Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ska Rapples - Wind Divine

Hear The Track Here

A new disguise for an old Soundclick veteran, Ska Rapples is the bandname of one Road Apples whom we have come across before in a couple of guises; Road Apples, Sad Hill Cemetery and isn't he also a bit of A Cry Of Hounds? Yep, that's the man. Over the few tracks of his (in all his guises) I have reviewed I have gained much respect for his willingness to rock out, and his taste in who to rock out with. At first I was under the impression that the Ska Rapples name was just a pun and nothing to do with the musical genre which - to be honest - I would never have associated Road Apples with. Well, more fool me because Wind Divine is both billed as reggae and worthy of both its ska and reggae claims.

Just so you know how much it pains me to say that, be aware that my own main genre is right here and (in the RW) have had some success with it and I am super-critical of getting it right. Although Road Apples, like me I suppose, can't help but show his white boy rock roots but instrumentally a lot of this track is right on the money. One of my earliest crazes was for the sound of the inimitable Augustus Pablo who pioneered the use of one of reggae's all time trademark instruments - the melodica. Road Apples has managed to capture exactly that sound and it is a major feature of Wind Divine and my own personal favourite bit. There again, Road Apples being the musician he is, there are more than one favourite bits and it is going to depend on what you like I suppose.

Structurally, as a song and a performance, it has more to do with UB40 ska-pop or even - at a pinch - Police when they did the genre properly. It's also an absolute perfect cross between reggae and ska that kept me bopping along every time it came up in the playlist. Now I am bound to favour this kind of track, it's a genre I genuinely love, and Road Apples has shown his respect for it with this excellent track. For sure it's catchy and poppy enough to snag a few casual listeners but once that initial buzz has worn off, the tracks warmth and energy doesn't and that is rare, especially when this is not your native genre. Personally I can only stand here and nod wisely at Road Apples for not taking the easy way out, good catch that man.

MUST HAVE pop ska/reggae.

Silvertrain - When You Cry

Hear The Track Here

Some time ago, John Brandon and I were having a long, drawn out conversation about the nature of recording; the costs, the time involved etc. I kept on (as I do) about the almost limitless range of computer music software in general, and Fruity Loops in particular. I understand, only too well, that kit is a very personal issue but when I weigh that against the time and MONEY I've spent in recordings studios, cheap kits is still kit. As it happens, since then Fruity has improved beyond all measure and is now the first thing I reach for when I want to get my music out of my head; even when part of that consists of live instruments. What I like most about these programs isn't the ability (once you've learned the program) to make music, but in its ability to apply major league production tools to that music. John has spent the intervening time learning that Fruity Loops is most definitely not a cereal.

Now read on...

'Bit of a mess' John apologises as he asks me to review this 'trying to combine the old Silvertrain sound with Fruity Loops'. I've heard some patchy stuff over the years from this excellent pop songwriter so quite why he felt he had to do a mea culpa upfront interested me. Jeez, was it really that bad?? Definitely at the beginning there things were a bit ropy but John's production capability has improved immensely since those early days so I know that the track well be a bit sparse instrumentally, but all the elements of the song would be there. That's what this guy does; the song and nothing but the song. It's a good job then, that the songs are of a very high quality even if the rendering of it is a tad (and a very small tad at that) lo-fi.

Although I don't consider John to be a standout vocalist, he is nonetheless a very recognisable vocalist; I would recognise him anywhere. As usual, he does a sterling job at getting the idea and the emotion of the track down, in the hopes that other collaborators will add to it. That's the reason this appears to be a John Brandon review because, so it seems, he really is the major mover behind the Silvertrain name. So, I've learned to judge these songs not so much for what they sound like now, but for what they will sound like when the others take a hand. On that score, When You Cry threatens to be a dramatic Silvertrain track musically, provided they can keep the feel John has going on here.

(Another) wIP, another day. Recommended poprock song.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Howard Billington - Love Can Wait

Hear The Track Here

Image, they say these days, is everything. In some ways I also agree with that, it is all about image these days and having a good memorable image is worth its weight in gold, especially if you can ally that with a pop sensibilty that is jaw dropping when put into practice. Howard Billington has that kind of image about him, as his highly colourful Soundclick webpage testifies. I mean, anyone who offers you both blue pills AND red pills, while surrounded by some very suspicious looking cartoon characters... This is an image that may indeed haunt you for the rest of your life. And if that doesn't work, maybe a quick listen to the aural diamond that is He Stole My Girl (January 2010) will do the trick, it's easily the most memorable track I've heard in a while. And why? Because it's happy. What? An old, crusty curmedgeon like me liking something because it sounds happy??

Forget 2012, the sky is fallin in right now....

As an Englishman I am only too well aware of the history that an artist like Howard Billington carries around with him, like me it's part of his cultural makeup. Taking a line from early English music hall acts like Harry Champion, through Max Miller, Arthur Askey, Ian Dury and even Madness, have amused the English public. Cheeky chappies all. All featured a worldly wise soul disguised as a happy go lucky rogue and Howard brings all of that into the music he makes. he probably isn't that aware of it though, although I suspect Ian Dury has a part to play in Howards own history. Personally I loved both Ian Dury and Madness so going for the music of Howard Billington is really no great stretch, and the talent on display makes it just seem soooooo easy.

I might not have been born in London but I seem to have spent most of my life living here so I recognise someone like Howard more readily than most, but even so his music is so fresh and vibrant, anyone with a heart would find something to like in it. Whether it's the clever lyrics - the song is delivered as an almost rap - the initially confusing arrangement or the breezy way Howard shouts it down your ears, there is something very likeable about this track. Having said that, it has nothing like the impact of He Stole My Girl in terms of commercial terms but I notice it's already hit number 1 in the pop charts on Soundclick and that gets it said better than anything I can come up with.

Excellent Britpop. Highly Recommended.

Daniel Eboli - Monadas

Hear The Track Here

This Brazilian musician has been registering more and more with me with each release, or so it seems when you re-read the reviews I have done of past material. A bit of a slow start (probably due more to my own personal taste than anything Daniel did) but he's more than made up for that with the last two releases. The Void (December 2009) featured poetry by Jon Bushaway, spoken by Larry Ludwick and scored by Daniel who, it has to be said, is no musical slouch. So, what's not to like? He followed that little gem up with Red Bells (January 2010), a blindingly good track in every respect and it gained Daniel his first Must Have from me. All no big surprise of course, but the real surprise was the genre Red Bells came wrapped up in. Prog rock, and I definitely haven't given out too many high ratings in that genre.

So it's a given then that I would be looking forward to hearing what was thrown at me next...

Monadas, 'the primordial blocks of the universe' according to Daniel, but something else entirely if it's Spanish, but what do I know from Google Translate lol. Daniel, like a lot of artists tries to give you a flavour of the track you are hearing and comments 'A dream, the space like water, floating, I can fly, I can see the beginning, behind, I am the end... ' which - to my mind - pretty much covers the whole spectrum of being. Still, on with the music... As you know, I tend to get a little peevish around anything that smacks (even faintly) of new age, but reserve special venom for one of the genre's mainstay instruments. Am I really the only one who hates that electronica 'plucked' sound that is so prevalent in the genre?

Ryhmes with plucked maybe...

Daniel's Monadas commits both sins with cheery abandon, being both new age in feel and style, and featuring said plunky sound front and centre as the tune's main structural instrument. There again, if you've already encountered Daniel Eboli's special brand of these much despised genres (prog rock AND new age, who else would be so foolish?), you'll also know the quality of work that Daniel delivers far outweighs any mere prejudice people like me come pre-loaded with. The fact is, I like this musician, not because of what he does but because of the WAY he does it. I've always made it plain that I don't really care for material of this sort but - like all music - when done tastefully, it wouldn't matter what the genre was.

Highly Recommended (gulp) New Age

M J K - Fix Me

Hear The Track Here

Now here's a name we haven't seen for a good long while. Out of the three tracks I have reviewed of this Florida based pop rock artist, NONE have been below a certain very high standard indeed in shows why each of the three gained a Must Have rating from me. Mind you, those tracks were well spaced out in time. The first track I heard was With Me (January 2006), followed by Never Loved Me (February 2007) and This Is Goodbye (November 2007). I started out the review of This Is Goodbye with these words, which I definitely do not say lightly, ' an absolutely knockout singer' writing timely, punchy songs that can be heard time and again without fading. That takes more than just a pinch of talent and production nous and M J K has that and more besides.

It's nice to see that the intervening year or so out of the Soundclick loop hasn't done Matthew (Matthew J Kurz to be exact) any harm, not if Fix Me is an example of what he has been doing with that time. As much as I like what MJK delivers to us puny mortals in the way of songwriting, production and arrangement, all of which is absolutely spotless in every way, the thing that really, really gets me is this guys voice. For sure he is one of the very few REAL singers on Soundclick, that is singers who could transfer what they are doing into a real world situation without so much of a stumble. I've said it before but I'll say it again anyway, it's a crime that someone this talented is not signed up, either to a record deal (as a singer and musician) or even a publishing deal (for his absolutely outstanding songs). Sometimes this world really sucks, ya know?

There are very, very few artists I've met on Soundclick who are able to hit the mark every time, in whatever genre they are working in but M J K is decidedly one of those. After all, even though they stretch now over a few years, four Must Haves out of four tracks is not bad going at all. Yes, that's right another Must Have. But do listen to it yourself because I swear you are not likely to hear anything this well thought out and performed online or off it. Matthew has an uncanny knack of getting right to the heart of the matter from the start, keeping you transfixed throughout with the twists and turns of the song only adding to the pull of the track. Bloody wonderful and no mistake. Oh, and it's almost a ballad and yet I'm still having raving....

MUST HAVE, a wonderful song. Let MJK fix you.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pilesar - Everywhere Is Beauty (live)

Hear The Track Here

Want to know something really depressing? Here am I, an older gentleman racing towards oblivion, and what do I have in my mind? When I first saw the title of this, I had visions of acres of gorgeous female flesh stacked up to the ceiling, whereas (on closer perusal) Pilesar's obvious intention was for something infinitely more sweet probably - which says everything about my state of mind. So listen, you younger guys if you think you can slacken off when you get the grey makeover, I'm here to tell you it gets worse. So, anyway, lets get back to far less intractible subject matter young Pilesar is referring to; beauty of a more natural kind, the beauty of the world we live in...

Don't think about women, don't think about women.....

Pilesar is following in a fine American tradition for music of the absurd. His music contains a lot of Zappa, the Residents and Ween influences, as he admits, but ultimately the music that comes across to you, the listener, is pure undiluted Pilesar. Moreover, since he upped and took his show out on the road, as it were, the music has become something altogether different. When I contrast tracks I reviewed when I first met him a few years ago, to the spate of releases over the last year or so, that change is dramatic and shows that the vision he has can just run and run. I've developed a very marked taste for Pilesar live, and Everywhere Is Beauty is a wonderful example of why I consider him so different from just about anything else out there.

Although this track is tagged as Reggae, like most Pilesar ventures, this must be taken with a certain caution. Sure, there are certain rhythms in there that are reggae influenced - especially the sub-ska vocals - but overall this sounds like some 'Whiteboy' trying to do an 'acappella electro reggae' thing. Those words, btw, are from Pilesar himself, I wouldn't dare be so tactless. It sounds like Pilesar having a whale of a time as usual and dragging in plenty of musical ghosts to keep you amused and entertained for the duration. Ponder, for a moment, on the word 'live' Best not, then, expect to get any sound other than rough as a bears butt out of this track. It does, however, show just why Pilesar is held in such regard around here. Lo-fi experimental mayhem let loose live shock horror - VIDEO.

Highly Recommended for the strange at heart

Thomas J Marchant - Sin Of Envy

Hear The Track Here

Sin Of Envy is, apparently, track 02 of a five track EP called Everything I Have Ever Told You Has Been a Lie which looks new to me, although in his News section, Thomas is pushing his Beam Me Up or Put Me Down album which I reviewed a while ago (Ed: November 2009, ya lazy bastard). So forgive the confuddlement but I blame the prodigious way Thomas pumps these little beauties out, it's a little difficult to keep up. It is worth keeping up mind because Thomas is a particularly welcome relief from some of the heavier reviewing moments. Sure I can pull his stuff apart, as well as the next man but I absolutely cannot fault him on his songwriting and style.

S'what makes an Artist Of The Year I suppose...

For a while there in the late 1970's a guitarist first famous in the 1950's played around London, and I caught more than a few of his sets. Link Wray was the guitarist and Robert Gordon was the guy he was playing with. The reason I mention all this in relation to a Thomas J Marchant track is because there is a direct line from the late 1950's American music scene which winds through the 1960's and 1970's and flowers in the late 1970's retro-hillbilly scene the The Stray Cats and others doing the business this time. Thomas has often, probably unconsciously, tapped this very fertile ground and usually when he does the results can be very appealing.

Of course, I am only too well aware that outside the narrow confines of the world we know as Soundclick, Thomas J Marchant will still struggle to find people who like his style. The reason I, and a great many others, like this singer/songwriter so much is because of that style. Truth is, there isn't anyone around who quite sounds like Thomas and certainly none that sound like they are having as much fun as Thomas. What also makes it special is that all-encompassing bar sound Thomas has specialised when he's on this particular jag, which really punches the vocal down your throat in a most effective way. Not ground breaking, not all things to all men but by God what songs, what sounds....

MUST HAVE for fans, Highly Recommended whatever.

Andrew K-Rock - Man In Trouble

Hear The Track Here

So when are we (men, that is) not in trouble? Andrew K Rock is another new name to me, this time from Soundclick and Russia. Can't say I've reviewed that many Russian musicians although I'm certain there are a lot of them hanging around on the sites that I do but for some reason we don't connect that often. As you know, I do have my preferences so when I saw - while downloading the track - that 'Dark alt ballad turns into drive PopRock (like t.A.T.u & Rammstein)'. Now, like a lot of men I get stick for liking Tatu but hey whatever you may say about their marketing and/or style, they do know how to turn out a capable track. Rammstein, on the other hand, have long been a favourite of mine, along with a great many other German/European metal bands.

So I was a bit 'hell yeah!!!'...

It's funny how much of a gap there is between what a musician perceives his music to be, and the reality the listener deals with. To be blunt, had I not known that this is influenced by Tatu and Rammstein, I could never - in a million years - have guessed it. Truth is, I think anyone would be hard pressed to pull any meaningful references out of this track, which has a familiar sound to me and could even be made by either Ejay or Magix software. Not that I have anything against such 'instant' music programs, but it takes a bit more than cutting and pasting phrases to make a coherent music track, even an experimental one. So, to me, Man In Trouble sounds like anyone's early work, too many ideas and not enough focus on the ideas that do actually work.

I mention these programs because there are definitely samples here that I am familiar with, because I used to be a Moderator on Ejay's forums. Moreover, the kinda/sorta structure of the track sounds like someone laying sounds into a grid, including the obligatory old skool vocal cutups so beloved a few years ago. Now I hate to do this to somebody, especially someone who I have just met so I felt compelled to check the other tracks on his Soundclick page. Especially seeing as the guy said he was excited about seeing a review... Awake has a bit more going for it, as does 2012 but the problems that dog Man In Trouble are equally as evident. All of which will, of course, get better with time and exposure to other artists in the same field. In the meantime, I would suggest that Andrew listen to some of the competition he faces.

Lots of ideas, not much action.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Black Chamber - Luma In Monochrome

Hear The Track Here

'And in the end there is love' Black Chamber says of Luma In Monochrome, which btw is a bit of a surprise to me because having reviewed a fair amount of Black Chamber tracks, love hasn't been at the forefront of many. In fact, at the last count it was none. So, has the darkly Alternative extra-odd Black Chamber retired from the normal tales of stalkers, schisms and Generation Zero? Best not to jump to any conclusions with this musician, this is the lesson I have learned. Regardless of what genre he says he is working in, what comes out of your speakers and/or earholes, is not something that can be adequately described, let alone adequately prepared for.

Weirdness rools, get me?

So, is Luma In Monochrome a love song then? Is it ****, unless you happen to be from somewhere far, far away and maybe partake of the music of dog whistles. Although Black Chamber are nothing like as out-there as some of Soundclick's zanier characters, it still takes a hell of a chin to put material as odd as this out there for everyone to take swings at. Funnily enough though, Black Chamber hasn't done too badly in such a short space of time and that's because - despite all the weirdness - there is a musical mind in the back of it. A deranged musical mind, I'll grant you, but a musical mind nonetheless.

At this stage of the game, experimental electronica has become a sort of standard for me, and I can rapidly see whether a track has that essential underpinning and so far, every single one of Black Chambers's tracks have, including this one. I do caution you though, finding it will prove a bit difficult because there are a lot of other things going on at the same time. As BC says in the song comments 'currently the rough version of the song'. Allow me to illustrate; Black Chamber is at the bottom of a 20 foot deep well and his mate is recording the goings on down below on a borrowed, and ancient, Dictaphone. Rough may not quite be the word that applies here. I wonder what the finished version will be like. Will they have rescued Black Chamber from the well by then?

Odd. Decidedly odd.

Big Wheel - Fuse

Hear The Track Here

Catherine?? What Catherine?? Wtf are you chattering about? Oh hi readers, sorry, you've just joined us in the middle of an argument, the brain and I. As you know, my brain has mystical properties, but it will insist on giving me images which are about as useful as a dick on a desert island. Take, for instance, the visual trigger for this track? Yep, you guessed it; a firework. I mean wtf is that about?? Other people get brains with ideas and income inducing patents, all I get is a brain with a visual glitch. So, in case you've just arrived on Soundclick, Big Wheel is 'a keyboardist and sometime sessionist' who has clocked up a good many years at the Soundclick Electronica/IDM coalface with, I might add, some considerable success. I'm not too fond of out and out dance music generally but whenever I've been around on of this guy's tracks, I've usually appreciated the experience,

My last encounter with him was a remix of a Bikini Black Special track, which then led to a listen to the new CD from the band - The Grim Mathematics Of Intercourse CD (November 2009) - which I really liked so everyone wins out. Good band, well worth checking out. Fuse, though, is the first new Big Wheel track since Love Is In The Air (July 2009) and considering he doesn't release too many this has to be checked out. Billed as Jazz/Jazz Fusion, not a genre I've known to Wheel to roll into, the liquid sound flows into your brains like fragrant smoke (Ed: so that's what he was doing outside) in the time honoured funky fashion. Big Wheel says 'I'm a big fan of soul music, 80s groove RnB, and jazz guitar, so I wanted to do something in that vein'. Did that, and then some.

Not that I am surprised by the quality on display here, especially if - like me - you appreciate this genre. Truth is, Big Wheel's tastes automatically veer towards the smooth and tasteful and Fuse is no exception. One of the Wheels major strengths IMHO has been his ability to weave great sounding melodic lines, and Fuse has lots of them to savour (I absolutely LOVE the nylon guitar bit) and I am not counting the pure audio orgasm you get from the main structural components of the track; piano, clavinet. From a purely production standpoint this is a lovely piece of work, but when you factor the music quality into it, the Wheel has no competition worth a spit (Ed: for all his Kenny G mannerisms eh?)

The groove is the thang. Highly Recommended roundness.

The Skeptic Tanks - The Slab

Hear The Track Here

Yeah, I did the same doubletake on the name too, but it makes sense. All the while I was listening to this I was under the impression that The Skeptic Tanks were a new name to me. February has, after all, been a great month for new music. Then I went online while writing the review and found out that the band are John (Reservoir Dog), Roger (Turboman) and Conory - a name that should be ringing some pretty strident bells methinks. I've reviewed about a half a dozen of his tracks and liked them all, although I have to say I am still waiting for the killer blow because I know he has it in him.

Still, this isn't about Conory alone and I have no idea who does what in this track but I guess it doesn't matter anyway. What matters is the solid, meaty electronica that they deliver which made a pleasant change from yer usual bleeps, whirrs and whizzes. The Slab is a neat blend of electronica and guitars because I'm pretty sure that both the bass and lead guitar are real instruments but I wouldn't want to swear about the drums - and that's usually the tell tale. All of which just goes to show that 'Thursday night farting/music making sessions' can produce something of real note.

Right now there is only one track on the band's Soundclick page but I'm sure that will be remedied over proceeding Thursday whatsnames because - to my ears - this is a smart move. Personally, I like nothing better than playing with other people (Ed: Dude!! you can't say that!!) whether electronically or on a real instrument. Collaborations are great fun, whether online or off it, but nothing beats playing with real live people. While The Slab isn't going to set the world on fire, the fun the musicians had putting this quite complex piece together is obvious, and the energy rush from it is well worth experiencing.

Excellent Electronica/rock. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Dead Company - The Dreams Of Jenny Ft Larry Ludwick

Hear The Track Here

Cheerful Charlie is not a title that sits well on Jon Bushaway's slumped shoulders, he isn't so much a half full/half empty glass kind of guy. He's much more likely to be asking why glass, and why is it staring? Mind you, that is an essential part of the man, and to understand why he does what he does musically, you have to take that into account. He's always had a massive dark streak and it has become part of his growing reputation over the years as a singularly distinctive composer and lyricist (nay, poet even). The Dead Company has always rested on his musical and lyrical talent, aided and abetted by various vocalists, including Larry Ludwick who has done an excellent job just lately and nowhere more so than on The Dreams Of Jenny.

Lyrically, the track is pure magic. Jenny 'has strange arms and has strange legs, and not allowed cheese or milk or eggs' and obviously appears to have some terrible affliction which precludes her living a normal life like the girls she sees out of her window. Not calmed by her parents in any form, she finally escapes to a fantasy world where she lives inside the pages of a magazine - or at least that's my take on it. Like all Dead Company tracks, The Dreams Of Jenny never uses one note where twenty million would do, hence the almost FIFTEEN minutes of running time. I wouldn't accept such aural abuse from just about anybody and it's a sure sign of the respect I have for Jon Bushaway as a musician (and king mood maker) that I sat through it - and not just the once either.

I particularly like The Dead Company in pretty mode, followed closely by the brain mashing, rhythmic pile driver approach and The Dreams Of Jenny features both, although more of the pretty and less of the bish bash bosh. Musically, the first half of the track is wonderful. An intro you slide into like a warm bath, leads you into the shady grove where Larry Ludwick (another shady cove) declaims the story I describe above, although in a lot more detail. I must say, Larry has a terrific voice for this kind of work, but the taut, almost falling apart musical backing creates a wonderful bed for him to work from. When Jon does pretty, it brings tears to your eyes I tell you. He finally lets loose around eleven minutes in and the last minute is an absolute classic nail-your-head-to-the-wall riff fest that could be a track all of its own.

Masterful. Different and very, very strange. Highly Recommended blend of music and poetry.

Four Course Five - Party Over Here

Hear The Track Here

See these eyes?? No, come closer, look deep into my eyes. See how red and sore they are? How bloodshot and jaded they appear? OK, well take that as adequate warning not to click on the website link above until you have donned dark glasses. Should carry a public health warning. Still, don't need my eyes right now, need my ears so that'll give them time to recover. Four Course Five are a new name to me from Mixposure, and list exactly the same influences as me, namely everything. Which I freely admit is a massive cop out because anyone who read a review of mine will know I have definite views about most music. Four Course Five turns out to be ' a 20 year old guy' who got bitten by the music bug a while ago and - like all of us - has been plugging away at it ever since.

It's an addiction, I tell ya!!

There are only three tracks on the webpage and Party Over Here was the one chosen and it's amazing how much of an impression a title will make. Now I've been doing this reviewing malarky a good many years, and I've faced pretty much everything and come to a conclusion alone. Couldn't have done this with Party Over Here, and there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, impressions. Until I actually heard it, I though this track was a electronica 'everyone in the house say yeah' thing and I guess that kind of set me up for a massive fall. The track itself is the oddest thing and is worthy of some note because it is , by far and away, one of the most original tracks I have heard in a long, long time. It isn't completely fresh and it brings to mind the work of Bobby McFerrin but by God, this is a treat for the ears. Although you won't be saying that initially...

This track features an intro that is one massive wtf moment. So intrigued with this track did I become that I played it to as many people as I could, partly to watch their faces during that intro, and then when the light finally dawned to savour their pleasure. At first, I have no doubt, you'll be calling me all kinds of aural idiot - especially when the really weird stuff happening (anyone remember jug bands?). Give it a minute or so though, and the actual song kicks in and the smile it will bring to your face will make everything worthwhile. It resolves itself brilliantly and despite the decidedly lo-key, lo-fi approach this track is such a winner, it's shameful. Imagine, feelgood music that actually does feel good. Come on, Mix Radio DJ's, give this guy massive airtime!!

MUST HAVE acoustic weirdness.

Tarnish By Gray - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

I must say the one thing the internet really delivers is the ability to keep up with friends, even with friends you've never met. When I first started reviewing out of Soundclick one of the first real bands I ran into was Canadian classic rockers Soul Dust and for a while there they were in the running for my favourite all time Soundclick rock band, then fate decided to lend a hand and off they all went their separate ways. The only member I've regularly run into since then is vocalist Myk Shaflik, once or twice with his later band Catapult and since then nothing. True to internet form, he pops up a couple of weeks ago with three tracks from Tarnish By Gray, his 'solo' project. Just in case you were wondering, he is not JUST a vocalist, he is a consummate rock vocalist and you don't run across to many of them.

Sooo, I got three tracks from a promised upcoming full CD set due in late summer and I see from his MySpazz page that rock is the name of the game still, even if it's adopted an Alternative overcoat. Angel is the first track out of the box and if you have any doubts as to my claims about this singer in the first paragraph, then this will dispel it. Coming from a kind of Zep influenced acoustic rock number, Myk's vocals (all of them) fit the track perfectly as does the spare but effective backing and the crystal sharp acoustic guitar sound. You won't find that track on the Tarnish By Gray's page, so you'll just have to take my word about it's qualities. You will find, however, both Erotic and Drown on the website and - to be honest - these tracks sound much more like the Myk Shaflik I know. The odd juxtaposition of banjo's and other World instruments and the solid, heavy rock of the main track is - to my ears - particularly impressive. Erotic is everything I would have expected from this musician and then some.

Drown is the final track, and where Myk truly lets rip with that Rock God voice of his, a very recognisable snarl that works on this (gulp) ballad as if to the manor born. If anything signifies where Myk's heart really lies then I'd say Drown is a good example. Classic rock is where I first met him, and classic rock remains his chosen niche, no matter what other names it is dressed up in. Back in the day, which you know I remember, some of the very best rock tracks were this kind; moody, dark, tortured and yeah, with ballad qualities. Despite my avowed aversion to ballads in general, I can take them when there is a point to it. What it shows - more than any other track - is that I am not one to use idle words so let me just go over that one more time...

Consummate. Rock. Vocalist. MUST HAVE classic rock.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cameron Pierce - Scars That Never Show And Never Heal

Hear The Track Here

Don't know whether it's down to their common Scots heritage (c'ept for the French bits of course) but Canada seems to have a surfeit of Cameron's. Cameron Pierce is one such, Cam's Even Song another and so on. Not that it matters much, just musing. So, Cameron Pierce has been around a long time, starting out on Soundclick many years ago under the bandname of Latmat, turning to his true given name a few years later. The music, however, remains unchanged (although getting harder and meatier as time went on), close harmony vocals, pop rock arrangements and some of the best songs I have heard in the genre. Been a while since I last heard from him mind, Hostage (April 2009) was our last outing and yet another in the long string of Must Haves this musician has received from me.

So yes, I like him (in a manly, musician kind of way).

With a musician of this quality you are not going to go far wrong, especially if good songs are what inspire you. Ever since I first met Cameron he has bombarded me with some wonderful songs (hence the Must Haves). Mind you, I've always been extremely partial to close harmony rock pop ever since the Beatles first made the mould. Funnily enough, the very first Cameron Pierce track I reviewed was an extremely Beatle-ish thingie. He has toughened that sound up considerably in the years since and although he retains a hint of where he comes, his songs are definitely all his own these days. Not sure who exactly he sounds like on this track, other than an amalgam of everything that has ever influenced him - or at least that's what it sounds like.

Straight ahead pop rock is still the chosen field but in sound and production, Scars That Never Show and Never Heal has more to do with modern radio friendly pop than anything else. The best thing about a Cameron Pierce sound has to be, for me anyway, the vocals. While Cameron is not as distinctive as some other singer/songwriters, he brings to bear his own power and nous to create something as professional as it gets. This track has a bit of everything, clangy, jangly guitars, big bass and drums, killer vocals and a chorus to bring the house down. The kind of track you KNOW would be massive if it were ever to get the oxygen it needs to survive. In the meantime, however, I'll certainly be giving it somewhere to rest its head, and I suggest you do to.

Class songwriter in fine form. Highly Recommended.

Timmy Sells His Soul - This Won't End Well

Hear The Track Here

Timmy Sells His Soul is the bandname for one Daniel Euphrat, whose name might strike terror into some of my older readers. If that doesn't do it, maybe the mention of the band he and his brother are in enticingly called Dross. Aaaah, now that IS terror!! As my old friend (and fellow reviewer) 333maxwell wrote of Daniel's work 'just wrong on so many levels' and I can't help but agree with him totally. Mind you I also agree with him too when he adds 'but obviously I loved it' and so do I, probably because I have a musical stubborn streak a mile wide and I like things that challenge the mind as well as the ears. Having said that, it has to be said that both Dross and Timmy Sells His Soul are both way, way out there as far as most people are concerned; noise being one of their favourite genres.

This won't end well indeed...

It starts well, if you like a exceptionally mentally unbalanced rendition of 'Somewhere' from West Side Story, then it all goes to hell in a handbasket - so far, so normal. Where the track takes a massive detour into uncharted territory is when after the intro rusts away, you realise that you are listening to a song. As you would imagine, it's an odd little ditty for sure, although given it's Alternative rating it fits well. All a bit lo-fi, but that is also what I expect from this musician, and I don't mean that as a put down. It's been a while since I last heard anything from him. The last track I heard was 3000 Squid in an Ice Box - Media Orgy 1 (Sex) (January 2008) so obviously things will have changed somewhat, but a song??? Absolutely the last thing I would have expected.

It's actually quite a good song too, in a lo-fi sub Syd Barrett kinda way, although Daniel's brought his own sonic tools to the job, hence the bone/wall shaking bass boom from the guitar, and quite probably the dirtiest, grungiest drum sounds I have ever heard. Surprisingly enough, it all works, even those truly crappy drums, giving the track some of the charm that (say) Thomas J brings to such material. Definitely as a straightforward Alternative track (without all of the electronica jiggery pokery) This Won't End Well will extend the people who know about this American musician, although some of his wilder stuff may be a bit hard to take. This though, is a very pleasant surprise.

Highly Recommended (if lo-fi) Alternative.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pidgeman - In Heaven, I'll Burn

Hear The Track Here

I don't know about all the fuss concerning Lady Gaga (who has it happens is a wonderful songwriter) but I do know how many red blooded males of my acquaintance would rather salivate over the lady known as Essence. That is the reason why I type this review in handcuffs because I know what exposure to this particular blond does to my writing style and I could get arrested for that, so best play on the safe side. Pidgeman to the rescue then!. Craig Matthews (aka the man who would be Pidge) is a known quantity to me, and his experience and dedication shine through in pretty much everything he does, even if I don't always agree with the particular style. One of his greatest strengths is his songwriting and he can always deliver a good song regardless of genre. Essence, as you can see for yourself, can do no wrong.

Blondes? What can I tell ya?? It's a man thing.

In Heaven I'll Burn brings the lady in to he'p with the backing vocals and she's surprisingly Stevie Nicks about it all and that was.....well.....surprising. Works a treat mind, and that is because of the other blessings of Pidgeman's songwriting style. I know for a fact that he's an English musician but his music has always held more to the American standard of rock than his own homegrown version. I think that's helped a lot to establish him around the various sites we all inhabit; that and his own talent as songwriter, engineer, musician and general bottle-washer and turn the light out when you leave kinda guy. As Pidge says in his comments, this is a fairly standard blues riff, yoked to the man's words and made to sit up and beg.

I have, over the years, got used to this trans-Atlantic approach and can even see how neat it is to re-create it, even if it was unintentionally which is what I figure the case is here. I personally like some of Fleetwood Mac's songs, and even so I don't think my liking for this track has all that much bearing on it, or my obviously slavish devotion to Essence as fantasy figure. As I said before, Craig writes a good song, and In Heaven I'll Burn is right up there with the best of them BECAUSE of the influences I have mentioned. Certainly as an entry point into this musicians work it helps it's appeal, but also because the same influence give it immediacy to your average listener. My only (small) whinge is that I could have done with more of Essence in the mix and not solely on account of my no doubt prurient motives. Better stop now before I get arrested.

Highly Recommended Blues Rock.

Charlie A - Fading Away Demo

Hear The Track Here

The names Charlie A and Nuff-X are well known to long-term members of Soundclick, Charlie for his film soundtrackery whizcrackery and Nuff-X for his own inimitable take on messed up electronica enticingly known as 'nuffcore'. Now, as it happens, I have a lot of time and respect for both these musicians 1) for sticking it out and 2) for sticking to their guns musically and I've said so many times. It isn't, however, that often that I get to review them as a single (of collaborative) entity and I am grateful for the opportunity. The reason for this enthusiasm is because when I reviewed their last adventure together - Cracks In The Wall (March 2009) - I absolutely loved the blend between Charlie's innate melodic nous and Nuff's decimating sonic destruction which sounds a lot odder on paper (Ed: eh?) than it does pouring into your earholes. An absolutely awesome blend of orchestral and DnB that deserves listening to right now :)

Not sure exactly what the demo in the title signifies, whether this is a work in progress or just an idea for something, but it certainly can't be taken to mean something lo-fi and home produced - something neither musician could ever be accused of. It's knowing their work as well as I do, that makes me question this track. For sure, even though it's billed as experimental, pitch and timing still have a part to play and as 'experimental' as Fading Away is, it still mars the listening experience - at least for me. On the other hand, the music is absolutely spot on in all other respects.

It's whether that mismatch between the bass and vocals is intentional or not, that I find a stumbling block. It doesn't detract from the overall impact of the track and I know there will be plenty of takers for this piece of aural oddity, and I think they also a victim of past success. Where Cracks In The Wall was an exact match between to their individual talents, the same tightness isn't that evident here. Mind you, if I look at it another way and say that the track is more Nuff than Charlie this time around, it would make perfect sense. Not because Nuff is musically sloppy - far from it - but because he has a wicked sense of exactly how much wtf potion to use in a particular situation. Different, that's for sure.

Recommended experimental electronica.

Charles Lee - A Message For The Battleworn

Hear The Track Here

This has been a terrific month for hearing new musicians, and here's Charles Lee yet another new name to me - this time from Mixposure. Oh, that'll be rock then Gilmore eh? Well drrrr, Mixposure.... Having said that, there isn't much I haven't liked from the site although a steady diet of rock isn't always my idea of fun. I always make a point of listening to the other (odder maybe lol) DJ's who tend to feature a wider range of music, including Jiminy Jazz's excellent programs. Still, this ain't about the radio, its about Charles Lee and his particular brand of rock made - and I quote - 'with Garageband, a Blue Snowball microphone, Fender American Stratocaster guitar, and Charles' own quirky voice'. Well, sounds like a million of us and I have heard some surprisingly effective home productions from such setups.

So you can stop the sniggering at Garageband....

One of the main problems I have had with indie producers (OK bedroom engineers then!) has nothing to do with either the music or the method of getting it down in digital form but in the thought applied beforehand. As a real world published producer I am bound to notice the difference between someone working to a very tight budget and someone who has all the time in the world to perfect their music, but I also notice the difference each situation brings to the music. In the former situation, precision is everything, in the latter you have much more latitude, which creates its own problems. The tendency is to be ruthless when time is money, and that process helps sharpen the (dare I say it) 'product'. The tendency when recording is in your own hands is to be a lot more relaxed about such niceties. That, unfortunately, is the problem with A Message For The Battleworn in my opinion. Absolutely nothing wrong with the performance or the music, aside from a certain lack of excitement and nothing wrong with the song either. It's just not, to my ears, that inspiring.

Wtf does that matter in the scheme of things, you may ask. Welp, this is exactly the kind of track that will be liked by some people, and may well gain Charles a few listeners but when taken against some of the competition... It's a good little tune, in a soft rock way although I could have done with a little more of the vocals which in turn could have done with being a lot sharper to really cut through. Instrumentally, there are some lovely acoustic sounds, and a truly awful string sound but again that impression is probably more me because I have an inbuilt dislike for factory sounds. If it sounds like I am damning this track with faint praise, I suppose I must be and no doubt I'll feel the guilt about it and maybe I should listen to something else from this source before commenting further. Even so, I'm sure if you like soft rock, ballad-y type things, then you may well like this.

Recommended for all my pissing and moaning.

Neon Highwire - Luminescence EP

Hear The Track Here

As Neon Highwire are probably now aware, the wait for a review from me seems to get longer and longer every month, so apologies immediately for being a right lazy bastard. Neon Highwire are yet another local band to me, who seem to be playing every venue in my area, but Camden Town has always been a draw for bands - and rightly so. It's a lively area with some of the best music venues currently worthwhile playing in the centre of London and - as I know to my cost - it's a very difficult area to work; the competition is fierce and nowhere more so than on the famed Camden Crawl. I agree with band member Steve Morgan 'went once, didn’t enjoy it'. Yes, you get to see lots and lots of bands but God some of them can be incredibly tedious, especially after an hour or two of endless bombardment.

I think I've already had a moan this month about the variety of EP tracks so we are just gonna get straight into the music. Track One (of six) is Neon Blink that starts the action off with a pumping little track pitched somewhere between ska and rock and considering that Neon Highwire are only a three piece, they kick up enough noise and excitement to be twice that many. About the only thing I didn't like on this track was the mix level of the vocals, and that's probably a personal taste. It seems to me the vocals just miss that cutting edge. Meh. The track itself more than makes up for it though in terms of propulsive therapy and as a more than decent song. Moreover, there is a lot to consider within it's four minutes+ of running time. Excellent opener. Don't Wait changes the direction totally, proclaiming its electronica roots from the getgo and again the song at its heart is strong in arrangement and structure.

By the time you start getting stuck into Creation 4.00, you may begin to realise that you have definitely bitten off more than you can chew. Having lived with this EP for a while I can testify that there is so much here to take in, it's actually going to take months to really get all the juicy bits out of there. With a great cross between electronica and chippy rock, Neon Highwire are a fine example of the health of English music. The problem lies in the health of the English music business whose blindness to the potential of bands like this will be remembered and noted, come the f****** revolution. :) While Luminescence is about as good as it gets for indie bands, it's only fair to say that personal taste WILL play a part in this, but as far as professionalism and quality of content goes, these guys get my solid vote. (Note to self: I have to get out and get a life and go to one of their gigs)

Excellent rock/electronic blend. Excellent English Indie. Highly Recommended.

Friday, February 19, 2010

JPC (NZ) - Right By You

Hear The Track Here

It's always nice to kick off a New Year with a good start and, over the years, New Zealand rock musician John Paul Carroll has managed that a time or two, but nowhere near as powerful and focused as on Dig Up, Stupid (January 2010), his first Must Have for a while I think... Or is that first Must Have for this name because I could swear he pocketed a few when he was known as Fluidity (aaaahhhhhh). Looking back over the reviews I have done of him lately, beside Dig Up, It seems now like the tracks were gathering pace, getting better with each new progression. That's the beauty, I find, of really knowing an artist. Sure you still get blown onto your fat pompous ass every once in a while, but at least you know its coming...

..every little crumb of comfort....k?

I must say the things I first liked about this guys musical style are the same things I respect him for these days. Here is a musician who has always trodden his own path, making his own particular shade of rock. Being a long term fan of the Antipodean rock music scene, which has a very specific sound to my ears, probably enabled me to get into what JPC was doing back in the day, and he's updated it regularly but all of the essential ingredients are present. A bone-crunching guitar, drums that explode right in your face and a long, convoluted tale of some woe or other most of which you won't understand a word of. Mind you, if you like a good rock song, delivered with blinding style then words will seem inconsequential.

John Paul has one of those voices that slur things together, and when you have a slamming rock track vigorously kicking your head off, it's difficult to make out the meaning of the song. One of JPC's main strengths is that he is a songwriter who generally has meaning and content in his lyrics so obviously it's important to get this bit over too. Happily, he always posts the lyrics anyway, and I find it always helps to - I don't know - sharpen the musical vision. Damn does my pretension look big in this? Anyway, that's how it works for me, and I've found down the years it works for me and this musician too. So to rock, or not to rock, you decide.

Highly Recommended Heavy Rock.

Cam's Even Song - Gist Of Our Times

Hear The Track Here

After a spate of new name reviews it's nice to get back to a couple of familiar faces. I had this track back to back with JPC (NZ); both are Soundclick veterans and fairly much known quantities to this reviewer. Cam's Even Song was my Artist Of The Year 2006 and he continues to shine out as one of Soundclick's finer musicians and songwriters so I confess I'm a little puzzled why Cam is not present on a lot of the other sites around that would relish his tasteful, professional approach to songwriting. Maybe, like me, the tasks he already takes on precludes any other activity. For those who who have no clue to Cam's Even Song, it's time to attend and testify. Especially if rock pop, infectiously structured and meticulously delivered (albeit in his own inimitable manner) sound good to you. I am a confirmed and dedicated Cam Fan and I heartily suggest you give this musician a listen.

and pick any track too... :)

Gist Of Our Times finds young Cam in a pensive mood, as befits its folk rock listing. It is 'about the brevity of life and our human capacity for stupidity' Cam says, and that is a subject that is bottomless and eternal and very fertile ground for someone as good at putting things into context as Cam. 'Do you know the gist of our times?' he questions, 'can you read, can you read the signs?' all of which is encased in a very propulsive acoustic pop song that - for avid fans - is pure Cam's Even Song at its jovial best. For me, one of Cam's greatest strengths has been his ability to make crazily compulsive music and ally it lyrically to his faith and beliefs. Now that, my friends takes rare skill and Gist Of Our Times is a shining example of what he does best.

While I think I have heard Cam's Even Song deliver stronger songs overall than Gist Of Our Times, there is no doubt the professionalism and sharpness of his musical vision would certainly win over even the most hard hearted of listeners. It has a irresistible rock backbeat, and the way the vocals weave in and out pretty much right out the gate will have your head spinning and your toes tapping. It takes a while for the words to really sink in and yes, it helps enormously to read them (as always with this songwriter), and considering Cam's faith, this is a bit of Christian Rock I can get really enthusiastic about. There again, that's always been the way; actions are what count, words mean nothing.

Highly Recommended Camaraderie for us all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brett Howe - Each Passing Day

Hear The Track Here

During my usual Saturday night debacle while propping up the bar in Mix Radio's chatroom, I often get to hear artists who I wouldn't normally hear. T'was just this past Saturday or so in fact that I made the musical acquaintance of Brett Howe. It takes a lot for me to stop my ridiculous cavorting to pay attention to what is being played and it says something that one of his tracks made me stop and listen. Goes without saying though that I can't for the life of me remember what it was called but neither can I remember getting kicked out of there at the crack of a chilly Sunday morning either, but there goes a typical Gilmore weekend for you. A blur of blurs. Even now, after having lived with this track for a while, I couldn't swear whether it was this one or not.

Acoustic folk; a guy, a guitar and a voice is the name of the game but even so I think the track I heard wasn't doubletracked like this track. Grrr, I suppose I'm going to have to go take a squint at the playlist or this will drive me crazy. In the meantime, let's contemplate Each Passing Day. Being a guitarist myself, I do appreciate someone who can do a good job of fingerpicking. For me, its one of the strengths of the acoustic genre, especially of you can get it to reach the dizzy heights set by one Christopher Martin Hansen. Haven't got a clue who that is? Do yourself a favour: soundclick search... While Brett doesn't quite reach that stage, he's certainly got a very nice acoustic lick happening in this track and, to my ears, the double tracking worked although I'd have to caution against overuse. As it is, Brett does it with just the right amount of finesse.

The essential ingredient in this kind of setup is the one place where a lot of people fall down. When you limit yourself in this way, the song becomes much more important than it would do, say in a fully scored track. The reason I first paid attention to Brett's work was because the song itself tugged at me, as much as the style it was encased in. Regular readers will know how susceptible I am to a good song, and Each Passing Day is a cracker, especially in this natural, unadorned way. Moreover, it doesn't drag its feet getting where it needs to go either, clocking in smartly around two and a half minutes.

Highly Recommended Folk Rock.

Jared Lekites - Love That Lasts

Hear The Track Here

'Jared Lekites' - it says here - 'is a singer/songwriter heavily inspired by the revolutionary music of the 60s'. Sounds good to me because I was too and that's never a bad sign, especially for a musician who is new to me. Certainly its a given that Jared Lekites is a name even a numbskull like me is going to remember. Not much to go on though, he's from the US, obviously into yer classic rock although Love That Lasts bears the dreaded 'folk' rock tag. Now personally, I have a lot of time for folk rock provided its more rock than folk, if you know what I mean. Most of the artists I really like on Soundclick divide their time between these two genres and pop - think Cameron Pierce and Cam's Even Song for two... However, there is a real fine line between what gets to me in this genre and what doesn't.

I can't say I am a big fan of the American brand of folk rock personified by John Denver and his ilk, although I like most of the close harmony folk rock bands the American West Coast specialised in. Much more to the point, as you also know, I cannot abide rock ballads because most quite simply don't work. End of story. The reason I am on this well beaten path, as you may suspect, is because Love That Lasts manages to straddle all of those points. Lyrically and musically this owes a lot the the Beatles in general and John Lennon in particular, especially in the arrangement and vocals.

It has to be said that Jared Lekites does a pretty decent job of it, my problem came because - to be honest - I don't particularly care for the style. What the track shows me is that Jared knows what he's doing and if the references I have given are of interest to you, listening to this will not be an onerous task. On the other hand, listen is all you can do with this track, or shell out .99c for your very own copy. On that score, it seems a 128k file and a decent (but not groundbreaking) song is a tad too high priced and may struggle to make any money whatsoever. There again, one of the beauties of Soundclick is that at least the option is there to sell tracks - whether or not any actually turn into cash.

Decent folk rock song a la Beatles.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tedd-Z - The Speliologist

Hear The Track Here

Considering that I've known Tedd-Z since like forever, it may come as a surprise to know that the man has only ever had two Must Have's from me; and both of those over the last year or so. I guess it shows how ruthless I can be eh? Even with people I've known a long time. Of course, that's what I'd like to think but reality has a way of coming back and biting you, so let me tell you the real reason. Tedd'z (hee) music can be difficult. It can also be middle-of-the-night-flying-mozzie (Ed: Mosquito) level of irritating, the insect worlds equivalent of a Stuka dive bomber. So obviously these are not areas designed to curry favour with fickle reviewers like myself. Mind you, Tedd has never given a toss either way and - because of that - has developed into an interesting, sometimes dazzling musician with a thousand facets, albeit mainly electronic. You may not like all those facets, but at least he's got them.

Not that this is strictly a Tedd-Z track anyway because - according to the song comments - he provides the drums and percussion, everything else is down to MP3 Unsigned musician Liquid. 'Everything else' covers a lot of territory, given the wash of sound that hits you when you crank this up for the first time, that warmth dragged me into the track before I could blink. Hand on heart though, have to say I am somewhat tired of basic electronica, and this does skirt into some dangerous aural territory a time or two, but it's blend of soundscape and/or new age symphonia kept my interest though the initial plays.

The more I heard it, the more I though how apt a Games Soundtrack The Speliologist would be, although it's a bit more Sims than Doom in content and style. Nonetheless, the track managed to keep my attention through a good many plays and that's always a good sign, especially with music of this type. Tedd-Z, of course, doesn't go for yer average beat as we know, and his work on this track is no exception. Considering the oddness of each sound, it's a surprisingly propulsive background for the track. Has to be said though, the beats are the smallest part of this track and if you are a fan of electronica, you should find plenty to like. If you are into throwing yourself into deep, dark, slimy caves of a weekend AND like electronica, this has your particular name on it.

Recommended soundtrack electronica.

Absolute Chaos - Falling Asleep

Hear The Track Here

Although I do review a healthy chunk of Soundclick's enormous hip hop community, like all other genres, I get the same artists coming back for more. Nothing wrong with that, and it's a sort of compliment but it is good to hear something new. Absolute Chaos is a new name to me and Soundclick too I think. He's a 17 year old Miami based rapper, which doesn't surprise me in the least. Not that he's 17, but that he's a rapper from Miami. Judging from what I know about Miami it's literally bursting at the seams with hip hop artists of all descriptions. That's certainly the impression I have gathered over the years I've been reviewing on Soundclick. Take a look at the Miami listing on Soundclick and you'll find fourteen hundred+ musicians and virtually the whole of the front page is hip hop related. Mind you, I have heard some great stuff out of there, so lets see what we have this time...

Not sure whether this is one guy, or whether he has collaborators, although he does say on the front page that Absolute Chaos is 'on every beat'. Now whether that refers to the rap, the beat (in this case meaning beats and music) I have no idea. Whatever, if Absolute Chaos did come up with all the workings of the backing track, he/they did a good job. For my part I like the quirkiness of certain strains of hip hop (think De La Soul) and this is the territory Falling Asleep stumbles around in. Given all that I've said about this musician, you might be expecting something a bit...well....loose maybe?

Must admit I was a bit meh about this track, thinking that I was in for a lo-fi, repetitive rant, or one of those 'girl you make me come' drenched lines the genre is famed for. Nothing of the sort, Absolute Chaos's approach is restrained, sophisticated and not without a certain charm all it's own. I can't say in all honesty that I'm going to be hanging onto this any longer than it takes to review it, but I think about the kind of music I was making at seventeen and this guy has me beat seven ways from Sunday. As we all know, it takes time, patience and a lot of expertise to really make Soundclick pay off in any meaningful way and Absolute Chaos have made a good start of it. So if you have never heard them, now is your opportunity.

Recommended Alternative hip hop.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

333maxwell - The Redemption Of Others

Hear The Track Here

I readily admit to a liking for all things musically Maxwell-ian. From a definitely understated beginning which gave no clue to the hit monster we had lurking in our midst, I don't think anyone around at the time would have seen where 333maxwell would go musically - least of all me. The apex of that blossoming was, for me, last year where our Max clocked up no less than NINE Must Haves in his own right, and at least a couple with collaborations, all of which showed that distinctive musical nous we have come to know and love. Rare artists are usually the ones in the running for my Artist Of The Year award and - in every single respect - 333maxwell showed that he had exactly what it took. No surprise then that he ran away with the award streets ahead of any competition. Wow, that's all a bit strong and...well flowery isn't it? Fairly gushing with praise? That's certainly what Chas Holman (aka the Max) is thinking right now, and no doubt also thinking that such praise is wholly undeserved. In the words of the immortal Harry Enfield...

Oi Maxwell! Noooooooooooooooo.

Every single person agreed with that choice, and the number of dedicated fans and listeners has demonstrates his rare quality. A highly professional songwriter, an outstanding musician and a dab hand at the ol' production too, what's not to like? So what kind of crap has he slung our way this time? 'I needed to come up with something for a February Gilmore review session' he mutters in the song comments, which had me gnawing at my fist quick enough. Damn, don't you just hate it when that happens. See, the rest of us, struggle to come up with something valid a YEAR and this ******* guy does it on a whim. As I say, what's not to hate? Musically, I suspect Chas and I have travelled similar roads which is why I can understand perfectly where this musician is coming from and his musical roots are firmly embedded in a long-ago Golden Age.

Sounding like a cross between John Lennon and George Harrison, performing what appears to be one of Bob Dylan's forgotten protest songs, you'd have to be thinking this can't be a spur of the moment thing. Nonetheless, I am eminently prepared to believe that 333maxwell made it for exactly the reason stated. Which then proves my opening statements and this whole thing keeps going in a circle. While I am trying to untangle all this, I heartily suggest you make sure you catch up with one of Soundclick's finer musicians and while Redemption Of Others is not as sharp or well defined as most of his work, back off on the reverb eh? Nonetheless, the strength of his music, vocals and songwriting standard will still blow most people away. The one thing that 333maxwell is overwhelmingly good at is appealing to all tastes, and this is a welcome addition to the stable. You had better not, however, be doing this again Max. You can't be blaming me for your tracks BEFORE I review them, it's just not civilized, doncha know?

Highly Recommended Pop Gospel

Mike Kohlgraf - Once Upon A Time Ft Gina & Rick Kresiak

Hear The Track Here

Not content with collaborating with the Whole World and His Brother (Ed: not actually a band, despite the caps), Mike Kohlgraf (aka Mike-K) is now busily engaging the Brothers Wife into the musical mix. If you know Mixposure in any meaningful form, you will already be well aware of Gina and Rick in their various guises. We know Rick better as the musician RwK and I am suitably shamed to say that I haven't really heard much from Gina. I think I've heard songs of hers in passing on Mix Radio but I wouldn't want to take a lie dector test on that one. As I mentioned in past reviews, the real milestone Mike has passed over the last year or two has been in production and arrangement and from note one I was in awe at how beautifully he has captured this very pretty track.

Rick and Gina supply the vocals and a wonderful job they do of it too. As a long time fan of Simon and Garfunkel, that was the first influence my lazy bastard of a mind lurched into and further playing only made it plainer. That is not to say that Rick, Gina or even the blessed Michael have copied the style it's just the closest reference I can make right now. I am known for not lobbing such weighty comparisons about like confetti. Most people know that if I compare someone (favourably anyway) with a heavy-weight name, I've usually got my back covered by the musician(s) concerned. To my mind anyway, both Mike and Rick are heavy-weight musicians in their own right, just not so well known or well paid.

Years of experience do pay off, although 'pay' might be stretching it a bit. To me it's about quality. Quality of musicianship, production, arranging and songwriting are where such skills are shown and Once Upon a Time is a credit to all involved. Oh, Gilmore, you are bound to say that, these people are your friends. F*** that I say, friends or not, if a track doesn't cut it I am bound to say so. Ask Mike, who has had more than his share of abuse from me in the past. Still, when something's right and credit is due, I'm first in line to offer up praises unto them (Ed: Uh oh, he's going all Biblical on us...) and this is soooo right. It might also surprise you to know, should you know my quirks and foibles, that this is most definitely a ballad type thingie, and I usually avoid them like the plague. Not, however, this one. There's ballads, and ballads. Know what I mean, jellybean?

Excellent slice of classic rock, albeit in ballad form. Highly Recommended.

The Ran Tan Waltz - Them That Help Themself, Do Themself More Good EP

Hear The Track Here

It amazes me that the 'umble EP has gained such elasticity. Within the past two years I have reviewed EP's consisting of 11 tracks right down to three (this one). See, the weird thing is that I remember the original vinyl EP's which - for some obscure reason - were always four tracks. Never more, never less. EP stands for Extended Play and when the single record was king and LP's (Long Players surprisingly enough) were only for the exceedingly rich, most of us plumped for the EP because of its value for money. I must have missed The Ran Tan Waltz's first EP - Democracy Has Been and Died - although they were given some very positive reviews on it by the looks of it. The Waltzers are from Wakefield, deep in the heart of Yorkshire which has thrown up a few bands of note in the past. (Ed: you sure about that?) The band proudly state on their MySpazz page 'There is a tradition of intelligence, integrity and ambition in rock music which seems to have been forgotten', a sentiment I heartily agree with. In fact the only place I see such intelligence and integrity these days is right here, on the net.

A four piece, Matt, Sean, Chris and Pete (collectively Ran Tan Waltz) sound, to me anyway, typically English, from the histrionic proto-punk vocals to the weedy guitar production so favoured by so many indie bands. It also sounds quite professional too, at least in terms of recording and production. I wouldn't be surprised to find out it was made (on the cheap of course) in the local studio during 'down' time. So, no production twists and turns, but what you get in place is a very solid, straight ahead recording of a band who are feeling their way into their own sound. Course it would all turn to **** in their hands if the songs themselves weren't up to scratch and that is where The Ran Tan Waltz score most - provided that you like the rock/punk approach that is.

For a long, long time my own tastes in English music were shaped by the late, and much missed, John Peel. If anyone kept this particular sound alive over the years since punk first happened it has to be St John of the Beeb. As such, I think he would have loved this because these three tracks would have been right up his street. Seeming lo-fi and (sometimes) quite ramshackle, material like this tends to work its way inside without you really being aware of it. My favourite, right now, is England Isn't Mine both lyrically and musically, if their was any justice this should really get a real world UK release. A very nice introduction then, to this obviously new band, and one I will probably be following up in further releases. It will be interesting to see where these guys are going from here.

Excellent English Indie. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fear 2 Stop - Citrus Monkey (i's Not Alright)

Hear The Track Here

Got this letter from the Big Cheese who owns my butt. 'Oi Gilmore' it says, 'been noticing that you are far too nice to that Fear 2 Stop crew, and that's got to stop. If we have to pull out your fingernails and pound staples into your face, we will do that. Diss them, diss them bad...' Ooookkkk, me hearties, walk this way. Sorry about that (stops to drop a scruffy bit of paper into the bin), just thought you'd like to know something of the darker underbelly of this reviewing malarky. As any other sane human being, I am partial to having my bodily parts actually attached to my body, so I obviously face a dilemma... Do I do the dirty diss, or do I stand courageously in the blaze of adversity and spit in its eye? Finally I decided, being an eternal procrastinator, that I would just wait and see what the Houston horrors had cooked up for me this time... I blame it on the amount of times my Mum told me to wait and see when I was a child.

Just got used to it.

'Inspired by music from my buddy Rob aka DJ Droppin' Billy Castillo advises us on the band's latest Indietronic outing which might or might not be about vitamin C addicts that are a: furry and b: extremely ticked off about something. While I admire Billy for taking inspiration from buddy Rob, I wonder if buddy Rob can hear that in this track. For sure, and being totally honest, what I hear is a classic Fear 2 Stop workout - which I have an insane liking for that might spell trouble for me nether parts. The thing I most respect about F2S is that they do what they do, and leave you to either reach for the sickbag or sit up and take notice. Getting to the point where the little light dawns is a long, slow process with this band and familiarity with their oeuvre helps enormously, and I can't see this track going any way towards dispelling that small local difficulty.

Billy, Dana Castillo and Raymond Proseus (aka Fear 2 Stop) have carved out quite a sizeable niche for themselves on Soundclick for exactly the kind of track you hear here (Ed: hear, hear?) Let me tell you, if you are not a fan of analog sounds - especially leads - better get running right now. The niche this band occupies supplies them by the shedload. On the face of it, I can definitely see plenty of sane, rational people scratching their heads trying to make sense of this music. My advice, don't even try. It can't be done. Learn the lesson many a Soundclick/Fear 2 Stop veteran has learned over many, many years. Give it time to develop and you may also enjoy the enhanced (if slightly wobbly) vision Fear 2 Stop strive for. In other words, this is crap and not worthy of wasting paper on. So, it's a good thing we don't have paper innit?

Highly Recommended for crazies everywhere, but handle with care.

Ron Vogel - Staying Out Of The Way Of The Day

Hear The Track Here

From the time that my twin boys were born, I have virtually been on the nightshift. Luckily I have a job that allows me to work from home, which also allows me to raise my children properly, something I am eternally grateful for. The question I faced was where was the me time? I'm a dedicated musician after all, and the only space I had left was the nighttime. Over the years I have become increasingly inspired somewhere in the time before dawn, and have produced some of my best work in the wee, wee hours. I suspect that Ron has had to do similar juggling in his long career as a musician.

As you might have guessed, the subject of Ron Vogel's song is of being on the night shift and - as usual - this is me getting carried away again. Sooooo. Ron Vogel. Think we are three tracks down with this artist so far and the experience has been favourable, at least for a rock animal like me. Nothing startling mind, just pure straightforward rock, if a little home produced sounding. If, maybe, that is a little unfair of me, the home produced comment IMO counts on this track without dispute. That is not to say that it isn't any good. You can't be doing this for years and years without putting up at least a good front, and Ron certainly does more than that. Nonetheless, I don't think this is strong as some of his previous tracks, being a fairly standard rock arrangement and song, but the real problem - for me anyway - is in the mix/production.

There is also no doubt that Ron has put a lot of time and trouble to make sure things are as right as he can make me, and he comes within a whisker of doing it to. Or at least, that was the initial impression, after only a few plays. Time, however, worked its usual magic and showed me things that, while a personal opinion, could be dealt with easily. The vocal sound, considering the extremely energetic performance Ron makes of it, is awfully stark, and right on top of the mix. Maybe some softening and defining of those vocals may help, as well as getting some natural ambience's in there with the vocal. All production tricks of course because the vocal is just right. The performance of the vocal, I think, demands that extra mile to make this track the monster I hear. It may sound like I am disappointed in this track, I'm not. This is a class rock song delivered with skill and invention, what I'm talking about are tweaks, and certainly wouldn't interest a listener looking for a decent rock song.

Highly Recommended geetar rock.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ladybear - Catch 22 CD

Hear The Track Here

Even in this age of instant download gratification, there is nothing quite like a nice bit of artwork, a plastic case that will disintegrate quicker than you can grasp it and a shiny new CD to play around with. As much as I am completely at home downloading the music and the music only, you do miss quite a lot of what the band intend(ed) by not paying attention to the OTHER areas of presentation they might have. Ladybear get around this smartly by having all of those things, and then sending li'l ol' me my very own copy and I do love to get nice shiny things in the mail. You may remember that we have heard from this London based band before. I reviewed Crocuses (June 2009) and was mucho impressed and - in my usual restrained and gentle way - effused about this 'loud, in-your-face wake up call' which managed to snag a Must Have on its way through my review digestory system. This is a real world release too, through a new record company called South West Records, and it all shows in the excellent (makes quote sign) 'product' grasped in my sweaty mitts. Wtf ARE sweaty mitts anyway??

Catch 22 is a twelve track CD (including Crocuses) on sale at the bands website for a mere 10 GBP, so what are you waiting for? Oh, the review. God, I hate smartasses! As I mentioned in my review of Crocuses, Ladybear are a three piece alternative band with an added advantage. Amy Nicolls has a bass player brother playing with either The Streets or Muse (not sure which) and Big Daddy Billy Nicholls (as you will see from the link) is an old music business hand writing songs for a great many musicians, as well as writing and recording for himself. Serious stuff then, and part reason I gave Crocuses such a glowing review. Amy takes lead vocal on the charmingly staccato Hurricane, ably backed up by Louis Matthews (guitars) and John Martin (drums and production). What comes across though is a highly polished, totally professional sound, arrangement and production of a pop rock track that has tremendous appeal from the start. Sounding like a MUCH tougher B-52's, by the time track two - Whatcha Doin - rolls round you are either going to sold on this CD or not. I know that it isn't really fair to review something as real world sounding as this in the same breath as some other unsigned (and inevitably much less polished) musicians but when all is said and done, we each have to work with what we have. Amy and Co just seem to have a lot of all the things that count; great back office support, seasoned professionals helping out and an eye on the prize.

Wow, isn't that a powerful whiff of sour grapes right there? ;)

Mind you, in the face of what results from this good fortune is undeniable regardless of circumstance, but it would all fall apart if Ladybear didn't have anything substantial to offer and that is where this all comes brilliantly together. As good as Crocuses is (it's a sure fire hit IMHO), there are plenty of other examples on Catch 22 of just why Ladybear are a band to be savoured. Once you get past the awesomeness that is Crocuses (Ed: Crocusi, surely?), the mood gets a lot more modern and again to use a tired comparison we are into Lily Allen territory, but this time with bollocks and panache as opposed to simpering bounciness. Both Crack and All Played Out show how professional this band's style is, either one could be played on the mainstream radio right now without so much of a blink of the eye. Amy's skills as a musician are on display everywhere from her very listenable vocals, piano and string arrangements (Crocuses features some great string parts). Can I Have It?, for example, could have been a Pretenders track and is - to my mind - the other Must Have track on this CD, an absolute blinder. It also features the track that should be the Official London Fashion Week anthem, Skinny Bitch which - as you can imagine - is priceless lyrically. The ultimate question comes down to cash. Would I actually stump up some hard earned cash to get this track, and the answer is a definite yes. Therefore it's a good job I pretend to be a reviewer and I get one for free. Stand well back while I gloat on my good fortune because I have one and you don't. You could, however, remedy that and make Ladybear very happy.

MUST HAVE highly professional English rock pop.