Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dark Arts - Music Down, Bass Up

Hear The Track Here

There isn't a month goes by with me suffering pangs because I bounced on someone's track, and this month it happened to be Sheffield's Solid Sounds turn. Just a couple of days ago I reviewed i'me luvvin you2 (October 2009 drrr) and didn't take to it at all, or much to the original (number 1 as it were) Still, got to say what you think, right? It's by pure chance that Shane Simpson (who happens to be a member of Solid Sounds) batted his eyelids at me a couple of days ago asking me if I could include a new project in the review list if I had enough room. Welp, this is the last of the month so I guess it qualifies...

...and it soothes my middle class guilt.

He probably heard the sigh of relief when I discovered that Dark Arts and Music Down, Bass Up were in business all the way in Sheffield. I would have purely hated to dump on the poor geezer twice in a row. It isn't, by any stretch, anything groundbreaking, just a straightforward slice of electronica dance. You know the kind, the sort that has a kick drum that goes so fast you would swear its ass was on fire. I got involved early on with gabba and if you like that, this well certainly ring some bells. Yes indeed.

There is an old skool energy and style about the track that shows there is a good idea for a sound here but I don't think this fairly basic mix really shows that potential - at least not straight off. Moreover, I'd say if I hadn't already been exposed to a great deal of music of this genre in my murky past, I would have passed this by pretty quick. Truth is though it takes a certain amount of skill to put something like this together, as rough as it is. Sharpen up that sound a tad, work on overall sound levels and something wonderful may happen.

Excellent dance electronica. Recommended.

The Modems - The Devils Lodge

Hear The Track Here

The Modems came out of nowhere, surprising the beejeebers out of people on Soundclick - and this reviewer - with their brand of classic rock. Tunes with attitude. Not to mention more than a trace of where the band come from (way up in the north of England). Kiss Of Death (September 2009) was the last track I heard from them and it also got a Must Have from me. Two tracks, two Must Haves, Now that is a neat trick, but can they do it a third time? To be honest, I'd have to say that I would have bet on it, that is how good they are. What I didn't expect was for them to knock me on my ass for a third time.

It's a sign of the songwriting quality at work here that makes the whole Modems thing tick. The songs are absolutely the very best you are likely to hear anywhere on the planet, and they make it all sound so effortless. That is why I like this band because I know that quality work like this takes endless time and patience by the truckload. Not to mention a wee spot of talent. That wasn't my initial impression, the intro is well odd, and it took time for the arrangement to work its magic but by the time the first chorus kicks in, you're either hooked or not. If you are not you would miss the incredible rush verse two gives you.

Its in the second chorus where the fun really starts with a incredibly Prince-like feel to it. capped by the verse vocal swapping from male to female. The effect is startling, so is the track at this point, pop just shouldn't sound this good. The Modems cite Pixies, B-52's and Joy Division as some of their influences but the wider approach of pop (albeit a kind of rock/dance pop) is where they are most at home. Absolutely top marks to both vocalists on this awesome track; a beautiful pair a pipes the two o' you. I think the Modems are probably one of the most impressive artists on Soundclick right now because they embody all I love about indie music. Great songs, incredible performances and at an unbeatable price. I've already got two Modems tracks cosy on my harddrive and this boy is going to join them right now. A blistering track in every way.

MUST HAVE. Indie music at its finest.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Solid Sounds - i'me luvvin you2

Hear The Track Here

I've reviewed a fair number of tracks from Sheffield's Solidsounds and in fact have another surprise in that direction before the end of the month, and I have generally found their version of dance based electronica listenable. Not always the case when you mix dance and electronica together with my views on the genre but MC Solid and crew have done pretty well. A couple of highly recommended's isn't a bad start at all, especially in a genre I have been known to drown in poisonous prose at every opportunity. So, in a way, I was kind of looking forward to this track but oh oh oh shouldn't count on anything...

There are two versions of this track, one (presumably the original) and this version. Solid was saying in his request that he couldn't make up his mind which version to go for, and the only comment I can make on that is simple, none. Oooowww Gilmore, that is harsh. Explain yourself. OK, THIS version of the track (and I don't think this is intentional) sounds like its being sung by that world famed rock vocalist Eric Theodore Cartman and arranged by a group of mayflies who have to play it quickly before they die. Moreover, to my ears anyway, it's just a speeded up version of the original, which doesn't come out too clean either.

There is nothing basically wrong with i'me luvvin you (their spelling) musically, in fact its quite a pleasant, cheerful, chirpy kind of tune. You would have to listen to it for a few times before that became apparent though. That is mainly down to the vocal I'm afraid. I've listened to enough music in enough different situations to know when someone is holding back, and that is seriously happening with this track. I know full well that we all work within our limitations, and it's obvious that Solid has some technical ones, but even so. Moreover, the track is mixed with the vocal right up front and loud (in comparison to everything else). This points up the hesitancy in the vocal, and its other errors because of that same holding back. As I say, good song, but definitely needs some working on final presentation to make it really work. These comments are, I might add, about the original. This version isn't up to much at all, unless you happen to be a fan of Eric (I am a Rock God) Cartman, of course.

Minimack - Watch Your Mouth

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I'm a fairly straightforward guy as far as music is concerned, I like what I like and if I hear things I don't like I do tend to say it - despite all appearances to the contrary. Sure, I slather the damn thing with sugar (makes it easier to swallow see?) but nonetheless make the point. The reason I talking about this is because Minimack has had an experience of it once or twice, latterly with Bang Bang (September 2009) which I found to be disappointingly formulaic. Heard it all before kinda thing. Not always the case with this artist mind, he has done some very good hip hop in the past, and this time he's teamed up with Sinima Beats again - and that is one beat factory I have a lot of time for.

Surprisingly enough, considering that the first few words are pure profanity, this track does not carry the usual Parental Advisory so be aware if cussing gets you hot under the collar. Hip hop is the only genre where swearing is part of the whole experience and I personally don't mind it, especially when delivered with conviction. See when Mack finally gets his groove, he is as good as some of the real heavyweights on Soundclick. Sinima Beats of course are usually immaculate, and it proves to be the case here; solid beats with nice instrumental touches, what they do best.

Like Bang Bang, Watch Your Mouth sounds bang up to date; as commercial as anything I have heard from this artist - given that the swearbox is packed full by the end of it. I do know, however, that there is a huge market for this kind of material and - as such - Minimack certainly deserves a bit of that attention, he has the potential. And therein lies the rub. Watch Your Mouth is much better in many ways from his previous track but I've still to hear this artist deliver what I really think he has capable of. In the meantime, this will come close enough.

Highly Recommended ***** and ******* and ******* and *** hip hop (as if you hadn't guessed)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gold Against The Soul - Patagonia

Hear The Track Here

It never ceases to amaze me how many people panic at the last minute, change either the mix or the song before I get my sticky hands on it. Gold Against The Soul PM'd me a while ago saying that he had a new mix of this track and would I review that instead? Good job the review was still a way away and it does happen with great regularity so what the hey. Gold Against The Soul is a new name to me, and Soundclick too I suspect, There are only two tracks the website presently, this one and Drive - which I noticed had already been a Soundclick Alternative Number One.

Not bad if ya can get it.

Patagonia (nothing whatsover to do with the area of the same name apparently) is - on the face of it - a general moan about life, and in a fairly standard fashion. Put it like this, it made me go and listen to Drive to see if it deserved that #1, and in its own way, I guess it does but that doesn't work for Patagonia. The musical line up is fairly basic, drums, bass, guitar and vocals but this is supposed to be alternative isn't it? Not this alternative is my honest opinion. As a singer, John Spomer, works in much the same register as (say) Thomas J Marchant and the same kinda/sorta musical direction.

At first, I thought what I was hearing was pretty much a live take, but continued plays just showed it was a raw sound to begin with. Structurally, you will have heard something like this before. I hear inconsistencies in both vocals and bass tuning but I most definitely would AND it has become a trademark of most 'home produced' Alternative. While it won't take the world by storm, John can certainly take comfort in Drive and the time and effort in getting this to sound right. For my money, though, it doesn't really get to the point quick enough and could probably do to lose a minute or so.

Shows promise though, even so

The Midas Touch - Los Angeles

Hear The Track Here

Although I've reviewed a fair amount of Nick Laroche's work - as Laroche surprisingly enough - I've only reviewed on other Midas Touch track. Midas Touch being his current alter ego. So, glad we got that out of the way. Motown Showdown (June 2009) was the other track and what a beauty it was too. A very clever blend of hip hop and rock that scored a well deserved Must Have from me at the time and a track I still play when I am in the right mood; a dancing, cavorting one. When I saw this track pop up in the request list I'll admit to feeling some anticipation because Motown Showdown was so good.

Los Angeles - the track not the city, I couldn't fit it on the page - shows that a lot of the style Motown Showdown had was because of that blend of hip hop and rock. I doesn't transfer much to this fairly standard working of yer typical smooch track, and I hang my head with shame because this is not a style of hip hop that sits well with me. Nonetheless, The Midas Touch make a surprisingly good go of it and - should I be a person looking for beats to rap over - this track certainly deserves a look see.

A couple of point that strike me while summing up what I thought. Some of the sounds used were (maybe intentionally) a bit hokey, ya know what I mean? In particular, the trumpet and/horn sound used on this track. For sure, it does the job required and conveys a certain Latin sound, as it should, it sounds like a 'factory' sound; the kind of things that dotted disco tracks of the 70's and '80's. As I say, maybe this is intentional and in now way detracts from the overall effect. Los Angeles is a pleasant hip hop saunter through the colour and light of the worlds most famous madhouse.

Recommended slow hip hop.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thomas J Marchant - Sails

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Look out!! Is it a bird, a plane? Nope, just Anthem Man dropping another sample by. If anyone has written the soundtrack of the last year or so for this reviewer, its Thomas J. His simple yet elegant songs have been a particular pleasure for me after toiling unremittingly on his earlier output which was neither simple or elegant. Tell you what though, drag him away from electronica, put a guitar/keyboard/sax in front of him and stand back in awe. Strange. Mind you, it's true that Thomas has always had a touch of the strange about it, it's part of both his music and his personality, he likes what he likes. Which, btw, is great news for us because it means that tracks as awesome as Unemployment (September 2009) only set us up for the real killer blow...Sails

Don't know about sails but by God this song soars.

I admit to being a veritable PITA (Ed: Pain in the a**) about the talents and charms of this UK based singer/songwriter, and no doubt you've long made up your own minds about it. If you are still undecided that Sails is maybe the one to do it to you because it's definitely one of the strongest songs I've ever heard from this source - and that's really saying something. However, let me give you a little back story, and that may shed some light on my reaction. Written partly as a tribute to the late Sharma Kay, both the lyric and the no nonsense way Thomas delivers it ooze confidence and maturity.

Can't say I've heard Thomas sounding much better either, particularly impressed with the vocal post production here, HUGE overhangs, wall to wall reverb - lovely... If this were the real world, there is no doubt in my mind that Thomas would be a leading light in the UK alternative scene. He shows, particularly with this track, that path from David Bowie through to the Smiths and the Manchester indie scene is alive and well and living in the mind of this musician. Out of the many tribute tracks to Sharma, this one got to me the most and that's purely because it is awesome, the very best Alternative the UK has to offer...

MUST HAVE (to treasure)

Celestine - Transparent CD

Hear The Track Here

One of my oldest friends on the internet is Chris Vaisvil (aka Chris and The Clones) who contacted me lately about hearing this album produced, I think, for a friend of his. As I say, Chris is an old friend from what? 1994? 1995? We were both MOD musicians working through Usenet MOD newsgroups in those days and Chris has his own share of startup tales, but I've always known he has a good pair of ears. Which is why we're here with Celestine who is originally from the Philippines, married to her producer/musician Michael B, who wrote and performed (presumably) all the music. Celestine lists The Carpenters as an influence and that is certainly what Everything's Alright and I Wonder (tracks one and two) sounds most like, with I Wonder having the edge.

Be aware that we are discussing what can only be called emotional ballads and you know I have a phobia about those, not mention Celestine being a Christian Rock artist. Nonetheless, on a more objective level, Celestine has a terrific voice; warm, clear which is obviously tailor made for this kind of material. Second Chance is the first overtly Christian track, a string laden, almost prog-rock arrangement aided enormously by the confident manner Celestine handles the lyrics. Believability, my friends, that's the key and Second Chance shows that this lady has that. No Need To Worry and I Searched Heaven are natural follow-ons. Transparent, the title track, is much more the kind of track I look for; a killer song, a neat arrangement and a vocal to die for. My particular favourite.

He Took It All features acoustics and what sounds like a piano accordion, whereas Keep On Going (God Cares) goes for the whole orchestral enchilada, showing that although the general tone of the album may be slow, the level of musical diversity certainly isn't. Now I'd be lying through my aged teeth if I said I was totally into this. It's all a bit too mainstream for my own personal taste, and I don't do ballads - another big minus. However, I know there is a huge audience for this kind of material and out of all the tracks on Transparent, it's that title track that will really establish Celestine in the places that matter. If you like that, the rest of the excellently put together album will only reinforce that pleasure.

Highly Recommended collection of ballads, with a beautiful voice.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ricky - Queen Of Solitude

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Last track this month from Mixposure, the simply titled Ricky is USA based musician who has more than a passing resemblance to the late George Harrison. He cites the Beatles as one of his influences along with Tom Petty and both artists definitely have my seal of approval. One of the ultimate bands IMHO of the last century was The Traveling Wilburys probably the only REAL supergroup because it spanned the whole of rock history from Roy Orbison to Harrison to Bob Dylan to Tom Petty. Man what a line up. But we're getting off the point. As you can see, my initial enthusiasm for this track is pretty high, and I guess I expected a track along those lines.

Which, btw, I am always up for.

Queen Of Solitude turns out to be a rock based (gulp) ballad. Oh come on, there is no need to duck, I'm not that bad about ballads surely? Yeah, OK, I am that bad. Truth is most ballads make me want to reach for a hammer, it would have to be something special or have something special about it to make me attention long enough to calm down and think rationally. Surprisingly enough, the special thing this track contains is a beautifully recorded and played accordion - and you don't get to hear one of those every day. Moreover, Queen of Solitude is a very decent song indeed that had me scratching for who it reminded me of. Closest I could get was Neil Young in his more pensive moments.

Whatever, Ricky has delivered a deceptive track here that shouldn't be treated to just a drive-by listen. Queen Of Solitude for its pensive, careful pace and the phrasing of the vocal demands more than a listen or two, despite a very understated mix. In fact the mix is the only fly in the ointment I can see, and even then it's a small thing. I had to put on one of my own tracks to check that my sounds were working correctly - this is a very quiet track. Nonetheless if you like classic rock and are partial to a ballad in said genre, the Queen Of Solitude awaits you with bated breath.

Excellent rock ballad (there, I said it!). Highly Recommended, especially for the accordion.

Ron Gragg - The Wind of Wings

Hear The Track Here

Seems like I've spent a lot of this month chattering about guitarists of one stripe or another and there is a conversation raging (falls about laughing) in one of the Soundclick forums about the age old acoustic or electric question. Me, I'm sayin' nuttin. I do have an abiding love for one kind of guitar though, a love I picked up real young and never let go of. 12 string guitars have a unique and special sound and, although more difficult to play initially, are especially rewarding once you learn the 12 string knack. The reason I've gone gearhead on yo asses is because Ron Gragg's The Wind Of Wings is (and I quote) 'A Twelve String instrumental recorded in one take'

OOOOokkkkkkk Now, how am I supposed to spin a review out of this?

Obviously best not to get into the whole fidelity thing, stereo is the best you get but the guitar sound is right there. Yeah, you nod wisely, but do I care? Surely this is only for other musicians to hear? Welll, yes, but the key words to bear in mind here are 'one take'. In other words everything you here is pretty much live which does indeed showcase the guitar and Ron's playing of it. Having being carnal with several of these beauties I know one thing; they are a ***** to keep in tune as Ron is seeing. Small change though because I understand about it. But would a random listener?

To be brutally frank, probably not. It's a little rough both in sound and in playing because this is the first piece Ron made with it. To be sure the guitar in question (Alvarez seeing as you axed) sounds like a beauty and I envy the man for having one and certainly The Wind Of Wings kept me interested to hear this more times than might be good for the normal body. There is, as I say, something about the sound of a 12 string... So, probably more for machineheads than anyone else but if you've ever wondered what a 12 string sounds like, now is your chance.

Ralph Atkinson - Building A Time Machine

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On a site that has almost 4m members (yay go Soundclick!) it's easy to miss a few, even for someone as diligent as me and my assembled minions (Ed: I think he means me). Ralph Atkinson is a new (but strangely familiar) name to me, probably because there are 90m of them out there. There again, there's a few Steve Gilmore's too so lets skirt this murky bog. Ralph is a blues rock musician from Canada, which is no surprise because the country seems bursting at the seams with them. Moreover, when I was downloading the review copy I noticed this nailed to the comment box: 'spacey, funky, bluesy - almost a ballad' DOH!

Assumption pricks up its ears.

Mind you, I also noticed a comment somewhere that Ralph has been making music like this for a long time, and experience does count. It counts even more when you are working with a notoriously difficult genre to nail properly. Blues rock, ask any guitarist, is a true art - especially if it is to convince. A lot of the experience has also gone into the recording, production and mixing of Building a Time Machine which - to be honest - absolutely could not have sounded better. A lovely piece of technical work, that's for sure.

Best of all, though, is that Building a Time Machine is almost a ballad - and I really, really like it. From the tone of the guitars and the incredibly cool way they deliver the licks, stamps this track with authority from the getgo. At first listen the vocal sounded a bit too laid back but give it a second, third or fourth play and it too is pretty much perfect. Strangely enough, he reminded me of some of the work of our old friend 333maxwell, certainly in terms of quality. If you want to know why blues rock remains as valid as ever, take a listen to this.

MUST HAVE blues rock.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Superbron - All The Rivers Flow Into The Sea

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I met Dutch musician Superbron back in 2007 and for the first few tracks, we definitely were not seeing eye to eye. When I reviewed the original All The Rivers Flow Into The Sea (January 2008) I was even more lack lustre than normal. In my usual forthright manner I said that the track had 'weak arrangements, staid and comfortable sounds and - it has to be said - a certain degree of inconsistency in performance'. The really strange thing is that Superbron had all the angles; he knew what he was about musically as his tracks do show but somehow when you put it all together it just didn't gel - at least for me.

He re-appeared earlier this year with Time Traveller (April 2009) a very decent guitar instrumental 'somewhere between Pink Floyd and Santana' which showed definite signs of improvement. So what has changed on this track? Obviously it's a remake (Superbron calls it a reshuffle) so let's treat it as brand new. Heavily styled on the European idea of what pop means. this version proves to be a very good listen indeed - even for someone who really doesn't like progressive rock - especially the long kind. In that respect, this version has shed none of the six minutes of life the original had, which I pissed and moaned about at the time.

Something that long got to be interesting.

That is assuredly where this version scores over the original, there's enough to keep you interested and listening and even want more when it does end. Superbron seems to have solved the major problem of the original too. The whole flow of the track is much, much better, helped by a very respectable production and mix. I found myself wanting to hear other vocals in the chorus (which btw is very effective anyway) but taken as it is this is a splendid piece of Europop. Takes a few plays for it to really grow on you, it is a long piece to take in, but when it does it shows that Superbron's faith in his track is well founded.

Excellent Europop/prog rock thingie. Highly Recommended.

Gary Hart - Black

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Yes, the same Hart that is a part of Jackson_Hart whose Gypsy Princess track rocked the month a few days ago. So here he is up again, am I doing doubles again? Simple explanation? This is the first month I have run a request list on Mixposure - I'll take whatever I can get. No big hardship of course, because it was Gary Hart's guitar work that made a lot of the running in Gypsy Princess, here is a solid heavy rock guitarist of the old school. You know, someone who knows how to raise energy simply by bashing the crap out of a piece of wood; the power he used in that track is still making my teeth vibrate almost a week later.

Gary Hart is from Ottawa, Canada and the reason I mention this is because his guitar style reminds me of another Canadian guitarist who influenced me earlier on in my life. The name Paul Rudolph may not mean too much these days but the way he laid down chunks of sheet metal, laced with intricate, detailed solos, really affected me at the right time when I was a lot younger. Gary definitely delivers the meat and potatoes that makes rock happen and given the amount of rock guitarists around, easily keeps up with the competition.

It isn't all a cosy, romantic, hand-in-hand walk in the bluebell woods at sunset tale though, as you may surmise from the title. Can't, for the life of me, fathom out the lyrics except maybe she done him wrong. I think this is a studio track taken from Shining Through, his first album, and there are a few other musicians on the track but to be honest the mix doesn't help to make them shine. This is a track where there is a LOT happening at any one point and - sometimes - it just sounds confused. Metal is the base of it, but rock is what makes it happen but I suspect it may only appeal to metal-heads but there are plenty of them around to keep Gary Hart happy.

Recommended high energy metal.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ashique M Fahim - Firestarter Demo

Hear The Track Here

S'funny I could have sworn I had reviewed this musician before but no, apparently not. This keeps happening to me because I know I recognise the name, and it can't simply be from seeing it on Soundclick's forums. Sheesh. Have you been on You Tube lately? Place is getting packed with guitarists. Not ordinary chunka-chunka guitarists mind, but close encounters of the shredding kind. Seems to me there has been a marked upsurge in interest in this extra-ordinary way of playing the guitar, I blame John McLaughlin myself but rock history is full of shredders of one kind or another. Can't see the point in it myself, unless you were just showing other people how to do it, and I'm a guitarist mind. I would be interested in it, but would your average Joe or Joess?

I think not, clot.

So when I saw the video of Ash's page, my spirits plummeted because, to be frank, shredders alone - without the band backing and all - bore the pants off me. Absolutely different story when you've got the whole ensemble going wanga-wanga behind the guitar pyrotechnics, makes a lot more sense that way. Certainly Firestarter Demo shows only to well that Ashique Fahim is an ace shredder in the time honoured fashion; notes spraying like fountains out of the hard rock underpinning that will - no doubt - have other shredders with open mouths and pinned back ears. But is that enough?

Guitar instrumentals are, let's face it, ten a penny. Almost every second or third track you click on these days is some kind of guitar instrumental and there are very few who come up to the bat knowing that solid music is the backbone of such guitar ego-stroking. Thankfully this musician realises that and does provide a competent, if basic, accompaniment with the usual big drums and massive power chords. I know there is a vast army out there who do like shredders (bet they are predominantly male though) and they will like what this Bangladesh (yep, really) guitarist has to offer.

Recommended Shred-fest at least.

District Verdant - Easily Charmed Man

Hear The Track Here

A brand new name to me this time, District Verdant are on Mixposure and only have one track on there, this one. Billed as Alternative rock and that's as much information as I was able to glean and - believe me - I am REAL good at ferreting out useless information. What I hear certainly sounds like a band but, as you know, that is par for the course especially on a guitar heavy site like Mixposure. So, rock it is then, but of what stripe exactly? Well, I contend that there is a marked difference between the way that Americans play rock, and their UK and European counterparts. For my money, there is a lot more musical flash and glitz in the American variety as Easily Charmed Man shows than the riff-rock/power chords of the UK and Europe. However, and thank the many Gods of music for this, the vocals are not typically American - not the kind of screech that only dogs can hear.

Yes, and groupies too, I assume.

In feel for sure, Easily Charmed Man fits into the Alternative pantheon being a heady mix of REM and U2 in equal doses, but that changes when the vocal appears. Suddenly it becomes very English, and that's probably more because of the vocal than anything. It's a shame that Mixposure doesn't seem to carry anywhere to post lyrics because I sure could have done with reading these. Even through repeated plays this has been a difficult one to decipher lyrically but the song and the music behind it are mighty fine and definitely carry the day. Provided, of course that you actually like this kind of music.

Personally I don't particularly like either U2 or REM but I can see their worth and I can hear their echoes in this track and it doesn't disturb me overly much. Part of that has to be down to the excellent job District Verdant has done with the arrangement, production and mix which is as good as anything that is out there - and certainly in this field. Funnily enough, the track is actually going under the subtitle of Demo 2009 which made me smile a bit. District, my large buddy, you have no idea just how 'demo-like' some musicians give me as finished masterpieces can sound. This, on the other hand, is very professional and show that District Verdant has much to offer the discerning Alternative rock fan..

Well presented Alternative track. Recommended.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Platypus Egg - Big Bad Evil Serpent Man

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Because of the uniqueness of the bandname, you may remember me reviewing Bambola Vivente (September 2009) and an even earlier encounter when these musicians were called Unlimited Pineapple Club so obviously wacky names run in the family. Nonetheless, nothing wacky about the music whatsoever, in fact Bambola Vivente fair blew me away. A terrific piece of World music, kinda/sorta polka or a derivative, but one that was impossible to sit still to. As far I can gather Platypus Egg seem to be a four piece group and the sound they come out with is definitely pretty different featuring violins, accordions and the like.

Considering that the band appear to be based in America, the music they make is surprisingly European - even in the faux rap section of this track. My confusion about them come from the myriad influences they seem to have sucked up along the way. Although Big Bad etc is billed as Avant Rock (wtf IS that anyway?), it manages to run through just about every genre known to man in its six minutes of playing time. I think if prog-rock had been allowed to grow up like most other genres, this is how it would sound - and it would be a massive improvement on the big hair brigade.

What this track shows, above all else, is what good musicians these people are. Pulling off a trick like Bambola Vivente once is hard enough, being able to keep up that kind of quality is almost ground-breaking. I feel a warm glow remembering that I predicted big things for Unlimited Pineapple Club and Platypus Egg surpass that with ease. I know I have a massive bias towards world music but I also have an equally massive hatred for all things prog-rock and this track manages to straddle both stools, and does it beautifully into the bargain. Moreover, this is a terrific song, sung with vocals reminiscent of the B-52's in their prime.

Highly Recommended musical blend.

It's Only Patrick Lew - Youth Gone Political

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It's Only Patrick Lew, now there's a phrase to strike terror into nations. You't gaan to raas claat. Although I am far from the only reviewer to describe Patrick Lew's work as lunatic and/or inspired. 'The vocals won't quite work with whats being played on the guitar and the segues from section to section are yawning chasms of indecision and uncertainty' is what I wrote about one of his tracks, and it could well apply to pretty much every track he has - whichever name he happens to be going under at the time. Patrick is probably one of the only musicians around who truly does-not-give-a-**** what people think about his material, he just spits it out regardless. If you think I am being unduly harsh, go have a listen.

At least on Youth Gone Political, he comes out and says that this sounds like a rehearsal, so you can take it as read that this will be well up to Patrick's usual style. See, here's the thing about this musician, you know it all should sound right, and yet whenever he gets right down to it, the result is the same. Take, for example, this track. There is a live drummer (we are told) although he seems to be playing outside where everyone else is, and he (the drummer) has no idea what the other musicians (all Patrick I think) are up to. A recipe for chaos is another way of looking at Patrick's 'thing'

Now, this is supposed to be rock and roll, but no I don't see that. Rock and roll, by whatever criteria, is an intensely rhythmic genre and there is absolutely no rhythm whatsoever in this track. It has some echoes in punk, that's for sure and even in Patrick's own genre, grunge but outside of that shows that Patrick Lew is a law unto himself. So, therefore, the only question left to ask is dare I listen, or not? That one I'll leave up to you, but let me say one thing. I've known lots of musicians like Patrick in the years I have been reviewing and sometimes they can be the most surprising of the lot. But not, unfortunately, with this track which is Patrick at his most disconnected. Heed my words, or maybe you just like the chaos. Whichever it is, vaya con Dios...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

James Crosbie Hancox - It's Just A Game

Hear The Track Here

I reviewed a couple of tracks from this Liverpool, England based singer songwriter and - to be fair - he's done pretty well out of the encounter, even though the tracks are a little linear. James has an album Painting In Numbers, consisting of those first two tracks and It's Just A Game - and more obviously - whose premise is that each song is made completely in one chord. At least, if I have it right that is. James will clarify if not, I'm sure. For the record, James is an Alternative artist who knows the value of a good song and that - more than anything else - is what cuts him out from others.

Mind you, being English myself, I am bound to have a bias to music from my own country but It's Just A Game is just a terrific song, and that is undeniable. More to the point, considering the songs premise (one chord, remember?), It's Just A Game sounds slick, polished and professional. With one notable exception. I feel kinda niggly even bringing this up because it isn't really a fault per se, just something that keeps nagging me when I listen to this track and something I noticed in previous tracks.

Something about the mix just doesn't sit right. I've actually mentioned it before in my review of Home and Dry (August 2009) that there seems to be something missing. As good as the song, performance and overall sound is, there's a lack of excitement in the track. I lay this on the mix. I don't know, maybe just a little too clean? Whatever it is, it doesn't stop the song coming through, and that's the main thing. and It's Just A Game - as I say - is a cracking song.

Highly Recommended Alternative.

Pilesar - Dicyclomine

Hear The Track Here

Remember kids, don't try this at home. In fact, seeing as we are dealing with the inimitable Pilesar here, best not to try it at all. The ensuing complications may prove too deadly. So weird is this experimental artist that I firmly believe that the pic on his Soundclick page is really what he looks like; triple-eyed, double-nosed and triple eyebrows to match. Nothing as weird about his music though (Ed: Eh? Gilmore, are you sure of this?) unless you think that banging out music with whatever is closest to hand is weirdness personified. Well, in Pilesar's defense, I have to say that he does it very, very well. Certainly there isn't anyone else around who does quite what Pilesar does...

Good thing? Bad thing? Whotf knows...

Looks like Pilesar has discovered the haiku method of song writing; Dicyclomine consists of precisely thirteen words. Mind you, I had to read the lyrics to discover this fact because, from my plays of the track, it is in no language I can recognise. It sounded as if the Evil Seven Dwarves were cooking up a spell in the mystical grotto or, on the other hand, trying out for the latest boyband. Knowing this artist, either could well be the case. Imagine, New Dwarves on the Block, Dwarflife, The Beardy Boys... The list is endless.

The thin line between what Pilesar does live and what he does on recorded sound is almost gone, certainly I can imagine him performing this live without straining too much. Not that I have ever seen him live mind, but I'd sure love to. If you live in the great state of Maryland USA, you definitely could because that's his main stomping ground and home, presumably to the dwarf boyband, No wait, that was a flight of fancy wasn't it? Wasn't it? See, that's the problem. You just never can tell. So if you know Pilesar's unique niche (or is that too personal?) you will like what Dicyclomine does for your nervous system, the rest of you might shake your head sadly and move swiftly along...

Pilesar keeps taking the drugs. Recommended Experimental.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Avalanche - Trust The Quiet Voice

Hear The Track Here

Sheer serendipity that this track was back to back with the Farrell Jackson/Gary Hart collab, because they share a lot of ground with Avalanche. Moreover, as time went on and I kept hearing them as a matched pair, Gypsy Princess became the perfect introduction to Avalanche's very hot-off-the press new song, Trust The Quiet Voice. It's an indication of the band popularity that the track has already become a number one in Soundclick's Rock charts. Meh, you say, the charts don't make any difference anyway. Well, maybe, maybe not but when you are number one out of 187,078 others, it would give you a nice satisfied buzz. If anyone has worked for that online popularity Avalanche have and are reaping the rewards of that hard work. After all, YOU wouldn't turn your nose up to a number one would you?

I thought not.

Recorded by the band, mixed by Mike Foster and mastered by David Pendragon, this is THE track I've been looking forward to ever since I heard they had hooked up. It doesn't disappoint either, and in some ways surpasses what I had imagined this combination to sound like. I can see that extra sheen David has brought to this but the real work was done by the band itself in structuring and performing this classic Avalanche track (if you know what I mean). Now that I have spent some time being immersed in their style, I think I would recognise that two gunslinger guitar approach on sight and Mike Foster's vocals are, without doubt, one of Avalanche's major strengths but, like all good things, this is made up of many parts.

For sure, it wouldn't work without the solid work by Barry Easton and Michael Corsini on drums and bass respectively, but it's the sparkle of their two frontmen that catches the attention. Like all of Mike Fosters songs, this has a political message, and one I heartily ascribe to having listened to my own quiet voice for years. More to the point, Trust The Quiet Voice is a great song, one Avalanche fans will instantly recognise. For my money, the guitar work on this track is a shade above most classic rock bands and they use the two guitar approach to devastating effect. The kind of tightness that makes this kind of rock special indeed.

Highly professional classic rock. MUST HAVE for fans and rockhounds alike.

Jackson Hart - Gypsy Princess

Hear The Track Here

Looks like a new name I know, but t'ain't. Jackson Hart is a collaboration between Farrell Jackson and Gary Hart. Farrell we have met on several occasions now, but Gary Hart is a new entity to me although I think I've probably heard some of his tunes on Mix Radio at some point. They are aided on Gypsy Princess by Phil Robertson on drums and Geoff Taye on bass and, this being Mixposure, hard rock is the genre of choice. Actually, I've heard all the rumours about Mixposure being a guitarists site but I don't thinks that's all the way true any more. There are many different artists on the site, although it has to be said it is still top heavy in straight forward rockers. Still, as you know I am partial to a drop of the hard stuff so let's dig in...

Given the two tracks I've already reviewed of Farrell Jackson on his own, I wouldn't have put him down as a classic rock musician but he certainly lends himself to the style with this track. A great rock voice for sure and definitely one of the star turns on the track. I do like to hear rock harmony vocals - all too rare these days of scream and screech - and Gypsy Princess has a very neat set. The real surprise though is the absolutely gonzo headbanging that is brought to the party by Gary Hart in his role as the Mad Axeman. F*** me, talk about getting blown on your ass. Someone commented on the song and said 'therefore I was not prepared to be rocked. And rocked I was indeed. Real nice head-banging stuff here'

Couldn't agree more.

I love reading comments on people's tracks. Mostly I do it to check how sycophantic people can be but every once in a while you get a track where the comments back up the quality of the track. Most of the comments on this track centre around its impact, which is immediate and total; the aural equivalent of being hit by a falling wall. On an indie level, if you like Avalanche or The Easton Brothers in full classic rock mode, you will reach nirvana with Jackson Hart too. What sealed the deal, for me anyway, is the absolutely clear, clean sound which, considering the brick wall comment above, is a really, really, really difficult trick to pull off. Here's a track where absolutely every single thing is right, song, arrangement, performance and it's incredibly radio friendly to boot. Certainly a great big hit for those who experience this.

MUST HAVE classic rock.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fear 2 Stop - Ridin'

Hear The Track Here

And now, as the old saying has it, for something completely different. If you are one of the clued in types you, like me, will have taken a deep breath upon spotting this Houston TX based experimental electronica trio, knowing damn well that you will need it. See, Fear 2 Stop are not here to make life simple, spinning lightweight aural cobwebs for the rest of us to guzzle on. Nope, trying to swallow a Fear 2 Stop concoction takes considerable mastery of the art of opaque and even then it would be wise not to lay any bets on the outcome. There again, nothing new, you say. I agree I say that every time I review one of their tracks but even you - wizened, jaded, aurally bloated you - must agree that it's absolutely vital to say it otherwise people will think I am completely loony. (Ed: Bong! You got mail! lol) Suffice to say that Fear 2 Stop tread some very, very obscure waters and not always to their advantage but God bless them for trying.

Ridin' is a slice of Indietronic captured by Fear 2 Stop mainman Billy Castillo, stands to reason then that it's going to sound like a F2S track, which means their kinda odd, but unique, blend of analog and digital. Again, having had long, long exposure to this band, some things jump out at me whenever I hear this track. How much, for example, Billy has learned about drums in general and rhythmic patterns in particular. Much more to the point, somewhere along the way he has learned the value of restraint and it's these qualities that single this track out for me.

It is, as you would suspect, a driving, relentless track, but with that edgy wtf aural whatsnames that has long been a trademark dotting the scenery every which way. Although it still has that 'what is this?' instinctual reaction - even for someone like me - continued plays do pay off, as is usual with Fear 2 Stop tracks. Yes, its a pure instrumental and yes the electronica is kinda wild and yes it's over four minutes long but, believe me you won't notice it once you give the track headspace. For me, as a long time fan, this is an excellent piece of what makes Fear 2 Stop who they are.

Straightforward, insistent Indietronic. Highly Recommended.

Silvertrain - I Thought I Knew You

Hear The Track Here

Stop me if you've heard this one before. No, belay that, because I know you will have heard it before. John Brandon saying ' first track of the next *cough* Silvertrain CD then' - notice the discreetly placed cough - is a sentence I have seen a time or two, usually followed by a long, long wait. Always worth it mind because when Silvertrain actually DO get it together, the result is most worthwhile - in a pop rock, one minute wonder kind of way. Their innate sense of what makes a good chorus, and the blend of their two voices (Ritchie Allen being the other member) is something to behold, if you like close harmony rock that is. I know that there are TON of Silvertrain addicts out there so anything new from this is usually highly prized.

So, a new track?

Welllll, not really. Ritchie is supposed to come and add the vocals to I Thought I Knew You at some indeterminate date in the future so John takes up the vocal duties again. ' Please excuse my vocal' he says, as if they are somehow bad. Let me make one thing clear, John is an excellent singer in his own right but if I had a choice I want to hear the both of them. There, said it. No more. Another surprise is that they seemed to have gained an extra member, one L.Gonzalez to be precise. Whodat? Seems to have made a hell of a difference, whoever he/she/it is, this track kicks butt in the back-in-the-day style this band first introduced to Soundclick back in 2003. A welcome return to style and sure as **** Ritchie is gonna smoke on this, John's having a whale of a time of it and it shows.

Tell you the truth, I had pretty much given up expecting this band to up their pace; after all real life is indeed a bitch. However, something has breathed new life into a track that I was very lukewarm about when I reviewed it's first incarnation in March 2007, and even in that review I did single John's vocal out for particular praise. In truth, if you took I Thought I Knew You as it stands now (a new version was just uploaded before this review) and said this was a Silvertrain track my reaction would be the same. Now maybe Ritchie will set this thing on fire, cos it's certainly smouldering nicely right now. As I said, a very welcome return to form.

Highly Recommended Pop rock song. MUST HAVE for train addicts.

Larry Ludwick/The Dead Company - Dreams and Aspirations

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Or The Dead Company featuring Larry Ludwick, whichever way you want it. I've known of the Dead Company for years and if you had asked me say six to nine months ago if I thought Larry Ludwick and them had anything in common I would have said no. Which just goes to show that age can indeed affect your judgement. Not only do Larry and TDC (or more correctly Jon Bushaway of TDC) have lots in common, they now start to sound as if they have been together forever, certainly Larry has picked up the vocal duties with the minimum of fuss. Although when I reviewed Afternoon Show (February 2009) I wasn't that positive but time solved that problem - and a couple more tracks of course...

As far as I am aware what happens here is that Jon Bushaway supplies music and lyrics and Larry sets them to voice. Now if I remember correctly, something about Jon moving away from his usual soundscape style (believe me, no one does soundscapes like this guy) was mooted somewhere. Something about wanting to work with more coherent structures and even (gulp) songs. Songs?? The Dead Company? The same Dead Company who have given me the task of reviewing some of the longest tracks I have ever come across - including a 39 minute monster somewhere. Well, I tell ya what, if Dreams and Aspirations is an indication of the new change then I'm all for it because this is a solid track.

What? Well, of course it's fekkin weird! Drrrr. The Dead Company have been anything but, and I suspect Larry has been severely infected with the same virus. However, as a very smart piece of Electronica and an extremely lyrical tone poem, this is right up there. No sharp edges, no feeling of impending doom, no waiting for the other shoe to drop.... My God, maybe this IS a major change after all. I'm a sucker for lyrics and this track has a terrific set, do take the time to squint at them especially when you are listening to the track, it will make it much clearer.

Excellent Experimental Song/poem/whatever.

Fortune - Two Halves Of A Heart

Hear The Track Here

Or Fortune Rocks if you are going by their current name on Soundclick, nonetheless it's the same Fortune that built up a string of Must Haves from me over the past year or so. A six piece Boston, MA based band, Fortune have made themselves a great many fans on Soundclick, and rightly so because this is no bedroom band. Fortune are the real deal, a live, gigging band with a great sound (provided that certain varieties of classic rock flip your switch) and the added bonus of being extremely professional songwriters and arrangers. I've personally compared them to some of the great classic rock stars and I don't throw compliments like that around lightly.

No question that the bulk of their material is from the more prog-rock end of the rock field and - in any other case - this would have me spurting venom like there was no tomorrow. That has never been the case with Fortune, even though I have questioned my liking for this band when the genre usually leaves me cold. I think most of this must be down to the way Fortune serve it all up; imagine (insert your prog-rock hero here) in their heyday and that is the kind of quality Fortune have become known for.

Even though Two Halves of a Heart, like a lot of the material I've reviewed, is probably old in terms of where the band are at now, it strikes exactly the right pose to deliver this material. It's billed as Progressive Metal but - to be honest - that tag just leaves me bemused because anyone who knows Yes, Boston, Styx, Kanasas et al will readily relate to this. For sure there is a strain of American rock that does exceptionally well in America, but doesn't travel very well. For example, not as popular this side of the pond. Fortune could certainly be a band to bridge that gap.

Highly Recommended Classic rock.

Charlie A - Sinful

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After a couple of very worthwhile collaborations, Charlie A returns to the solo film music side with Sinful. Now you may be forgiven for imagining me frothing at the mouth right now. You know, probably only too well, my abiding, passionate hatred for film music off the bone (as it were). The place for film music is in films and about the only artist I will tolerate to supply me with these kinds of treats (??) is Charlie Armour (Charlie A, geddit??). There again, Charlie's music has actually appeared in films so there is a certain professionalism on display - especially melodically - that makes Charlie's (makes quote sign) film music able to stand on its own.

Sometimes beautifully.

There is a certain something about the instruments he chooses to illustrate his musical vision that has always appealed to me, right from the very start. That skill is only too evident on Sinful, even if such sinfulness only lasts for little more than a minute and a half, but such is the way with film music. It's also yet another one of Charlie's hallmarks is that he gets it said in the fastest way possible and then out of your hair, the lightest of touches. Most people I know have the same lip-curling reaction as me to this genre, considering it pretentious and overblown, but Charlie A is the exception to that rule. His tracks are always short and sweet.

Sinful is essentially string driven, with little touches of percussion to spice up the mix. It's in the way it develops that Charlie A shows what makes him stand out. Even if you don't like the genre, he writes the kind of music that draws you in. That 'whats around the next corner' feeling. Mind you, it's short, bloody short, not much more than a build even if it is a blindingly effective build and it has a really abrupt ending that is akin to falling off that selfsame high to splatter ingloriously into the silence. Good, but a little more meat on its bones would have done it no end of favours.

Ked Records - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

I may not look it, but I'm a very sociable guy. Not exactly the life and soul of the party (I am English after all) but I do like to hang with the crew (whatever that might mean). One of the best ways of getting known on the internet has always been an ability to hang out; on forums, websites and chatrooms. I started out on Usenet and learned real fast. These days I tend to hang out in the usual websites and - of course - the obligatory Saturday Night Rocks excursion with Mike-K. This has been my weekly hangout for years and where I first rubbed shoulders with Ked Dieter. Well, I say rub shoulders but that wouldn't be possible seeing as I only come up to this ankles, but use your imagination. Ked is a BIG guy (most of us refer to him as the Polar Bear and its apt) and his music is every bit as monolithic. I had the pleasure of working with him just lately and that spurred me to check out this Canadian musician.

It's also, btw, my first review from Mixposure where I've started picking up new stuff.

Ked is a rocker through and through and you find eight tracks from four albums on his page, I just took a sampling. Knowing Ked a bit I couldn't not listen to Don't Make Me Angry, it's probably his theme song. In my world, if you are gonna rock, you'd better study some chunky. Ked is an example of the school of chunky and Don't Make Me Angry shows just how inventive he gets - angry or otherwise. Take a listen to the wonderfully produced Rain to give you a better example of his range. Lucky Man is one of the first tracks of his to catch my ear, a splendid pop rock track in the finest tradition and one of my Ked faves. Joe The Alien, Ked's 'tribute to Joe Satriani' is a spot on track and I never really got into his style before. Some wild effects swilling around in here too.

I can't swear, with my hand on my heart that I actually like instrumental rock, What grabs me most - as Ked well knows - is a song and with Another Crappy Pop Song he answers the need. A classic rock diatribe against all elements of the so called music business, all of which I heartily agree with, and a great song and how could any resist a chorus that goes 'Just another crappy prop song'? Classic rock is the floe that the Bear frolics in and - true to form - Kiss My Reality is another diatribe, this time against Gene Simmons that well known hate figure. I haven't delved into the many collaborations this musician has been into but I do know from my own experience that Ked Dieter is an experienced hand with rock; even my own strange variety. So, a Bear for all Seasons? I should say.

Highly Recommended rock pyrotechnics.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

JPC (NZ) - Dead Letter Chain

Hear The Track Here

Had to reprint this: 'Listening to JPC isn't as exhilarating as hunting dolphins, or as captivating as watching the sun set behind mounds of rubbish at the land fill. JPC isn't everything you want in a razor...' Despite the Dan Brown code of the bandname, regulars will immediately shout 'Fluidity!' so any newbies hanging about shouldn't worry overly much about getting sprayed with unpleasant things, they just recognise an old friend. I encountered John Paul Carroll, who lives in New Zealand (get it now?, yay isn't code wonderful?) in his new guise when I reviewed the excellent Shepherd (June 2009), a welcome return from someone who was never off the Soundclick boards at one time.

Anyone who came across the rock flavours of the artist known as Fluidity will recognise this track from almost the first note. Although he's had his ups and downs, the one thing that could never be said about John Paul is that he doesn't have his own style. Perfected, I might add, over several years, most of them on Soundclick and most of them reviewed by me - well worth checking out. So, Dead Letter Chain? What is? (Ed: hopefully not another of your dismal Dan Brown riffs) Unfortunately there isn't a lot on the subject and JP, despite being a terrific songwriter, isn't the most straightforward lyricist.

He's an absolutely rock solid musician though, as well as being one of those vocalists whose voice actually matches his music. That might even be why he has such a recognisable sound. I've compared him musically to a lot of rock influences in the past but with Shepherd and now this track he's showing some depths he's never explored before. I found this a lot to take in and only continued playing really brought it into sharp focus, and I am used to this artist. Complex rock structure and sound, with some absolutely knockout progressions that show just how detailed this musician has become. Give this a bit of time to work its magic on you and you won't regret giving it the precious minutes...

Highly Recommended (original for sure) Rock.

Bright Midnight - Killers of the Worst Type

Hear The Track Here

This is the fourth Bright Midnight track I have reviewed and, looking back, each track has been successively better than the last so maybe this is the one that's going to blow my socks off. Well, that's what I kept telling myself anyway. Regular readers will remember my surprise that this Texas based musician can sound eerily similar to the Lizard King himself, Jim Morrison. Could be a blessing or a curse, I suppose, depending on where you take it. At first I thought it was intentional but it soon become obvious that he wasn't copying the Doors style, just sounded incredibly Jimbo like is all...

Strange days indeed.

Killers of the Worst Type is pretty much what I expected, if a little rougher than previous tracks. That might be down, yet again, to that retro Doors sound (around the time of Strange Days) and the inevitable Morrison comparison. One of the elements I especially enjoyed from the Doors where the bassline and Killers of the Worst Type has a great one. Much more to the point, not only does Bright Midnight sound like Morrison, I caught elements of Morrisey in this too; and that blend shouldn't even bear thinking about but works surprisingly well.

So its a given that you would have to like the sound of classic rock (Doors especially) and think that both Morrison and Morrisey are great lyricists and vocalists, then Killers of the Worst Type is made for you. This is billed as Jazz fusion but I don't hear that at all, it has some jazzy elements but so did the Doors but there were still a rock band. I know I keep banging on that particular band but its difficult not to when the sound is so scarily close to what the original sounded like. Now, on the other hand, you could take that as a pretty big compliment too and I think it fits.

Highly Recommended Doors influenced ROCK music. (Despite the label)

Twisted Angel - Cowardice Hero

Hear The Track Here

This is what, the fifth or sixth Twisted Angel track I have reviewed? Enough certainly to get a feel for where this Canadian rapper is going and I like it. After all, there aren't many rappers around who would dare to tackle goth music, let alone make it work for them - Twisted Angel is, in that way, a bit unique. I Gave Her the World, but She Wanted Mars (August 2009) was a bit too closer to the hiphop norm for me but this outing promises the usual Twisted surprise. This time, he's decided that he wants to play with the big boys and make a 'metal' track and if anyone can make it work, it's probably this guy.

Twisted wrote the lyrics and performed the vocals and Matthew Pablo (of the band of the same name) put up the music and production and yes, it is metal - although not yer typical variety. There are elements of both original metal and the more modern varieties expounded by Linkin Park, Korn and even snatches of German metal (in a couple of the earlier vocals) and you would think I'd be quite happy about that. Indeed I would be because I like all this stuff. Twisted has a cautionary word on the song when he says it is 'a li'l rough' although I think it goes much further than just being a little rough.

The beginning certainly lacks coherence, and much of the vocal is out of tune, it doesn't really gel until around a minute or so into it and then it does start to rock out. The vocal does, unfortunately, keep going out of tune and the section around 2:20 is probably the best in terms of tunefulness and togetherness. IMHO, I think there is probably a good song here, but its going to take a bit of re-structuring and definitely replacing the vocals. Still, as Twisted said, this is a little rough and he expects to do some more work on it so I hope that these things get taken care of. Should that be the case, this should prod some serious bottom but it's a long way between that and this track.

Rough, shambling metal/rap cross that almost works.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Wake Of Destruction - The Space Explorer

Hear The Track Here

For those people fortunate enough to catch up with Wake Of Destruction when he first ended up on Soundclick only a few short months ago, this track will be surprisingly welcome. Out of the five tracks currently on his page, I've reviewed three of them, two of which gained Must Haves from me - This Is A War (August 2009) and Want Vs Need (September 2009). Now I'm a sucker for electro-pop anyway, but when you ally that to a very sharp sense of what songwriting is all about, it's a shoo-in with most people. That whole 1980's electronica sound has a whole new area to explore these days and is - thank God - replicated with great skill by artists such as Wake Of Destruction. The real clincher though, in every single case, the vocal talent that Omar Chavez (aka WOD) brings to bear.

I could write reams and reams about his musical and production skills but ultimately it's in his songwriting and vocals that make this artist special for me. Mind you, OMD, The Thompson Twins and Howard Jones can be spotted lurking between the lines on this truly excellently put together track. See, here's the thing. I've always fondly imagined that having the means of production in our own hands would give musicians the ability to think much more outside the box about what was acceptable aurally. Its amazing how many online musicians stick to the tried and true, paint-by-numbers production sound rather than experiment with the technology we have been blessed with. I mean, have you heard just how good virtual effects are these days?

Wake Of Destruction, much to his eternal credit, understands this and indeed puts almost as much effort into his production as he does to its content. The proof of that is in the work he has done at treating the vocal, which twists and turns in the electronic stew beneath it, getting sliced, diced and shot every which fekkin way. A lovely job. It's worth catching the video of this too (it's on You Tube and on his SC homepage) and it isn't often that I get to praise a video and it's not just because of the almost naked dancing lady in it either. It's one of those video that makes sense to the music that's being played and that, to my mind, is a rare thing. No doubt about it, Wake Of Destruction is a class act.

MUST HAVE pop rock and MUST WATCH video.

333maxwell - Dream Girl

Hear The Track Here

Doesn't seem possible that I've only known Chas Holman (aka 333maxwell) since 2007, it feels like he's been around a lot longer than that. Mind you, there is a reason for that. I consider myself a fairly prolific musician but this guy seems to be endless, and in an infinite number of musical varieties too. Out of the twenty or so tracks of his I have reviewed, covering a huge chunk of genre swapping, a large number ended up being Must Have's and that should give you an idea of the respect I hold him in. On a further point, during the time he has been around Soundclick, 333maxwell has also become an extremely active member of the forum community (especially in the Critics Corner) where he is doing sterling service. And that, believe it or not, isn't what most people are here for - more's the pity.

But don't get me started on that.

My children joke about how life was black and white when Daddy was young, and in many ways it was, but 333maxwell has come up with another one to torture me with. When I was young music only came from one speaker, and was recorded that way too. Stereo was an extreme rarity then and monaural (mono) was the norm. 'A mono mix of a little song in my head' we are informed is the subject of this track and - to be honest - it didn't bring back any awful memories. Not that I expected it too because a lot of the early mono stuff had its own special quality, but from a recording standpoint it was incredibly limiting.

Some of that can be glimpsed here and there throughout Dream Girl; a product of too much 'bouncing down' but - as with those early tracks - it doesn't detract from the whole. The song itself could have been lifted out of the back pocket of Sir Paul (I'm the cute one) McCartney in his more lachrymose periods. Speaking as someone who positively believes that the song Mull of Kintyre is the Spawn Of Satan, I didn't find Dream Girl as teeth-clenchingly twee as some of his Sir'ships output. For me, 333maxwell scores big in two areas; jazz and his tendency to mimic (almost eerily) several Beatles and on this track, he mixes them both with great skill. Of course, its mono and the problem I've mentioned early merely concerns the clutter at certain points and unnoticeable to most, who will just hear a song that sounds surprisingly know.......that guy....

Period perfect pop rock. MUST HAVE for achievement.

Pidgeman - Shake Your Axes (Axe Slingers)

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You could be forgiven for thinking that we live in a universe populated entirely by plank spankers (or axe slingers depending on preference), or at least that's the impression I get whenever I venture forth on my internet travels. Seems like the whole world and his brother, young and old, are out there bending strings and hammering as if it were going out of fashion. Not that I have anything against guitarists, I am one, but we do tend to be a little more nerdy than yer average Joe. As if one axe slinger isn't enough, our old friend Pidgeman manages to get a grand total of FIVE playing on this track - most of them from MP3 Unsigned and including iOD!NE, Tony Miller, Pidgeman himself and the enormously talented Joseph Rodriguez.

A few bleeding fingers there, methinks...

In case you didn't know, MP3 Unsigned went through a major upgrade and one of its main innovations is to enable users to choose 'social groups', Axeslingers is one of them. Obviously then, a proper appreciation of this track does depend on your viewpoint about guitarists and - by definition - instrumental guitar tracks. I am fully aware that there are great numbers of people who do in fact love good shredders, but I have to say that I am not one of them. Sure I like a good solo as much as the next man, but I definitely have my limits and Shake Your Axes severely pushes them. Obviously the likes of Pidgeman, Joseph et al means that whatever charge could be leveled at the track it wouldn't be because it didn't sound very good; these guys are way too experienced.

I have to say the only solo that really stood out for me was Tony Miller's very tasteful section, but I liked the music better there anyway because its a little quieter interlude, all else is massed guitars. As a musical exercise then, it's positively brilliant. To get more than a couple of plank spankers to agree on anything is a major achievement; to get five to collaborate effectively demands the patience of Moses himself. It speaks volumes for the commitment of these players, and the skills of Pidgeman who produced and supplied all the rest of the musical instrumentation that it sounds as good as it does. However, it will probably be of limited appeal so make sure you like a bit of rock with your rock...

Guitar nirvana. Highly Recommended for them at least.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Stain(ed) Art - Era: A Retrospective LP

Hear The Track Here

Like most internet veterans, I've seen my share of comings and goings. You all know the scenario; an artist you've known and followed for some time takes it upon themselves to either voluntarily or otherwise give up what they are doing musically. A great many of them find their way back into it somehow, but also a lot of them don't and are never seen again. For me, one of the saddest events of late has been the announcement that the UK's Stain(ed) Art is giving up on what he does. Now this is a real shame because, for my money, Stain was a bright hope for the state of UK hiphop and rap and to lose an artist this good is a tragedy. Secretly I'm hoping that Stain is going to be one of those who goes away for a while, recharges and comes back stronger but just in case, Era will certainly show us what we will be missing.

This is pretty much a Greatest Hits collection from Dancing With Death (October 2005) through to No Mans Land (Rude Corps Remix) (September 2009), Era is a fine example of why this musician has seen such attention. Tell ya what, I'll make it real easy for you. Take a listen to Wide Awake At Sundown and Little Miss Star (tracks one and two) and if that doesn't raise your tail then you should probably give it up right there. If however, as is usually the case with Stain, it merely whets your appetite for this extremely literate beat poet then you have yet another 16 tracks to indulge yourself. Yep, a FREE album of 18 tracks and over an hours playing time, what more could you ask for?

Having convinced you (well, you are still reading aren't you?), you can marvel at the real standout tracks of this album. Tracks that made Stain's rep in the first place; the awesome Cradle To The Grave, Walls Divide Us, Broken Glass, For Your Own Safety and - of course - Carmen Finestra. Lots of Must Haves and Highly Recommended all mixed together on this surprisingly well paced selection of the past five years of Stain(ed) Art and his various collaborations. The Forcefield Kids get a look in here, as well as Grid Movement and Through Crosshair Eyes and for someone knowledgeable about this artist this is obviously a must have collection and - like me - you will have lots of it already. Welp, take a listen to each of these tracks first because I'm not all that sure what has been retouched.

MUST HAVE UK hiphop and a slice of Soundclick history.

Al Rowley - Embers EP

Hear The Track Here

First out of the review bag this month is a request from my Rebelriffs blog. Fellow Londoner Al Rowley is the artist, who kindly sent me a copy of his Embers EP to check out. Now considering that this artist cites musicians such as the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Led Zep as his main inspirations, you would think it would go down well with a child of those times. Well regular readers will know better and the artists who tend to do well with me are the musicians who pay the respectful nod to the Golden Era but come up with music that is purely their own. After all, there are lots of copyists but very few who manage to transcend the whole retro thing. Moreover, when he states 'Al is currently looking for a publishing deal' it's fairly obvious that this is primarily a songwriter.

So, what about the songs?

As you know, I'm a sucker for a good song, especially one based on any of the influences cited, and on that score Al Rowley certainly shows he knows what he's about. Embers, the first track on the EP, although acoustically performed definitely shows that it could grasp your ears. Essentially built around a couple of acoustic guitars, what sound like bongos and voices, Embers shows a laid back musical accompaniment from which the vocals stand out clearly and cleanly. As a song, however, I didn't really feel it carried enough impact for me, whereas Daylight (track 2) fits that bill perfectly; even though the instrumental lineup is pretty much the same. Very nice song indeed and yes, very Radiohead sounding...

King Of The Seasons, like Daylight, is a strong song, especially if you like bands like Snow Patrol, Doves and the like. The thing that only registered with continued playings of these tracks is the very basic, but exceptionally clear, production. It particularly helps this track with its wall to wall acoustic strums and navel gazing vocal. I have to say I that I am not a big fan of this kind of pop rock but King Of The Seasons is strong enough to see off that mere prejudice. At the end, we have Beginnings (if you know what I mean), like King Of The Seasons sounding much more modern than the first couple of tracks, especially the kinda/sorta Chris Martin vocal sound. Ultimately though, the songs are the thing and its surprisingly how little accompaniment can be so effective but it manages excellently highlighting the songs perfectly. Yep, music publishers take note...

Highly Recommended pop rock.