l ol' me - is they are the classic rock pop purveyors. The two minute wonder lives and breathes with this band and even an epic like Waiting (it's a whole 2 and a half minutes) fits the bill - albeit well produced and a tad sparse in arrangement.

Within the first few seconds of the vocal, long time Silvertrain fans will nod wisely, nothing lost here. The surprise comes with the inclusion of what can only be called electronica in what was previously yer average rock/pop song. Strangely enough, it works too, especially going into the ending choruses (chori?) building into the classic Train ploy of extending the hook to infinity and beyond - to quote a well known plastic man. Having said all that, this still has an unfinished feel to it, and is noticably bare in certain parts, the blinding loss being any kind of backing vocal at all. In a song that absolutely BEGS like a dog for it. 'Vocals need more clout!' the song comments state, along with the fact that this is the latest version so I guess it'll all come out in the mix.

Unfinished masterpeice? Highly Recommended Pop/Rock

Ploy For Extinction - From Within EP

Hear The Track Here

Ummm, ummm, let me see now.... First review track through the blog this month is Ploy For Extinction, a (I quote) 'Metal / Thrash / Hardcore' band from Denver, Colorado. Consisting of vocalist Matt Mainey, guitarist Matt Fagan, drummer Mike Tuley and bassist Andrew Pettitt, the band was formed in 2008 and are - apparently - a live, gigging band. Not that this surprises me, having been to that wonderful state many times, I know it has a thriving local music scene - even if everybody gets to play in glorified bars. It's a time honoured American tradition doncha know? Mind you, I don't know how so much doom and gloom (not to mention the heavy metal/thrash element) would go down amongst the beer-swilling multitude. Of which I'm a fully paid up member, albeit a bit wobbly on my pins.


Ploy For Extinction obviously understand the term 'EP' because From Within features exactly 4 tracks; From Within, The People's Plague, Faceless Suffering and The Escape and the only one I didn't get to spend any time with was From Within, the title track itself so to compensate, I spent a few visits on their Myspazz page having a listen. As it happens, I think it is a track I would have liked to make up the set (as it were) because in toto, these four incredibly dense tracks really show just how diverse this band is. Certainly not something you would pick up in fleeting visit - especially not if HEAVY thrash brings you out in festering boils. Me? I love this stuff - gimmie more. The People's Plague slams out of the starting gate as if its ass is on fire and proceeds at near light speed through apocalyptic vision after apocalyptic vision. The vocalist is very reminiscent of Till Lindemann, vocalist with German band Rammstein - one of my own all time favourites so I am bound to like this material.

You, on the other hand, need to tread carefully.

I know I have what is perceived as odd tastes but I do like the way that Ploy For Extinction (over the four tracks) explore the territory and I like stuff that whizzes along so fast it makes your skin fold back. It sort of goes with the ear-pinning the extreme volumes are doing to your ears. It may sound painful but I prefer the term cathartic. Seriously when I need a kick up the ass, I immediately reach for something that does the job and - take my word for this - Faceless Suffering is the Mr Kleen of this particular set. Set the volume high enough to sandpaper your face off and get nodding. Must have track and the serious highlight, for me, of this particular EP. As I say, being a mix of metal/thrash/hardcore is definitely not going to appeal to everybody but if like your rock music as hard and crazy as a diamond, Ploy For Extinction is well handy for the job.

Hardcore, hardcore. MUST HAVE for the genre (but be careful)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Forcefield Kids - I Can't Get

Hear The Track Here

Here's a phrase to savour: 'HipHop with depth and maturity' Astounding, isn't it? You wouldn't credit it when you dive into the gene pool that predominates in the Soundclick hiphop scene. After a few years reviewing - pardon my expression - the same old **** there are only a very few notable exceptions and at least a couple of them being beat factories. Can't say beat factories quite fill the hiphop bill for me, but as raw material for the hundreds of thousands (literally) of rappers willing to use them, they definitely hit the spot. I've always thought as hiphop though as a fusion between voice and instrument(s) and for me if they can do that intelligently and with a sense of perspective, it's the icing on the cake.

Funnily enough one of my prime hiphop finds on Soundclick has been UK based Stain(ed) Art and The Forcefield Kids (Stain's collab with Sleepy). Mind you, I would imagine it would sound very different to American sensibilities about what rap is or isn't. For me, rap/hiphop has always been a great medium to tell a story by; it's how the genre came about. Listen to the immortal Grandmaster Flash on The Message or Public Enemy in their prime and that is what I consider to be righteous raps. Of course, being English puts a whole different slant on things and Stain, being said Englishman, has been one of the best lyrical finds whatever the genre. He may be well gobby, but when you put those lyrics to the tune it seriously catches fire.

This collaboration has, for me, solidified the flow and pace of Stain's outpourings and more power to Sleepy for keeping things simple so that the vocal has chance to strut its stuff. That's not to denigrate the musical side, Sleepy is definitely a scholar of the less is more school, it's so clear, clean and uncluttered you don't even notice it for a few plays - its just there propping up the vocal. Definitely give this time to work on you and yes, best to read the lyrics as always with this artist. Nonetheless, I Can't Get is a knockout track, especially if you already like what these musicians are up to and I certainly do. 'Im a writer first and foremost' is one of the lines in the rap and it is the reason I hold him in such high regard; he can still deliver the essence of his lyrics.

Highly Recommended Alternative Hiphop.

Pidgeman - Crazy World

Hear The Track Here

As always, its the purest chance who gets to be first in the list but I bet Craig Matthews (aka Pidgeman) is feeling a golden glow right now; yay! First!! (even before Thomas J, which is no mean feat). I first met Pidgeman over at MP3 Unsigned reviewing Misery Loves Company (November 2007) - still probably his best known tune I think. At the time of that review I mentioned that Pidgeman was a (rock) artist to keep and eye on but I may well as keep me mouth shut because Pidgeman has been a welcome addition to my review list on a very regular basis which is cool on two points: he rocks and he knows how to put a good tune together.

Half the battle, right there.

On the whole I've found Pidgeman's output satisfying enough, although there are sometimes areas in which we differ but I guess that's just the way it is. I think its fair to say that Pidgeman used to be a bit of an acquired taste - moreso if rock of the old school is not your scene but his latest tracks have been excellent, gaining a whole string of good ratings from me and even one Must Have - Not Another Love Song (March 2009). There again, I am a dyed in the wool rock animal from way back and when Pidgeman is firing on all cylinders (song,arrangement, performance and production), he is a force to be reckoned with. Like Not Another Love Song, Crazy World is yer basic kickbutt rock tune performed with tremendous drive and energy but - to my mind - carrying a much stronger hook.

It's a treat for shreddies too (Ed: shreddies, guys (usually) who salivate while watching guitarists) because the lead work on this is perfect; rough, riotous and rocking the house. Mastered by James McCormick it says in the song comment and I wonder if that's the key ingredient here. See, I've always known Pidgeman had the kind of rock stones that mark the good musicians but I haven't - as yet - heard that killer track from him. Welp, Crazy World changed all that. A terrific rock song in every way, with a message even your dog could relate to. What amazes me is how incredibly American Pidgeman sounds considering he comes from somewhere in the middle of England. A great song, even if rock isn't your thing.

MUST HAVE jolt of adrenalin.