Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another one down....

Soooo, I'm just off to start work on the first review of 2010 which - as regular readers will know - is a review of 2009, and a lengthy tome it is too. Seeing as I am so busy then, I'd like to take this time to wish all of my readers (Ed: that'll be me and your mum then?) a healthy, wealthy and hopefully wise New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wake Of Destruction - List Of Demands

Hear The Track Here

The highly dubious honour of being the last review of 2009 falls, only rightly I guess, on the manly shoulders of Omar Chavez (aka Wake Of Destruction). I say this because this is an artist who has made a big impression on me and many other people around the scene with his take on electro-pop a la Depeche Mode. Yeah, yeah yeah, you mutter, just a copyist then? I definitely do not give Must Haves for any kind of copying whatsoever, so that should tell you that Wake Of Destruction brings his own special slant to a genre that I have a special love for. Even so, it's been a very good year all round for Mr Chavez, he's had at least three Soundclick #1's and if my Must Have's don't work on you, the numbers count...

Despite what is said about the chart system.

'Something a bit different' is what is promised and I must admit that it's Indietronic rating was a bit of an eyebrow raiser. Mind you, firing up the track blew the befuddlement in my brain in very short order. After a great deal 'wtf' and going backwards and forwards to make sure I was getting it all I found myself agreeing completely with the Indietronic listing. Overlaid on top of the Indietronic backing, are slight echoes of his electro-pop sound and - of course - the vocals which, no matter what, DO sound very Depeche Mode. That would be a bad thing, of course, if Omar couldn't put the power and punch into the performance that classic band do and Omar goes way above that, supplying all that is needed and more.

So, it got me to thinking... How about these for a couple of collaborative efforts to add to the wishlist for the coming New Year. Wake of Destruction and Fear 2 Stop (for the Indietronic) and Wake of Destruction and Depeche Mode (for the sheer ******* buzz of it). List Of Demands is exactly why Wake of Destruction has come from nowhere this year and established himself as a serious, committed musician who knows exactly what he is after - and he usually gets it too. IMHO, he is certainly one of the best songwriting talents to emerge this year and now that's he's moving into other areas, all bets are off...

MUST HAVE Indietronic/electropop fusion.

Bud Pests - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

As you can see, there is more than a whiff of favouritism with this review. Not one, but two tracks. Moreover, Bud Pests, are a brand new name to me so why would I single them out for particular mention? The clue is in their band name, all you have to do is work it out. There again, I guess I'd better take pity on you, otherwise we'll be here all day. Bud Pests is, in fact, a mashup of Dubstep which in itself is a mashup of a mashup and so on... Ahhhh, you say, as the lightbulb suddenly sputters into life. THAT's why I am showing such favouritism because Reggae/Dub and all its derivatives is also my own special area of expertise and I am always up for listening to such music - provided it is shown the proper respect. And that's a big, big deal breaker right there...

Own Personal b*** (Shut up Dub) shows that the Bud Pests know their genre with some smooth dubby sections, intercut with mashup vocal samples, although from the dance end of the spectrum rather than dancehall, if you catch my drift. It certainly sounds good, especially in the vital bottom end, and all in all I found it a right good listen. Mind you, after a few listens it becomes glaringly obvious that there is a lot of repetition going on and - once you get used to it - I found it became a bit annoying. I wanted it to go on to the next section and it never did.
Now maybe that's just being anal and a purist to boot but....

Zion Dub Drops (Piece of Cake Mix) comes off sounding all new-agey, all electronic sweeps and pads before a sharp synth sequence introduces the main theme. Again, couldn't swear that this was really dubstep per se but - once it gets going - it's got a nice kick to it. As I say a bit too electronica for my own particular taste but a very decent tune for all that. Love the percussion introduced just after the midway point, it really helps to lift the tune right when it needs it most. Like Own Personal B**** though it suffers from overuse of phrases and could do with a bit more variety going on to really sustain interest, It's always a good thing to keep people guessing where you are going next with it, know what I mean. Nonetheless, a good introduction to an ever-growing Dubstep scene on Soundclick and I am all for that.

Decent Dubstep, oh aye.... Recommended.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fortune - Tiger Of Stone

Hear The Track Here

Seems only fitting that my last rock review for 2009 should go to Boston's awesome classic rock outfit Fortune (or Fortune rocks depending on which way you look at it). Where Avalanche almost dominate the more British sounding rocky areas, Fortune absolutely own the classic prog-rock (think Yes with bells on) American sound without question. Certainly if you like bands like Journey, Kanasas, Styx and even Blue Oyster Cult you are going to find a connection with this bands musical style. Even for someone like me, who never really got into this whole thing when it was happening back in the day, Fortune have made it safely ego less - although I'm sure they will argue about that ;)

If you are already a fan, you will have hoovered up all of the tracks on their Soundclick page, so this will be old hat to you but I seem to be working through their catalog one track at a time. Mind you, I like the style, energy and bombast of tracks like Tiger Of Stone probably because it has more to do with straight ahead rock than with the usual prog-rock noodling that infests the genre. In my time, and the dozen or so tracks I have reviewed, I found Fortune to be remarkably consistent in just about every area I would say counted.

First off, these guys are excellent musicians, as their live videos will testify, and they apply that professionalism totally to the material they release. I might differ with the band from time to time it is usually about content, which is a personal thing in any case. Tiger of Stone is - like a lot of their tracks - immediate, grabbing your attention from the first note. Their vocal prowess is much on display here too, and that's something I haven't heard from them in a while. Made me realise how good they are vocally too. And then there is the songwriting... You would swear this was an out-take from some 1970's pop rock album...

Highly Recommended classic rock.

Nuff X - Voices

Hear The Track Here

It's been a bit of a quiet year for UK based electronica musician Nuff X. I seem to have only reviewed a couple of tracks of his this year whereas in previous years he'd be everywhere like a rash. Still nobody, except lunatics like me, can spend all their time online and the real world does have a way of pushing everything else aside. There again, taking a rest from this music making malarky is often quite a good thing provided that rest isn't too long. Sometimes it's good to take some time off to recharge the inspirational batteries. I do it myself when I can't get anything happening. So, here's Nuff X coming back with a new track from his upcoming new album - Kraepelin - which is his fifth online album to date.

Got to love cut and paste ;)

Although there are the usual trademark glitches Nuff has made his own, the way he is using them has progressed enormously. Musicians like Nuff X make electronica a fun thing to listen to, and Voices is probably one of this musicians more commercial tracks in a good while. I say probably because I've only just started getting used to it but it already strikes me as being above his normal level of inventiveness. Moreover, the electropop element in the track is something I would never have thought Nuff would be interested in, but here it comes off spotlessly.

Haven't had to worry any about Nuff's overall sound in a long, long while and I won't have to with Voices either. Tough where it needs to be and soft where not, this is the kind of electronica that makes most sense to me. Nuff has done a fair bit of work in the IDM field but - as I say - this is definitely his most immediate and accessible tracks to date and for that alone should be clasped to your scrawny bosoms. As a pointer for the upcoming album this bodes extremely well.

MUST HAVE IDM (Intelligent Dance Music, seein' ya asked)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Minimack - Down and Out/Minimix

Hear The Track Here

Not sure quite how this happened but I seem to have two Minimack tracks in my review bag this month. I think we experienced some confusion somewhere and I was supposed to review one and it changed to the other. Who knows? So, rather than dick about, I thought I may as well give Minimack a nice little two-fer for the New Year. Then I did some digging and discovered that I'd actually reviewed Down and Out (December 2008) and seeing as the track online is not updated, I wonder how come I have the track again. When I reviewed it originally I wrote ' the vocal really has to sound confident, relaxed, and in charge and what is there right now just doesn't' and I have to say that I didn't notice that in the version I currently have. Moreover, it brings it back to me just how good this track is in terms of a song/rap. Beats in this case supplied by the inimitable Sinima Beats.

It looks like Minimix is the real deal anyway because - as Mack obligingly informs us - 'Just a real quick mix of my upcoming projects'. A taster then, of things to come. If you know anything about the doings of Mack you will know that's he's been spending a lot of time constructing a studio and working on new tracks, and I assume this is a compilation of them. No information whatsover on who supplied the music (or indeed any information at all) but whoever it is, they know the way to strut their stuff because the snippets of tracks you get on this mix are certainly funky enough.

I have to admit I don't really understand why exactly Mack decided to release in this format, surely it would be more to the point to finish a track then see what gives? What I get from listening to this compilation is irritation, because there are tracks here I would dearly love to hear the final versions of - out of the seven or eight tracks on here, at least three were very, very good. Still if Mack is just looking for comments on the general sound and direction I'd have to say go for it. I've certainly heard worse hip hop and - final versions willing - there are some tracks here that will take some beating. Mind you, there isn't really enough to get hold of on any track to make a firm commitment. Quick zip through what Minimack is about and probably for fans only, but if you like hiphop this is well worth a listen, even if it's just for the craic.

Amorphix - Midnight Hour of the Sun

Hear The Track Here

I think if anyone could give The Dead Company a race to the gloomiest, darkest musical vision around, it would have to be Amorphix, an electronica artist I first met while reviewing Persephone (The Rites of Spring) (July 2006). He peppered most of 2006 and the early part of 2007 with some very good tracks indeed - albeit with a sepulchral feel - many of which got a Must Have rating from me. Then, as these things go, Amorphix vanished off the face of the Earth returning last month with Wreathed in Shadows of Light and Ash (November 2009), an ambient piece that showed the man has lost none of his morbid little tricks on his sabbatical.

I noticed that Midnight Hour of the Sun (Liber Resh) was originally posted on Soundclick in 2008 so obviously Adam Loveday (aka Amorphix) was busy doing things during his layoff. Unfortunately, this is also an ambient tune and as you know I'm not really into that, but when it is done properly (ie with a modicum of thought about structure and content) I can at least sit up and pay attention. To be honest I was just grooving along with this at first, it took me a while to get to the heart of the track.

Like a lot of this musician's output, it is best to take a bit of time to discover what he is trying to get across, particularly on tracks that stretch out somewhat. Although I wouldn't call Midnight Hour of the Sun overly long (it's a tad over seven minutes) when compared to the lengths TDC go to, but like their work, it can prove to be highly listenable and chances are you wouldn't notice it's playing time. If I were being bluntly honest, I have to say I like his denser, darker works myself but seeing the track is about the magician Kephra (the bearer of the sun of Set) and ancient Egypt, it certainly holds enough mystery in the sound. Love the choir in particular.

Excellent Ambient. Recommended.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

James Crosbie Hancox - Dead Man Walking

Hear The Track Here

I am a big fan of South Park and the first thing I noticed about James Crosbie Hancox is how he looks like one of the SP characters. Not really, of course, but he has a character as his band icon and - damnit - I want, want, want one. Otherwise, screw you guys....I'ma going home. James is a musician/songwriter from Liverpool who we have made the acquaintance of this year with a string of distinctive, nay different, takes on a tired old Alternative genre. Matter of fact, Walking Wounded (November 2009) is still being played in my household, a hangover from last month that refuses to let go. Definitely this musicians best yet.

Dead Man Walking is 'about being calm and composed on the outside but mad as hell on the inside' says James in the song comments which - as it happens - is an accurate description of the bulk of the UK population. Although the base of the track is rock, James injects enough of a modern sound and mood that it definitely carries the 'angry young man' torch espoused by bands like Snow Patrol, Hives et al. Which I know is immensely popular, but a lot of it I can't stand to be honest. Way too much introspection for my liking, if you know what I mean.

There again, I have liked this musicians tracks in the past, out of the four tracks I have reviewed so far none has done less than a highly recommended which is not bad going at all. Fact is, the man is a good songwriter, putting together some excellent images to go along with the easy to take music soundtrack. Certainly I have no complaints about Dead Man Walking either as a song or production, other than the fact that it borders on the ballad, but a lot of this genre does so I guess I shouldn't complain. Do I think it is as good as the commercial Serious Brigade? Damn straight, this is a terrific song.

Excellent Alternative. Highly Recommended.

Daniel Eboli - The Void Ft Larry Ludwick

Hear The Track Here

No surprise whatsoever to see Daniel Eboli, Larry Ludwick and Jon Bushaway team up. It was probably a safer bet than whether the UK would have a white Christmas for the first time in years. Although most of Daniel's output has been kinda world/new age and Larry's output has been in every genre known to man, I contend these three musicians share a common doom and glooom tendency. Seeing as I reviewed both Dead Company/Larry Ludwick's Fighting Back just a couple of days ago, I'm not getting into long descriptions of what they do suffice to say it relies heavily on the Spoken Word and might even be...(gulp)

Poetry!!! Who'da thunk it?

Daniel Eboli, on the other hand, has shown himself to be an inspired musician who isn't afraid to experiment in his own right, as the favourable (kinda/sorta) reviews show. Daniel is on a New Age groove on The Void (vocals by Larry, poetry courtesy of Jon Bushaway) and although the music is definitely Daniel's, the ethos and feeling is definitely Ludwick and Bushaway. A very convincing demonstration, I think, of musical black and white and a truly strange experience for me. See, I have become very used to the sound and texture of the new Dead Company and to hear it set against Daniel's space-y, intricate melodies is - to my ears - delightful.

I have no doubt that Jon Bushaway is a splendid bloke, a true gent but God the boy has a depressing worldview: image splinters of graveyards, grief and loss and bleak, desolate wastelands. Larry gives this vision body and depth enhanced enormously by what Daniel has done with the mix, cutting in phrases where they work best. Much more to the point, he has lightened the mood enough to make this track listenable without the attendant urge to kill oneself. The other major difference between this and other TDC/Larry Ludwick is about ten minutes, the average TDC weighing in somewhere in that vicinity. Daniel Eboli brings it all to a satisfying conclusion in a sprightly two and a half minutes.

Excellent three way collab. Highly Recommended (if doomy) experimental poetry.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Karma Police (UK) - Angels Breathe (Ft LisaT)

Hear The Track Here

Ask anyone who has been around Soundclick for a long time what was the best period, and almost to a man and woman they would say the period 2003-2005 was the best musically and as a community. I'd agree with them and I do miss some of the really accomplished musicians and singers who don't seem to be around any more, or not active on Soundclick. The reason I am wallowing in nostalgia is because not only is this a track from that period, it also features one of the most distinctive vocalists of that time: Lisa (or LisaT whichever).

I first met her when she was vocalist with a band called Bondango but the first actual Lisa track I can find a review for is Web Of Lies (March 2004). Obviously older regulars will know the name but in case you have no idea, LisaT has a very distinctive, sultry vocal tone that is very recognisable, even after all this time my ears connected immediately. So, on that score, I am obviously well biased because not only is it a brief return to a great period but it's also a reminder of Lisa's ability as a vocalist. So here's the funny thing, why was I under the impression that Karma Police are a new name?

Are they? Or have I heard this before under another name?

The reason I say this is because the song is familiar (or is it just Lisa's voice?) AND it looks like it was first posted in June 2004 so it would be the right time period. Quite how this all knits together is beyond me, but obviously hearing this track has affected me somewhat, if only for a hankering for times past. Karma Police also seem to have been around that long too, although obviously not active on Soundclick. Can't say I am a big fan of ambient but when Lisa supplies the vocals I can definitely take it. This isn't as immediate as some of her own tracks, but that's about right given the genre. Nonetheless, this is an excellent song over a very decent soundscape, regardless of it's age.

Recommended Ambient (with surprise vocalist).

The Dead Company - Fighting Back Ft Larry Ludwick

Hear The Track Here

It seems only fitting that out of the last few tracks from Soundclick this year, at least one of them should feature one of the Critics Corner alumni from 2009, albeit in a collaboration. For most people, neither the Dead Company or indeed Larry Ludwick (the said alumni), should need introduction. I met the Dead Company many years ago and their soundscapes and poetry have enlivened my life through those years. The Dead Company may be one of the darkest bands I have ever met, and yet their work (mostly electronica but they have been known to dabble elsewhere) is strangely uplifting. It's that combination that has always fascinated me as a listener and although I had fears about Larry Ludwick replacing original vocalist Sean Boyle, the tracks soon dispelled that fear.

Jon Bushaway is probably one of the most verbose musicians I have run across. Why say in three minutes something you can stretch out to thirteen and create mucho tension on the way? Such has always been the man's style and it says something that I have sat through some of his longest pieces without screaming. Not an easy task when faced with the bone-chilling bleakness that permeates this track, an aural smell of the grave. Some of the really early Dead Company tracks had this same incredible atmosphere, a very scary experience indeed and not something to listen to lightly.

For sure the band are going to have problems because - for me anyway - this is a return to the band's original charnel house, and to say that it is hard to take is a massive understatement. As I say, it's long, incredibly depressing (it appears to be a song about losing a child) and not something to lull you into a peaceful, restive state. Probably not for the bulk of humanity then. For a long time TDC fan however, this is a welcome return to their original terrifying state, complete with doom laden vocals courtesy of Larry. Massive kudos for the amount of detail going on here, slabs of sound jostling for your attention at every turning. An excellent job as always.

Highly Recommended dark experimental.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Just F.A.M. (Freshset) - Dreamer

Hear The Track Here

As I am writing this review I am staring at Just F.A.M.'s Soundclick page and thanking whatever God you like to believe in that they didn't ask me to review any of their Christmas tracks. Sorry, I don't do Christmas too well, too much bah humbug when I was growing up. The one thing I do know is that whether the subject is Christmas or something much closer to the hip hop ethos, Just F.A.M are going to bring a performing and production quality to the table that is right on the money. See, I may not go a bunch on that whole 'ho-ho-ho lets all be merry' bollocks spouted at this time of year, I do go nuts for quality hip hop and there's no denying this is quality, in almost every way that counts.

It sounds great, sounds like the guys in Just F.A.M are having a ball with it and it's so commercial it'll make your eyes water. It says the beat (and music I assume) comes from one Sean Divine and that's half the battle right there. If you don't write your own music (as I assume eXceL, K~Fr3sh, WildBoy Bloaw, and Kevin - aka Just FAM - don't) getting the right backing track is critical. Never heard of Sean before but dayum after this I'm gonna track the boy down. The music track really is a major part the whole and it works beautifully, adding and enhancing the vocals in ways that bring a smile to your face. Moreover, although I am definitely not a fan of the current obsession with Autotune vocals, this track features some that DO work.

eXceL, K~Fr3sh, WildBoy Bloaw, and Kevin (great names) kick in the vocals, sung and rapped, and they do a stunning job of it too. It really isn't often that I like something that is so overtly commercial but the way these guys pitch it forces you to listen to see what comes next. Once you've done that a couple of times, one of two things will have snared you. Either the ferociously infectious rhythms or the absolutely knockout chorus will do for you and your life will be better for it. Even if you can't stand hip hop, you'd have to give this marks on being a smart, sassy piece of music. Me, I love it, and I doubt I would have written that about the Christmas tracks ;)

MUST HAVE hip hop

Michael Vincent Fusco - Artificial Intelligence

Hear The Track Here

Say what you like about instant 'lego brick' music creation programs like EJay and Magix but, to my mind, they are as important to online music production as were MOD tracker programs back when I first started out. Where MOD tracker programs (read more about MODs) triggered the first flowering of online musicians, these 'instant music' programs triggered a second, much larger wave of new, untried musicians. Some failed spectactularly, and some learned and grew, mostly swapping Ejay or its equivalent for Fruity Studio, Reason or other higher spec kit. Michael Vincent Fusco took this time honoured route (as did a surprising number of well-known musicians) and he's not doing too badly at it either. This is the fifth track I've heard from him and even though a couple of his previous tracks bordered on the dreaded Games: Soundtrack, I think a couple of Highly Recomendeds more than make up for that lapse.

Ahhh, but now the worm turns...

'You'll be pleased to know I've dropped the Mario Brothers styled project' MVF tells me, 'All of that other stuff you've heard has been practice for this' he concludes, with a evangelic glint in his eye. So, what is this?? Sounds to me, reading the song comments, that Michael wanted to make a free flowing piece, but at a piece at a time. Not hearing it fully until the last bit is finished and then only to check that it flows smoothly enough. Sounds like a good plan Batman, so how'd it work out? Well if you are into electronica, and glitchy electronica in particular this is made for you. If you like a nice piece of jazz, this would equally fill the bill mind, albeit in an electronic stylee.

Reminds me a bit of Nuff X (who's also coming up for review this month) but only in the use of glitches, and even then Michael uses them in a very different way. The piano lines on this are very effective, again it's their cutup, jagged use and the excellent sound pf the instrument that push this track, certainly on the jazz front. Big kudos all round though because this is an excellently produced piece of my favourite kind of electronica, a blend of styles. What really knocks me on my ass though is the intricate, beautifully developed arrangement - the true jewel in the crown. One of the most meaningful instrumentals I have heard this entire year and a welcome addition to my Christmas playlist and hard drive.

MUST HAVE combination of styles.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pilesar - Yellow Belly (live)

Hear The Track Here

There are some musicians to whom the terms 'unique' and 'original' just don't cover how different they are from the (unsigned) norm. In the case of Pilesar, that should read 'different from everyone else on the planet'. I know he looks like a charming young man on his Soundclick page (despite having a surfeit of facial features) but don't be taken in by that clean-living, All American boy image being portrayed. What we can't see in the picture is his mind and that's probably a good job. My own feeling is that the brainly bit is, in fact, an alien being who - before plunging to Earth in an unfortunate slip road accident - was on his way to a gig at the Krusty Kloud Klub somewhere in the vicinity of NGC658.

Why the disbelieving look? Go, listen to the music and tell me I'm wrong...

I have been Pilesar-aware since I reviewed the inoffensive sounding Just A Turtle (September 2004) and having gone through countless iterations I would never have dreamt that he would end up taking his act on the road. Literally. As much as I've liked his recorded works (Ed: and God knows we've heard enough of it) I have to admit to liking his live stuff even more. If you've actually seen some of his live videos (or luckier still, live in his home state of Maryland) you will understand my enthusiasm. This man is d-i-f-f-e-r-e-n-t. I've certainly never heard or seen the like before and I'm willing to bet you haven't either.

Take, for example, his description of Yellow Belly's evolution 'I play drums, keyboards and sing all at the same time for the first half and then switch over to building a live loop for the second half'. The italics are a visual clue to my jaw dropping because he really means it. If you need an example of how that looks and sounds Pilesar has also provided the video experience so it doesn't tax our human brains too much. Believe me, you'll come away thinking men could fly!! OK, I admit that the man has issues but by God listen (and see) how he's doing it and it all makes sense. In a weird Pilesar kind of way...

MUST HAVE original in full spate. (watch the video definitely)

Nigel Potter - Kill or Cure

Hear The Track Here

You would think that the amount of things linking Nigel Potter and I down the years, we would have met somewhere along the line but nope, never met the man. Know all about him, as I am sure he is equally aware of my own sordid history, but we've only connected online. I've reviewed him before if I recollect properly but it was a long time ago with a song called Spaceflight Part 1: Let There Be Light (May 2005) and again with an excellent collaboration with Carol Douglas that I cannot remember the name of no matter how hard I try. I'm hoping the man himself can enlighten me on this one. Since then he's grown a lot more well known and is probably spread out as wide as the rest of us

So, if anyone is a 'classic rock' musician to his fingertips it would be ol' Nige. I started off in that genre, much as he did, but I wandered mightily off the point over the years and it shows. To be really impressive with this stuff, you really do have to be steeped into the whole ethos of it, and that's a complaint never issued towards Nigel Potter. If the big names of rock (Floyd, Led Zep et al) interest you then check out Nigel Potter. On Kill or Cure, he takes a more prog rock approach to things and if you were around in the 1970's you will certainly recognise the overall sound..

(Ed: uh oh, did he just say prog-rock?)

I did indeed say prog-rock and Kill or Cure is a very respectable prog length too (close on seven minutes) so why do I sound so happy about it? Usually at this stage in the proceedings, I have artistic blood up to my elbows and body parts stacked up to the ceiling. The word, my friends, is authenticity. Bet you didn't know that Pink Floyd were/are classed as a prog-rock band did you? See, there is a very big difference in my mind to bands like Jethro Tull, Genesis, King Crimson and Yes, and to bands like Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Caravan and others who were the more poppy, accessible end of the spectrum. This is where Kill Or Cure lives and breathes and why we have avoided a bloodbath in this review. See, even a crusty old fart like me can like prog-rock PROVIDED you get the feel right - and it doesn't get much righter than this.... Now, where did I put that tab...? I know I had in in 1969 and put it somewhere safe...

MUST HAVE prog rock of the classic kind. (Ed: Good grief!!)

Jerzy Kulik - The Colours Of The Autumn (Barwy Jesieni)

Hear The Track Here

Not only has this month been my busiest review month ever, it also makes this year the busiest review year since I started the Rebel Riffs blog at the beginning of 2006. Very nice too because it means v-a-r-i-e-t-y and that is essential for someone like me. So when I got an email from Polish musician Jerzy Kulik asking me to review this track, I snatched it right out of his hand. Surely, I thought, this might mean I escape an endless diet of rock and get a bit of kultchure... ;) That would be fine except Jerzy's site states 'I prefer to compose...illustrative or film music' and as you know, this is not something I choose to listen to on a regular basis. Still, I never - I hope - let my own bias get in the way so....

To be honest I think most of my enormous bias towards film music is because most of the examples I hear are from unsigned sources who - let's face it - have a fairly elastic interpretation of what film music actually is. Of course anything could be film music, all it takes is for it to be used in film/TV. For me, it always means music that is often understated and usually of either a straighforward electronica standard (the modern kind) or the more usual classically aligned variety. Personally, I'd rather hear a piece of orchestral film music anyday, simply because of the infinite room for emotion and colour.

Having said that, most unsigned film music of the classical variety is ALSO it's worst failing because it's almost impossible to get a decent orchestral sound without spending big time mega-bucks. Not sure what Jerzy is using to compose with but the sounds that flow from his mind and fingers into my ears are precise, you would be hard pressed to tell whether this was violins et al or the digital equivalent. For sure there are not that many musicians I know who have the sort of training that Jerzy has undoubtedly had and that comes through in his music in a big way. Very impressive indeed.

Highly Recommended classical film music.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving - A Vexing Predicament

Hear The Track Here

OK, now I really have seen it all. Australia's (Perth seeing as you asked) Tangled Thoughts of Leaving describe their music as (takes deep breath) 'Industrial Cruise Ship Jazz' Ooookkkkkk, not sure what that is but lets move along... The band are a four piece consisting of Ron Pollard (Piano/Synth/Samples/Vocals), Luke Pollard (Bass/Samples), Andrew McDonald (Guitar) and Ben Stacy on drums. Not sure if the live videos on their myspace page are on a cruise ship or a boiler room but these are obviously four serious guys about what they are doing. So what exactly are they doing? You might well be asking yourself the same question if you went to see the videos while I've been talking about it.

You really have to listen to the audio itself to get what the band is actually doing. I'm sure that for people who already know the band, those live videos bring the band to life but maybe it would deter some people. That's the problem with serious music - and A Vexing Predicament is serious squared - it translates to yer average Joe as difficult. Unlistenable even. Still, Jazz was always thought of that way and make no mistake, this IS Jazz, but not like you've heard it before.

There's a very playful feel to the track, that dragged me straight in and even though its more obscure passages I never felt the band were in any danger of losing control of it. Listening back time and again to the MP3 version I am struck by how good - and how bizzarre - this would sound live. It shows that Tangled Thoughts of Leaving have lots of ideas about what makes a track work, and then spend their time trying to make it all fit in three minutes or so. As you know I've reviewed lots of musical idiosyncrasies, and this is one of the most rewarding yet. There's a lot more to this track than it seems, you'll need to give this a fair bit of time to grow on you.

Industrial Cruise Ship Jazz? Sounds good to me.

Pidgeman - Deadly Were The Words (Code 9 Remix)

Hear The Track Here

Pidgeman comes to us this month in another guise, no more a rock singer/guitarist/everything. He's donned a smart dinner jacket, and gone all 'vocalist' on us with a remix courtesy of Code 9, a trance musician from MP3 Unsigned. All Pidge supplied was the vocal, all the music was rewritten for this version and it works surprisingly well but more of that later. For those who know Pidgeman's material, prepare for a bit of a shock, this is coming from a completely different direction and one - as you know - I'm never really comfortable about. Trance generally bores the bejeebers out of me within about thirty seconds and considering that most trance are the epic get my drift, I'm sure.

Over the time I have known this UK musician, one of the areas we haven't always agreed on is his vocal style. Mind you, he has found his way remarkably well over a string of very decent rock tracks and certainly I couldn't see much wrong with the vocal he supplied with this track. Moreover, it fits the track exactly, giving the track an excellent 80's electro-pop feel (think OMD and you get the sound picture). I've always rated his songwriting skills and Deadly Were The Words is right up there with the best of them.

So, obviously if the track were indeed straight ahead trance, I would need to be scraping blood and guts off the walls and that patently isn't the case. As I said, Code 9 put together a fairly standard trance beat and backline, and then layered it with the kind of sounds that propelled all of the electropop crowd from OMD to the Human League. On that score this rates very highly indeed; great sounds, powerful propulsion and a clear, focused mix. Can't get much better than that and I breathe a HUGE sigh of relief that I avoided the dreaded Trance monster yet again.

Engaging electro-pop song. Highly Recommended.

Necropolis JC - Outer Sanctum

Hear The Track Here

It's very heartening to see new names on my review list, and definitely so with Soundclick and with Necropolis JC being a metal band what could be sweeter? Necropolis JC 'is a project consisting of Culver Polley and Jordan Miles' aided by drummer Shuve and bassist Grant with 'one general purpose' of 'annihilating the rest of the world with mind blowing riffs and face melting solos' Aaah, would that were so but so often there is a chasm of difference between the words and the sound. I like heavy rock in all its forms from classic rock to Tool, Rammstein et al and I know what I like about it and what works and I'm not going to be too amused if it doesn't do what it says.

One the one hand, this did satisfy certain of my urges, the sound and fury of angry buzzing guitars, the pounding into the ground of the drums but left me wanting in others. There again with music that borders on both thrash and death metals its only to be expected that everything zips along as if its jet powered. I think it takes a particular kind of guitarist to make music like this work and yay, they do have to be major shredders and Necropolis JC have two excellent examples of it in Jordan and Culver.

Hand on heart, I don't particularly like this genre, even while I can appreciate and marvel at the dexterity needed to pull it off and I know there are millions of others (especially Americans) who really like all the pyrotechnics it involves. So I guess it doesn't matter what I think outside of a blanket 'well it certainly sounds good' comment. To be sure, it doesn't need a whole lot of help from me because it did reach the top of the Heavy Metal charts on Soundclick which isn't - all derision about the chart system aside - an easy task. This is a confident, hard, aggressive sound that many will find enjoyable.

Highly Recommended metal thrash.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cam's Even Song - Everybody Loves Something

Hear The Track Here

Just when I'm reaching a low ebb in the busiest review month of this entire year, up comes the usual antidote as if he knew. Everybody does love something and I freely admit that I do love this artist. Only, mind you, in a manly hug type of way. As well as being my Artist Of The Year 2006 and the purveyor of endless amounts of great songs that somehow always stick to my hard drive, I suspect Cam's Even Song perform the same function on many of the people who hear the music; big grin, warm glow, that kind of thing. Just cast your eyes over the many accolades from his peers on his webpage to see just how much Cameron Bastedo (aka Cam's Even Song) means in a wider sense.

AND he makes us laugh!

Now, if anyone else gave me a Christmas song, you can bet that I won't be laughing. With Cam's Even Song, a Christmas flavoured pop song is as regular as the event itself. Seriously, this man can write a song about ANYTHING, Christmas is a doddle. Everybody Loves Something is three minutes of pure candyfloss pop, with the added lyrical evoking of mangers, angels, shepherds and the like. From anyone else's lips I would be suspicious but I know Cam well and his sentiments have never - to my knowledge - made me cringe like some Christian musicians do. He may wear his heart on his sleeve, but that's the Cam we know and love.

And the music, Gilmore? What of it? Cam is Cam is Cam, if you know what I mean. I think I have heard pretty much all of the 250+ tracks he has on Soundclick and one thing is for sure, he has his own highly distinctive rock/pop sound. Some people may not like his voice, and some may not like his lyrical style but almost everyone has to admit that he can write a cracking tune. As a dedicated Cam watcher, I prefer his weightier stuff but I am a dedicated fan, no matter what his groove. Seasonal treat that would probably sound just as good all year round - touch of the Kinks here methinks... Pop Rock Cam Carol (Ed: headline writers are not reviewers Gilmore, and vice versa so give it up).

Highly Recommended Seasonal pop.

Black Chamber - Schism

Hear The Track Here

As well as being a new name to me, it looks like Black Chamber is also new to Soundclick. Ostensibly billed as Psychedelic Rock, Black Chamber describes himself as an 'avant garde' artist and we all know where that leads so I have to admit to some curiosity prior to hearing the track. Even more so when he cites Throbbing Gristle as being an influence. Although I didn't quite get it at the time, time has shown that Throbbing Gristle were one of the seminal groups in the surreal, disjointed noise with anything in sight approach that spawned today's fairly huge musical presence - and nowhere more so than on Soundclick. SC has a very good cross selection of aural maniacs so it's always good to welcome one more.. Mind you, doesn't sound like a happy lad, a lot of his tracks appear to be about mental illness and madness - at least the ones at the top of the page.

Not a place to look for cheer then?

Schism is a track about 'a relapse into schizophrenia' so on that count, no. Its also probably not the best track to surprise your granny with first thing in the morning either, probably give the old dear a conniption. I played this a time or two through speakers and it certainly made the old dog whizz around the room at a nice clip, which is quite stunning really because I don't even have a dog. So obviously if the name Throbbing Gristle means anything to you, this may indeed pique your interest because it does have echo's back to them. It's also pretty modern sounding (for this kind of music anyway) with a decent production and mix. What it isn't is easy to listen to. There again, that is often the point with material like this.

One big point in Black Chamber's favour is that - like Soundclick's favourite oddball, Pilesar - this musician makes everything you hear and with a guitar even. How retro is that? Having been exposed the the many vagaries of Pilesar and his ilk over the years I have become quite inured to what some might term as 'noise' and indeed there isn't that much in the way of dissonance or noise on this track. Parts of it, strangely enough, reminded me of the Pink Floyd circa The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Saucerful Of Secrets. Way, way out there and obviously best appreciated with a head full of what they were on at the time of recording. So if you want to hear a guitar used and abused in ways unnatural to man, this is your ticket. Not an easy listen though, so be warned.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ron Vogel - Just Know Now

Hear The Track Here

Like most people I make my mind up about music quite quickly. Of course, being a reviewer obliges you to bypass that urge and every once a while it proves exceptionally worth it - and no doubt I'm going to tell you why. For now though, say hi to Ron Vogel, an Alternative musician from the USA. Regular readers will recall that we made our first encounter with him last month with Blazing; a solid chunk of rock that reminded this reviewer of the band Hawkwind. Although it was billed as prog-rock it didn't seem that way to me and I guess that is what saved it from the mincer and earned it a recommended along the way. Quite the reverse seems to have happened with Just Know Now, a track that leapt out at me from the get go - and that was before I started to listen to it properly...

OK, I am a sucker for a good song, especially if it's encased in a kind of rock format and that is precisely what Just Know Now comes up with. A song about living for the moment, a sentiment I heartily endorse. Think about it. If this IT, better store it up like a buncha hungry squirrels right? Besides, it pays really well to be observant, as any parent will testify. It is the small things that count. I think Ron has also applied that principle to the music too because his attention to audio detail on this track is awesome.

All kinds of things stick out at you once you play this track some (and you will want to) the inspired use of the gob-iron (Ed: harmonica) in the intro, the easy, confident stride of the backline, and the slide guitar passages and that's just a few of the highlights. Once the vocal and lyrics start to register on you, you begin to realise just how good this track is. OK, there is a slight (very slight) home produced feel about it but the quality of work and sound far, far outweighs those minor quibbles. I came away from this track with a big smile on my face singing 'I just know now there's sun' at the top of my lungs. That, my friends, is scary.

Highly Recommended Alternative pop.

DAZED - ROCKER - Dangerous

Hear The Track Here

T'ain't me who is shouting (Ed: for a change) blame Dazed who obviously believes that big is better. Either that or he has the same problem Mike (NAV) Foster has - a blind spot for the Caps Lock key. There again, maybe they have a point and that the BIGGER your name is, the more you get noticed. Answers on a signed banknote please. Not that Dazed (or NAV for that matter) need to get any more noticed. Dazed, in part-ic-u-lar, should need no introduction (at least to those on Mixposure, and Soundclick time for you to catch up) because he is primarily the man responsible for the resurrection and re-energising of the Mixposure name. Goes back to what I was saying in an earlier review of 333maxwell, the commitment here isn't just to the music (their own or anyone else's) it's towards building a community and that combination always gets top marks with me. A man to be prized and praised to the skies.

Now, let me sharpen me knives and get down to the music...

Dazed-Rocker (and **** the caps!) is in fact a five man collaboration, something Dazed seems to do a lot (Ed: I know, another musical slut. Doncha just love 'em). The initial music, guitars and production was by Gary Hart, Dazed supplied the vocal and lyrics, Phil Robertson pounded the crap out of his drumkit and Geoff Taye hammers the point home on bass. THEN it was mixed and mastered by Kent Clemmons and the result is something that could easily go to 11. If you ever wanted to touch the real spirit of classic rock, bend your ears around this bad boy and crank it up. Have to say when I first started listening to this I was struck again about the difference between American classic rock and the Euro/UK variety, and the difficulties in getting the point across in either direction.

The more I listened though, the more the accent wore off and the music won out. With a great vocal performance, Dazed shows that he does recognise where this music came from because I was hearing all kinds of English influences from Black Sabbath to the Who. It pays, then, to give this rock some time to settle in, I'm still noticing things and I've worn the crap out of it as well as being bombarded by it whenever I happen to tune into Mix Radio. There again, I am a consummate rock animal to whom low volume is anathema; play it loud and play it proud. These guys certainly should be.

MUST HAVE hard classic rock.

Matthew Laming - To Find Home (A Distant Call)

Hear The Track Here

Another review request from the Rebel Riffs blog, this time we are visited from the Emerald Isle in the person of Matthew Laming who makes 'New Trance /Healing & EasyListening / Ambient / Experimental music' Let's hope that he doesn't make it all at once eh? Now lots of things in that little list gives me twinges, as you well know, but hey I can stand it. Matthew is a brand new name to me and - as such - I'm not likely to cut up rough the first time out - unless the material absolutely demands it anyway. I do believe in giving people a fair crack of the whip, and I don't think you can do that by listening to just one track.

There again, this is like listening to several tracks in one way.

Two things struck me the first time I played this track: 1) how come the weather outside my window suddenly transferred to the inside of my head and; 2) this is a L-O-N-G track. Topping out at a whisker or six over ten minutes long, To Find Home (A Distant Call), is probably not for the average drive-by listener, they'd still be in the storm a minute or so in and I can't see them being entranced by that. The track itself starts off slowly around the two minute mark with a string melody that is achingly familiar to me but I can't track it down. It isn't until around three and a half minutes before the track picks up the pace and turns into a fairly standard trance dance-athon.

So although this track strays into at least three problem areas for me (trance, ambient and easy listening) the performance and production kept me listening even after the beats had worn grooves into my patience. Personally I think if you like any of the three genres mentioned, you would find much to like in this track. Yeah but would you give it ten whole minutes? Well, I did, and several times at that and I don't particularly like any of the genres. I do recognise a good piece of work though, and Matthew Laming does much to make those ten minutes pass by quite quickly - at least for a philistine like me. Adventurous blend of styles.

Recommended (if you like the genre(s)) - and have the time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Twisted Angel - On My Grind

Hear The Track Here

Canadian rapper Twisted Angel made a big impression on me this year, a hip hop artist who dares to be different. There's a thing. Out of the round half dozen tracks I have reviewed many have them have been blends of beats and different styles; goth, metal, r&b etc. On My Grind is a track from Twisted's latest 'mixtape' The Dirty Bazement and features Jaygo and Mcgillis who which I know absolutely nothing but hey, never stopped me so far. Like the majority of hip hop on Soundclick this bad boy sports a nice Parental Advisory badge of pride in the art of profanity, although these are often mis-used in my opinion. Twisted promised a much more commercial slant on this, the first single from The Dirty Bazement, with none of his usual genre-stretching.

So long as it ain't 'soft' commercial eh?

Grind. I really like that word. Used it myself on a track and I hope I caught the real meaning of it, and so does Twisted Angel on this track. For me a good 'grind' track is pretty much all kick in the face and sparse but effective stabs and that's pretty much what happens on this. Where it differs is that where I would go into a more dancehall vocal stylee with a groove like this, Twisted remains true to the real (American) feel of hip hop, and sounds convincing and authentic.

I have to say that I do prefer when this rapper takes to the wilder side of music but that doesn't stop me being as impressed as hell at the sound quality and lyrical performance and yes sheer commerciality of On My Grind. This is exactly the kind of track I think shows that not only is the man talented but, when push comes to shove, can also nail down something as commercially viable and awesomely catchy as this. What it is not is 'soft' commercial AND it deserves the Parental Advisory but my God this is a solid block of hip hop heaven whichever way you look at it.

Excellent hard edged hiphop. Highly Recommended.

Silvertrain - A Chance To Die

Hear The Track Here

While I was downloading the latest Silvertrain track I was having fantasies about John Brandon finally getting serious and writing the next Bond song. Wouldn't that be sweet? He could probably do that too, although with a little more help than he seems to be getting. The tale of Silvertrain is long and convoluted and best not delved into here, suffice to say that this track features John (sans Ritchie) and new(ish) member Lino Gonzalez whose music and style spiced up I Thought I Knew You (October 2009) and made that track one of the rare Must Haves Silvertrain has earned of late. What it showed most, IMHO, is that there is room for John to carry the torch forward and for Ritchie to get involved whenever... Although I yearn for them to sing together again. Listen to The One To Blame CD for the best examples of that.

Tell you what if you'd asked me back in the band's first flush of internet fame (2003/2004) what they would sound like in years to come I would never have pointed in such an electronic direction. For my money, it really adds to the whole Silvertrain experience, expanding the songs accordingly. Considering that A Chance To Die weighs in at four and a half minutes, it's almost epic in scale compared to their usual a minute and a half masterpieces. Whether that is what John built into the song or what came about once Lino had supplied the basic backing track is open to conjecture.

Nonetheless, despite it's initial roughness (the backing track is kinda muffled) and the start-stop intro, what comes out the other end is definitely a Silvertrain song but again not in the classic sense. The initial sense of fun that is so immediate with Silvertrain has been replaced with a much darker, denser vision on A Chance To Die and is probably more Alternative than a lot of their usually poppy output. Funnily enough, I caught echoes of Depeche Mode in the vocal, again if this was intentional it sure worked. Still, it is most recognisably a Silvertrain track and that is always something to cheer about but this new, mature sounding band IMO has tremendous possibilities.

Highly Recommended mix of Acoustic and Electronica. Train spotters will already have it.

333maxwell - Walking In The Rain

Hear The Track Here

If awards were given for being community minded, then certainly 333maxwell would be one of the main contenders; this is a man who not only makes great music but backs it up with some hefty support (writing reviews on all the CC competitions for example) on various Soundclick forums. Yeah but we all do that, why should this be so special? From what I see, most people who do come to the forums do so in a drive-by fashion. Some of the forums snag people for considerably longer but even then attention span is measured in dragonfly years. Very few individuals have the will (and yes the time) so when it happens consistently, it needs to be pointed out for a nice bit of kudos. God knows there are few 'perks' in this lark.

Being English I am an expert on rain, walking still puzzles me, but everything there is to know about rain I have soaked up. Also, like most English people, I can't abide the ******* stuff, and I would walk through hot coals rather than go for a walk in the damn stuff. The music of Chas Holman (aka 333maxwell) however, I am up for just about whenever but more than anything else, when he is on his 30's/40's/50's jazz road. Almost all my favourite 333maxwell are in this mode and so is Walking In The Rain, despite it's Pop billing. About the only thing that is pop about it is the MacCartney tinged vocals and bass playing.

Certainly the instrumental sound (especially the brass) is period perfect, exactly the sound that coloured the early days of mainstream (ie big band) jazz. It's in the level of songwriting though that takes my breath away. As much as I dislike much of the vapidity Sir Paul foists on us there is no doubt he is a talented and skilled musician, as is our friend Chas Holman. What comes across on Walking In The Rain is the similarity between these two musicians who - I contend - need to make a track together. Macca and Maxxa, has a ring to it doesn't it? As we enter the final month of this year (with my awards review being very, very close) there is no doubt that 333maxwell are going to figure in it prominently because of the endless string of Must Have's this year. And here's another one.

MUST HAVE faultless period jazz.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fear 2 Stop - God Rest Ye Merry Psychopaths

Hear The Track Here

Good gosh, look at the time. Must be time for the next Fear 2 Stop track. For those of you new to all this, Fear 2 Stop are Soundclick's resident balladeers (Ed: Balladeers!!!?! Wtf are you on Gilmore? Been at the egg-nog again?) good for weddings, bar mitzvahs, barn raising's and general handiwork about the home, call 1-800-IMA-n00b right now, terms and conditions will apply. (Ed: do I have to slap you?) Hey, don't blame me, I'm jus' tryin' to get paid mang... Fear 2 Stop in fact describe themselves as 'bizarre experimental electronica' and I can only nod my head in agreement and say that sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. Moreover, if anyone is going to mess up the whole ho-ho-ho lets-all-be-jolly vomitorium that constitutes a modern Christmas, it might as well be Houston's favourite sons (and daughter) as anyone else.

After all, they have almost built a career out of it ;)

Regular readers will already be aware that I have a smell of the humbug about me at this time of year, principally because I ******* hate Christmas (at least in its commercial form) and also because I am a crotchety old fart who is supposed to think like that. Whether God Rest Ye... is meant for people like me is anybody's guess but knowing F2S I suspect it's a blanket condemnation. Although this is billed as a cuddly, family friendly Pop: Seasonal Songs, beware all ye who enter because here be monsters. Fear 2 Stop monsters who know just exactly when to twist that aural knife, or supply the requisite edge-of-the-seat experience. For, when all is said and done, Fear 2 Stop can often sound like the aural equivalent of chalk on blackboard.

Mind you, it has to be said that they do contain their wilder excesses on this 'seasonal song' - a reworking of the well known (bah humbug) carol, but with added beats. Anyone with even the slightest interest in Fear 2 Stop will definitely find a very familiar face on display, this is the band at their most playful and - consequently - just as enjoyable. See, that's the funny thing about Fear 2 Stop; you either like them or you don't. I do, having become acclimatised over the years, and this is the band being as accessible (to the more general listener) as they get and that is not to be snubbed.

Christmas? WhatEVAH. Highly Recommended for warped Elves,

The Moz Effect - In Space Pt. 2 - Reoccurrances

Hear The Track Here

A track and artist now from my blog requests. The Moz Effect is one Ben Jacobson, an Australian musician whose career spans both playing and audio engineering and production. In the world I live in, being adept on both sides of the production divide is a must these days. Almost every musician I know can do this to some extent, with varying degrees of success. Anyway, seems like it was that experience of audio engineering that led Ben to start making his own electronic music a while ago. Although he describes his tastes as 'hip hop, to ambient, rock, jazz and extreme metal' In Space Pt 2 is a very dense piece of electronica and one of the tracks from his latest LP The Moz Effect which can be downloaded free from the link, as well as the 2008 Amniotic Experiment EP.

I do love a good price point, don't you?

Only question remaining I guess is, is it worth dowloading? Depends whether you like electronica, If you would rather listen than download then Ben's Myspace will let you do that. Having heard tons and tons and tons of electronica I'm a bit fussy about what works (at least for me) and one of the things I look for most of all are ideas. Good ideas whether musical or technical, and I'm not too happy if I don't get that. In Space Pt 2 gets past that by having a very phat sound (at least on the bottom end) although the lead noodling did begin to get on my nerves after a good many plays. Mind you, that's got more to do with the actual sound of the lead, rather than anything Ben was doing with it.

All in all, this is a very competent piece of electronica but I thought I'd like to hear more than a couple of minutes to form an impression so I also checked out this video which comes from a much more traditional standpoint. I also had a drive by listen to his tracks on Myspace and taking all that into account I find I have to agree with his descripton of his music as 'contemporary easy listening' and in most cases I'd be washing my mouth out right about now. You know how I feel about easy listening... Nonetheless, The Moz Effect and its combining of ambient, beats and analog electronica makes a soothing balm for my own rock weary ears and that's saying something.

Recommended electronica.

Artificial Wonders - GIER Part I, II, & III AND IV

Hear The Track Here

Considering that Artificial Wonders and I have crossed paths several times, I'm somewhat amazed that we haven't actually come to blows. The problem isn't that I dislike the man, just the genre he chooses to work in. If I was looking for a film/game soundtrack for use in a film/game then I'd be interested, but I'm not. Rather than drag out that old can of worms yet again, suffice it to say that out of the tracks from Artificial Wonders I have reviewed, at least one got a Highly Recommended so - all in all - not too bad considering it was mostly soundtracks. And then there is this. As you can guess from the title (Gier being German for greed apparently), this can also be classed as film/game music. In fact, I have reviewed a track or two from AURA OST (Original Sound Track), his magnum opus; these tracks being the final part (almost).

Have to wait for Part V apparently.

While you are ploughing your way through this, I do heartily suggest that you have the Soundclick song comments in front of you. Obviously the game setting and tone should be somewhat clearer with this, because I am not so sure you will get it through the music. Moreover, if you want to see how the whole thing develops, you are going to need twelve minutes or so (Parts 1,2 and 3 are over seven minutes long) and - of course - have a liking for game concepts and soundtracks. Me, I'm a game philistine (as well as being a soundtrack one) so the whole thing goes shooting over my head with a drrrrr sound. Both tracks overdose on classical instrumentation and lots and lots of choirs, and I'm all in favour of that and Artificial Wonders doesn't put much of a foot wrong in the sounds he creates.

One of my all time pet peeves with this particular genre is the preponderance of strings that sound like strangled cats, or so laden with sickly sweetness it makes you vomit. Artificial Wonders sidesteps that mousetrap with ease, because I pretty much liked the sound of everything I heard (especially the choirs) but that - unfortunately - is it. I can't say that I actually liked the tracks because I didn't much but that isn't the point is it? The point is does it work in a film/game context and the simple answer is yes - even for a philistine like myself. Mind you, I have to honest, I did only skim the song comments to get a feel for the plot. As I say, not my thing. Although the music retains a certain pitch of hysteria throughout (it's all a bit gothic man) it's certainly good enough for someone on the hunt for both a concept AND a soundtrack.

Recommended Soundtracker-y (Ed: Smelling salts!! Quick!!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Alex Highton - The Woodditton Wives Club CD

Hear The Track Here

As I said, I have had a ton of requests through the blog this month, and Alex Highton is the next in line. Alex was kind enough to send me a download link to The Woodditton Wives Club CD and a request that I review it. Woodditton. Gosh, that sounds sooooo English, doesn't it? Alex lives in the no doubt charming and bucholic Woodditton somewhere in the wilds of Cambridgeshire, also home to Maria Daines and Paul Killington too - although I don't think M&P live in the same village, just in the general vicinity. A nice setting for a singer/songwriter wouldn't you think? This is, after all, the territory that spawned Syd Barrett (who Alex cites as an influence) so I slapped on the whole project to see where all this would lead...and right from the outset we are thrown into the thick of Village Life.

The track that is, not the actual sticky morass.

One of the biggest acoustic festivals in the world has to be The Cambridge Folk Festival, a truly wonderful gathering of some of the finest acoustic musicians in the world. This stemmed from this part of England's unique musical footprint and when you think of names like Barrett, Jansch, Pentangle, the Thompsons, you can immediately envisage what Alex Highton is about - and believe me this is a hard act to follow. Alex steps right up to the plate and knocks you out of the park with Village Life, a surprisingly adept song and an indication that you are in for a treat, albeit an acoustic one. And NO, it isn't that kind of folk. This is a class songwriter steeped in his musical roots, who also happens to be just as good at accompanying himself on guitar. If that didn't convince you, the lope and style of I Left the City, definitely will. This is a track that also features standup bass, brush drums, peeanner an' all - exactly the kind of ear candy I love; some nice shades of Django here too. By the time Look After Yourself it's fairly obvious that Alex Highton is something more than a bit special. How come, I ask you, that a talent as immediate and refreshing as Alex Highton is struggling to make a 'proper album' (his words) - for more on that click on the Get Involved link. How come the RW music business hasn't snapped this guy up? Or, failing that, at least a publishing company? Well, because they can't find their way there, and should they do that they couldn't hear because of all the crap that clogs up their earholes and balance sheets.

What they need is a cold shower, and Alex is the man to do it.

Seriously, have a listen to the quality of this man. Pick a track on his page, ANY track and it will tell the same story; an experienced, qualified tale teller in the grand English folk tradition - and not a beard in sight. Well, kinda. Alex does have a beard but he isn't your normal hirsute folkie that's for sure and I really didn't have to go past the first three tracks on the CD to find that out. I was convinced by track one. Now, y'all know me and my predilection for a good song, backed up by world class strength in songwriting and it was that kept me listening, and listening and listening. I'm a consummate nit-picker, despite my easy going appearance so I was intrigued about this 'proper album' thing and Alex's comments about his lo-fi sound. Alex, brother, this is nothing like as lo-fi as this reviewer has heard, and I've heard it all. What we have in this musician and the entire thirteen tracks on this a beautifully rendered cycle of songs of complexity and depth that will take your breath away. The RW music businesses loss is our gain and needs to be clutched gratefully to our puny bosoms. Alex, come over to Soundclick, there is a massive audience awaiting you who will just love you to bits - ask Maria Daines. Some of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, performed with jaw-dropping skill (especially vocally and lyrically). Funny, it's always in December that I meet artists that truly stun the crap out of me. I wonder why that is?

Folk? Pppffffftttt. World Class songs. ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE.

RwK - Distant Light

Hear The Track Here

What? Why are you scratching your head then? Look, I know you are trying to place the oddly vowel-less name, so let me put you out of your misery. We last ran across Rick Kresiak (aka RwK) paired up with young Mike-K on Rain Dance (November 2009) where I did my usual rant about plank spankers, all no doubt falling on long dead ears. It's all that high volume ya see, makes them all a bit Mutt and Jeff. That why whenever guitarists enter the room, the decibel level goes up accordingly to say nothing of the air curdling under the weight of the shouted curses. It's a good job that when they do finally pick up their actual instrument, they can wail with the best of them. I really liked Rain Dance for a) it's tune and b) the rightness of someone like Rick to supply that magic ingredient, emotion.

Naahh. How can someone hammering on a wee dod of wood generate emotion? I compared Rick's playing, when reviewing that track, to Peter Green, erstwhile founder-member of Fleetwood Mac back in their blues heyday and the more I hear of his material the more I stand by that comparison. My early lead guitar life was supplied by Green, the inimitable Paul Kossof and other pioneers of the possibilities of blues out of the Gibson SG (no relation by the way but if you see one send it home to Daddy) and Rick has much of the control and tonal quality of these players but what comes through on Distant Light isn't so much the blues, well unless it favoured pink. Floyd, that is. Now that you are REALLY confused, it's probably time to listen to the track.

So much easier that way.

Considering that Rick is AFAIK an American, he does a very good Pink Floyd, complete with the right accent, intonation and lazy, can't-quite-get-out-of-bed phrasing. I say this as a long time fan of that band ever since the beginning. Ahhh, you think, a good copy then? Well (waggles palm), depends which way you look at it. I personally think that everyone borrows from what came before and I see no problem with that, so long as its used with respect to its roots and Distant Light gives the proper nod in the right direction. At this stage of the game I have heard quite a few RwK tracks and I know - for a fact - that this is no copyist musician. Whatever else you might think about Distant Light, it's undeniably RwK with the tired fingers and even more tired vocals.

Excellent Floyd-esque space opera. Highly Recommended.

Charlie A - Socks - Really Like Her

Hear The Track Here

My introduction to Sarf London's Charlie Armour (aka Charlie A) was with a track called Bebee Bubba (July 2006) whose guest vocalist was the then one year old Lauren, his niece. Loved the track for sure, and its an even bet that its sense of humour helped enormously when it came to unveiling some of his more serious film soundtrack work. Having said that, Bebee is a cracking track and well worth the listen and the guaranteed chuckle it will give you. The reason I bring this up is because Lauren makes a welcome re-appearance on Socks - Really Like Her - along with Charlie too by the sounds of it.

Although the bulk of Charlie's output is undeniably musical, he does detour every once into a while into a comedic or wtf mode and it's usually worth the listen because he knows enough to make it interesting - even for the most casual listener. He's also my kind of guy; a slicer and dicer. Like many home musicians I've learned to adapt whatever vocal snippets I come across to properly fit the track I'm making so I've done my share of sound manipulation. It's a damn sight easier, let me tell you, than working with little bits of tape but it does require that you know what you are doing with that particular sample. The best joins of all are those you cannot see.

Charlie does the hatchet job perfectly, given what he has to work with, and Socks turns out to be much more than the intro might give you the impression of. Come on, the whole track comes in at just over two minutes, not much to ask for a warm glow inside and a cheesy smile on your face. Now maybe it's because I have children of my own that something like this would have appeal because I know a lot of people out there can't abide the sound of children in real life, let alone in the music they choose to listen to, Mind you, Charlie has developed a knack for this kind of stuff that is almost impossible not to like it, for all its cuteness. Aaaah, to love them (Ed: but I couldn't eat a whole one).

Recommended Electronic Whimsy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pow Pow Roach - I've Got Bad Habits

Hear The Track Here

See that's the problem with chatting about Thomas J Marchant, once you mention his name he starts popping up everywhere. It was pure chance that threw Bright Midnight's lo-fi track with the man who made it popular (at least for me). Confused? That'll be because I haven't said yet that Pow Pow Roach is yet (another) new guise for the T Man, this time an electro-pop (??wtf!!!) project that 'was originally supposed to be a combination of SFI and my more recent songy stuff' but then metamorphosed into something 'far removed from either'. MmmmOK, so far so Thomas J then. You may be wondering what SFI stands for, and you can look here for some answers, but beware the soft, cuddly Thomas J we have come to know and love has a very dark Soundclick past. (Ed: take it from me, SFI=scared f****** insane).

Take no notice of the blurb about the band forming in America on the front page of Pow Pow's page, look down a bit and you'll spot the familiar name and location. Now it's been a long, long time since those pain-filled first days and I know for a fact that Thomas has taken huge amounts of knowledge onboard in that time. Knowledge concerning production (it may well be lo-fi but it takes some doing), musical structure and arranging, instrumentation and - most crucially of all for this musician - honing his prodigious songwriting skills. Actually, I think that Thomas has in fact nailed the difference between what he was attempting with Station for Imitation and the more musical side he has shown with both The Antennaheadz and releases under his own name.

For my money, the weirdness and off the wall delivery that was a hallmark of SFI, and the relaxed confident singer/songwiter of his latest incarnation are encapsulated perfectly in this very, very interesting piece of the Marchant puzzle. Imagine, if you would, that David Bowie made a track with an '80's electropop band (maybe Thompson Twins by the instrumentation), and you'd be close to staking out the territory I've Got Bad Habits roams. Now maybe it's just me, and my confirmed liking for this musicians output, but God this is a neat track so full of ideas Thomas has trouble fitting it all in. The ending alone is worth the admission price, pure lunacy that works so well it should be declared illegal.

Original. Unique and very, very scary. Highly Recommended wtf electronica in song.