Monday, May 31, 2010

Ralph Atkinson - New Haircut - remix

Hear The Track Here

Don't know whether it's the amount of tracks I've ploughed through this month or what but I feel distinctly rocked out. The overwhelming number of rock or rock related tracks this month has been stunning. Usually I can manage to break it up with some stuff from other places but even the blog has supplied rock this month. Sheesh, it never rains but it pours eh? Ralph Atkinson then has two hurdles to climb; my prevailing ennui about rock music this month and secondly by having such a perfect track to start me off. I refer, of course, to Building A Time Machine (October 2009), which is a solid slice of blues rock that brooks no denial. Unfortunately, none of the subsequent tracks have had that impact.

But there is always a next time, right?

As always when I see the remix word, I go straight to the original to get a picture of what it started as, and to be honest I can't see that much difference between the two, except that the remix sounds a little cleaner and tighter. It's a kind of funk rock originally recorded quickly for the Coconut Blues Club "Funk Challenge" whose deadline Ralph had too meet, hence the two versions. Obviously, in this case, I would certainly point to the remix as the track to listen but - as I say - there isn't really much difference.

As I mentioned, I've become rock weary this month and I suspect Ralph is paying a bit of a price for that because I did warm to New Haircut once I played it for a while, but only in a 'oh that's interesting' kinda way. There again, I do like musicians who do what they want, and to hell with the rest of us and - lets face it - there's always room for more rock. I don't know, maybe I'm becoming a purist in my advancing years, but I yearn for Ralph to do another track with the authenticity of Building A Time Machine.

Recommended funk rock.

Pilesar - Love Monkey #1

Hear The Track Here

With a title like that it can only come from one source, uber experimentalist and all round musical lunatic, Pilesar. The man has been hitting a serious roll as far as good tracks go over the past (say) year or so. Not that he hasn't made good tracks in the past, they are many and legion. I myself have been under Pilesar's baleful spell ever since I was subjected to a massive dose of his music with the irritatingly cute (but enormously strange) Just A Turtle (September 2004) and Mandible's Acka Fracka (October 2004) - a track that still defies adequate description to this day. Since then there has been a lifetime of great tracks and awesome moves, including Pilesar setting up the excellent Chameleon Dish Archives netlabel..

Not just a love monkey then... (Ed: wtf IS, don't answer that)

As you can imagine Love Monkey #1 focuses on that most enjoyable of pastimes, eating bananas. I jest of course. Sex is the name of the game so - as Pilesar so rightly states - let's stop wasting our precious time. In anyone else's hands this would would be a cute, probably pink, love poem that is enough to induce vomit within a fifty mile radius. In Pilesar's hands, of course, it would be anything but and probably a great many things that shouldn't even be spoken about in polite company. See, Pilesar is different to other musicians, and you'd better believe that statement BEFORE you play the track.

Pilesar has never been an easy musician to assimilate, and yet he has a surprising amount of support both from fellow musicians and a wider audience and has managed to carve out his own Pilesar shaped niche where he quite happily churns out sonic squalls by the bucketload. Love Monkey #1 is a song that builds on the sound we have become used to through his live tracks, and he pays much respect to his musical roots - whether he is aware of it or not. There is a pleasing retro feel to this track that I suspect will endear it to many people who maybe wouldn't have heard of Pilesar previously.

Pilesar as primate. Highly Recommended musical lunacy.

Ron Gragg - Rest In Me

Hear The Track Here

I have by now reviewed a goodly chunk of the work of American based Christian Rock musician Ron Gragg and, for the most part. enjoyed the experience - which is not always the case with Christian music. It helps that Ron is an accomplished guitar player, and a fairly decent songwriter into the bargain but - for me - where Ron really scores is in his song ideas and his lyrics. Never one to shirk an issue when he can take it head on, Ron's work demands a bit of thought - moreso if you happen to be a Christian. When I reviewed my last Ron Gragg track - Time (The Time Project) (April 2010) - I bemoaned how the home produced sound tended to detract from the solid performance.

Similar problems dog Rest In Me and not ones that I can actually ignore, and that's a shame because I really hate to diss someones work - being only too well aware of how difficult it is to get this down at all. Like Time, Rest In Me is a good song struggling to be heard and I think two problems stop that from happening. Problem one is the really swishy sound that this track swims in, as well as the looseness of the arrangement (most noticeable on the guitars IMO). Problem two is that, for some reason, Ron's voice never quite fits right in the mix. This didn't, to my knowledge, happen on Time and I wonder if its a by-product of the songs structure.

So while I think this is a track that may well be worthwhile to fans of Ron and/or Christian Rock music, I personally have heard this musician do much, much better. That's not to say this is a bad track, it isn't which makes it all the harder to say these things but for me this track just didn't work and I'm not sure why that is. To be sure, the sound and arrangement problems are a big, big factor, but so are the odd little glitches that you only notice when you become used to the track. There again, out of the ten tracks I have reviewed, I've pretty much said the same thing every time. Nice song but something more is needed when the competition for ears is so incredibly fierce.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wake N Bake Beats - Stronger

Hear The Track Here

Although almost every site I hang around in has its share of hip hop musicians and rappers none has more than Soundclick, where you may be able to snag a hip hop number one if you can manage to sound better (Ed: or game better) than approximately one and a half million other tracks. Think about it. One and a half million tracks!! I have only heard a tiny, tiny fraction of this insane number over the years I have been reviewing on Soundclick but have definitely formed some hard opinions because of it. While a great deal of hip hop tracks on the site are fairly generic, and almost all home produced in some form, there are ocassional glints of promise and nowhere more so than with rappers.

Soundclick has some very handy rappers indeed, and a great many have very distinctive rap styles and/or sound and it is a sound I have come to associate with Soundclick's unique way of marrying beatmakers with rappers. I think Wake N Bake Beats have gone down this route, a path I might add that is strewn with traps for the unwary to fall into ass first. Not sure if Koncept Beat is one of Soundclick's 'beat factories' but they are behind the musical side of this track and - truth to tell - they do a pretty good job of it. Or at least they do, as far as I can tell.

The hardest trick is to marry the beat to the rap and, to give them their due, this does happen but it does create some additional problems along the way. Mind you, if you don't like swearing and cusswords in music, you probably won't get past the first few bars so not to worry anyway. For the rest of us who don't mind when ******* is a main proponent of speech, Stronger is - at best - a reasonable effort. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't heard much better raps, in terms of flow and ideas, but (from what I can gather) this is a new(ish) musician who obviously has room to grow. The biggest no-no, however, was technical. There is a massive volume surge at certain points that is very, very noticeable and needs to be corrected whatever one might think about the rap.

Those Among Us - Feel

Hear The Track Here

Because there is a certain amount of movement around Silvertrain (now called Those Among Us apparently) at the moment, I have considerably more confusion than normal. Taking into account that my normal state is of utter confusion, throwing more onto the fire is - as the man said - doing my head in. So, consequently here I am yet again reviewing a track I have no idea about, even though John Brandon (of Silvertrain) has probably written me chapter and verse about it including - and here I hang my head in absolute shame - where you might be able to listen to it because I don't see it on the Silvertrain page. I'm also pretty certain that it has nothing to do with John's new BSM offshoot either because - unless I am very mistaken - I hear Lino's work on this which WOULD make it a Silvertrain track...

Confused?? Confuddled?? Best read on then...

Anyone who has heard the new, much improved Silvertrain line up will instantly recognise this, and again it confirms that John's instinct to move away from the band's pop rock roots is a valid one. See, while John and Ritchie were both active, Ritchie's presence tended to balance John's more introspective outlook, as we have discovered from the endless stream of John Brandon demos this reviewer has plowed through. All that work did pay off IMHO though because not only has John improved beyond belief as a songwriter, he has developed the right outfit and sound to put it across.

I have had grave reservations about where Silvertrain were shunting off to, most notably in my review of Under Pressure (March 2010) where I moaned that 'the distinctive, almost innocent appeal of Silvertrain's earlier existence barely gets a look in'. Well, I guess the boy done growed up because Feel is something I heartily recommend you get a taste of because if this is the new Silvertrain then I'll be wanting a lot more of it. Funkier and rockier than anything the original Silvertrain could have come up with, Feel is a taste of glories to come.

MUST HAVE Silvertrain (Ed: and about time too)

Andrey Mishchenko - September 29 (Window to the Fall)

Hear The Track Here

Мне так жаль!! Just in case you were thinking that the cat had been sick all over the beginning of this review, let me explain. It's Russian you see (and probably mistranslated at that) and what it basically says is that I am sorry. Again, the review curse has struck and this month I seem to have forgotten Andrey Mishchenko in the crush but no matter I'll do it now. It has nothing to do with the fact that he looks like he could beat the crap out of me just by giving me a mean stare, even though my editor may tell you otherwise (Ed: what? li'l ol' me??).

My only real excuse is that May has been the busiest month for reviews this year and that I'll try better next time... OK, no more craven apologies. Although I review almost everything that moves on Soundclick, it's very rare for me to review classical music. Not because I don't like classical music, I do although I have to say I REALLY don't feel qualified in that field to do more than the briefest yes/no acid test. More to the point, classical music means different things to different people and no matter what anyone thinks, you will find somebody to say the exact opposite.

Andrey's take on this is from a classical piano stance, and he is following in a fine Russian tradition in doing so and it shows in September 29 (Window to the Fall) with it's great sweeps and flourishes, and it's attendant poignancy. Sorry, but IMHO, Russian classical musicians are some of the most natural and finest in the world, they seem to soak it up as they are growing up. This is a fine example of the emotional, colourful expressiveness of that country and if you do like classical piano pieces, this will definitely make you sit up.

Recommended Classical piano piece.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Big Wheel - Ghost Shapes (draft)

Hear The Track Here

I am a man with many phobias and prejudices, all of which my readers have become painfully aware of, and one whose never is tapped often is my intense, unfathomable hatred of all sounds that - in any form - go 'plink' Plinky plonky makes Gilmore's brain go all wonky, doncha know? It's the main reason I cannot abide Ambient and/or New Age because both genres are infested with the noxious stuff. Mind you, speaking of genres, Mellow gets pretty close too which brings us up smartly before a large round thing. See, in any other hands, the above statements could be highly alarming to world peace and security because not only is Big Wheel's Ghost Shapes a Mellow track, it features - features mind - a whole plethora of plinky, dinky things right from the outset.

I suppose it didn't help that this was back to back on my playlist with Michael Hughes in major acoustic mode so it was a bit like going from a masterclass in strings to someone playing a kiddie vibraphone. The key words to bear in mind here though are 'in other hands'. See, I am only too well aware of Big Wheel and have known him and smooth music for many years and I know he's a bit of a perfectionist. That really shows up in Ghost Shapes because while I hated said offensive sounds, I did very much like what The Round One was doing with them.

Actually, methinks I protest a little too much. Although the sounds did irritate, one sounded suprisingly like an Ovation guitar, so it might be that I am entirely wrong about the composition of these sounds. Nobody will give a toss once they are into the body of the track though, especially Big Wheel fans because he has delivered - yet again - a track worthy of his talents. He's always had a rhythmic style that endeared him to people, which has now blossomed into something sounding pretty wonderful. And this is just the draft???

Highly Recommended (damn it) Mellow.

Michael Hughes - Cloudy

Hear The Track Here

Hands up all those people who were aware that Soundclick even had a genre called Traditional Hawaiian? Yeah, well you are all lying so you don't look out of touch. Personally I had no idea that such a genre existed but if there is anyone who can get in there and make something of it, Michael Hughes would be it. See, Michael is an acoustic musician in the truest sense of the word and his preferred instruments read like a world class slobber list. Amongst all those stringed beauties are mandolins, steel guitars and lap slide guitars - which explains the genre classification I guess.

Only two of those instruments end up on Cloudy and you wouldn't think that two stringed instruments could make so much pure sound. For the plank spankers amongst us, Michael made this with a Weissenborn lap steel and National Baritone steel guitar and the reason I say that isn't to show I'm some guitar geek (Ed: he is, o yes he is) but because these two instruments are the very definition of American music to me. Both were born with the country but, to me anyway, the way they were used in Hawaiian music is very different to their application in American mainstream music, in particular country and its bastard offshoot, country and western,

Cloudy is exactly the kind of tune I would class as pure 100% Americana in feel, tone and structure and shows why Michael Hughes is held in such high regard. There are very, very few guitarists I would choose to listen to for relaxation and almost all of them are acoustic. What makes this musician so special to me isn't just his playing though - even though it is of a very high standard indeed. It's the authenticity he brings to every single track. Out of the three tracks I have reviewed so far (and shame on me for taking so long to do so) all of them have been flawless, beautifully played and recorded. Such sounds are the very stuff of heaven...

MUST HAVE acoustic Americana.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Black Chamber - Psychosomatica

Hear The Track Here

One of the reasons I sat up and took notice when I reviewed my first track by Canada's Black Chamber was the listing of the UK's Throbbing Gristle as an influence. I knew the band personally at the time (1975-78) and I had no idea of how important they would become in structuring the experimental landscape we inhabit today. I knew they had something, yes, but I had no idea what and I don't think they did either which - to my mind - is the best way to make music. Anyway, Black Chamber successfully explores that territory in my opinion and even stretches w-a-y into left field a time or two.

Challenging music certainly.

Right now, out of the four tracks I have reviewed, two I have liked a lot and two that just baffled the hell out of me. There again, I am used to being baffled by what constitutes 'experimental music' and Black Chamber definitely has all the right musical credentials. BC cheerfully informs us that this track is about 'a glimpse of a man descending into madness'. Can't say it's my ideal as a party favourite but does Psychosomatica walk the walk. 'Tapes, guitars, voice samples' and other sounds make up the bulk of what this track has to offer sonically, but says nothing about the mental strain involved in listening.

Another thing that has kept Black Chambers afloat, at least for me, is that he makes the sounds you hear and, no matter how deranged it may sound, he would have to have thought about it. Wouldn't he? Question the point of it, as it were. But, think back to my opening comments about Throbbing Gristle, because - out of all the experimental artists I have heard - Black Chambers gets the closet to TG's original sonic ethos. Genesis P-Orridge was, after all, inventing his own effects pedals, computers, the works. And it still sounded JUST like this. Quite an achievement I'd say, although best watch your ears around any Black Chambers.

Weird at heart. Recommended for those with hidden compulsions.

Karma Police (UK) - Moon March (D&B Remix)

Hear The Track Here

I think Neil Anderson (aka Karma Police (UK)) tired of months of me whining that music first released in 2004, while still relevant, isn't exactly what this musician is doing now is it? So this month he has taken pity on us and ....wait for it....wait for it.... gave us a brand new track. OK, OK, stand easy and keep the crowd back Constables!! Nothing to see here. So were was I before everything kicked off? Ah yes, kicking Neil's butt... Actually not true because I did have a good wallow in nostalgia for the period 2004-2005 which was an awesome time to be on Soundclick, but enough is enough and the message was received.

So, what happened when he grew up?

The original of Moon March was described as 'spacey and ambient' and never could two words have conveyed greater horror for this reviewer because I generally hate both with equal venom. Actually not true, I am at my most pitiless with ambient but that's another story. So after a thousand years of wandering the depths of space (Ed: two minutes actually, I checked. Unlike that lazy bastard) the track kicks into life and, considering the genre was OK. Drums and bass (d&b) is much more my style and I liked the sections of the original where this happened, and a d&b version may well really bring out that side of the track. All that floaty, spacey stuff is enough to give me air-sickness.

Now while I wouldn't really call Moon March (D&B Remix) hard d&b, it's still a bit too spacy for that. What it turns out to be is a fine slice of prime chill out with an iron backbone. A lot of the original fluff has disappeared though and what we now see is a sleeker, much more propulsive method of getting through the depths of space blah blah. Never gave up on the whole space idea though and that's a good thing because I am well into the possibilities the future offers us - should we manage to get to it in one piece. So, all told, this is a very nice piece of work indeed, but I expected as much because his past work is as impressive.

Highly Recommended Chillout with a touch of d&b.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

JPC (NZ) - Exit Strategy

Hear The Track Here

Soundclick is a funny site. Definitely has its ups and downs, and hanging around there for many years has shown me that the same holds true for the musicians who inhabit it too. However, being a long time member of a site also means that you gather some roots, gain friends, get an audience worthy of the name. Although John Paul Carroll has been a long time member of Soundclick, he did disappear for a while there - as many do - and it was good to see him return to his familiar haunts. Over the years I have come to really like this musicians style and songs and have very rarely - if ever? - been disappointed. John Paul is an old time rocker who knows what he wants to get across and spares no effort to get exactly that, and the rest of us can go hang.

An admirable attitude, I'd say.

It really pays interest with musicians like John Paul who have carefully crafted their own style over the time they are active, so much so that they are very distinctive against the general clamour to be heard. The downside is that in the process the musician can often be misunderstood, especially when - like JPC - you have vocals that don't do what rock vocals should. Funnily enough, I've referenced lots of people to describe what JPC sounds like and that seems to change from track to track these days. Exit Strategy reminding me most strongly of Mr Morose himself, Robert Smith of The Cure.

The heart and fire of the track though is - as always - in the rock assault to your ears right from the starting bell. John Paul is never one to mess about when there is a point to get to and that, to me, is one of his most endearing traits. Get it said, get it done will probably the motto this guy lives by, and that's mighty fine by me, especially when it provides little power packs like this one. There is no doubt in many quarters JPC is going to an acquired taste but I got that years ago and these days just marvel at how well he matures. Rock music that will strip walls, with a vocal to match.

Highly Recommended uber rock.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Premium Draft - Don't Fit In With The Times

Hear The Track Here

A brand new name to me now, and new to Soundclick I suppose is Sioux City, Iowa based classic rock band Premium Draft. Yay, just what need, another classic rock band! I am, as you know, not happy with a situation where people THINK they know what classic rock is, and yet deliver the same old warmed-over rock riffs we've been hearing ever since the dawn of the genre, and they were hackneyed enough at the time. Premium Draft seems to consist of four piss artists...ooops...I'm sorry, beer drinkers who undoubtedly make music in their moments of lucidity. Mind you, it's more than passing strange that not one member of the group looks old enough to be a drinker of any note. So they probably don't drink at all.

But a good name is a good name though, right?

Don't Fit In With the Times shows that whatever age they may look, underneath that mild manner, are a bunch of grungy, sweaty, beer bellied, extremely hirsute barflys from a much older school of rock. In style, at least on this Blues Rock outing, they remind me most of the peerless Canned Heat when they first started. The kind of rock blues that says fun with every note and judging by the reaction they seem to be getting live, would indicate they will be a live band of some power.

Sure, Blues Rock isn't the busiest part of the musical soundscape, but it has some very dedicated listeners and fans who - when they come across this - will nod their heads wisely and snag it immediately. On the contrary, I think music like this does indeed fit in with the times and Premium Draft don't put a foot wrong into putting their message across. The sound is big and open, driven by solid instrumentation that while it sticks to a standard format, supplies more than enough energy to light up the spaces between your ears. This is apparently the title track of their album of which five tracks are on their Soundclick page. Go, rock and multiply...

Classic, classic blues rock. Highly Recommended.

Bri-an - The Rat

Hear The Track Here

You may remember we have encountered Canadian musician Bri-an a time or two, once in collaboration with Dazed and once on his own. I have, of course, heard much, much more of his work than this, just reviewed the two though. Fact is, in all the radio sites I have been, Bri-an seems to have established himself as a playlist regular but there again he has been at this some while. Take, for example, The Rat. First released (I guess) in 2007 it obviously taken me long enough to catch up with this Bri-an classic, classic by common acclaim even so it shows how far behind the curve I am. As you may imagine, the Rat is question may not necessarily be of the whiskers, teeth and claws variety. We all know plenty of human rats.

Personally, I am saddened that it has taken me so, so long to catch up with this absolutely devastating track, well worthy of the radio accolades given to it since its release. It also helps to understand why Bri-an has so many comments on it, when most Mixposure artists struggle for the odd one or two. Over and above all, though is the fact that The Rat is ******* awesome in every single respect. Biggest shout out though is for the song as a whole; a complete experience where everything compliments everything else - a very rare trick.

The obviously lazy rat bastard way of describing it would be to say that it is highly reminiscent of Entwhistle's Boris The Spider, except with real vermin. That is such a cop out though because IMHO The Rat is in a totally different league. Sure the track has the dash and energy of The Who about it, but that's an incidental reference I think because the rock sound that is coming out is much more modern in sound. I wish, along with several million others, that I could have come up with the riff that powers this track because it is a pure classic, as is everything else about this track. Oh and drums as big as houses. Can't fault that either.

MUST HAVE modern classic.

The Skeptic Tanks - Tomfoolery

Hear The Track Here

Every Thursday night in a particular place in the land known as the United Kingdom, three guys get together to relax, shoot the shit and make some music. OK, sounds like a fairly common scenario so far right? Well John, Roger and Conory first introduced themselves when I reviewed The Slab, which surprisingly enough was exactly that. A slab of chunky, chewy, textured electronica that was a real rush to the ears. Mind you, Conory should be a name to ring some bells with regular readers will already know we are not going to go far wrong with him in the mix.

Tell ya what though, the front room must have been packed to the brim when Tomfoolery came about. Here's the line up: John, Griff, Roger , Awumba(?) and Conory but it looks as if Conory is responsible for the lyrics and vocal. What comes across more than anything else is the fun these sessions must be, Tomfoolery having a brilliant display of aural idiocy played out over a 'are we there yet?' refrain. Mind you, that might mean that you miss just how good the music track, and that will never do.

Like The Slab, it's kinda difficult to figure out which are real instruments and which are electronic, which is fine by me because that's how it should be. Certainly all the the stringed things (guitars, basses) sound real and probably are. Nice drum track too, although I doubt that is real. Doesn't hurt the track any, and its just me nit-picking. Strange slant on this track but don't let that put you off, this is a very enjoyable piece of Alternative/experimental, with special mention to the later guitar sounds and phrases that see the song out. It's well worth waiting for.

Highly Recommended and Awumba to you too...

Gangbangsters - Hip Death

Hear The Track Here

I've known about California's Gangbangsters since 2008 and have reviewed at least a handful of his (obviously drrrr) tracks, all of them different to what you would expect from a self confessed Alternative artist. He's dabbled very successfully in proto-punk and even classic rock but - as yet - hasn't really come up with something to make me pause. There is always time though, especially when a musician is developing as rapidly as this one seems to be doing.

Hip Death is yet another Gangbangsters track that made me stop and think, not because it's too brainy for its own good but because it's so surprising. The very last thing I expected to pour out of my speakers was heavy metal a la Motorhead (complete with Lemmy-like vocal). There again, this is a musician that has surprised me time and again and although I might not like Hip Death as much as a real heavy mettaller (wtf kind of word is that??) would, I can certainly appreciate the powerhouse under the hood.

Mind you, there's something weird about the snare and I'm not sure what it is, and this has a very lo-fi approach but that's to be expected given that its a blend of heavy metal and thrash. Having said that, it isn't enough I think for anyone to get steamed up about and certainly the energy and creativity going on in the track more than makes up for any kind of shortfall elsewhere. I even heard hints of the Beastie Boys in there, and that's - for me anyway - a massive plus. Stuff the audio quality, get the attitude.

Recommended ProtoPunk.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reflexion X - A Bit Funk

Hear The Track Here

OW! GEDOWN!! Ooops, sorry about that, just exercising my right to do whatever the funk I want, and I've always been partial to a bit of the hot n' nasty (Ed: funk, he means funk!) and in case you hadn't noticed yet, I like a bit of funk. Ah, says the combative glint in your eye, but what about THIS bit of funk? Well, surprisingly enough that's what got me all boppy and sloppy like this because Reflexion X does a more than decent job with a very difficult genre to get right. True it isn't exactly THE funk, it being European in origin but - as we all know - white men can sing the blues.

You may remember me stumbling up Reflexion X a couple of times before, and a very pleasant experience it was too, both excellent examples of electronica with a special touch. A Bit Funk is the first time I've heard Hiekki Roots (aka Reflexion X) tackle something outside of what I would expect by now. and right out of the box it starts cooking away in the time honoured fashion. His previous tracks also showed that this musician knows how to grab and draw attention, and A Bit Funk does that on every level. His sound and mix on this is perfect, exuberantly swishing around your ears like waves on the seashore (Ed: wtf??).

This has already been a number one on Soundclick, so it's a given that enough people have rated it worthy, and - to be honest - I think it's probably his best track yet. There again, I am extremely partial to the F factor and I Got An Error (March 2010) still takes some beating but it does show just how capable this musician is at what he does. For sure, it does lose a little in translation but more than makes up for that with the clever production, sound textures and vocal treatment. Very clever funking track, innit??

F-f-f-f-f-f-funky. Highly Recommended.

Linwood Riley - Wonder Woman Original Soundtrack

Hear The Track Here

While fellow Muse Machine member The Rascal Theorist carves out a name for himself in the field of radio friendly pop tunes, Linwood Riley (aka byte19) choose to tred a very different path, aided by an ever growing list of Superheroes and Villans. Do the words 'big kid' have significance here? This is the third outing for Linwood and his - dare I say it - obsession, having tackled Batman (Gotham Raid/Who Is The Brain (June 2009)) and Brainiac (Brainiac Theme (November 2009)), guess who gets the Riley treatment this time? Step forward a beautiful vision in red gold and blue with a impossible waist and other womanly bits, or you and I know her better as Wonder Woman.. How many of you instantly thought of Lynda Carter when you read the words Wonder Woman? Congratulations, you too are an official old fart. If you don't share the obsession, read all about it here.

Anyway, back to the action.

The Wonder Woman soundtrack is spilt into six different tracks, all of which are on Linwood's Soundclick page. Wait a minute, wait a minute, aren't I supposed to be dead set against this genre in every respect? Welllllll (waggles hand). See, I've already tasted what Linwood can do in two previous episodes and while I lament the fact that these are tiny (timewise) tracks, they are still incredibly effective. The Wonder Woman project has still to get its visual side so, to be going on with, you have to let your head supply the pictures. And do, do stop thinking about Lynda Carter, it's not healthy. Remember she looked like that years ago...

A Princess Is Born starts the proceedings and pay attention because it's quick, damn quick. All over in a minute and twenty seconds which is probably the world record for time spent giving birth. Linwood really has a talent for cramming drama into these vignettes but to really appreciate it you'll need to have it on repeat so you hear it more than once. Opening Titles picks up the structure of the intro and runs with it, expanding and building until your jaw aches. Personally I found it best to download all six tracks (remember they are short) and play them as a playlist, made much more sense that way. Can't wait for the final product, gonna be well cool. (Ed: ha!! you showed the nerd streak!!)

Recommended Soundtrack.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cam's Even Song - Isreal's Real Thing

Hear The Track Here

I really had a bad, bad impression of Christian rock in the early days, and online it was - if anything - even worse. My long, long residence at Soundclick has, however, introduced me to a much more realistic brand of getting the message across. Musicians like One Kid's Lunch, Ron Gragg and Cam's Even Song are a joy to listen to as pieces of music, made even more so by them having the good taste not to try and ram the message down your throat while they are at it. Personally I prefer Cam's Biblical mode, it is very effective as I have pointed out many times in the past. This is partly because he is an excellent lyricist, partly because his music is always, but always fun to listen to and - last but not least - he is at his strongest as an artist in tracks like this.

I have compared him (in this mode) to Bob Dylan, and the reference still holds true although - to my ears anyway - Cam's voice sounds distinctly different to his earlier works. Now whether that has to do with the natural function of his voice or whether it's a new bit of kit but I like it. So although he's lost a bit of the timbre and tone of his earlier tracks, it's than made up for by Cam's effortless vocals. The music is pure Cam and has more echoes back to (say) Nashville Skyline than anything else, but I have also become much more aware how much Cam has adapted this sound as his own over the years and I'd say he's definitely earned the right.

As always with this songwriter, the music pulls you in, puts its arm around your waist and waltzes off with you so it takes more than a couple of plays to get to the real heart of the song. Sung from the perspective of Pontius Pilate, a man who obviously knew Jesus Christ was innocent, it tells about his reaction to events and - considering the lyrical content - does a great job of illustrating the scene. For example, I defy you not to sing along with the line that goes '"Say what? Say what?" I said. "Blasphemes! Just pours from his head!' or this from the end of the track '"Say what? Say what?" I said. Put a crown of thorns on his head, In Hebrew and Latin and Greek I wrote, "The King of the Jews" in a post-it note'. Incredibly catchy, incredibly Cam at his very best.


Freiflug - Liebesschlacht

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Ok ladles and gerbils, pin back your eyeballs because you are about to see me do something I almost never (that's n-e-v-e-r) do. Interupt the review flow. In all the time I have been reviewing I have only ever been struck to review something right there, that minute a very few times. Put it like this, the last time I did anything like this was with Irish band The Shed and that was years ago. Soooo, while I was browsing through Mixposure last night, I came across German musicians Freiflug (Freeflight?) and I couldn't believe my ears. See, I have long held a taste for German metal bands, lately augmented by some ridiculously good cross-genre bands and, all said and done, the German music scene has energy, life and attitude a mile high. Names like Rammstein, SITD, Eisbrecher, Oomph, KMFDM and Good Charlotte show that German bands have something hot going on.

I admit I was beginning to despair of finding the equivalent in an unsigned setting, believe me I've combed every site I've been on for music of this type. And then Freiflug comes to the rescue - big style. My interest and involvement with the German music scene goes back years and the reason for that is because - above all - Germans have a marvellous knack for arrangement. And hooks, by God, hooks by the bucketload! Now while Boney M definitely sounds cheesy these days, Freiflug are bang right up to date and still maintain that pop sensibility. I instantly hoovered up all five tracks on their page but Liebesschlacht is the track that caught my ear because it has absolutely all of the things I most like about this kind of music. Understand, of course, that I don't understand one word of German, but that has never been the point for me. The point has always been the superlative music.

Mind you, if you have a problem with sexual sounds in music, best stop right there. The intro features a divine darling in the throes of OMG OMG so if this offends you don't be going there. Tell you what, when German bands get cracking, they rock like no one else on the planet. I have a fairly large collection of this kind of music that I have come by commercially and the most amazing thing about Liebesschlacht is that it fits right in with the stuff that cost an arm and a leg in the normal way. Seriously good production, excellent, energetic performance and a lady moaning, what more could you ask for? What? What's that you say? You want to SEE the lady moaning?? What kind of people are you??? Seeing as it's you though, there's a video here and try and keep it tasteful k? While you are there, take a look at the Ewigkeit video too. Not as sexy a video maybe, but a really good song.

MUST HAVE German language rock

Mike Prather - These Wounds

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As a certified old geezer, the musical roots I share with everybody else on the planet are not an intellectual exercise for me to reconstruct. Those roots are woven into the very fabric of my life and memories so when I make comparisons to artists from a bygone era, its usually because I remember those artists initial impact on me. American country music has long held a fascination for me, and this track reminds me of two of its giants; both treading the same tortuous musical path, although at tangents to each other. Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash would, I consider, be something awesome to be compared with, so - being said certified old geezer - you'd think I'd be careful about throwing such hyperbole before your astounded eyeballs.

Don't be looking at me like that.

Well, obviously, you haven't heard the track yet, otherwise you'd be going 'oh yeah, I see that' instead of being - what was it now? - astounded. Speaking of outstanding, These Wounds has some pretty big boots to fill based on that premise but it lives up to it. When you are just one guy, his guitar and voice there isn't a lot you can do in the way of flash and glitter so all the action has to be carried by the songs and that is - partly - what made both Dylan and Cash happen. They also had very distinctive voices to go along with their biting, penetrating lyrics into the state of the American nation and its in the songwriting and delivery that Mike Prather fills them big boots more than adequately.

As a traditional folk track, These Wounds, breathes authenticity out of every note, this is the way it used to be. A song that speaks of the human condition that could cut across all boundaries and mean the same thing whether you were Indian or Inuit. Its a beautifully restrained, obviously heartfelt tale of the wounds we inflict on each other as we go through life, sometimes seeing but more often being completely unaware of our effect on those we share our lives with. Don't think one guy, a guitar and a voice could entertain and intrigue you any more? Are you jaded about the meaning of music today? This answers all those questions and more. Beautiful and as simple as they come.

Great folk song (yep!) MUST HAVE.

RwK - The Wheel Of Life

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It has become my fervent belief (or should that be fevered in the present case) that Mixposure is a site full of musical sluts. (Ed: (choking on his dinner) You CAN'T say that!! They'll sue us!!!) Seriously, these guys will play with anyone (Ed: OK Stop now), and especially with each other!!! Gasp all you like, my stupefied readers, but it's true (Ed: in his opinion. It's like his fame; in his lunchtime) How many tracks have I reviewed from there that reads like a Mixposure cast list. And who is the sluttiest musical slut of them all? Three little letters spell out RwK, a guitar Jezebel whose shrieks and moans (from his guitar of course) has adorned many a track. Damn it, he's even played with Mike-K!! TWICE!!! Hold on, let me just check something..... OK, my insurance is up to date, so let's press on into the mire... So, we ask ourselves, who has RwK managed to snag for cavorting purposes this time. Which innocent doe-eyed youngster has fallen for that rugged Penn State charm this time?

Eeek, it's a bird!!

Well not strictly speaking a tweet tweet, look at me I'm all feathers type bird. More of an English lady (Ed: damn the man, how dare he!!) known to all and sundry as lyricist Melsi. Or, to give her a proper ladies name, Mellina Barnett. Melsi happens to write some excellent lyrics and - of course - she has to use other musicians to get them heard. I know quite a lot of songwriters who work this way and it's produced some awesome tunes from people as diverse as Dawn Diamond, Carol Douglas and many others. Melsi is well up to that standard as the lyrics of The Wheel Of Life show. We worked on a song together a while back which showed me how talented she was, along with tracks I had heard in other Mixposure hands. I've already waxed lyrical (Ed: hysterical surely?) about the joys of RwK's guitar style and tone over umpteen reviews so let's not go there. One thing to note though, although he may be a lead guitarist, Rick Kresiak (for it is he), doesn't so much shred as smoulder and burn and - should you get close enough - could well melt your ears.

If you doubt the veracity of that statement, listen to the first twenty five seconds of this at full volume then come back and say eh? eh? eh? Rick had me at '12 string' but maybe the rest of you are considerably harder to please, so what can The Wheel Of Life offer you besides thoughtful, interesting lyrics and a pyromaniac guitarist? Well, there is so much here it's hard to pick out all the good bits, certainly the sound itself is worthy of mention, but the vocals are the cream of the crop - without doubt. While I have some reservations about the style, and even noticed one or two fairly obvious flubs, it all pales into insignificance once the song is truly established in your brain. A really excellent example of serendipity at work - a place the net seems made for. Not sluttish after all. Just plain good sense. Inspirational. Come and walk again in wonderland.

Highly recommended Classic Rock ballad.

Barricades Rise - No Love Lost EP

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Barricades Rise, an Alternative duo from the UK are obviously not people to do things by half. So far I've reviewed one EP - Blueprints (June 2008 - and one LP - Your And Your Adored (August 2009) and here we are back with another EP. Obviously, this is not an idle band. I really liked the songs and vocals on Blueprints but the LP really showed a much better picture of what the band is about and consequently gained a Must Have rating from me. Both of these, btw, were also put out as free downloads through Bandcamp and are well worth the time and effort downloading especially if you like original, energetic and meaningful songs and performances. In fact both still reside on my hard drive so that I can pull them out from time to time. In my review of the tracks on You And Your Adored I wrote 'you wouldn't think a couple of geezers on acoustics could make music this complex' and they have brought that complexity to bear beautifully in the No Love Lost EP.

I Gave Up The World is, to my ears anyway, a solid gold hit, stating its case in no uncertain terms but it may take a while for you to catch it so give it a few plays and I guarantee that it will stick like glue. Jonathan Coates is a class vocalist, wrapping his tonsils effortlessly around the tune and Michael McEntee supplying backing vocals. Although it's essentially an acoustic tune (as it most of their material) doesn't make it any the less relevant. On a heavier rock touch, Ghosts strides manfully out of western sunset soundtrack, complete with cheesy 1950's guitar sound. No question about it, these guys know how to evoke scenes and atmosphere. Perfect sound and a very neat little tune indeed.

Brakes takes a much more traditional acoustic approach to display what is probably the jewel of the whole EP, and I say that is the sure knowledge that it basically a ballad and you know I hates them. The band has a remarkable consistency which is displayed by every track on this EP, or indeed of all of the tracks I have reviewed. Their songs are always memorable, their performances everything you would expect from acoustic musicians (ie two guitars), the limitations of which Barricades Rise transcend effortlessly to put across tracks with depth and personality. To my mind there are at least two definite Must Haves on this EP but every track has something to offer the listener and well worth checking out, especially if you like your music in an acoustic manner. As the man says in the last track of this EP, The Preacher, 'they don't make them like this any more' Too right.

Great songs, knockout performance and sound. MUST HAVE Alternative.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nathanael Hale - Reflections

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Yet another new name to me from Soundclick, a site that continues to throw me curve balls at me with amazing regularity, Nathanael Hale is essentially a guitarist, nothing more. Or at least that's the impression he seems to be giving you glancing at his webpage. New to Soundclick, too be the looks of it, but don't let that disturb you. Remember the curve ball comment I made earlier? Nathanael Hale provides one of them in Reflections which is a pure guitar instrumental - so no surprise there then. The surprise mainly comes from it's almost indecent haste to end and it's brief attention span, it tops out at a measly one minute, twenty seconds or so. There again, this from the guitarist who has a track called 18 Second Shred which does exactly what it says, I suppose Reflections could be taken as an epic track by that scale.

Wait...shred??? Shred???? I dread shred.

Hold on a minute while I get my mouth working straight again, that was hard to say. Seriously, as I downloaded this track, I thought 18 seconds? Why not? Well, I'll tell you why not. I'm a guitarist. While I can appreciate the physical dexterity and prowess to pull off perfect shreddage every once in a while, when it becomes the norm it gets stale, real quick. OK admittedly 18 seconds wouldn't kill anyone but at the time I was downloading Reflections and imagining what I might be letting myself in for. For a start, I didn't expect it to be so short and I certainly didn't expect to like it as much as I ended up doing. Remember the central image of this review; a man and a guitar. Takes more than shredding to keep me interested for MORE than 18 seconds and even one minute and change of it would have me screaming for the exit.

Reflections turns out to be a track in one of my favourite genres: swing jazz, More to the point it is extremely well done swing jazz and that is a hard one to get right - particularly when it comes down to guitar where tone becomes all important. Well, obviously Nathanael Hale knows all about tone (as well as metal shreddings) and that makes him a guitarist worthy of knowing. His fluidity and precision of playing are what propels the track and it kinda reminds me of Joe Pass in style, and that's definitely standing on the shoulder of a great. I would dearly have loved to hear more of this track and I wonder why it fades so quickly, this is just the start of a great jam surely? Oh well... and then I saw Reflections (version 2) on the site and discovered that it now stretched to two whole minutes. Imagine the joy!

Highly Recommended for jazz buffs.

Dean143 - Each Man For Yourself

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This is billed as a James/Dean collaboration, not the late actor, but obviously Dean143 with a friend called James. See, easy when you can work it out isn't it? Besides, I think the real James Dean would have other things to do if - for some reason - he were catapulted back into the land of the living. Roads, cars, women - all the main food groups. So, as you may have gathered by now, Dean143 (and his mates) are a completely new name to me, hence the floundering around for things to say. Although he's billed as an acoustic musician, some of the instruments in play here are electric but that's by the by because the overriding initial impression of this musician you get is fairly typical - but the music for sure isn't typical. At least, not in this particular context.

When I was a snippet of a boy, I discovered a band called Buffalo Springfield (this would be 1966 or so), two of the members of this band would become my all time favourite acoustic musicians; Neil Young and Stephen Stills. Neil Young is obviously still at the top of his game but, sadly, Stephen Stills no longer seems to play which is a crying shame as he is one of the very best acoustic players I have ever heard - and what a voice... The reason I am waxing lyrical here is because Each Man For Yourself is absolutely drenched with the kind of folky sunshine made famous by (amongst others) Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (Ooohh THAT Stephen Stills!), The Eagles and a million other copyists. West Coast soft rock for the masses and - for the most part - we lapped it up by the bucketload.

But that was then, and this is now...

Personally, at the time, I hated the Eagles - this is what the track most strongly reminds me of - but I don't hate this, not in the slightest. See, as much as I disliked The Eagles, I couldn't fault their professionalism or their God given talent, and I can't with this track either. Certainly, it put me in a relaxed West Coast mind but with an edge that the vocalists bring to the party, as the man says, ******* awesome dude!! Seriously, I am a big, long term fan of close harmony vocals and Each Man For Yourself features a beautiful set, but that isn't that star turn, as much as you might think so. Nope, what creeps up on you slowly as you digest the vocal meat is just how juicy the music beneath it really is. I don't get to say this often enough - about as good as it ever gets. Imagine a cross between CSN&Y and The Band, this would fit perfectly

MUST HAVE West Coast pop rock.

Kevin Miller - One Big Happy Family

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You might not think it to look at me but I am a big fan of yeeeaahhhh music. One of the best discoveries for me in the acoustic field over the last year is Washington based Kevin Miller - and wife, kids, dogs, cats, ducks and the rest of the farmyard - but more on that later. I've only reviewed two other Kevin Miller tracks - the inspirational Light A Candle (February 2009) introduced me to him in spectacular fashion and followed it up with Midnight Boy (April 2009). Now considering that Midnight Boy was a song about a man, his horse and the great outdoors, it is a touching, beautiful song that has resonance wherever you happen to hail from. That's the hallmark, it would seem, of this singularly American of musicians, a steady attention to his roots allied with a class songwriting style. Certainly won him a lot of friends, of which I am one.

So, Kevin does Country. That's American country music as opposed to the slop that is thrown out of the so called home of country music Nashville, Tennessee. A city that should hang its head with shame at what it has done to a perfectly good genre. Damn, how did that soapbox get in here? Anyway, as I said at the start, I actually really love REAL country as my championing of such artists as Morris P Rainville and The Chairs will testify - both classic examples of how exciting real country music can be. So, Kevin was added to that coterie as soon as I heard this, the most country track I have heard him do. I have a special place in my heart for Bluegrass music which dazzles me whenever I hear it and guess what kinda country One Big Happy Family is?

As you can imagine, the songs context revolves around the simple life; family, farm and plenty of sunshine (Ed: in Washington state? I think not. Its worse than England) and is obviously heartfelt and - much more to the point - isn't so sugary in its sentiment that it makes you vomit copiously. Now that's a neat trick in my book because I have an extremely low threshold for bullshit (Ed: OK Gilmore, enough of the farm references) so when I read a lyric like 'Now we're one big happy family, living on the land. Raise them cows and chickens, Shucking corn by hand. We aint got no money, I hope you'll understand. We're just one big happy family, living on the land' I'm going to be well skeptical. Rose tinted much? What comes across in the track, however, is a different beast altogether. The sheer fun and exhilaration of life flows through this track and you can't help but smile indulgently, even a hard assed reviewer like me.

Lovely, lively bluegrassssssss. Highly Recommended.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fear 2 Stop - Passage

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Although I don't get enough time for real interaction on forums any more (blame these damn reviews!) it doesn't mean to say that I am not aware of the comings and goings on there. I saw several postings from F2S mainman Billy Castillo hinting that Fear 2 Stop were going to do exactly that: stop. I don't know about the rest of you SC veterans but if that happens, it would feel like the passing of an era because I have been reviewing this Houston trio ever since I first started reviewing on Soundclick back in 2003. During the intervening years they have managed to bedazzle, befuddle, irritate and confound me as they made their own way towards the sound we have been hearing from them over the past two years. They seem to have come to a natural balance between their earlier anything goes attitude, their choice of sounds (some of the early ones were lets face it excruciating) so that their blend of analog and digital has become a trademark. Fear 2 Stop tracks definitely have a sound and texture all of their own, nothing else quite like them.

Yes, yes, in small doses maybe...

Could have knocked me over with a feeble tap when I first heard this. Stunned? I should ******* coco. After all, the very last band I would ever think to take up (get this) Electronic Ambient is dear ol' cantankerous Fear 2 Stop. Moreover, as Billy says in the song comments, 'This is a great indicator of where our music is heading now...' O!M!G! Does that mean they are now going all light and ethereal on us? All come smell the flowers and eat this absolutely repulsive brown rice and veg and your life will be fixed? Well, no, I don't think so either. Remember this is Fear 2 Stop we are talking about and - to be honest - they wouldn't know a genre classification if they fell over on in the dark.

As I say, they have honed this particular sound for years and, given this track, show no signs of stopping whatsoever. And yes, I can see WHY it's filed under Ambient but only if you understand that it's the merest whiff before Fear 2 Stop pile into their usual schtick. Personally, I find this usual schtick quite listenable, in a dissonant, wandering kind of way - but maybe I have formed a hard shell over the years and I am overly biased towards them. Having said that, Passage isn't - to my ears - going anywhere new and/or unheard by this band so while it's a good Fear 2 Stop track which fans are going to like, I fear it may not travel much further than that. Best not to quote me on that though, I have been known to be wrong about this band on more than a few occasions.

Recommended Electronica

Timmy Sells His Soul - Cop Cars Like Sharks

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Ooooh, did you feel that too? That little frisson of terror when you saw the name of this next musician? You will no doubt remember then the surreal excursions we have had into the mind and musical vision of Daniel Euphrat, and remember too that this is not someone to be taken lightly, but nonetheless has managed to find more than a few friends. My first encounter was years ago when I reviewed Dross, the band he is in with brother Greg, and that was nothing short of OMG. Guanoman (another Soundclick name to inspire terror in youngsters) and Dross made one of the very weirdest ever tracks with Gradually Sealing Every Orifice In His Head (December 2004) and me life hasn't been the same since.

Dross (and Guanoman) still put in an appearance every once in a while but Timmy Sells His Soul has more than made up for that and I've in fact reviewed around five or six tracks by now and yet, and yet...I'm still afraid...very afraid... There are experimental artists who dabble in sound for sounds sake, there are experimental artists who thrive on noise and dissonance, and there are experimental artists whose music cannot be understood by anything higher than a canine, and Timmy Sells His Soul has done all of them. Some extremely painfully, and some with his tongue very firmly in his cheek. None, I am staggered to admit, that have enough in them that I could truthfully say it was beautiful but after hanging out with this track for a while, I think I am going to have to rethink this. Let me see, how to describe it???

Imagine Mike Oldfield having taken a bucketful of a suitable mind-altering substance, deciding he wants to re-do Tubular Bells but he can't seem to keep the weird sounds he keeps hearing in his head out of the track, and that's pretty much what you are going to hear from this track. There are some startlingly pretty bits and that's definitely a first for this musician who absolutely does not do pretty, unless it was a wartified, haggard pretty. More to the point, its actually a song, sung by the man himself with the help of some kind of vocoder but I have no idea what its about unless it's just a series of snapshots of what he is seeing... Surprisingly enough, I loved this....

Highly Recommended weirdness.

Todd Weller - Amendment X

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No relation, I suspect, to the Modfather (Ed: I think he means Paul Weller) Todd Weller is a new name to me from Soundclick. Or at least I think he is a new name to me, although it looks as if he's been around Soundclick since 2004, and he seemed to know me when he asked for this review. So, Classic Rock is the man's chosen stomping ground and, as it happens, one of my own favourite areas to frolic about in. He is in another band on Soundclick, this one a live band apparently called The Groove and I suspect some members of that may well be involved with Todd in making this track. Now I don't know about you guys but when I see Joe Satriani or Steve Vai put down as influences I get this little shudder down my spine because they are not, to my mind anyway, anything like classic rock. Well, not the classic rock I cut my teeth on anyway, Avalanche still do that but not many others.

Mind you, I do hear shades of those two mentioned plank spankers in this track, and a good many other American bands. Classic rock it may be, it has many of the hallmarks, but a wholesome corn-fed classic rock that sits uneasily with edginess of their lyrics. Mind you, if you love the current trend for guitarists who wear their fretboards into sawdust, then this track will definitely hit the right spots for you and - if you happen to be American - so will the lyrical content and the overall feel. Sometimes this material travels well, and sometimes it doesn't. Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and others are nothing like as popular in Europe as they are in their home country, popular enough sure, but not idolised as they are at home.

If it sounds like I am dissing this track, let me correct that impression. This is a very, very slick piece of work, whatever style its encased in. It's a good tune, a class song and yes, I see the classic rock sure enough. So much so that I can actually picture the band playing this live right before my eyes and believe me, that's a hard trick to pull off. So, a lot of showmanship, but that is too be expected given the origin but not enough so that the quality of the music and the song cuts through. What seals the deal is the rocking, very solid mix, obviously a professional job with loads of time spent in the recording studio polishing the final thing - all of which shine out of this track. Don't overlook the song though, it sneaks up on you while you are admiring the rock fixtures and fittings.

Highly Recommended Classic American rock.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Smoke It 'n' Die - Wondering If

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Now that's the kind of warning they should give out on cigarette packs, the raw, unvarnished truth. Behind this rather alarming name, however, lurks a familiar friendly face - none other than Cockney caperer Howard Billington who has become a very respected singer and songwriter in a very short space of time. So, Smoke It 'n' Die?? Apparently a three piece consisting of Howard supplying vocals and guitars, Barrie Leigh on drums and Louis Marshall on bass. Howard also appears to be the main songwriter so is this actually Howard's band? or some kind of side project? Or maybe even a mixture of both. Anyway, mere speculation won't get the job done so lets crack on...

Although Wondering If is classed as rock, it bears more likeness to good old fashioned punk rock than the usual guitar wankery, a genre Howard has been known to get into in his solo work. Mind you, that's just the merest skating on the surface because the bulk of the track is so much more than that. As a Londoner, as I've mentioned before with this musician, I recognise the sound of my own and musically this could come in a straight line as the bastard child of the pop of The Stranglers, the raucousness of The Clash and The Damned and Bowie-style rock structures, all with a definable London sound about them. Therefore it could mean this will only appeal to me and others like me, and nothing could be further from the truth.

One thing I do like about Howard Billington as a songwriter is that the man has undeniable talent for the right line in the right place as his solo work shows, Wondering If zips by at such a clip you'd give yourself multiple whiplash if you tried to keep up with it, you'd be better served strapping a rocket to your ass to get the kind of speed necessary to keep up with this when its motoring. This is the title track for an EP and I am stunned that Smoke It 'n' Die managed to accumulate some 146 tracks on their Soundclick page without me cottoning on to it. Damn, that must really mean that I am getting as old as I feel. Mind you, I have the remedy for that. HoBi (think about it) solo, or in the new unrestrained version? Naaahh, I'll take both and don't bother with the wrapping...

Punk? Rock? You Decide... MUST HAVE (I did obviously) scorcher.

Ron Vogel - Anthem

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Let me start be saying one word to Ron Vogel: Mixposure. That site would love what you are doing (Ed: it's called research Gilmore and if you did some you'd know he was already over there) because out of all the sites I frequent it is the one most amenable to guitarists of all persuasions. One thing the slew of Ron Vogel tracks I have reviewed since I first made his acquaintance with Blazing (November 2009) has taught me is that - first and foremost - this is a guitar player. Having said that, his tracks are an interesting spread of Alternative and classic rock, many of which I have enjoyed listening to a lot but I am a well known rock animal so I would.

The competition in this genre though is fierce, fierce, fierce because there are only so many sets of ears to go round and more artists of this stripe than you can shake a stick at. I know, I've reviewed most of them and while I am a well known softie, I am well aware that other people may not take so much to this side of rock. Still, **** 'em I say. Ron has survived because his experience enables him to keep on coming up with tracks that, while derivative and cliched, still manage to touch a nerve or two. He's also proved, over the space of the last year that he can write a very decent song indeed but not one I have yet found cause to rave about but - if this track is anything to go by - I think it's just a question of time.

While I am only too well aware of the pitfalls of home recording and will cut people a break according to their equipment, there is a line where that isn't possible and Ron hasn't stepped across it yet. That is not to say that his work does not sound home recorded, it does, but the quality of the music and the song win through every time. I've tried this on a lot of different sound systems and, in the process, become very familiar with it and while I might tidy up this and that, the overall feeling it this works a treat. More to the point, it's a kinda/sorta ballad thing and you know how I get a headache whenever there is one of them in the vicinity but not with Anthem. A class song, in a class arrangement.

Highly Recommended rock.

Thomas J Marchant - No Go Home

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Wouldn't be the same if we passed a month without a new Thomas J track, and he's right there on the doorstep along with the rest of the usual crew with No Go Home which appears to be a new track but this is a VERY prolific musician. More to the point, he's always been prolific even back when he was just an electronic tinkerer and who would have thought back then that Thomas J Marchant would become the all round singer and songwriter he has since become, gathering a lot more fans than I think even Thomas would have dared hope for. All well deserved btw because over the past few years Thomas has hardly put a foot wrong musically, as the string of Must Haves from me and the plaudits from others amply testifies.

It's a measure also of how confident a singer he has become that No Go Home is essentially carried by the vocal (and his inimitable lyrical style) and on No Go Home it's obvious that he fears nothing; a musician on a hell of a roll. All in the garden isn't exactly rosy mind because - above all - you have to deal with Thomas's style of production and delivery too, and that, I have found, is a bit of an acquired taste. I'm certain every one who likes this musician will be nodding their heads at that, but that's a puzzling fact because - to my mind - Thomas has all the hallmarks of a modern musician and if there were any justice he'd be famous already. Still, I am incredibly biased and I'm quite prepared to admit it.

Normally I'd pass on the little technical glitches that crop up in Thomas's work but on No Go Home, it's not always possible because they do get in the way of the main event, the song and the vocals. Not to the point where it becomes an irritant, but certainly more noticeable because it's not the usual thing. Mind you, the first (say) thirty seconds make up for everything that comes after, Thomas at his most relaxed. I think the main culprit for the vocal problem is the effective (maybe too much so) bass synth would is probably a tad too high in the mix. Overall, though, when dealing with Thomas, the song is the thing and No Go Home is Thomas J Marchant in full spate.

Marvellous Marchant whimsey. Highly Recommended UK Alternative.

Friday, May 14, 2010

This Modern Empire - Love Is The New Black

Hear The Track Here

When I first reviewed Australian band The Empires (This Modern Empire is their new name) I have to admit to some trepidation, but the original version of Love Is The New Black (July 2009) soon put paid to that reaction although it had some flaws, as I said in the review. A fairly decent Indie band is what I heard and one I thought had some room to grow. Better Way (January 2010) showed that growth and got a good rating from me but then came the name change and a new - studio recorded - track, How You See The World (April 2010). Now This Modern Empire definitely seemed to know what they were doing and it is an excellent slice of Alternative rock. The only tracks on their Soundclick page are How You See The World and this version of Love Is The New Black. I am told, mind, that this is a new version put down at the same time as How You See The World so let's take it as a brand new track.

Tell the truth, I only ever keep Must Have tracks, and the occasional other highly recommendeds so I've completely forgotten what the original was like anyway. Now, as much as I like the latest version, it's cleaner than I remember and they may have shortened it even, it is still just an okay sort of song. It doesn't strike me with the resonance How You See The World but that feeling may well be coloured somewhat by the original review (bad Gilmore, mustn't read yourself), but it is nonetheless a very decent Alternative Indie track. Certainly I can see that the two tracks together will give a much better impression of the band than the one I started with.

Whoever doing all the knob-twiddling in the studio certainly knows their stuff, from the very pretty acoustic intro to the rocky core of the beast, this is almost perfect. Personally I could have done with more volume on the vocals and a much fatter kick sound but that's just me being picky. For sure, if you like modern Indie music, then This Modern Empire has all the right credentials, sulky vocals, understated backing vocals and a jangly guitar soundtrack. All the main food groups, even. Going to be interesting to see where the band go from here because, to me, they certainly have much potential even though they have yet to make me sit up and beg. (Ed: Not a pretty sight, and they probably know that)

Highly Recommended Indie Alternative.

Yolandé Strauss - Samson

Hear The Track Here

If you think this artists name is familiar then you would be right. I haven't, as yet, reviewed her in her own right though, obviously this track is going to put that right. She is a South African singer/songwriter who has made a mark with this reviewer. So, we have encountered Yolande a couple of times in the past teamed up with Alchemystic whose two ballads - Sweet Sorrow (January 2010) and Never Thought (March 2010) - absolutely knocked me out of my socks. What makes this fact all the more amazing is that - as I mentioned - these are ballads and I've never been a fan of weepy stuff. I am, however, a big fan of Yolande's vocal abilities, and jumped at the chance to see what she does on her own...although it has to be said that this is also a collaboration, this time with Steffen Offermann who I know nothing whatsoever about.

Not much to the song, piano and strings, with the piano pretty much carrying the whole thing on its back and - of course - it's another ballad. It's never been an area I've ever felt comfortable in and it takes a rare talent to lure me into such treacle-y terrain, and thankfully Yolande Strauss does have the kind of voice that fits material like this as was evidenced by the tracks she did with Alchemystic. Samson is a much more stripped down version of what was on offer with her previous tracks, but - to my mind - is the better for it. After all, this is a love song to her husband and the emotion is right there, as is the lyrical content.

Of course it's all very sphincter tightening if you happen to cringe at such outward signs of (gulp) lurve, and I spent many an hour under the table while this was playing BUT that is just me and I'm sure if you like good (and I really mean GOOD) ballads, then this will definitely float your boats. On the two tracks with Alchemystic I mentioned that she reminded me somewhat of Karen Carpenter and I don't get that sense on Samson. In fact, I think I begin to see past that initial impression, and that's a good thing because although its a handy reference, it's not really fair. She claims that she is a big fan of the incomparable Nina Simone and. just for the craic, I would like to hear her do some material in that jazzy style Nina Simone is justly famed for.

Excellent, simple but deep, love song. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Larry Ludwick - Eastern River

Hear The Track Here

Seems like only yesterday since I first met Larry Ludwick when I reviewed Cold Heart Mountain (September 2008) but as you can see from the date, it really wasn't that long ago. Mind you, he's an active geezer is our Larry and not just musically. In the past two years Larry had proved himself invaluable to Soundclick's Critics Corner feeding frenzy forum, writing some cogent reviews and starting and finessing the monthly Critics Corner competition when - now anyway - you can even win a promo day courtesy of Soundclick. Don't think it a prize worth having? Take your track from #127654 to the top 20 in that day and - if you are lucky - you may even get a number one out of it. Check it out in the forum if the idea sounds interesting.

Regular readers will know that Larry has been having hearing difficulties and I'm not sure if this track is from before these troubles or not. Whatever, I'm sure we all wish him the very best. However, before we all get way too soft hearted, let's whip out this track and roast his nuts over a nice warm fire... Billed as New Age, Larry's passion for words takes it out of the usual tinkly, airy-fairy stuff that usually sends me screaming for the exit whenever I encounter the genre. Not that Eastern River is verbose, or even intellectually smart, but like a lot of Larry's work fit the soundtrack perfectly. All is not rosy though because I did have some problems with the song but that had nothing to do with what Larry was playing or doing, more in the more general sound of some of the instruments.

Now this I will put down to my own dislike of such sounds (the tinkly ones) but the semi-brass sounds (trumpet maybe?) absolutely did not work for me. There is a factory sound I became used to a few years ago, much to my anger, and this is way too close to that sound for my own comfort. Nonetheless, this is a personal dislike of the sound, what Larry does with it is not in dispute. In fact, I've become quite used to Larry's particular style over the past two years, especially lyrically and vocally and Eastern River is a great example of what Larry is all about - even if it had me twitching and barking at strangers but New Age always has that effect on me.

Recommended chill pill.

Gabriel Sabadi - White Sky Dark Earth feat Chris Moore and Kephas

Hear The Track Here

OK, now this is getting ridiculous. I went over to Gabriel Sabadi's page while writing this review and I had the hardest time getting past the first page because Don't Show Me Around (April 2010) and the more I hear that track the more I see just how good it is. So much so that I regret only giving it a highly recommended, and that is a rare occurrence indeed. Should have been a Must Have, isn't hindsight the most fucked up sense we possess? Anyway, White Sky, Dark Earth also feature's Chris Moore, as does Don't Show Me Around, but with the special added attraction of Mixposure stalwart Kephas who - it has to be said - has been very quiet over the last year. I know he must be heartily sick of the whole Carlos Santana soundalike rep, but I think he is one of the most distinctive guitarists on Mixposure and I'm glad to hear him after such a long break.

If Gabe keeps going on this way, he may very well single-handedly win me back to the prog-rock standard and that would never do, think of the damage to my reputation (Ed: huh? Reputation?? Ha ha ha ha ha ha). Gabriel Sabadi has been at this a good while, and even though he has had no special musical training, shows that what counts is detail and finesse and he piles that on relentlessly. Kephas gets to really stretch out on this track, and again that's a joy to hear but that should in no way detract from the excellence of the performance and the solid framework of the song. As you might suspect, wherever Kephas is, there will be a Latin sound happening and that's where - to my mind - this track really scores. Sure, it's a latin feel but it has it's feet rooted firmly in the rock.

I've said it a hundred million times but it never ceases to amaze me at the level of some internet only musicians and Gabriel, Chris and Kephas are three class examples of how talent will out, no matter what. There is absolutely nothing cheap and shoddy about this track and much to be treasured especially if you have an appreciation of where so much modern music comes from, and God bless Mixposure it's giving them the IDEAL shop window for their music - made for internet rock radio for rock animals like you and me. While I can't say that White Sky Dark Earth is anything like as right on the money as Don't Show Me Around, it's head and shoulders above most music you hear from unsigned sources. Oh, and btw, keep your eye out for his other outfit, GSM, whose Time Will Cure Us All (March 2010) started all this prog-rock appreciation...

Gaaaahhh.....I need to spit that out!!! Highly Recommended rock.

Justina - Go Fck YaSelf

Hear The Track Here

Another review from my blog, Justina is a completely new name to me so when I received the blurb from her publicist I'm like mmmmmmmm. Been here, saw the error message. The publicist explains that Justina is a 'modern day solution for the same old, ‘cookie-cutter’, pop artist'. OOookkk, lets see what's behind the image then eh? Justina is, as you would expect, an extremely cute young lady obviously and of course that helps - ask any man. As a reviewer of unsigned music I have an inbuilt hatred of most commercial music and especially of the hip hop/R&B genres where wetness and/or macho braggadocio is about the only choices you get. Justina sails real close to this, but it IS the flavour of the month, can't blame the girl. Although I had Go Fck Yaself (how could I not with a title like that) slated for review, I did listen to a few tracks from the pages I mention above, and there's a very confident young singer hanging out here.

Proof of this is, I think, most exemplified with the version of Whatcha Say (The Original) which you can hear here.

I, of course, as is my usual wont drifted towards the profane and lo and behold I got what I wanted. Justina is from Clifton NJ so rap is where she is with Go Fck Yaself, and - all kidding about the profanity aside - she makes a damn fine job of it. You wouldn't think that something so basic would come out of the mouth of such a sweet babe bu hey, that's the modern world for you. She's got a great sound too, and one that is undeniably commercial right down to the obligatory Autotune-d vocals. Tell you what, whoever is behind the technical side of Justina's sound needs a solid pat on the back because sound, arrangement and some really great musical touches ensure that Justina has all the right cards.

More to the point, drift below the fold (as it were) of her Myspace site and you'll find TONS of live video which shows this isn't just a recording professionalism, it carries into a extremely effective live show with a real band. Neat if you happen to live around the New Jersey area and obviously well worth checking out live, for the rest of us Earth-bound mortals the videos are the proof that pop and/or commercial music can have soul and emotion. You can purchase Go Fck YaSelf through iTunes (it says here) but I do suggest you check out her whole catalog because, as good as Go Fck YaSelf is, there is a lot more to this girl than 'go head, go head, go **** yourself...'

Highly Recommended pop voice