Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pidgeman - The Why, The When & The How

Hear The Track Here

One of the real paybacks of reviewing the way I do is that, as well as listening to lots of stuff you'd never have a chance to otherwise, you get to follow a musician over a long period of time. I have found this helps enormously for me to put across what can be expected from such musicians, and Craig Matthews (aka Pidgeman) is a prime example. My first encounter with this decidedly rock animal was in November 2007 and since then I've reviewed God knows how many tracks, first on MP3 Unsigned and lately from his own Soundclick site. Here is a rock/pop musician who is also a very keen and capable producer and songwriter - the ideal one man band IMHO. Although I've had the odd rough spot with Pidge, that certainly hasn't been the case over the past year or so where - it seems - he has upped his game quite considerably.

Dawn Sinclair (a name that might be familiar to you) provides the lyrics on this occasion but it still falls to Pidge to supply the rest of what makes The Why, The When & The How happen. It's a surprisingly standard blues based song in principle with yer bog standard rock backline of bass, drums, guitar and, given the genre, plods along in the appropriate manner. It all kicks off properly with a massive organ surge leading into the chorus, a real singalonga chorus, the kind you wail at the dead of night on your way back from the pub (Ed: yeah when you DO find your way back, that is...). Thinking about it, I guess that's why my neighbours want to hold a lynch party, and I really, really can't blame that on Pidgeman.

Being truthful, I feel I've heard Pidgeman do better tracks but again, that's a matter of taste and I don't particularly like this style. Pidgeman, of course, does a sterling job of putting both song and lyrics across, especially in that all important chorus. Personally I'd like to hear this track done by someone who could really tear it up. Pidgeman does a more than adequate job nailing it but I can't help thinking that a weeper and wailer would have helped it power-wise. There again, that's just me wanting the best of everything and certainly nothing that Pidgeman should be worrying about. I can see this getting tremendous airplay though - it's that kind of track.

Highly Recommended pop rock.

Conory - Marking Time

Hear The Track Here

It took a while for me to get with what Conory was doing and when I reviewed I'm Still In Love (Directors Cut) (July 2009) I wrote 'the best thing I have heard from him and one of the best listens I've had this year' and gave it a Must Have. Since then? Silence. Nada. Zip. Bupkiss. Sheesh, talk about playing hard to get :) Here though, we have a brand spanking new Conory track, uploaded this month and only the fourth Conory track I've had the pleasure of reviewing surprisingly enough. After all, his page sports 49 tracks, and given his usual standard none of them will be too shabby and many of them well worth a listen or download.

Like Marking Time for example.

A cheerful, uplifting 'bit of hokum where the character finds a way of getting into ladies' dreams so that he can have sex with them' OK, so far so good, sounds like a good plan to me PornoMan!! However, 'the object of his attentions comes back through into the waking world and, NOT being human, it possesses him' and that doesn't sound pleasant at all. The track, however is more than pleasant to listen to; a good song and a varied and interesting arrangement helps to put it across - as does the distinctly UK flavour (Got to be caerful (hee hee) here, I think Conory is Welsh). A bit more rock oriented than other UK artists you may be familiar with but that's not a bad thing either.

Despite the gloominess of the lyrical content, as I say, Marking Time is remarkably upbeat and reminds me strongly of a much more melodic XTC in their prime but they may be the tone of the song itself. Certainly it's as musically adventurous as anything XTC did, although with a marked rock/pop sound. Take some time to get to know this track and I think you may end up liking it as much as I ended up doing. Admittedly I am biased because of the influences mentioned, and it has to be said this isn't as immediate as I'm Still In Love, and even sounds a bit scrappy towards the end of the track. Small change though because it IS such a likable track.

Highly Recommended rock pop/weird.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thomas J Marchant - Baby, You're In The Wrong

Hear The Track Here

OMG!!OMG!!LOL!!WTF!!!! almost ****** up Thomas J's contribution to this months festivities, but like the annoying bastard he his, he promptly emailed me a new butt - the moral of this story being all's well that ends well. Well, until the reads that sentence about being a tad vituperous and/or fatherless. So, let's put some space between these unfortunate events and take a look at what he's come up with this month. For people who have no idea who Thomas J Marchant is, the key words to bear in mind are (in no particular order); lo-fi, songwriter, acoustic, retro and things of that ilk. Being a UK based Alternative musician, Thomas sounds as if he chewed up the entire history of pop, spun it onto its head and is now busily - nay prodigiously - regurgitating it in startling fashion. Meantime fans (like me) just keep on loving that home grown charm that imbues every single one of his tracks, although I have to say that the OVERALL sound hasn't changed in a while.

Oh? Is that a hint before me??

Baby, You're In The Wrong is pure Thomas J, from the corny, bored sounding vocals to the obscure jangles that is the music. If all this sounds as if I'm dissing the boy, you'd be far wrong. Thomas J Marchant was, after all, my Artist Of The Year 2006 and those don't come cheap. Nope, Thomas's very appeal for me, and many others, is in that simple uncomplicated approach he takes to things. When the song is right, the performance is on and the lyrics are bounding through your head like startled gazelles, there isn't a songwriter around to touch the charm and irrepressibility of his style. Having said all that, and regular readers will know what's coming next, I have to say this probably isn't one of his finer efforts even though I have no problem in recommending it for the song anyway.

There's a lot going on in the track, probably a lot more than on previous tracks, and it's definitely making for a much rougher sounding mix and one of the highlights of this musicians output has been his clean, fresh sound. Songwise too, I've heard stronger material from him but I'm ready to be proved wrong, that has happened with him before with his songs. They have a habit of creeping up on you with glacial slowness, or instantly hitting the pleasure centres, and I suspect this may well be the latter. I noticed the song is encased in a shiny new Soundclick genre: Alternative/Shoegaze and I'd say yeah, that's about right.

Recommended lo-fi pop song.

Alchemystic - Sweet Sorrow Ft Yolande Strauss

Hear The Track Here

Seems like a long, long time since I've heard from our electronic friend Alchemystic. Destiny's Fire Feat JoeK (February 2009) is the last time we encountered him and - as usual - was a really worthwhile listen. The Must Have it snagged was half for the music, and half for the excellent vocals provided by the aforementioned Joe K, who incidentally, I'd never heard before and haven't since. Shame that. Anyway, here's Alchemystic back after almost a year, but unfortunately no longer seems to be on Soundclick - the link will lead you to his own site, where you can download any of his tracks. It looks like most of his output is on there, so at least his music hasn't disappeared, some of his back catalog is well tasty.

Anyway, on to the new...

Sweet Sorrow, as you can see, features yet another new singer to me, this time Yolande Strauss, a female singer from South Africa whose You Tube can be found here. The lyrics coming from Katherine Wong about whom I know nothing and music from the man himself, of which we know too much. Tell you what though, I did a HUGE doubletake when I first heard this, not a trace of electronica in sight. Although he's been branching out (especially with the last three or four tracks) Sweet Sorrow is most definitely the most un-Alchemystic thing I've ever heard him do; and I've heard him do some surprising things. The main reason is because Sweet Sorrow is, plainly and simply, a straightforward, three hankie tearjerker of a power ballad. I think you already know what I think of that particular style and right now I should be on a rant, so why not?

Yolande Strauss is why not. See, first off you have to be able (male or female) to carry off a power ballad to impress a hard-bitten cynic like me, and Yolande does that and more. It doesn't hinder her any that she has more than a passing aural resemblance to Karen Carpenter, both in tone and style and will obviously help people to 'get' her. The music, as is fitting with this style, is tasteful yet simple with the bulk of the burden being carried by a beautifully rendered piano piece, coloured from time to time by equally tasteful strings - and I don't get to write that anywhere near often enough. The real prize here though, even above the class performance is the song. What a beautiful song (and remember I am a hard bitten cynic) and the chorus is one of the best I've heard in a long time. So here's something else I don't get to write often enough...

MUST HAVE Power Ballad.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Karma Police (UK) - T.M.A -2

Hear The Track Here

Neil Anderson (aka Karma Police (UK)) had me all misty eyed and nostalgic when I made his acquaintance with - as it happens - a track originally made back in 2004. Angels Breathe (December 2009) featured Lisa T, a vocalist much in evidence on Soundclick during the early years, and one of my own particular favourites who seems to be on millions of websites and none, if you know what I mean. Anyway, don't get me started on that again. Neil and his work is what is happening here and T.M.A -2 is also from that time period (Sept 2004) which makes me wonder if he has anything more recent. Just curiosity. I'll review anything, so when things are done is not all that relevant.

Unless nobody cleared up the mess.

TMA-2 (dots, what dots?) is billed as Electronic Experimental but it's probably a tad more poppy than that often dark and confused world. Much more straightforward electronica which - surprisingly enough back in 2004 - was one of the hottest genres on Soundclick and 2004/5 were the high water mark which introduced the likes of Adam Fielding, dcallen, Bonamici and a million others to my jaded ears. I mention those artists in particular because, to be honest, I think this has more in common with them than - say - someone really experimental with their electronica like Fear 2 Stop or the recently discovered (for me anyway) Black Chamber.

Up until that time (2004 and on) I had a deep, deep phobia about most electronica, simply because most of it was moronic and mindless. It was the artists that I mention above who turned that around with their lively, infectious but always melodic interpretation of the genre and Karma Police delivers a recognisable slice of the time, yet again. So where were you, back in the day? Damn I would have probably LOVED this stuff back then and hey, it ain't too shabby these days either. If none of the above names meant anything whatsoever to you, think '80's electro-pop done all tasteful and orchestral and you'd be in the ballpark.

Recommended Electronica (pretty stuff even!)

Minimack - You Are My

Hear The Track Here

Ever since I reviewed Pennsylvania rapper Minimack (and his mum) on Please Stop The Struggle (September 2008), there have been a number of tracks from this hip hop musician. Some good, some not so good and most are (let's face it) actually part of the OLD Minimack. As far as I know, we have yet to hear something from his newly upgraded studio and the suspense is beginning to tell. Because of the amount of tracks I get, I often mess up the list and no one has been affected more by that than Minimack but - hopefully - we are all in the same place this month. Now don't be looking so skeptical, stranger things have been known to happen.

According to the copious notes Mack left me, the track goes like this 'Verse one is Minimack, Verse two is AKA Streetlife, Verse three is Juan "RIP" and the hook is Minimack and Juan combined' There, I hope I got that one right too. Damn, what are these eggshells doing all over the place? From the outset, Minimack goes for quality with a backing track from the awesome Sinima Beats which shows only too well why they are one of the most popular Soundclick beat factories; tasteful but meaty enough to register. I can understand how difficult it must be to marry beats to a rap and Minimack usually manages to come up smelling of roses.

This track does, unfortunately, fall down on the vocal side and seeing as we are talking rap here, that is a massive roadblock. I noticed a comment on the track mentioning the same thing and offering a collab on it, Mack should take up this suggestion. I can hear that Mack and Juan are putting their heart and soul into the vocal but that isn't enough and it shows. It isn't that bad, of course, not when put up against some in the genre and only aural geeks like me would get all antsy about it. See the idea is good, most of the raps are good and the music is spot on. It's just those choruses that don't really work the way they should. btw, the whole vocal could do with coming up a tad in the mix too. If you couldn't give **** about all that *** and just want to hear some soft, lovey-dovey hip hop, then this is certainly decent enough, despite my pissing and moaning.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

AllusionkmsjrBeats - From The Club To The Streets

Hear The Track Here

Another new name to me from Soundclick and - as you may have guessed already - knee deep in hip hop beats territory. Anyone who has ever read my reviews will know my views on hip hop and it reflects my feelings about most music. If it gets to me in some way, I can often slide by on minor issues of sound, performance and arrangement. If it doesn't, I'm going to say so and point out where I think it went wrong ESPECIALLY with hip hop because a) it is the biggest scene on Soundclick and the competition are terrifyingly good and; b)I actually do like hip hop. Matter of fact, any damn rhythmic thing will get me going so unless you are messing up big time, I might be considered an easy reviewer.

Key word being might.

For years and years I've been fascinated by the endless 'beat factory' outfits on Soundclick and marvel at some of the truly outstanding ones like Shadowville, Sinima, Anno Domini. These are the names whose plays testify to just how good the market is, each of them has millions of plays to their credit. Now maybe Allusion (in short, ya understand) isn't really aiming that high and is just looking for some collaborations, but those names are the benchmark. So how does from The Club etc stack up? Pretty decently, as it happens and certainly nothing for the musician to be ashamed of. He is working with Fruity Studio and I know how much of a bitch that can be at times, but he's getting a decent sound nonetheless.

Some of the sounds are, to my ears, a bit tame; factory sounds even. Most of the structure comes in the sparse drumtrack, however, and the kick is not loud enough and the clap is way too far the other way. Judging by the flatness of the sound; individually and as a whole, Allusion is someone who needs to delve into Fruity's excellent range of sound processing plugins such as EQ, compress/limit and other delightful (but time consuming to master) goodies. As far as the music and the ideas go, whats happening here is certainly good enough and I'd be surprised if Allusion doesn't get offered a collab or two off the back of this track.

Rough but Recommended hip hop beats.


Hear The Track Here

Sorry for shouting there, but I include the over the top caps to show you something about Soundclick's search system. Funny thing, if you enter the bandname of the search title, the only thing that comes up is the SC store. No personal page, no artist page. What is that? Also strange because - once you DO find the artist page - there are two tracks fully downloadable, and one for playing only. No purchase required, ya see? So the burning question is why doesn't this artists relevant pages come up? Answers on a large denomination banknote please, or failing that a small bank itself will be sufficient. Not exactly the mystery of the age, I know but such a simple change could direct people to this musicians page a damn sight faster. And, you ask, having got there would it be worth it?? Look at the bandname and title, what do you think?

Good job I have a plentiful supply of brown trousers...

The Terror X Project (however it's spelt) is new to me and by the looks of it, to Soundclick too. Terry Jannke is the one man band behind it and it's Heavy Rock, and nothing but. Nowt wrong with that because, as you know, I am always down for a bit of headbanging (in the time honoured fashion btw), especially if the band has something to offer. TTXP (ahah! found ya!) has a great song going on here, especially made for people who like a bit of fireworks in the performance and on that score, Dead Of The Night scores big time. Ton's of good old-fashioned rock with no apology and in any other circumstance I'd be frothing at the keyboard.

The main problem, and it is in my mind a major problem because it will stop listeners delving much further than the first few bars, is the mix. Sure, its hard and crunchy in the right places but then I hear things buried in the mix (vocals especially, but some of the lead lines too) and there is an overall muffled sound. There again, the main details come out given a play or two and that time is well spent because underneath that rough exterior is an excellent rock song and one that shows TTXP certainly have something to shout about. Class heavy rock.

Highly Recommended heavy rock song.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gangbangsters - Feel Like S****

Hear The Track Here

Although I've only reviewed LA musician Gangbangsters a few times, those have certainly made an impression on me especially with the excellent 6:17AM (April 2009) which also appeared in my Tracks Of The Year list. Over the space of four tracks he has shown a remarkable ability to jump from genre to genre with apparent ease. The last track I reviewed was Somebody Get Me A Lobotomy (June 2009) and that was a convincing proto-punk anthem that managed to avoid the inevitable whiney nature of the genre. So, other than a few technical problems, its obvious that Gangbangsters have something going on and it makes me wonder when he is going to come up with a track that will knock us on our ass. Only a matter of time and circumstance once you have all those cute widdle ducks in a row.

Unfortunately Feel Like S*** is not it, even though it is charming in a lo-fi demo way which means that not only does it feel like s***, it sounds like it too. Only a small joke there on my part because - I suspect - most everything that is happening here is absolutely intended to happen, it just may take me a while to get exactly what it is. Musically, it's a loose kinda rock Alternative track with a marked tendency towards the English sound pioneered by people like Syd Barrett and early Pink Floyd pop clones - including, I might add - a very young David Jones (soon to be Bowie). All of these influences are at play on this track and it really isn't as bad as I might have made out.

As a charitable lesson on what not to do with your life, the track chorus goes 'i know this will pass, maybe its just a little gas'; pure Barrett, as are some of the other visions this musician brings along. Having said all this, there is no doubt that Feels Like S*** positively rings with authority especially with the period detail. Back in the dim days of 1967/8 things did actually sound like this, instrumentation and arrangement and I loved the touch of phasing going on in the track. Classic Summer of Love sound right there. So, as charming and likeable as it is, I don't think Feel Like S*** is going to set any fires but as an example of a rapidly maturing musician with lots and lots of ideas, it shows that with Gangbangsters anything is possible.

Highly Recommended (intentional or otherwise) walk through the past.

RwK - Lost In The Haze

Hear The Track Here

Accurate depiction of my mis-spent youth as it happens, but that's neither here nor there and certainly something which would tarnish my reputation. Naah, let's be honest, my reputation is with my youth - laying in the dust. Let's just say I was a mixture of curious, foolhardy and drug addled and not necessarily in that order. So, let me just dispense with this public washing of sordid pasts, and we'll get on. RwK could stand for both Raaawwwwkkk and Rick something something and probably does but - being a Mix Radio fan and listener - I know also that RwK does indeed stand for rock in general and axewielders in particular, as his music shows.

I've heard lots and lots of his tracks on the radio but only - so far - reviewed a couple, and one of those was a collaboration with Mike-K. I did like Distant Light (December 2009), a kinda early Pink Floydian sound that - considering Rick is an American - was amazingly authentic. Neat trick. Lost In The Haze is actually named after the Marshall Haze 40 combo guitar amp. T'was foolish indeed to think it would have been about drugs, when Rick is the consummate machinehead; he WOULD be talking about gear. Only shady coves like me instantly think about...well, enough. RwK is one of a handful of guitarists I would truly want to listen to on a regular basis, and Mixposure has loads of good guitarists but only a few who really make the instrument sing with emotional content. So much so that I have compared his style to Peter Green which, in my books, is a huge compliment to his style.

Lost in the Haze is essentially a two guitar, bass and drums jam and, truth to tell, it's musically uncomplicated. You may even, at first glance pass it by because of its apparent plainness but that would be the wrong impression. Give yourself time to sink into the way this guitarist wanders from theme to theme, always with such beautiful tone and phrasing. The work with the wah-wah on this is knockout and, had it been used more, it would become overworked - as it was it left me wanting to hear more of it. So I played it again. As I say, best to give this guitar instrumental some time to work its way into your brain and if guitar instrumentals bring on dizzy spells best to avoid at all costs. Me? I'm rockin'..

Highly Recommended Guitar instrumental.

Rescue Cat - What Happened To Us?

Hear The Track Here

One guy speaks to another guy, he speaks to a further guy and so a workload is built (Ed: already he's off). You may remember me blathering on about Alex Highton a while ago, well he's responsible for this new review because he suggested Rescue Cat give me a quick meoowmail and here we all are. Rescue Cat is a solo musician from my part of the world (think, a musician I could actually go and see!) and I'm all for supporting your local artist. With the proviso that they can actually make your toes tap. What Happened To Us is actually slated for a Valentines Day release (what already?, it was just Christmas!) and is a two part release - the other track being Fischer Vs Spassky. Don't run away with the impression that this is a scene soaked in roses and cute red hearts though, unless the roses are dead and the hearts broken.

Aaahh, poor dears.

'Instead of being love songs, they are in fact more like poison pen letters' purrs the Cat, no doubt with a provocative smirk on his whiskers (Ed: Do cats smirk?). What Happened To Us? is a collaboration with (I love this) 'hip hop hating emcee Mikill Pane' This is a sentence that bodes well. Rescue Cat describes himself as an 'electroacoustic' musician and it's a handy description for the musical style. It's actually a couple of tracks mashed up together with traces of electropop, britpop and any other pop thing you can think of. Oh, and a smidge of grime too. Tell you what though, the track is a delight, both to listen to and to take apart and I don't get that pleasure often. I say the same thing to the Cat as I said to Alex Highton: Soundclick, they would eat you right up. After living with this track longer than I should have done, I am completely won over. A beautiful example of modern English pop at its very best.

Fischer Vs Spassky 'compares love to an epic game of chess' and is much more standard electronica, although it's just as pop oriented as What Happened To Us. What it shows me is that Rescue Cat knows what he's about and it shows in every note and tweak I am constantly amazed at the standard of sound and arrangement amongst the unsigned fraternity and people like Alex Highton and - verily - Rescue Cat exemplify just how high that bar is for the rest of us. Fischer Vs Spassky trades heavily on 1980's electropop but bringing it bang up to date. So if you like Soundclick artist Wake Of Destruction's work, here's the other side of the coin. Both of these tracks deserve the widest exposure and airplay but this being the real world I suspect that this is a distant hope. If however you want you listen to some of the finest English pop, it's right here in these two superlative tracks.

MUST HAVE and MUST HAVE (It's twins, Mrs Cat!!)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Daniel Eboli - Red Bells

Hear The Track Here

We last came across Brazilian musician Daniel Eboli teamed up with Larry Ludwick in The Void (December 2009) and I wouldn't count that as being truly Daniel's works - it being a three way collaboration. Thus far I have reviewed three of his own tracks and - given the genres - I have been well impressed. World music is obviously a place where I personally feel comfortable and I think it is those influences, rather than the New Age leanings that he has that keep me coming back for more. He is a skilled musician that's for sure, as any of his tracks would testify. The devil is in the detail and Daniel understands that and does a great job of making it all seem so, so easy...

Now read on...

Sad to say that Red Bells veers dangerously close to being prog-rock (Ed: is there no end to your pet peeves?) and I admit that didn't sit too well with me, but prog-rock (in any form) never does. That, however, doesn't take into account what Daniel Eboli brings to the proceedings. After all, if he can make me like his New Age-ish things, surely he could do the same with my intense loathing for prog rock? Well, I'm not going to throw my crutches away and go cavorting through the town just yet, but Daniel has managed to soothe the raging monster of my pet hate for yet another day. So, a minor miracle then, yes? Hey, you get it where you can find it, know what I mean?

While a lot of American prog-rock bands still sound awfully familiar in song structure and caterwauling (Ed: he probably means high pitched singing), some of the other non-US musicians are kicking down some doors. Daniel's strength is twofold: as an arranger/producer and as a musician. He is, in fact, the complete package and his tracks show this in every respect. I may not always agree with his style choices (come to think of it, there's always an element of something prog or new age), it doesn't stop me appreciating this consummate musician. Never more so, and believe me when I say I really don't like this kind of music, than on Red Bells and it's blindingly obvious that Daniel is very, very good at it.

MUST HAVE prog rock (there I said it)

Tedd-Z - Silver Spear

Hear The Track Here

Because the clamour for reviews has increased quite dramatically over the last year, I've had to trim down on the sites where I usually pick tracks up from. Sad thing is that I miss not hearing tracks from those sites (MP3 Unsigned and Popspace in particular) because I have found many of their artists to be excellent, and they don't have a Soundclick presence. Oh well, one guy who does is my old mate Tedd-Z, who I first met back in the day when I was (briefly) a moderator on Ejay's forums. I reviewed a great many of his tracks on that site and even more when he moved to MP3 Unsigned, so I think I know where he's coming from by now. He's always leaned towards straightforward electronica although I have known him to genre-bend on the odd occasion, and - over the years - he has improved in leaps and bounds in production skills (half the battle right there my friends). Still get out Senseless Logic (March 2008) from time to time because it's such a slamming track.

Haven't heard from this guy though since The Pheasant Has No Agenda (October 2009) so it was good to indulge in some Tedd-Z lunacy again. Having said that, when the track first started I thought I had somehow managed to mix up Teddz' track with Pilesar. Serious, have a listen and see. The impression is soon dispelled when Tedd-Z applies a hobnailed kick right into your pleasure centres, and the track becomes a seriously right good seeing to - as they say where I come from. There again, I do like this side of Tedd-Z, some of his more out-there works can be hard going but nothing about the beatfest that is Silver Spear is hard work, unless its all the jigging about it inspires.

If anybody asked me to define a 'block-rocking' beat, I'd feel obliged to point them to this little hammer for the earlobes, then sit back as that stunned rabbit look crept into their eyes. When Tedd-Z gets on his aggressive streak, you can bet that nothing is left standing. As I mentioned before, Senseless Logic had this same all-encompassing sound, where Silver Spear differs is in the dance style the track is set in. Certainly the thing that won me over to Senseless was the absolutely knockout drum and bass groove and the same holds true of this track, albeit in a much more straightforward dance style. Tedd-Z is one of those musicians who has been around long enough to know what he's about and Silver Spear is his hard dance calling card.

Dense as a black hole. MUST HAVE dance electronica.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pilesar - Spazzmaggeddon/Roundgate 13 (live)

Hear The Track Here

OK, stop that right now. You will do your jaws a severe disservice if you try and say the title out loud, and and even more severe brain strain is you try and say it fast. Not that I would know about that (kicks at imaginary clod of earth) you understand, after all who would be silly enough to ever try something so enormously stupid? It's a well known fact that Pilesar's music does strange things to your DNA, so its an even bet that anything to do with the Experimental Mentalist will probably carry some kind of deviant payload. So, let me just take a couple hundred painkillers and go for a quick lie down while you could.......I don't know, maybe kick at imaginary clods of earth? Who said that!! I have a headache is all and NO I wasn't stupid enough to attempt to say the name, faster, slower or otherwise. If I did, I would probably have a lips. I mean a lithpt. I mean a lifst... OK I mean a speech condiment, ornament, pavement aaaaa nuts...

Amuse yourselves for a minute.

The man who put the P in exPerimental <---see? has been giving us a lot of live stuff just lately and, I have to say, this is the Pilesar I have grown to like enormously; so much so that he got almost half a dozen Must Haves last year because of it. I know I heard the original Spazzmaggeddon but without my trusty machine, I can't access the review - if I did one. You can find the original track here, both are live versions and - for my money - the original still has the best live sound, but the track itself has expanded enormously. It went from an already strapping young tune of some six minutes and turned into a world eating monster weighing in at double that. Some of that has to be attributed to Pilesar's guest on this track, one Mike Sebastian to be exact.

A drum/sax duet is what they achieve and if that sounds weird, you obviously have no idea of the regions Pilesar feels at home in. His principal role is percusionist/drummer/singer/whatever and if you are not a fan of drums (and especially the dreaded drum solos) this is probably something you would do best to avoid. If, however, you like free flowing jazz, musical absurdity and rhythms every which fekkin way, then Pilesar is definitely infecting your DNA and I hasten to inform you that there is absolutely no cure. Mind you, at a hair below fifteen minutes, this is not an easy listen but when has that ever been a problem for Pilesar or his fans.

Live, jazzy improv as only Pilesar can do. Highly recommended head job.

Dazed - Desperate Man Feat Bri-an

Hear The Track Here

Uh oh, watch out, the boss is about.... Dazed has the prime distinction of being able not only to flog dead horses, but to resurrect them into the bargain; breathing life and energy into the almost dead Mixposure name to the point where it is one of the brighter spots on my web. Dazed, like a lot of musicians has lots of different sounds and truth to tell the only thing I could think about whenever this track was playing was Bryan Adams and that just cannot be a good thing. I usually go completely out of my way to avoid contact with the Canadian Crooner because IMO he's about as exciting as cold custard in the middle of winter.

Ewww obviously way TMI...

Like a lot of collaborations, Dazed started the process off, releasing his first version of this a couple of years ago. Then along came Australian musician and songwriter the justly famed Bri-an, who wanted to work on it. Dazed agreed and - as usual - Bri took it and ran with it. Doncha just love it when a plan comes together, it happens more often in collaborations and that - to me anyway - is what makes them such fun to work with. The Bryan Adams thing, btw, is only because Dazed sounds more like him than anything else, the music is the usual hard edged rock/pop anthems he has become known for; why there is even a 'hands in the air' moment so he's thinking about the stage show already.

Desperate Man is one of those kind of tracks, big enough to fill any arena with its rock blast. Not a pretty story though, that's for sure. Desperate men do desperate things and this is no exception, so although it will be a while before the lyrics really register on you, eventually you'll discover the little black heart of it. In terms of input Dazed 'did the acoustic/electric guitars, bass and vocals' and Bri-an ' added the drums, keys and a martin backpacker guitar on the intro and outro and some backing vox'. Loved the Martin guitar sound, but for the life of me couldn't spot the aforementioned backing vocals. In fact, vocals (or more correctly the vocal sound) was the only disappointment with this excellent track. For me, it was definitely of 'demo' quality and the reverb didn't help it any. Seems to me Dazed has a lot of interesting tones in his vocal that don't come out anywhere near as strong as they should. A big problem with music this strong... Still, small change and probably just me being all sniffy about someone elses talent.

Excellent pop/rock song. Highly Recommended track with a message.

The Usual Pleasures - Kevlar Hearts

Hear The Track Here

A request now from the Rebelriffs blog, and you have to admit it's been very productive for introducing me (and you) to a great many REAL bands. You know, men and women playing real instruments. In this case, a five piece UK band hailing from up North somewhere (Ed: Sheffield Gilmore, now stop being lazy), playing a kinda rock/punk mix that seems to have become almost a standard amongst certain UK bands. Put it like this, I know one guy who will see the sense of this track right off the bat. If you like the approach taken by musicians like Thomas J Marchant, Bakers at Dawn et al, then The Usual Pleasures are going to become well known to you but, if I had to choose, I'm not sure that Kevlar Hearts is their best track. I personally liked the snarly, in-your-faceness of The One You Dream Of.

I wasn't disappointed by Kevlar Hearts, in fact it's quite a good track. This version is apparently a remix, and it sounds punchy, raunchy and to the point. Nonetheless, I felt that some of the energy was missing from the mix that other tracks still retain. This is often the problem between squaring what a band sound like live as opposed to a studio environment. It changes the dynamics of the music. Still, Kevlar Hearts has enough bluff and bluster and sheer rock bloody mindedness to it not to worry me too much. Certainly the members of the band are pouring their hearts into the track, that much is obvious.

However, I did take a listen to the other tracks on the bands MySpazz site, and it does IMHO give a slightly different, and maybe more energetic picture. There are actually six tracks on the page and I do advise you to listen t them all to get a flavour of the possibilities of this band. There is no doubt that Mark Fletcher, Chris Jones, Craig November, Amelie De Candolle and Sam Taylor (aka The Usual Pleasures) are showing some considerable chops here, even though it is obvious that they are just starting out. If they ever hone this sound they have, the power and energy is going to be something to behold. As of right now, it's certainly a good, if a bit rough, listen.

Punk lives!! Recommended for its energy

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rude Corps - Bad Dream 2009

Hear The Track Here

Like most English people of a certain (working) class, my upbringing brought with it a political dimension and while the Love Generation cavorted and got right off their faces, others would fan the flames of revolution. On the whole, England has an incredibly aware population when it comes to politics and in one aspect in general: the far right. Fascists, proto-fascists and would be Hitler-ite leaders dot Englands recent history. Right at this moment we are experiencing a marked upsurge in racist/fascist behaviour using ammunition supplied by both Government botch jobs on immigration and on 'the war on terror' Makes me wonder why Rude Corps - who has always been a very political musician - reworked this track (originally written in 2004) into this remastered version. Is it because of this, if so this is very timely.

Recent readers will already know that I spent a bit of time yapping about the Rude Corps/Stained Art collabs during my Stevies review and this is actually the first of his tracks I have heard in a long while. Thats the problem with collabs, y'see. 'There's a nazi on my doorstep, talkin' 'bout rights for whites' is pretty much the first thing you hear in Bad Dream, and it gets into a lot more of the same in this tale of modern day UK politics. In essence, the song is broken down into two parts, the nazi's justificationary rant for his ideas, and Rude Corps comments on them, told with a wry Northern accent that - I guess - many may find hard to understand. Especially for those of you across the pond. Shouldn't let that put you off though because - understanding the words or not - the power and anger of the song come through pretty plain enough.

It's important, I think, that you understand that this is a conversation going on on someone's doorstep. Certainly Rude Corps pulls no punches with the nationalist rhetoric, I've heard the same rant myself a million times down the years. The track musically is a combination of electronica and analog sound (there's a guitar at least), with a meandering sub bass sound that winds around the beat behind the opening vocals. The vocals overall are 'noisy' but believe me, I know that is intentional. Stylistically this has a lot of Stain's rap style - or maybe it's just the same accent that's throwing me. Nonetheless, this is a terrific track, even more so because it does shine a light into a dark corner of England's green and pleasant land.

Agit-rock. Remember that? Rude Corps rocks!! Highly Recommended.

Zebrabook - Intern

Hear The Track Here

I cheerfully admit I had to stifle a groan when I saw Zebrabook on this months review list. Not because the music is bad, far from it. Zebrabook is a solo venture by The Dead Company's Jon Bushaway and this would make four tracks I have reviewed so far. Now, knowing Jon of old, and being only too well aware of his predilection for obscure and devious musical byeways, his music has never worried me overly much - except in one simple respect. The man's tracks - whether Dead or Zeb - can be very, very long. The last Zebrabook track I reviewed was Apocryphal (September 2009) and that was a monster track (15 minutes and 28MB in size) so he's being a bit nicer with Intern because it's only nine minutes! Yippee and phew!! That was a close shave wasn't it? Now you know why I groan...

Experimental electronica always has that effect, although it has to be said that over the years I have come to understand it a lot more. Surprisingly enough Jon Bushaway is always responsible for that in large part. Soundclick's experimental community really came to my attention because I had developed a taste for TDC's variety on another site. See, always blame the other guy, works every time. Whenever I am faced with his work, I always settle in for the long run, and it's unfailingly proved worth it - even in the longer pieces. There is something in the way that he strings his soundscapes together that sounds like no-one else, and speaking of which, Intern could also be called accessible - not something I'd normally say about this artist.

I've lost count of the amount of times I've warned readers to approach work like this with caution, this is music you'd really have to like to keep playing. Intern is a surprisingly light piece of music, considering some of this musician's abyssal visions, and as I say an easy listen in a chill out kinda way. Zebrabook are considerably more electronica than Jon's normal mixed beat, but it all works together to give an incredible voyage through his aural vision. The best setting for this is a mind full of peace, a cup of tea and a biscuit and approximately eighteen minutes because if you hear it all through once, you will want to do it again. I had noticed that Zebrabook have now signed up to netlabel Neferiu and have an album - Satelle - on there. A bit surprising this track isn't on it.

Excellent electronica. Highly Recommended (long though...)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

JPC (NZ) - Dig Up, Stupid

Hear The Track Here

You know you have been around a long time when people start using you as examples of musical style and I guess John Paul Carroll (aka JPC (NZ)) must be feeling that about me comparing Ian Dadon to him as a musical reference. While it's true that a great many people who frequent Soundclick over the years when Fluidity (his previous incarnation) was in play will know all about the WAY John Paul plays and writes music, so when they see the name, they do know to expect a certain amount of technical skill and - more importantly - of songwriting ability. Good job then that songwriting has always been this musicians ace card and he's played it a great many times over the years I've known him. He also thinks I've reviewed this before but I really don't think so.

Believe me, I would have remembered.

As with other 'veteran' Soundclick members, I always expect the usual ducks to be arranged correctly and - mostly - that rule doesn't let me down. It also leaves me open to surprise, and John Paul has done that before and does again it with some considerable style on this incredibly detailed, hard as nails, lyrically imaginative rock track with a difference. As I say, I've always liked John Paul's rock and brought in names such as Status Quo, David Bowie and other English alumni in to show where he's coming from. Certainly can't do that with Dig Up, Stupid; it's nothing more or less than distilled essence of John Paul Carroll as we know and love him.

Easily one of the best track I have ever heard from this very prolific artist, Dig Up, Stupid has everything; great hooks, intricate and detailed arrangement, massive rock presence and an inspired vocal performance. Its arrangement was the first thing that struck me as being different, and also inspired but in a different way. I think JPC was definitely on a Bowie kick when this was coming out because structurally (or at least the cleverness) is redolent of the early Mr David Jones as was. As a piece of in-your-face, get-up-and-DO-something music, this track kicks butt and takes no prisoners. John Paul has always trodden his own rock path, and more often than not been sure footed about it but nowhere like as confident as right now. As hot as it gets, from a man Down Under.

MUST HAVE. End of.

Catchers In The Rye - D'man

Hear The Track Here

First new name of the month (at least to me) is Catchers In The Rye, a four piece rock band from Columbia, SC. Members Zack, Ax (ooh wonder what he does!) Eric and Lee know how to get the message out there, as their excellent website illustrates. It's not all about the music ya know... Newcomers, I think, to Mixposure which is where they entered this request but judging by this track, they've found the ideal place for themselves. Already picked up by Mike Kohlgraf - who has been known to like his rock rock hard, if you get my drift. Not that Catchers In The Rye are a metal band, or even a heavy rock band or a (gulp) prog-rock band but a curious combination of all three, played with the sort of angry edge that punk is famed for.

An essential ingredient in this style of music has always been it's ability to skirt right on the edge of failure. That kind of shambolic sloppiness has become an artform all of its own, and Catchers In The Rye are exhibiting a large chunk of it in this track. I'd have to say that in any other kind of music, I be a bit less than polite but with out and out rock, the odd fluff just adds to the overall atmosphere. More so when you have the guitar steamroller that this band possesses, which becomes more and more obvious once the track really gets into its stride.

There is only one other track on their Mixposure page and that one IS billed as punk rock so it's obvious that the sound is intentional, and as such it's excellently done from the instrument sounds to the laconic, can't-be-arsed vocal despite it's tendency to wander a bit. That bass intro is definitely a Stranglers sound to my ears but I'm a musical train spotter from way back. Catchers In The Rye have enough on the ball to get out gigging and gain fans by the bucketload, and certainly enough attitude to do it all justice. While D'man is an excellent track (good lyrics too) and a great rock workout, it is a bit formulaic after more than a few plays but its energy keeps you going back for more, so no harm done eh? Nope, I should say not.

Excellent punk/prog heavy rock maaaaannn. Recommended.

Alionsonny - Reggae (The Album)

Hear The Track Here

My main computer is in the shop right now for a full rebore and lube job (and check the tyres while you are at it) so I can' get access to my copious records but if memory serves me right I met Juergen Wolther (aka Alionsonny) sometime in 2004. I distinctly remember it because Alionsonny (for it is he) is a musician whose focus then - and now - was in my favourite genre: reggae and all its varied offshoots. Juergen is a native of Hamburg, a German city justly famed for its musical roots, and its varied and eclectic musicians and it's been a while since I heard anything from him so when I saw a posting on Soundclick's forums, I signed myself right up. I mean, how can I resist that title? Reggae is a spectacularly difficult genre to get right, and it's offshoots even more so. Oh sure, most musicians have a reggae-style track in them, but it will always be a style and not the real thing. I've spent years trying it myself with varied results which is why I welcomed some new Alionsonny music.

Never get enough of the stuff.

Alionsonny takes his influences from the more mainstream reggae styles, adding his own local touch and his experience and technical ability make all thirteen tracks that make up the Reggae a delight to listen to, more so obviously if you love the genre. Alionsonny makes some hefty tunes too with an average of six minutes but with one eight minute fat one. Me, I'm a sucker for good rhythms and this album is packed to the brim with them. It's true that since I've come to know the album I've realised it's a lot more electronic than I prefer, it's still stomping stuff in every respect. Life Goes ON!, track one, is one of my favourites from the album a lively, delightfully twee instrumental, but it's early days yet and Springtime 2009 is well up there but that's because they are always first in line. It's an largely instrumental feat mind. What vocals might have added, Alsionsonny has covered up with some great sounds, take for example, the barnstormer of a track Hamburg, where accordion is the lead and rhythm instrument. Brilliant and a MUST HAVE in it's own right.

The same could be said of The Knights Of Dubwood Castle Part II which should be commended on the strength of the intro alone, but once the track gets going it more than justifies the buildup. Just when you need something to hammer you to the floor, Annuaki - The Arrival er...arrives (Ed: desperate are we?) with an absolutely irresistible bassline (and believe me I know a bit about them) and turns into a dance storm tour-de-force more influenced by Gorgio Moroder than anything else. Obviously I am only picking my own personal favourites here because with over an hour of music, you're spoilt for choice about what works best; an embarrassment of riches even. There are some vocals on the album, notably on the last two tracks, added almost as an afterthought it seems because they do feel different to the preceding tracks. Nonetheless, if you like reggae, this will definitely warm some cold winter nights and for a 13 track, 72 minute album, it's a snap at a mere free download - my kind of price point. Grab it.

MUST HAVE reggae blends

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ralph Atkinson - You Mix Me Up

Hear The Track Here

The more elephantine members of my readership (Ed: Ooow, you can't call them THAT) may have memories enough to remember my encounter with exceedingly calm sounding Ralph Atkinson. I reviewed Building A Time Machine (October 2009) and absolutely loved it. It was a beautifully realised piece of blues rock that truly stood up to the definition, although I wouldn't have thought that from Ralph's description of the track. There again, I wouldn't have described You Mix Me Up as 'polyrhythmic r&b' either but hey, each to their own.

Burdened by the knowledge of how good the last track was, I must admit that I felt a little disappointment with this new track. Then I read that Ralph wrote this especially for the 'December '09 Coconut Blues Club' challenge on Soundclick's forums (I admit I'm guessing there), so would be likely to be a bit underpar, after all Time Machine was an immaculate piece of technical work, let alone a cracking blues song. In spite of it's obvious cleverness in terms of timing, and layout, underneath is yer blues in all its gory (not a misprint). I've always found some people have never 'got' the blues but I did at an early age and have loved the genre ever since. What Ralph has here is almost a funky blues (at least in feel) but I feel it just isn't a strong song in it's genre let alone stand outside it, as Time Machine did.

See that's the problem with coming up with a knockout track, it raises the bar for you, and anything less than that will suffer accordingly. Vocally, Ralph sounds so right in Time Machine, and formulaic on You Mix Me Up. Still, if this is the product of a hasty deadline, in a blues challenge say, then this would definitely have captured my attention, principally because of those timing tricks I mentioned earlier. I would have put the vocal and performance at a demo and/or pub rock (if you get my drift) level for sure, but musically I would have been interested. The impression I was left with that, although nothing startling, You Mix Me Up is a more than competent blues tune.

Recommended Blues.

eXceL of F.A.M - Watch Me Freestyle

Hear The Track Here

Gaze as lovingly as you want at this artists name, that is positively the last time I am going to type that bad boy out. Let's just call him Excel and be done with it and hope that Micro$oft don't notice that they could turn yet another buck right here. You may remember that I reviewed this guys group, Just F.A.M. (Freshset) whose Dreamer (December 2009) gained it a Must have rating and a mention in the 2009 Stevies and that's just on a first outing. The most surprising thing is that - as you may have guessed - this is music from the world of hiphop, not always a favoured genre. Mind you, when it is done properly - no matter how commercial it may be even - it would definitely find favour in my ears. 'it's very different from the group material' Excel said when he requested the review - this, as you may have guessed is his solo effort.

Beats come from (I think) Jay-Z's The Life And Times Of S. Carter, so that's Micro$oft and Jay Z he's managed to tick off for starters. I'm beginning to like this guy! More to the point, here is a rapper who posts his rap and that's always a bonus for us white folk (Ed: God, I hope that's a joke Gilmore). I remember Excel also saying that this track is much darker than anything Just FAM would do, and there is indeed a very dark undercurrent to the track, even down to its almost grime music backing track.

If ever there is a track that slouches along, Watch Me Freestyle is it. I can't say I have heard much of Jay-Z's work, it's not an area I'm much interested in but I do like whats happening on this very laconic beat and, truth to tell, Excel does a more than competent job in the vocal/lyrical seat at times driving the track forward and at other times riding the beat like a wild beast. All of which makes for a pleasant listen indeed, although you should be aware that it really does deserve it's Parental Advisory and contains some very strong lyrical images. Me, I like rappers, and I especially like rappers who take absolute control over what is happening and Excel - by this count - does that big style.

Highly Recommended dark rap

Hashbang Spacestar - Plans Can Fail

Hear The Track Here

A blog request, this time from the other side of the world to me. Australia, to be precise. Over the years I have become used to the sound of Antipodean rock and even liked some of it - especially the unsigned stuff I have heard of late. It's long been a place for decent musicians though, and still manages to surprise. Have you, for example, met Tal Wilkenfeld, a 22 year old bass player from Sydney who is now playing with Jeff Beck. Jeff ******* Beck!!! As I say, no shortage of talent Down Under so I expected to like Hashbang Spacestar but - I shamefully admit - I wasn't prepared to be as surprised as I was.

What I expected was a nice slab of Aussie rock, but what I got was an almost English sounding pop song, in an electro-pop sense anyway. Took me a second or two to pin down what I liked about the track, and slightly longer to pin down what I didn't like - which actually wasn't much and of a technical nature anyway. What counts here is the music and the song, because ultimately that's what pop music is all about and Hashbang Spacestar are mining a very fertile period using sounds and arrangements heavily influenced by the 1980's heyday.

So think Howard Jones, Thompson Twins but the primary influence - for me anyway - was the Pet Shop Boys. Even the vocal had that same laconic drawl, Neil Tennant is so good at, and the song's arrangement could have been one of their outtakes. Is this a good thing or a bad thing, you may ask? Welp, just it depends on your viewpoint. See I don't mind copying in music, it is the way it grows and changes, but I do require that the influences are acknowledged and in Plans Can Fail, you can hear that time and effort has been taken to craft a fine song regardless of influences. Sure, it sounds like a lot of things but what it sounds like most is a great song with a killer chorus.

Highly Recommended electropop song.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cam's Even Song - Give Me The Snow

Hear The Track Here

Somewhere amongst the thousands of words I have poured over the antics of one Cameron W. Bastedo (aka Cam's Even Song) I think I probably mentioned the fact that he is of Canadian descent. Listen, anyone who chirps 'I love snow' would have to be Canadian, wouldn't they? As if to throw us off the scent though, Cam also states that this is a reggae song (or African depending on ones interpretation) and 'a change' for him. This mind, from the musician who changes more often than most and never, ever delivers the same song twice. His songwriting skills are almost legendary (at least on Soundclick), here is a musician who can write a song about any subject under the sun and make it interesting and fun and sometimes instructive.

Don't get an AOTY award for nuffink... (Ed: Cam was AOTY 2006)

So, snow. Here in the UK we've been struggling through one of the worst winters since my own childhood (yes I am that old) and we just get a spit of snow, Canadians get the full monty. Canadians know snow, Most Europeans are still trying to sniff it up through their nostrils, so weird is the novelty. Anyway, can't stand the stuff and can't stand the cold either so this may not end well eh? Tell you what though, it's a measure of Cam's style that the instrumentation and delivery of Give Me The Snow would conjure up exactly those images even if you had no idea what the song was called.

Musically this is from Cam's jovial pop side, along with the usual eclectic instrumentation; in this case something that sounds suspiciously like a calliope - and don't get to hear one of them every day. The track is Cam's usual mix of pop and rock and, as usual it has a charm and bonhomie that just cannot be denied. This, I might add, from the curmudgeon of curmudgeons. I don't do happy and I don't do chirpy but I don't mind Cam's brand of this because it's always a beguiling listen, as well as seeing whether he can make snowmen dance and I think this pretty much confirms that theory.

Cam's Winter wonderland. Highly Recommended good, clean fun.

Ron Vogel - I Saw Die

Hear The Track Here

So far I've only reviewed a couple of Ron Vogel tracks, yet one of them - Just Know Now (December 2009) - managed to sneak its way onto my hard drive (and by extension into 2009's Keepers list). Not bad going for a couple of tracks eh? In both cases, Ron showed that he knows how to write a song, the kind you can (and want to) sing along to. A novel experience in this electronic day and age, especially to someone like me who gets inundated with endless instrumentals. More to the point, rock songs are my special treat and both Blazing (November 2009) and Just Know Now are classic examples of the genre in full swing.

Billed as Psychedelic Rock I Saw Die fills those boots perfectly although, to my ears, the overall mix was a little understated. Or at least that is what I thought until I whacked it up to full volume one day by accident and almost took the top of my head off. And yes, the sad news is that it is also well into prog-rock territory with a distinctive American feel. I have to admit that on that score, I would probably pass on this track but only one a matter of taste, certainly nothing whatsoever that the musician has done wrong.

In fact, musically and technically, this is well up there with the big dogs, especially if you are a rock hound. Great song, good lyrics and a willingness to bend the rules as far as arrangement goes that makes this an enjoyable listen, even if you don't like the style. It's been a running thread through these three reviews that Ron Vogel certainly has the rock goods, he's got the knack with the tunes too so - in my mind - it's only a matter of time before he comes up with something that will make me sit up and beg. In the meantime, I Saw Die is certainly good enough to introduce you to this musician, if you haven't already checked him out from previous reviews.

High Recommended Psychedelic Rock.

Howard Billington - He Stole My Girl

Hear The Track Here

Now let's have a new name to us, or sort of a new name. Howard Billington has certainly made his presence felt in Soundclick's Critics Corner forum and a right friendly feller. Where the new name comes in is that although I have been aware of him for a while this is actually the first time I have ever heard any of his music. Drive-by listening seems to be a thing of the past for me. Although he has one of the most original and colourful images for his music I've ever seen, it is a sad fact that my eyes were drawn to his name by (gulp) a woman. An Asian woman as it happens and I have serious thing about those and this is probably, way, way too much information to you but I've been dying to ask...Who is she?

Now that we've taken care of my baser needs, I suppose I'd better get back to work...

I might not have heard the music but I've certainly taken notice of the string of excellent reviews he has garnered in the Corner, almost all of them glowing with praise from some serious SCCC review names such as Larry Ludwick, nixon1972 and others... I finally cranked up the track with images of smurfs, teletubbies and other assorted muppets roistering in my head, and I blame the artwork for that. If ever a track is worthy of the Britpop label, it'll be this one. Everything I liked about the Britpop scene comes alive under the very creative Mr Billington. Damn, I'm seriously impressed. Enough, I might add, to go romping through some other tracks from Welcome To The World, the album this is from. Definitely one of the freshest, sunniest, funniest musicians I have come across in a long, long while. Just such a shame it took me so long to catch up. Still, t'was ever thus eh?

If you are serious about pop (and Howard shows all the hallmarks) you'll know that it's prime exponent is the instant charge it gives you, even if you happen to hate pop music. It's the reason most people do hate pop music, damn stuff is like a persistent cold. Normally I'd be in that corner but when a track is this infectious my inner child comes bounding out to play. It's inventive instrumentally, there is a great banjo on show here and you don't hear that often in any genre. Overall though, the best impressions I came away with was the excellent performance, musically and vocally, and the absolutely blistering song the instruments and vocals convey. It has one of those choruses you cannot resist and I had no shame whatsoever in bellowing it out at every opportunity - to the consternation of many a passer-by.

MUST HAVE Britpop. Genius.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Black Chamber - Stalker

Hear The Track Here

Personally I am very much into plain speaking. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Speaking of which, I like the way musicians name themselves these days. Take, for example, band like The Dead Company, Amorphix, and yay even Black Chamber. What do they signify just from their names? The simple answer is that whatever it is, the music is not going to be an easy listen. Have a listen to all three and you'll see what I mean, these people skirt the very ragged edges of the genre known (and rightly feared) as Experimental Electronica. As if that were not enough, try Black Chambers jolly comment on his Stalker track: The stalker's come to claim its prey. Niiiice.

Cross?, check. Hammer, check. Stake, check. Brown trousers, check. OK, ready...

'This is the mellow version of another song of mine called 'prey'' and if this is mellow then Prey is going to be issued with a mental health warning. As we have discovered over the space of three tracks, Black Chamber doesn't mess about when it comes to achieving his particular vision and the music is, to say the least, hard to take. There again, I have fenced with this kind of music for a great many years and, to be blunt, still not much closer to understanding it, but I do know when it works and when it doesn't. Everything I have heard from this artist shows that he knows what he's doing, even when that isn't obvious to your average listener.

On that score, Stalker is almost mainstream in its approach and a long way from the tortuous Schism (December 2009), so much so that I even liked it - in a weird wtf-is-that? kinda way. Against a very standard bass and drum backline, weaves a dense, richly populated web of sound that some are going to love and most going to hate. For my money, what Black Chamber does, and does extremely well is to marry elements of Jimi inspired guitar fukry with dense clusters of extraneous sounds and rumbles. Looks weird as hell in black and white I know but it sounds, I don't know, right somehow. An angry, smouldering track aptly named I'd say.

Excellent experimental. Highly Recommended.

Mike-K - I Feel Your Love (Instrumental Version)

Hear The Track Here

First track from Mixposure this month goes to the presently AWOL Saturday Night Rocks DJ Mike Kohlgraf. He's not AWOL on purpose, damn it he loves that job waaaayyy tooo much. Nope Mike has suffered a fate worse than death; his computer/hard drive got fried and he's been completely out of action for a week or two. I know only too well the sting of that unforeseen arrow, and I commiserate with the man and wish him a speedy shop visit. Musicians, we got thousands, nay millions. Good radio DJ's are as rare as hens teeth and what good ones there are have all been snatched by Mix Radio who increasingly look bent on world domination by indie musicians and I see nothing wrong with that.

Before things went all pear shaped, Mike managed to get I Feel Your Love (Instrumental Version) out into the ether. Apparently Mack Sanders (another Mix DJ but not the AWOL kind) is putting a vocal down on this instrumental version, and having listened to the track more times than is decent I'd say he was the ideal vocalist for a track like this. Ahhh, you are thinking, we have to be in Smoothworld here and you wouldn't be far wrong - as you know Mike really likes this style (and has suffered the abuse from me because of it) - and Mack Sanders knows that smooth pulls in the women in droves.. OK, sorry about that, I have just been slapped by my Editor for being such a Richardhead, of course Mack does it because he loves it.

Interestingly enough, this version of smooth didn't do too badly at all stacked against my enormous prejudice. Once I'd had time to calm my fluttering nerves and reassure my brain that I wasn't about to go out and buy a sweater specially made for the 'senior citizen;, I found the track very enjoyable indeed. Don't know about you, but I think Mike has upped his production game by a series of powers because not only is the track technically ideal, it's damn near a perfect jazz sound in every respect. It's that fidelity to the jazz standard, and the relaxed and very smooth way Mike handles all the instruments that kept me listening again and again. Technically, this is one of the best Mike K tracks I've ever heard. It'll be interesting to see what Mack does with it but please don't mess with the sax intro, that's just perfect.

Highly Recommended smooth jazz.

The Empty Vessels - Take A Hard Look

Hear The Track Here

First review from the Rebelriffs blog this month is The Empty Vessels, a real four piece gigging band. So if you happen to live in the UK in general or in Oxfordshire in particular, you maybe already know them. There again, that's probably because you have a life and go out and actually SEE musicians playing instruments (Ed: now there's a thing...), whereas I just get more and more tracks piling up and a life that's in the naahhhhh, best not go there. Matt Greenham is on vocals and guitar, Ross McIvor plays another guitar, Matt ‘Junior’ Greetham whomps the bass and Tom Beale kicks the crap out of those round things... errr....whatyacallums. They describe themselves, with some bravery, as ' a Rock’n’Roll band and not scared of it' Now, that's my kind of attitude.

Yes but Gilmore-san, does it do what it says on the tin. Abser-*******-lutely

There are four tracks on the bands excellently understated website, Take A Hard Look being the one I was offered for download. It didn't satisfy my need to pin this band down though for reasons I shall return to shortly so I went to have a listen to Blood On The Streets and found the same band, but with two different sounds. Classic rock is the name of the game here, and 1970's rock in particular, but to be honest I only got a taste of that with Take A Hard Look, listening to Blood On The Tracks and the others confirmed the band musical competence; they are indeed a honest-to-God rock band in every sense of the word. I was lucky enough to have been around to see some of the bands who pioneered this sound, so I'm VERY picky about it's regurgitation...

Or maybe I shouldn't have brought that up?

Seems to me that the way Take A Hard Look was produced was done in a different way to the other tracks I mention; a wider stereo picture and - I suspect - some inadvertent cleaning up of the overall sound. I'd be willing to bet a pound to a penny that the other three tracks typify what the band sound like live, and for that reason are the tracks I suggest you listen to. While I was listening to Hard Look I was reminded of fussier, more finicky 70's rock bands and I can't say I care too much for that. The other tracks have a much more organic feel and leave me with a much better feeling about the band. In point of fact, I've been back to listen to them a few times now and every time I am reminded of Free, long before they got a record deal that made them rich and famous - and killed them stone dead, but that's another story.

Excellent rock band. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Empires - A Better Way

Hear The Track Here

Third time around for The Empires, an Australian band whose brand of Alternative hasn't exactly set me alight in the past, but time marches on and things change. (Ed: one hopes) The thing that saved them is that the songs held up by themselves, good songs, well thought out and very poppy. The kind of thing I actually love, especially when done with the right musical seasoning. I think, therefore, that the band have enough talent on that score to keep on polishing up the side of the band that doesn't happen particularly well; performance and sound. For a while during the early 2000's (I am NOT going to call them the Noughties!!) I reviewed a spate of tracks from an Indonesian band whose sound was abysmal but whose songs and spirit endeared them to me - and a great many others if I remember correctly.

The point I am making (Ed: in your usual obtuse way) is that this is early days and a certain amount of roughness around the edges is to be expected but, as the musician(s) probably realise, the competition is fierce and taking no prisoners. Personally, I loved this track but it took me forever to get used to both the arrangement and the overall sound. Garage band is the term best applied here and I know for a fact there is indeed a large and growing audience for this kind of lo-fi, anyone-can-do-this music. Simple fact is that, no, not everyone can do this. Especially if you get into the amount of detail The Empires put into the actual song and it's very Beatles-like refrains.

The song itself, and the vocal arrangements are the real prize here and it is worth persevering through and getting to it. That won me over from the getgo, but my appreciation of the rest of the track definitely clouded my judgement there for a while. I've said as much before, in previous reviews, The Empires write some dynamite songs but somehow between brain and internet, it comes out sounding half finished. Mind you, it has to be said that this is pretty much a 'live' recording (although I suspect some overdubbing of vocals) and as such you can't really ask for much more than we get. Again, these limitations obscure the talent that is so obviously there and needs attending to, especially if you want to play with the big dogs. If it sounds like I'm being harsh on this track, I'm not, I like it a great deal but I'd like to hear this produced properly. Sooooo, this is exactly this place for producers.... Any takers???? Terrific song but dog rough sound, worth the effort though.

Highly Recommended Indie.

Silvertrain - You Don't Feel It Anymore

Hear The Track Here

We've been talking a lot lately (Ed: we have?) about the general comings and goings in the Silvertrain big tent, and indeed last year was peppered with a few lively collaborations from out of left field - none of which featured founder member Ritchie Allen. That's often the way it goes these days. What these new Silvertrain tracks confirmed that the OTHER founder member, one John Brandon of this parish, was fast becoming competent in areas I bet he never suspected were ahead for him. It's extremely heartening then that all this work is finally beginning to show results and big pat on the back to the guy for sticking with it through thick and thin. There is (as always) a rumour that Ritchie may make an appearance soon but...

It isn't often that John abandons his trusty acoustic guitar but he's gone the whole hog on You Don't Feel It Anymore which is virtually all electronica with the exception of his voice. No one in the loose network that is Silvertrain has had a chance to tinker with this yet and - as usual - it may undergo some changes and re-appear sometime in the future in a fuller guise. As I say, this is pretty much all John's doing and his production skills have improved enormously since the first time he attempted something outside of the trusted and true pop rock field he is happier in.

OK there are things wrong with the track, at least on a technical level - the voice in particular being a problem. The kind of effect being used lessens the deeper tone John actually sings in, at least to my ears. No matter how much I tried to reconcile that, it still stood out like a sore thumb. Nonetheless, we are talking about Silvertrain here so is this a bona fide Silvertrain track and the answer to that is an emphatic yes. All the hallmarks Govn'r. Fill in some of the spaces between what's happening, get the vocals sorted and this will be a very decent track indeed.

WIP (Work in Progress) but beginnings of a good song.