Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Painted Water - Feastia of the Sun

Hear The Track Here

Although Painted Water has been around Soundclick for some time, this is the first time I have reviewed anything by him and it's fitting that it should be the last track out of the bag - always nice to end up with a bit of a bang, Ian Henderson is the water wot is painted (Ed: Nice Gilmore, nice), a (gulp) New Age musician from Washington State. You may have noticed me turning a whiter shade of pale when I gulped just then, and I think you can guess the reason why. I don't do New Age, I do old age. Specifically crabby, irritable, mean and vindictive old age smelling suspiciously of liniment and mould. I suspect that Painted Water is somehow aware of this fatal flaw in my character and has acted accordingly. Good job too eh? Big sighs of relief all round.

Feastia of the Sun is, as you can imagine, a Latin acoustic flavoured track that I found to be right up my musical street. I do love world music and latin acoustic in particular and this is a great example of both, all wrapped up in a clear, sharp mix no matter how much you pump it up. Tell you what, crank this bad boy up all the way and you'd have the whole block clicking castanets and stamping heels before you could shout 'ole' which - surprisingly enough - happens a lot on this track. Mind you, there's a fair bit to go ole at, if you get my drift (Ed: how could anyone, you're gabbling man!!!)

Ian has been playing keyboards for years and it shows, both in what he plays and the manner in which he presents it. When push comes to shove I am more impressed by musicians who know both how to make and produce their material and that only comes with time and experience. Take, for example, the gorgeous drum sound that this track features. Do you know how hard that kind of crack and biff is?? Even, I would argue, in this day of ready made drum sounds. To get the kind of stereo picture this track operates in is, in itself, a work of art, to get such inspiring music on top of it is nirvana - even for a crabby, irritable, mean and vindictive old geezer like me.

Ole!! MUST HAVE World music.

Lovablemikey - The Fun Garden

Hear The Track Here

So there I was looking at the last tracks in the review bag and thinking 'well that wasn't so bad, was it?' Lovablemikey is a new name to me from Soundclick and he, she or it has no information on the page whatsoever and only one track, this one. Again, you might be thinking 'that wasn't too bad was it?' but then you haven't been to the page and read the song comment which goes like this: 'part of the "Super Mario Brothers" inspired album I am creating' and if that doesn't scare you, obviously nothing will. Certainly made me reach for my brown trousers, I'll tell you. The problem being, of course, that most hated of genres Games Soundtracks which IMHO should stay in the games they were made for.

I must have eaten my fill of those wild 'n' wacky 8 bit sounds back in the old MOD days, luckily times have moved on and the sounds with them because The Fun Garden didn't make me sick at all, So, not really game music then? Well yes, I suppose you could stretch a point and say that it would fill that purpose but also - and more favourably for me - it stands up on its own as a piece of music. Weird, electronic fukry of music sure enough so if you don;t particularly go for electronica this is probably not for you. If you are not interested in games soundtracks in the slightest then you would have stopped reading long ago.

Actually, what most kept me listening to this track wasn't its structure, its charm or even its cleverness. Nope, all my two braincells were focused on whether or not that was a sampled theremin or indeed a theremin in the flesh (so to speak). If its a theremin sample, its a bloody good one and if its an actual theremin then case closed. Whatever, for me, this element is what made the track happen although - it has to be said - that once you really listen to the music it's got its own charm, albeit of the wild 'n' wacky variety. Mind you, this is a track from a forthcoming album called Odnetnin (figure it out for yourselves) so what do you expect. Now, get back to collecting coins or I'll jump on your head...

Whimsical odd electronica. Recommended.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Schizotic - Codeine

Hear The Track Here

I'm a guitarist, I'm bound to favour my own instrument although I can still whinge on and on about guitar instrumentals. I've been known to do that from time to time, chiefly because most guitar instrumentals don't really do very much and there is a 'heard one, heard them all' factor about a lot of these kinds of tracks. Unless you can come up with the right set of ideas in which to place your guitar instrumental, nothing very much will happen outside of 'oh hum' in response. Where Schizotic impressed me with Locomotive Arms (July 2010) was in those exact areas, earning himself a Must Have rating into the bargain.

But wait, you cry, aren't Must Have's for something more than a bit special? OK, what if I tell you that Locomotive Arms is an 'Alternative' experimental track? A blend of alternative rock and wtf wtf wtf... Must Have with a ******* bullet even innit?? I finished that review with the words 'absolutely knockout introduction to a musician I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye on' and to prove the point here is track two. Now then, now then, will Dustin Jurkaulionis (aka Schizotic) be able to do the same trick twice?

Easy peasy lemon squeezy, as a man once said. Not only do the same trick but improve the damn thing so much its ridiculous. Talk about a great idea. Although Codeine is yet again basically a guitar instrumental I'd bet you haven't heard the like of this before, guitars or not. It wouldn't work if the experimental/rock balance were not perfect and it helps that Schizotic is an inventive and creative player, making this combination work a treat. For sure, Schizotic has shown that he has more than a few of these tricks up his sleeve, and judging by the way its progressing maybe some real classics on the way.

Highly Recommended geetar wtf rock thing...

Rustik - Weight Of The World Ft Commonground

Hear The Track Here

Third time around for US based hip hop musician/rapper Rustik who, so far, has made a good impression. Not something that's easy to do when you are talking about hip hop, I'll grant you but, as I've said in every review this guy comes across as somewhat different to the norm. Although it is the healthiest and busiest genre on Soundclick its has many, many detractors. Usually on account of content but this is hip hop, where bad language is almost an artform in itself. Point is, you expect it to be close to the bone and it's always a surprise when its not, and this is where Rustik lies in the plot.

Both previous tracks - Backpack (March 2010) and Awkward Glow (July 2010) - showed that he thought about what he wrote, and cared about the message he was putting across. Big pluses in my book. Rustik has also proved that he knows how to construct songs, and if previous tracks don't do it, Weight Of The World definitely does. Musically, funnily enough, this is probably a kind of rock track, although the rap is pure hip hop and it actually works very well. Sure, it's all a tad on the rough side, and some of the vocals aren't as tight as they should be, not to mention the tuning. BUT (Ed: that's a big butt) taken over a period of time, this song definitely grows on you, as do every one of this musicians tracks so far.

I ended my last review (of Awkward Glow) by stating that the track was real close to being there, and I think the same could be said for this. I'm not sure whether tightening up the vocals would do it, but I think it would probably help. Nevertheless, if this is what is on offer, then it's plenty good enough and anyone who is not a fiendish nerd about these things (that'll be me) will just hear a really different, enjoyable slice of rock rap. Actually, Rustick (and Commonground?) are probably going to get really ticked off about this and come and beat me about the ears for describing them so. Hey, that's what my ears tell me, maybe you see it differently.

Highly Recommended rock/hiphop hybrid (honest)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Larry Ludwick - The Exodus

Hear The Track Here

It seems like forever ago since I first met (as it were) Larry Ludwick and yet I reviewed Nod's Ascent for Dave in July 2008 (not Cold Heart Mountain as I mentioned in my last review), a mere blink in time away and yet he's become a fixture on the Soundclick landscape in that time and - incidentally - clocked up a sizable proportion of plays too. Looking back now I see that I got a very blinkered view of Larry's work back then because he's certainly confounded me in all manner of ways since then, notably for his spoken word pieces with The Dead Company and others. Musically, his own style tends to be a little sombre, or at least that is the way it appears to me. Now while I recognise that about his work, it doesn't stop me enjoying it and - once in a while - being really enthused about what he does. Ultimately, I think, for me anyway, Larry Ludwick often journeys into places I don't personally go for, but whatever it is, he definitely pours everything he's got into it.

It's funny, as soon as I saw the title of this track I instantly started humming this which only points up how musically mangled my musical upbringing was. As much as it was a pure piano piece, I found it incredibly catchy and, in many ways, intensely moving. Of course, that was a hit in 1960, and times have REALLY moved on but Larry Ludwick's The Exodus remains, at heart, a pure piano piece. Moreover, take a listen to that track first, then start on Larry's and you'll see the connection straightaway. Both have that breathless quality and both are absolutely drenched in emotion but - much more to the point - it points up just how far we have come in realising TRUE musical tonality and depth.

Of course it's no kind of review at all to compare something made in 1960 and something made some fifty years later but what it proves is that I don't have anything else to pick on and that shows just how good Larry is at making this kind of music. I particularly liked the vocal treatments happening in here, I think they really give the track that unearthly, breath-stopping feeling that only comes with something right. Classical styles, I have found, are incredibly difficult to get to sound natural and, on that score, Larry has worked miracles. Everything sounds exactly as it should, and I haven't always been able to say that about this musicians sounds. While this is not exactly my kind of style, I know there will be many with whom it will find great favour.

Highly Recommended Contemporary Classical.

Thomas J Marchant - Trying Not To Die

Hear The Track Here

Out of the thousands of Soundclick artists I have reviewed, there are very few whose whole entire output has been put through my mill. Fear 2 Stop is one and Thomas J Marchant is another. The reason I lump fear 2 Stop and Thomas together is because - when they first started - they shared a musical genre (experimental) and they both got enormous amounts of crap from me about it. While Fear 2 Stop have sharpened and honed their original sound and damn the cost, Thomas has wandered around a bit (under different names) before settling on his current musical style under his real name. Thomas is - to my mind - a modern day troubadour; a storyteller. His early tracks in this mode were simple, effective songs backed by the minimum of accompaniment. Such style, and his own inimitable character, saw him installed as my Artist Of The Year 2008 and - bless him - he hasn't taken a breath since, pumping out tracks as fast as he makes them.

Over the last year or so, the music has become more intricate, as he pushes his own boundaries to see what works and what doesn't and - at first glance - Trying Not To Die might be suffering because of it. However, I learned the hard way not to underestimate this musician, his music often demands more than a quick listen. Moreover, if the track doesn't catch you straight away, there is usually a reason for it. I don't mind because I always have time for this very individualistic songwriter but he isn't something you would pick up on instantly. Something of an acquired taste, and I understand that, having got that taste many, many reviews ago. The reason I'm being a bit iffy is because my reaction to this at first was not good, I mean really not good. Now considering how consistent he has been, I seriously questioned whether this heralded a change in direction/style and, if so, would I like it still?

For sure, this is the most lo-fi track I have heard from him in a while and, truth to tell, it has a demo feel about it, especially in the drum track, which I blame for my initial reaction. However, the more I played it, the more the quality of the song came through because, amongst all the lo-fi messing about, that is the real gem here. My admiration for Thomas's style and his songwriting ability is well known and - in that respect - Trying Not To Die doesn't let me down but personally I could have done with a lot more of the song and a lot less of the lo-fi guitar thrashing. If you just took the song, and its immediate environs (as it were) then what you would have is a track with a Buzzocks easy punk pop feel about it that is second to none.

Highly Recommended for the song at least, so long as you can get past the lo-fi.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Heavy Glow - The Filth and The Fury EP

Hear The Track Here

Last track out of the review blog bag this month is yet another new band to me. Heavy Glow are a three piece classic rock band from San Diego, CA who - judging by the writeups anyway - have all the right stuff. If, like me, your heart pounded that little bit faster with the words classic rock, let me throw some cold water out there. My problem with classic rock has always been the same. I lived through the 'classic' period when it was just known as rock music (that's ALL of it) and - to be honest - the endless regurgitation's haven't been pretty. To be sure I have come across some bands who can rightly claim to sound 'classic' - which is as much about arrangement as sound - but they are far and few between. Having said that, another blog request this month was from Dogs and Bones, an excellent LA based rock band of the old skool so maybe there is hope for American rock yet eh? ;) (Ed: Dude! you can't say that)

One of the hardest things to do with rock is to play in a trio, simply because there is a LOT of space to fill with very little. Each musician has to be at the very top of his game to really punch through. The very best of them, say Cream in their heyday, step out of a 'trio' sound and become something else entirely. Hard to see where the joins are, if you see what I mean. Funnily enough, Heavy Glow also mention another of my trio idols; Blue Cheer who were a great influence on this reviewer. So, it's obvious that I entered the actual review process with high hopes. Funny, on their Myspace they say that the EP has six tracks but I only seem to have five. Mind you, five of these tough little buggers are going to be more than enough for a massive nostalgia binge. The echoes from these tracks has had me trawling through the depths of time trying to find things these tracks reminded me of.

OK, so as we were discussing, classic rock music either is, or it isn't and The Filth and The Fury absolutely reeks of weed; right-on (maaan) stoner music for the masses. Who needs people to stomp your brains out when the music can do it soooo much better. As I've said before I don't consider myself an expert in any music except the music I grew up with. Now some forty years down the line, here is what it actually sounded like. Jared Mullins (gtr/vocals), Joe Brooks (bass) and Dan Kurtz (drums) do an incredible job on bringing the feel and sound back to life on every single one of the five tracks I have. Tell ya, when I heard Love Ghost (my fave), I had massive flashbacks from Hendrix, Robin Trower, and ten million more we've all forgotten. Then I went out for a bag of weed. Well, you would, wouldn't you? In all seriousness now, Heavy Glow are the real deal, as meaty as a hambone and as real as a punch in the face and any track off this EP will show just how on the money the writeups have been (for once, at least)

1969 anyone? MUST HAVE Classic rock.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ashique M Fahim - Behind Your Veil

Hear The Track Here

Those who can, shred. Those who can't write about, it so I guess that puts me in my place huh? Actually, as I mind-numbingly pointed out in my last review of this Bangla Deshi musician, I don't particularly like shredding. Sure I can see the value of being able to do that as a guitarist but maybe not to the extent some take it. Musicial masturbation just makes me go cold. Usually. Of course there are moments when that doesn't happen and I actually like what I hear but the way its put together has to add to the whole. For example, go on to You Tube and search for shredding and you'll see what I mean, some fourteen thousand shredders to chose from. Put in context, however, shredding actually is inspirational and edifying. I for one would LOVE to hear what Jaqueline Mannering would do with real music. Bear in mind, this is an eighteen year old....

I reviewed Ashique only once before with Firestarter Demo (October 2009), and looking back he got off lightly and that was because he maybe knew that shredding wouldn't fit too well with the overwhelming numbers of fine guitar instrumentals that dot a site like Soundclick. Given the deluge of such tracks, for one to stand out it really must be outstanding on all kinds of levels and Firestarter just missed that. Between then and now though, the difference is quite stark, both in production terms and style of track. Mind you, this is much more like the kind of rock that suits this kind of guitar style, light and supportive.

When all is said and done, this IS just a guitar instrumental but, if you like this guitar style, is a very worthwhile listen as well as being a halfway decent tune into the bargain. It's got some lovely touches, whether these were carried out during the recording or done afterwards makes no difference. It's those little touches that really make this track happen for me. After all, If I HAVE to listen to yet another guitar instrumental it had better have a bit more going for it than speed and suppleness of the ol' pointing digits, it damn well should make sense musically. Mmmmm. If you listen carefully, you can even hear a faint 'harumph' from that last sentence. I really am getting old, I sound like some geriatric colonel... Behind Your Veil is a guitarists dream and - over and above that - a very good tune into the bargain.

Excellent riffage. Highly Recommended.

Cam's Even Song - A Picture Hanging

Hear The Track Here

Regular readers will already know that at the beginning of each year, the first review out is a review of the previous year, in which I highlight things that have pleased (or vexed) me, musicians that I feel deserve special attention and - of course - the single category awards. Yep, disbelieving eyeballs, awards. Virtual of course and worth nothing other than in my mind and the people who receive such plaudits but hey, it keeps us off the streets, I started this in 2003 and the ultimate point of it was to find an outstanding talent for that year. Since 2003 there have been many Artist Of The Year and I am proud of my choices and especially of my choice for 2006: Cam's Even Song. As well as being one of the mainstays of Soundclick's Critics Corner, Cam is also a fine songwriter, musician and producer and one with a unique sound. Instantly recognisable as being Cam, if you know what I mean.

The problem I always have whenever I visit his site is choice, you are spoilt for it. As well as being a fine...yadda yadda, Cam is also incredibly prolific, the kind of songwriter who can (and does) write about everything under the sun, the stars and Heaven and Hell. While he is an obvious Christian rocker, Cam has always let his music do the talking and - to be honest - that's one of his traits I value most. Faith is a personal thing, either there or not and I don't need to know what anyone thinks, I have my own mind. There is no denying that when Cam gets into that groove, his music is deeply spiritual, glowing with its own special message, but only for those who have ears to hear, as I am sure he knows too well. More fool them I say because, for me, Cam's Even Song rarely - if ever - put a foot wrong. Take a listen to any of the 250+ tracks and you'll see what I mean.

For me, Cam has two main modes, with lots of little detours. Let's call those two main modes by the styles they most remind me of: Bob Dylan and The Beatles. A Picture Hanging is from the Beatles end of the spectrum and - as you can imagine - is usually a fave of mine, although I do like his Biblical Bob Dylan more. The underlying message of A Picture Hanging is Christian certainly but again not overtly so, it certainly won't register for a while with people who like this very poppy approach. As usual, Cam sounds in fine form, that distinctive voice clearly telling it like it is, all in his own inimitable style. So, if you are a Cam fan already, this is a shoo in, if you are not, try it and see and you may be very surprised - quality will out.

Highly Recommended Pop Rock from a Cam who can.

Zebrabook - Curled Up In A Ball

Hear The Track Here

For most people that have experienced the work of Zebrabook (actually Zebrabookmusic but hey, I'm lazy), this title may well remind you of the position you were in the last time you heard them. Mind you, behind that seemingly innocent facade lies the Dr Moriarty of the unsigned, nay unsigned experimental, world. A crafty cove who goes by the name of Jon Bushaway - a name that also calls up images of dead companies but best not to poke at that particular scab, sceptecemia is not an option OK, I have way too much to do. (Ed: like this review, now stop waffling and crack on). Needless to say, listening to Zebrabook music isn't a light, breezy walk in the park, more like a increasingly darkening forest, lowering at you with the utmost menace.

Since Jon Bushaway moved all his baggage onto Soundclick some time ago, I have slowly but surely built up a liking (or tolerance) for what he's doing with Zebrabook although it has to be said that nothing Jon involves himself in is going to be easy listening. Whatever name he goes under, I have found him one of the most challenging musicians I have ever reviewed - and I've seen some doozies, believe me. Not to mention that I have no link whatsoever for this particular track, so I presume he'll be along to explain how you will get it. There again, would you want it? Let's test... I understand that I have a strong musical stomach and that not everyone likes the came kind of caterwauling I do, but I have found a great many people swayed once they actually hear Master Bushaway's music.

One word of caution though: long, l-o-n-g. Almost everything he does is over seven minutes and - on the odd occasion - over twenty, so these are not tunes you can drive-by listen to. I always dowloaded their tracks, knowing that this is necessary because these are tracks to be lived with and savoured. Jon has always had a natural touch at picking and utilising the right sounds and - on balance - Curled Up is considerably tamer than a lot of his work. Damn it, it even has a kind of new age feel about it, and that'll never do. What always impresses, however, is how that huge amount of time is used up and that is where Jon scores massively over others. The man is detail oriented like you wouldn't believe; there are worlds within his tunes. Believe me, I always pack for one of his adventures because you never know where you ae going to end up - other than curled up in a ball obviously.

Excellent electronica soundscape. Recommended sonic rapture.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dogs and Bones - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

Look, don't be starting! Not having a good day, ya see. Not that I have to explain myself but.... It's an artist overview because I have around six tracks from this band and I'm not sure if its an album or even - at this stage - whether I have the right band. There again, there aren't going to be too many Dogs and Bones around, especially when you discount real dogs and bones but what convinced me was the description of this band. Gotta love this, listen. 'Dogs and Bones is a Surf Psychedelic, Motown, Rockabilly, Blues and all round Rock Band from Los Angeles (Ed: Oh well that explains it for me then...) Have to admit, I was somewhat skeptical about the motown/rockabilly mix but hey, I like to be surprised and I've heard stranger things happening. Usually in Los Angeles actually, but that's yet another story. Mind you, having done me likkle research, it's fairly obvious that this trio have a good pedigree between then and that, presumably, we are in for something more professional than most. In point of fact, Steve Loria bassist with D&B also played in one of my all time favourite rock bands, and a seminal influence on my own musical career, that band was called Spirit.

You would think that with that kind of stuff going for you, nothing could go wrong...

Los Angeles, in many musical ways, is like any major city; it's a tough gig and you better have your wits about you to take it on. Big cities are also, as I mentioned a time or two before, one of the best training grounds around because the competition is so fierce. When, for example, you are playing at a world famous venue such as LA's Viper Room, you better deliver. Having experienced La La land personally I can hear the difference between West Coast and East Coast rock bands, and it's quite significant, particularly when it comes to style. To me LA music has always spoken with big gestures, and Dogs and Bones are a prime exponent of that, and musically tough as old boots into the bargain. Rock band with a capital Kerrrannng. (Sometimes) It's Better Not To Know and Lucious, the first two tracks out of the zipfile, really show exactly why this band would flourish and thrive in such a musical hothouse. As I said, given the buildup, I was expecting much and Dogs and Bones delivered it with ease. Fine musicians, and great alternative rock songwriters, professionally recorded, and pumping adrenaline directly to your pleasure centres.

Weird thing though, I got some funny B-52's vibe off the next couple of tracks but I guess that may be the rockabilly (or the drugs) kicking in. See, while the first two tracks were exactly what I expected, Let's Distract Ourselves is a strange blend that, nonetheless, does the job with great skill. No doubt in my mind that if you live in LA this is a band worth checking out live, there is an undeniable raw power here that has so many echoes it gladdens an old fart's heart (should he possess one in the first place, that is). For me, the standout track is, far and away, Leave Me Alone. Sounding like a (very) much more polished Oasis in their prime, this to me is an obvious hit, snagging the listener from the very start, prime single material. She's The Girl is a nice slice of ass-on-fire music, straight ahead rock in the time honoured fashion with some brilliant lyrics. The Way, the last of the six tracks I have, is pretty much classic rock in feel but there is no doubt this is a great showcase for the band's talents and infinitely rock-radio friendly. All of these tracks (I assume) will be on the band's upcoming album called - not unsurprisingly Dogs And Bones. Unsigned yes, but surely not for much longer.

Rock with breadth and depth. Highly Recommended.

Rick0 - Clean Fusion

Hear The Track Here

Most people who know me, know that I have an enquiring mind (Ed: which is why they all call him nosy bastard). I'm a curious fellow - in more ways than one. So imagine what excitement I felt when I started on this tracks review. Here's a guy, Rick0, who has been on Soundclick for-fekkin-evAH (Ed: 2003 it says here) and even got a nice tidy twenty five tracks on his page but only has one friend? In....(counts on fingers) seven years!! Holy crap batman, someone who is more unpopular than me!!! Of course, I joke, but nonetheless doubtless there's a story to be told here. So I will have to put my nosy instincts to one side and just go by the thing we are all here for, the music. Rick0 is a jazz fusion musician from the US who is obviously a new name to me, despite all I've said above. Soundclick, as I've said many, many times before, is a very big place and there is only so much time...

I don't know about you but whenever I see the words Clean Fusion in relation to Jazz I start to develop a nervous tic. Personally I think that jazz fusion gets a bad press, sometimes deservedly so, but I have heard many inspiring musicians and tracks down the years, not the least being the glorious OnOffOn. Put it like this, I am always prepared to like jazz fusion, but don't often get the choice. Noodling is something entirely different, k?? I always associate the best jazz fusion (certainly from a guitarists point of view) is one where you can imagine the presenter nodding wisely after it and saying 'niiiiiiceee' direct to camera. It's a given then, that Rick0 is a guitarist, but that's just a description of what he does.

Musically what he shows on Clean Fusion is the quality of work that is on a par with the kind of things Jeff Beck does, that's how good he is. Anyone who knows me, would know that I don't make that statement lightly, Jeff Beck is right up there with the greats in my estimation. Of course, Rick0 is different, and even the merest drive by listen to this track will show that, although I heave heard Beck do similar material. For me, the key to any genre is, first and foremost, feel. get that right and the rest pretty much slips into place, which is exactly what this track does. Clean, clear and as smooth as a babies butt has but one fatal flaw - it's way too short. It weighs in at an equally baby-like one minute, forty and that definitely isn't enough for someone with a healthy jazz appetite. Excellent stuff, or should I say niiicccee...

Highly Recommended Jazz Fusion

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Maddie Jones - Green and Blue

Hear The Track Here

I know I'm probably wasting time with this, but does anyone remember this lovely lady? Funny that, because I only reviewed Dirty Little Secret (July 2010) last month as you can see and yet there is this big discussion going on in the Critics Corner forum about the lack of female musicians asking for reviews. Welp, I guess my Soundclick friends need to get out some more because there are a great many talented females out there, God knows I've found a few in my time. Maddie is a Welsh lass, from South Wales in fact, an area - as I mentioned in my last review - full of music history. Dirty Little Secret showed me that Maddie has it in recorded sound (this being a track from her new EP, properly recorded and with a band) but what about her normal environment; acoustic and/or unplugged?

Now, funny you should ask that...

I mentioned in that review that the tune wasn't really what I expected from her, and surprisingly enough, this one is. What impressed me most about Dirty Little Secret is that it was an excellent song and right in the modern groove too. It showed that Maddie has a voice that demands interest but, to me anyway no matter how much I liked it, it didn't put across the real quality of the woman, if you know what I mean. Green and Blue does though, and much more besides. I knew from the opening chords that this was going to be a bit special and that impression has grown with every playing. See, Maddie is a live, gigging musician and what I expected to hear was what she sounded like live - and this is it and its just gorgeous.

It takes a very great deal to make an impact with a guitar, a voice and a song. You got to be pretty good (and talented) to be able to pull it off successfully. OK, having said that, go and take a listen to this track and you tell me whether Maddie does that or not because I'm convinced. Listen, this is the kind of voice that sends shivers down your spine, what is not to like? Much more to the point, she's a very decent guitarist too, accompanying herself admirably. There is a video of the song here at a festival somewhere with stand up bass accompaniment that suits it just as well. For quality though, listen to the track on either of her sites and hear a budding diva in action. Beautiful.

MUST HAVE Acoustic song.

Big Wheel - Forever

Hear The Track Here

Mr Wheelie (as you must call him) returns this month to his original stomping grounds of electronica, green in wire and silicone (Ed: as opposed to red in tooth and claw I suppose?? Sheesh, I give up) or, as he so charmingly puts it 'more noodling, jammy fun wi' jam in' and if you think that makes sense then you have already met the man who gave us the immortal danceforms of 'chillage, danceage, noddage and groovage' . Or, in much simpler terms, he makes it up as he goes along. Come on, he'd have to right?? Certainly the same couldn't be said for his music which I have found since I first met him with Far Away (July 2006) has proved to be of extremely high quality even if some of it is (gulp) mellow.

Damn, now I have to go wash my mouth out.

'Just pissing around in the studio with my geetar, keys and puter. ' he states in the song comments, and I'm sure there are many of us who would nod wisely and say I wish it were that simple. Mind you, that's always been the case with Big Wheel (even when he's being a bit Kenny-G-ish; ie mellow), his sense of musical taste has always separated him from the normal dance flotsam and jetsum, and consequently kept a philistine like me content into the bargain. As you know, I may do yellow on a great many occasions, mellow is an absolute no-no. Unless, obviously, it is done by Big Wheel and a few other equally talented (and patient) musicians, then I got a lot of time for it.

The Wheeled Wonder is a bit of a dab hand when it comes to using whatever is at hand and that simplicity counts, all qualities on display on this groovy little jive-a-thon (Ed: OMG!! Gilmore caught the Wheelie bug, run away!!!, run away!!!). Can't say I'm going to be bestest best friends with the track of course, but I don't think that was the objective. Just pissing around was, if we are to believe His Roundness, and considering that's what he was doing he still managed to work in a nice blend of jazzy blues, with slices of dance electronica vocal that lift the track above yer standard instrumental (which is basically what it is). If you like slick dance-y stuff though, I have a sphere you should meet...

Highly Recommended ' fun wi' jam in'

MG vs XXXX - Silence

Hear The Track Here

MG vs XXXX is a relatively new name to Soundclick and one I haven't reviewed before, so that's nice... God, what a positive dog of an opening line, can't I do better than that? (Ed: no...EVER). He (despite the massed hordes suggested in the band name) is an electronic musician from the UK and note my use of the word electronic, as opposed to the more common form: electronica. To me, they are different things, electronic being the early form of electronica if you like. MG (and his assembled hordes) are influenced more by 1980's electropop than anything - at least as far as I can tell. In common with all us single producers though, MG is constantly searching for vocals and vocalists. Judging by some of the other tracks on his Soundclick page, the man has a sure touch at finding good female vocalists and them being gorgeous doesn't harm the case any.

'So I found an acapella on t'web and made this track from it' he says in the song comments, and that's a familiar refrain to me. Depeche, Yazoo, Erasure, Human League, Vince Clarke, Martin Gore are the names he mentions concerning specific influences and those are exactly the same names I would have used to describe them to you. I loved the combination of Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet more than anything else from the period and although no one else could 'do an Alison Moyet' but MG certainly does a more than capable Vince Clarke - except with added bite. Damn thing spat my speaker cones into my face when I first played it; not because of a technical fault but by music that - instantly - pins you to the wall.

Funny then, that it should be billed as trance because its about as far removed from that as it can get. If you peer closely, rather than the trance induced sneer, I am actually smiling and the reason is because this is nowhere near trance. Sure, it has that punch and drive, and even some of the musical element but down deep, this is a respectful nod to the past. MG's sound is tough, but not the usually untaxing four-to-the-floor rubbish that litters the trance genre, the arrangement and attention to detail shows that this is a musician who thinks about keeping our interest all the way through. Moreover, think about what he said. Found an accapella and was able to do this with it. 'This' being an awesome meaty slice of 1980's electro-pop that is both modern and retro...

Highly Recommended Electro-pop.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ska Rapples - Neophyte Blues

Hear The Track Here

Musicians, musicians, musicians....wtf is it with you guys? Why do you ALWAYS denigrate your own work as you pass it over for review? Really makes me chuckle when, in reality, there are very few musicians I have ever reviewed who shouldn't be blowing their own trumpet. After all, just being able to carry a tune is yer basic requirement these days, but most of you go way, way beyond that. And yet, and yet, every time there is a new track it is offered timorously, no bigging yourself up because - in your heart - you know you have a ******* good tune and that's enough. Obviously Road Apples, guiding sphere of Ska Rapples (see what he did there?) (Ed: errrr, no) need have no qualms about his material, as previous reviews have shown. Mmm, lets see, a highly recommended and a must have for Ska Rapples, highly recommended for A Cry Of Hounds (a side project), highly recommended for Sad Hill Cemetery (yet another side yadda) two highly recommendeds and a must have for Road Apples (the original). Beginning to get the picture here? This is a seasoned, competent musician who then writes 'I'm still working within the 'confines' of a three piece combo' as if this were a bad thing. Fact is, I haven't heard anything from this artist that I haven't actively liked, and there aren't many I can say that about.

More to the point, like a lot of seasoned musicians, he has developed his own sound and style and nowhere has this been more effective IMHO than in the work of Ska Rapples. Both of the tracks I have previously reviewed were chalk and cheese, couldn't be any further apart musically and yet both pieces had gravity and power in their own way. Inspired in some way by Soundclick eminence Peter Garland and activities in Soundclick's Garbage Can forum (you can guess what goes on there). OK, here's a clue, they feast on the lost souls of noobs, and neophyte is the correct term for beginner. Many is the time I have sung (no, wailed) about the fate of newbies wandering into the multilayered dangers of a Garbage Can conversation but - like all newbies everywhere - they think they know it all.

Neophyte Blues is exactly what it says on the tin, yer actual blues. OK, now that sentence has seen off the dissenters, there's blues and blues, know what I mean? As Michael Hughes (no guitar slouch himself) comments on this song 'For a guy who doesn't do blues, you've just done it--and brilliantly'. Now that's a sentiment I can more than agree with because, as it happens, I like blues when its treated properly and this is a great example of what I mean. Pace, timing and instrumental effectiveness is what counts in this genre, at least to pull it off with any authenticity, and there are very, very few who can actually pull this off. Again though, it proves my essential point in this review, talent and experience count so don't discount it yourself. Artists of this calibre know when they hit the spot, regardless of what they say in real life and thank God for that too. So, RA, I think you can take it as read that I liked this :)

Highly Recommended slice o' de blooz. (Ed: psst its not about newbies, just him spouting off)

eXceL from Just FAM (Freshset) - Coolie High Demo

Hear The Track Here

Tell you the truth, I am in two minds about whether or not this review is going to be of any use to anyone because - it appears - this musicians webpage seems to be under 'Soundclick review' which could mean a number of things - none of them good. Say one thing about Soundclick, they definitely stomp on SOME wrongdoing, notably copyright issues but having reviewed eXceL a couple of times this is not something I would have put him down for. Therefore, the link may take you to the 'review pending' page or - when its hopefully resolved - to the track in question. Just got to hope that by the time you get there, the track will also be fully available. In other words, don't blame me if this goes wrong ;) (Ed: so nothing new there then). As it happens, I've reviewed a fair bit of hip hop over the past couple of years and my position should be clear.

I loved what rap/hip hop started with when bands like Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, FullForce, Public Enemy, NWA, Rakim, Chuck D, and KRS-One made the genre live, and it had social meaning and context. Moreover, it reached out to whole swatches of disaffected kids (mainly black African Americans) and showed them there are ways to live other than by the gun. In a way, I guess, it became their rock and roll; another way of getting out of a life that seemed to offer no opportunities. In a way I suppose that is why these days it is THE predominant factor in music. What I do despise to the depth of my being is the way - yet again - its heart and soul has been ripped out of it and repackaged into a MUCH more brutal format, and all purely to sell records. Those early rappers weren't interested in selling records, they had a message and THAT is what counted. So the current strain is banal, facile and repugnant to anyone with half a brain, and I reserve special venom to what I call Hallmark hip hop, all flowers, love and sweet (nay puke-inducing) sentiment.

While I find a great deal of the original ethos in the unsigned world, it is still the commercial market that rules mostly, and the Hallmark kind in particular has a HUGE audience, although God knows why. I've liked what Excel has done before, but in all honesty I'm not struck by this. Its obvious however that isn't for me, I know this will find great favour in its intended market. The reason for that is because Excel actually knows what he's doing as he has proved before with his solo work and with Just FAM (Freshset), and whatever I personally feel about the material there is no denying that Excel has this trick d-o-w-n. I think I'd rather hear his version of Hallmark than most others that's for sure and I'm sure the audience this is aimed at will lap it up. Me? I guess I'm getting old.... So even though I personally am not into it, by sheer professionalism it deserves a....

Highly Recommended hip hop

Saturday, August 21, 2010

deep'n'dark - Hackers

Hear The Track Here

Although it feels like I've been around Soundclick for a thousand years, reality shows a different story. However, I was around for some of the seminal events that made Soundclick the massive site it is today (certainly on an unsigned level) and the years 2003/4/5 have that golden quality. Soundclick literally busted from its seams with talent (and still does, but in a different way) in almost every genre but some areas stood out more than others. I think anyone who was around and witnessed the incredible Electronica scene of those years when names like Adam Fielding, Bonamici, dcallen, Frequen-Cee and many, many others were changing the very meaning of the word electronica (at least for this reviewer). See, initially I wasn't very keen on the genre, mainly because I had come out of the early MOD scene which was swamped by bad, bad, bad 'dance' or 'space' electronica. Still gives me nightmares.

The reason you find me wallowing in the glorious past (a hobby with us old farts) is because deep'n'dark is a name from the Soundclick Electronica era but you might know him better these days as Heikki Roots (aka Reflexion X, a Finnish musician I have come to appreciate more lately under his new name. Can't say I really heard much back in the day, but that's because of me, not what deep'n'dark were doing. Although Heikki says this was made under the deep'n'dark name, it was uploaded just recently so I have no idea if this has been touched up (if you know what I mean). It is billed as Electronic Big Beat and I can see why, especially when you play it very, very, very loud. When I've finished rebuilding my walls, I'm gonna send him the bill.

Because I know this musician, I guess I have become used to his vocal style (English is not his mother tongue obviously) and I think I've mentioned before that his accentis often noticeable. What I wouldn't do is go as far to say that the lyrics and vocal in this song didn't work - as someone commented. The truth is, IMO they worked perfectly, as indeed did the track itself which gives you just the slightest charge of the kind of power that the early electronica scene thrived on. It's a solid, meaty piece of music and about the only thing that MAY have been offputting is the (slight) accent. Mind you, play it a few times and you won't even notice any more and its such a ridiculously small thing when set against the fire-breathing musical monster this track is. Now, about these walls, young man...

Highly Recommended Big Beat.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Nathanael Hale - Conquistador Spanish Solo

Hear The Track Here

Sometimes I think I must write these reviews in my sleep (Ed: you DON'T??). I've just re-read my first review of Nathanael Hale when I pawed Reflections (March 2010) for a while. In it I comment that Nathanael 'is essentially a guitarist, nothing more' and I'm sure I wouldn't have said something as insulting as that if I was awake at the time. Mind you, in my own defence, Nathanael also gives that impression and while he is undoubtedly a guitarist, that covers several different shades Reflections was a seriously slick piece of swing jazz, with some very cool licks from the man himself who proves that he can play up a storm - and now he's gone all Spanish on us...

Andaly, and all that....

I admitted the other day that I don't like Latin music, but I guess that isn't strictly true. I am an absolute nut when it comes to Spanish Classical music and its various modern offshoots, it is - of course - a particularly guitarist genre and there are a great many modern proponents. I've been waxing lyrical to everyone I meet about Rodigo y Gabriela (Ed: yes, and are they paying you??) although that isn't strictly Spanish or Classical but certainly its roots are. As indeed is Conquistador which - suprisingly enough - is a Spanish guitar solo (as it says in the title) although to be accurate it's several solos. Either that or the guy has ninety fingers and that's just too silly, even for me. Think Christopher Martin Hansen and you'd be in the ballpark, although to give him his due, Nathanael Hale sounds a lot more naturally Spanish.

That's not to say that any of these musicians actually think Spanish when they play, but it is certainly what I hear. It's the roots, mang. Nathanael Hale does an excellent job with Conquistador, although the sound quality could have been significantly better, but maybe that's just me showing my spoiled brat side. Nevertheless, Conquistador shows that while Nathanael Hale may very well be 'just' a guitarist, he's a guitarist who I have taken special note of - and with just two tracks. Be aware though that the webpage contains two Conquistador tracks, this one and El Conquistador and although they tread the same ground, this one is by far the better track, soundwise and songwise.

Highly Recommended yiy yiy yiy yiy guitar work.

DeepSeaGreen - DeepSeaGreen LP

Hear The Track Here

I don't know why I am so surprised whenever I come across a local (to me anyway) band. London, after all, is wall to wall bands, kinda like Soundclick in real life. The reason is because London has (still) venues where the really small bands can start out. Camden Town (an area of North London) has always been a great area for 'pub' gigs, and I deplore the commercialisation that is creeping into the area on the back of the so-called Camden Crawl to the blatantly commercialised ITunes sessions at the famed Roundhouse. IMHO, young bands just starting out NEED rough places and even rougher audiences, it definitely sorts the men from the boys, the wannabees from the notafuckinghopeinhell's. One such gig, the Bull & Gate - which DSG have played and have the video to prove it - is rough, tough and a real challenge for bands, UNLESS you know what you are about. If you know that, you bring your own audience, be prepared for the Sound From Hell PA system and rock like the proverbial son of a bitch.

Meh, anyone could do that right??

So DeepSeaGreen are comprised of brothers Jon and Dan Jefford, Marco Menestrina and Trent Halliday and what we are looking at today is their self-titled 10 track debut album. Suffice to say that DSG gambol in the musical fields I grew up in, what these days is known as classic rock and if you don't know what that is take a look at the band's influences - that should show you exactly what it should sound like. I really don't consider myself an expert in most musical areas but I do when it comes to rock, this is the music I have spent most of my life living and breathing, and I know what works and what doesn't. DSG pretty much nailed it with Plastic Lazarus (the opening track) and the rest of the album only kept hammering on that theme. Back in the 1970's I saw loads of bands starting off; Spooky Tooth, Free and Fleetwood Mac (when they were a kickass blues band) and the reason I mention these three bands is because they are the bands who DeepSeaGreen remind me of. Although the vocalist sounds much, much lighter than Paul Rodgers, the backline sounds exactly like early Free - and believe me in this genre that is a very good thing.

As regular readers will know I am a big champion of modern Classic Rock bands and I've found a few for you over the years - Avalanche being one of the most well known these days. Well, better get used to seeing a bit more of DeepSeaGreen because they have everything you need; classic sounds, classic songs and cast iron gonads to round it all out. Put it like this, most 1o track albums have a fair component of what are known as 'filler' tracks, decent enough music just not as immediate or catchy as the highlights. DeepSeaGreen deliver ten good songs, reeking with cred and authenticity which will find much favour with rock animals like me. One small note, personally I thought the band could have sounded a LOT tougher than this recording shows, and I'm sure it doesn't capture anything like the power they would have live. Mind you, second album is imminent so hopefully they will have this small problem fixed. As usual, my fingers are crossed...

Highly Recommended Classic Rock from London Taaaahn...awight mate!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Whitman Speck - You Can't Survive

Hear The Track Here

Whitman Speck is, by his own definition, 'a schizo rapper from the suburbs...' He 'took my name from mass murderers Charles Whitman and Richard Speck' and is 'London's illest lyricist, spittin' the sickest rhymes you've ever heard'. All of which I heartily agree with. He is all that, and a bit more besides. But let's start at the beginning. Whitman Speck appeared and knocked me out with a track called Suburban Hell (September 2008), to which I wrote that he was a 'confident, swaggering, in-your-face-f*ck-off-and-die rapper' and that 'judging by this track, Whitman Speck is just asking to have his whole collection hoovered up for future reference'. So at this stage of the game I have reviewed four Whitman Speck tracks and each of them has been a milestone in its own right and well deserving of the Must Have rating I hung on them. Having said that, re-read what I wrote to start this whole thing off. Fact is, Whitman Speck is one of the strongest rappers I've EVER come across in terms of the lyrical content.

My mind is still tickled every once in a while with a blast from Dead Or Alive (February 2009), a heart-warming ode to the joys of necrophilia and/or ******* anything in sight routine. Obviously Granny and the kids are not the target audience. Truth is, I'm not sure precisely who the target audience is, but I know I like Whitman Speck and I like him for his lyrical style but also I absolutely love his rhythmic toughness, each one of his tracks is as hard as the lyrics, each note slamming the images into the deepest corners of your mind. So obviously I'm sold on the guy, but would you be? You Can't Survive, Like all WP tracks, carries a Parental Advisory and is accurately classed as hardcore rap so don't say you weren't warned.

Believe me, you don't want to meet this guy on a dark night.

You Can't Survive opens up on the crime scene, and the beat slams in as Whitman starts to bring the scene to awful, blood soaked life. Musically, I found this track a lot more of a commercial sound than I have heard from this musician too, but it actually fits the track perfectly. I know, for a fact, that this is going to piss the boy off because he hates being compared to Eminem, but having blistered my ears off lately with the Blond One's latest masterpiece, I find them a very, very close match. I think the reason for that is twofold; culturally there are bound to be resonances between these two musicians but more than that, they both put forward certain qualities that I find very listenable. Both are confident, accomplished storytellers with an often compelling tale to tell, and they back this up with some of the best music hip hop has to offer. If you think its a bit rich comparing London's Whitman Speck with Detroit's Finest, I urge you to check out this track, or any other Whitman Speck track I've mentioned.

Highly Recommended Horror rap but beware, here be beasties.

Sudoplatov - Rumbafolia # 1

Hear The Track Here

Amazing how much you can learn when on the internet, isn't it? One of the more pleasanter side effects of writing a public blog like mine is that I get all too easily sidetracked. Take, for example, the Texas based classical musician (Facetious Ed: Oooh, does that mean he wears a tux AND a stetson meh meh meh) Sudoplatov. While I was downloading the track I noticed a comment about the bandname, which then led me on to the life story of one Lieutenant General Pavel Anatolyevich Sudoplatov which then led on to a book he wrote called Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness, which then ordered from my local library and started reading it. Right now I'm a little way into it and I can already see why it created such a furore when it first came out. I'm a HUGE history buff, as you can tell, and this kind of thing is just why I personally prize the internet so much simply because I would never have heard of this without Sudaplatov (the musician) asking for a review. That, my friends, is serendipity at work in all its glory.

So Sudoplatov. who he? Besides what we've already discussed of course. Well first up, he's a new name to me from Soundclick and has a page full of polkas, tango's and waltzes. Why are you looking blankly at me? This is not, as you may think, a foreign language, merely some beautifully elegant dances. Tango, in particular being one of my all times favourites and don't whatever you do get me started on tango music or we'll be here forever. Our Sudoplatov is starting us off with a nice easy one, a rumba. Not exactly one of my favourite choices in this particular field, but having fortified myself with a couple of the tango tunes on his page, prepared me for a more favourable frame of mind. (hint: have a listen to toccatango brrrr).

Hand on heart, I don't really like a lot of Latin music, it's either too strident or too sickly sweet although I am as partial to its underlying rhythms as the next man. Mariachi bands, for example, I have a very limited attention span for whereas acoustic musicians like Sergio Lara, Gypsy Kings or even my fave of the month Rodrigo y Gabriela. Unfortunately, Rumbafolia # 1 is more Mariachi than any of the artists I've just mentioned but its surprisingly restrained for all that. There again, it is a rumba, and they are generally less brash than many of its dance brothers and sisters, at least in the Latin world. What makes it stand out, at least for me, is the dedication to audio fidelity, an excellent job because all the instruments sound exactly as they should and that's a rare treat.

Highly Recommended for those who can afford the ballroom.

2slicc - Don't I Smell Rich/Shut It Down

Hear The Track Here

Boston based hip hop rapper 2slicc (see what he did there!) is a new name to me, review request coming though the RebelRiffs blog which btw accounts for fully half the tracks I am reviewing this month. What this means, in short, is that almost all of the requests are from people I've never heard before and that makes me a very happy bunny. So, as many of you know, I have a bit of a taste for hiphop, having grown up with it in my own life from the very early days (1980's) to the present and - I have to say - I do hold the current state of commercial hiphop in contempt, largely because of misogynistic, materialist views Remember, for every buck you have, someone else starves. (Ed: God Gilmore, that's laying it on a bit thick...)

Note the use of the word 'commercial' there though, because I am certainly nothing like as pessimistic when I survey the legions of unsigned hiphop artists, mostly on Soundclick, whose music is - on the whole - honest and forthright. Unlike most wannabees who are famous in their own bedrooms, it looks like 2slicc has no such problems about getting in front of an audience, as his list of gigs will show. Now, in my world, there is NO substitute for trying your act out on real, living people; the instant response is unbeatable for showing you what works and what doesn't. Consequently, as you can imagine, I expected something a bit special from this artist. After all, I've heard enough of the bedroom wannabees to be able to spot the difference. For his part, 2slicc comes across as more than focused, although the tune, for my money anyway, wasn't really up to task but that's often the case.

Having said that, the music isn't bad, just a bit uninspiring is all. Yeah but surely that's the point right, is the beats and rap that matter most. Well, sure, but only up to a point, know what I mean? I have, for example, heard very few rappers who can hold their own against totally stripped down beats, and even fewer who can actually carry a tune. So 2slicc, therefore is treading some very familiar ground and - as such - may find it a bit hard going at least at first to build a credible net audience. There is a lot of ignorance online about what constitutes hip hop and these two tracks are probably not going to widen the argument any but 2slicc probably doesn't care anyway, all got to start somewhere, right? If you have the impression that I don't like this, I do but not as much as maybe I should have seeing as all the parts were present, just somehow missed that all important G spot g.... Mind you, Shut It Down was considerably tougher and much more my style and that probably says it all.

Recommended hip hop nonetheless.

Ralph Atkinson - Dreamtime

Hear The Track Here

I'm glad I am not the only one around that is totally confused by the labels that people arbitrarily slap on their tracks, or indeed the overwhelming flood of genre, sub-genre, sub-sub genre and so on until everybody pukes with the nauseating list mentality that infests the internet. Its easy, right? Music=Good. No Music=Bad. Music then breaks down into two further categories, good music or bad music and that - as we all know - is a matter of preference no matter what people like me have to say on the subject. 'I'm not really sure what genre this should be under' Ralph informed me, 'I put it under Adult Contemporary because I'm an adult' he added which I found myself nodding with agreement.

Although I was surprised to see that he would admit to being an adult, for sure most of us don't. Annnnnyyway, the reason for all this dainty stepping about is contained in the two words mentioned above; Adult Contemporary. He is obviously aware of my centuries old animosity towards the genre in question but still wants to trick me into hearing it. Well, I'm not. I'll review something else instead. Dreamtime is 'a song inspired by tribal wisdom' and that sounds much more my style o' t'ing, so I snagged that (Ed: he's delusional again, this is filed under Adul...errr...THAT genre and is the track Ralph asked for) thinking it would be all worldly and caring.

Over the past year or so Ralph Atkinson, a Canadian musician, has thrown some choice morsels our way although - for me anyway - it's always been his more traditional forms that worked best. About the one thing Dreamtime is not is traditional, and btw it's nothing like Adult Contemporary either so y'all can stop fretting and get on with your knitting. I always read comments on tracks that I review (after I've done the review though) and on balance I agree with most of the comments made about this track - and that's a rare thing. There's a very, very distant Pink Floyd feel to this track that is the initial hook in, but there is much more than that once you really start to open the track out - always a good sign in my books. What starts off as a fairly conventional rock song becomes, given more than a play or two, an excellently observed and presented track whose beauties I am still plumbing.

Slow yes, but Rock and Highly Recommended into the bargain.

Densyl - Dazed

Hear The Track Here

Densyl and I had a fairly hard time of the first three of his tracks I reviewed but that was down more to my own personal taste than anything that Densyl might have been doing wrong. Other than straying into musical areas I do my hardest to avoid like, for example, anything even remotely smooth. Thankfully he didn't take it to heart though and neither should he because I've even roughed up some very good friends over the years for doing the smooth on me. All that changed however with the collaborative effort that is Hope Is All About (March 2010), an absolutely wonderful track with a message everyone should hear and take note of, even - as I mentioned in the review - hard hearted Englishmen like yours truly. In a song eerily reminiscent of early Beach Boys, Matt Tyson gave one of the most stellar vocal performances its been my pleasure to hear and this is smooth I can definitely endure.

I am well aware of the divide I straddle in being a musician and writing about other musicians, and the balance I have to maintain for my own sanity. I am not foolish enough to think that my view changes anything, and neither is it supposed to; I try to take each track as a separate experience set against what I may have heard from that artist before. There haven't been many that have done complete 180 turns on me, so step forward Densyl and Dazed. He says 'Here's a new song in a new genre for me', and 'A kick ass rock song'. When I picked myself up off the floor, I examined this wildly improbable claim with more than due diligence and - although I found areas of disagreement - I think on balance I'd say that he has a pretty good song here, and a reasonably able backing track too.

I can't honestly say that this is a 'kick ass rock song' because, frankly, it isn't. What it is though is certainly worth a listen and yea verily a comment or two from you lazy lot. As I said above, I think Dazed has all the making of being a really good song; the structures right, the pace is right but somehow this doesn't come across in this version. Of course, as Densyl knows, doing things on your own has its own inbuilt foibles and that will always come out in the mix but even here there isn't much I would pick fault with. So although I can appreciate it in its present form, to me this does sound like an unfinished track. I think it would benefit the song enormously if Densyl was able to tighten it up a notch and really BELT that vocal out :)

Recommended rock song.

Joseph Moore - Whittle Little Figures

Hear The Track Here

One of the very best things about running the blog is that it is an endless source of new musicians, Joseph Moore/Control Patrol is one of them. Joseph, like a lot of us, wears a great many hats; he's a web designer, video producer, a writer and - no doubt in his spare time - he's also a multi-instrumentalist musician. See, that's the problem with this computer stuff, see one thing it's 'hey I want to do that' and before you know it, your life is divided into tinier and tinier slices with sleep coming in a huge distance to the rear. All well and good if you can keep up the pace, but - believe me - a nightmare if you can't. The trick of it is, as Joseph will no doubt agree, to get the balance right; have enough time for all these projects AND have a real life. That's the kicker and, for the record, I DO have a life and a very fulfilling one too but not, I suspect, for very much longer unless I get on with this review.

'A song I wrote about little whittled people and the adventures they have' Joseph says about Whittle Little Figures (try saying that real fast three times) to which I say ooookkkkk. I've certainly heard stranger song subjects but this one is obviously a bit up there too. Musically though its a completely different story albeit with a conventional bass, drums, guitar, keyboard, vocals layout with a marked reggae lope that Joseph didn't even realize was there until he listened to it without the vocals. Actually, its way more pop than anything else, and that - at least to me - is no bad thing at all, especially when you ally it to the detailed arrangement and musical tricks that Joseph so ably brings to the table.

Although it took me a good few plays before Whittle Little Figures started to inform me of just how good it was. I have to say I love the guitar section towards the end, but I would because I'm a guitarist, but the whole track is an absolute work of love, time and endless patience. Believe me, I know this. To achieve this level and depth of musical field takes years and years of hands on musical experience and that is even more evident, surprisingly enough, when it comes to the unsigned world. There are endless quite good musicians, there are some awesome musicians and then there are a few musicians who wear many hats, I'm sure you know some of them yourself. Well, I guess we'd better add Joseph Moore to that list because I'm sold on the man, on just one track. Aaaaahhh, but what a track. If you like pop that still has an innocence and charm about it, grab this and clutch it tightly to your bosom.

MUST HAVE pop song.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Black Chamber - Sonny

Hear The Track Here

Kinda strange to be reviewing a track called this in a week in which the better known Sunny (by Bobby Hebb who sadly died earlier this month) resounds around the world. Funny how it takes a death to appreciate someone, isn't it? Of course I am aware that the spelling is different and - in my view - a more telling point is that it's by Black Chambers, an experimental electronica musician from Canada who has warped out reality a time or two, or two, or two, or two... For example, and in evidence, I print the following: 'There was a hole here. It's gone now' which is Black Chambers explanation of what Sonny is all about. So, if there was a hole there and it's gone now, its obviously been filled somehow

(Ed: Gilmore, I'm not sure I like where this is leading....you hear??)

The question is filled by what? If past experiences with this musician are anything to go by, it will be a memorable one, although maybe not in a pleasurable way. Caution, mad scientist alert!! Talking of which, if I didn't know any better I'd say this was an ambient recording of his lab while he was at his labours constructing some hideous thing from the Underworld. By now I suspect many of you will have figured out that Black Chambers is a 'difficult' musician and are edging away in the usual yellow bellied way, and believe me you'd be right to do that because Sonny ranks right up there with some of his more obscure pieces.

As a long time, regular reviewer I have had my brain extensively rewired over the years by members of Soundclick's ever popular experimental community and I'll admit to having developed a tolerance, nay some would say an iron sonic stomach, but there will always be some things I don't get. Or maybe there is nothing to get. Black Chamber has shown, in the space of a few tracks that this is seriously experimental territory and IMHO I think this is more correctly labelled Noise (and I mean that in a nice way). Mind you, it's only a couple of minutes long but even a couple of minutes can seem like an eternity when trapped in the lab of the mad scientist so best approached with a level 4 hazard complement.

Probably audio honey for budding Igors.

Bernard Gervais - Xis

Hear The Track Here

Now do I look like the kind of person who would understand what an Xis is when its at home? Moreover, although I am aware that Bernard Gervais is a very fresh face around Soundclick, I can see absolutely zero information on him (yes, and the mysterious Xis of course so don't be touching it). About all I can gather is that Bernard is from Canada and he is twenty one and so was I for about 10 years before finally being rumbled that I was four times that. (Ed: eh?? censor!! censor!!!). It's also apparent that Bernard has a taste for these enigmatic song titles. The five tracks on his Soundclick page, Ebbe, Foiaye, Xis, Oll and Foo, definitely give the game away. Either he is picking at random or he is from some far distant star where it probably translates as Autumn Showers or Cradled in Splendour. There again, it could just be something as simple as Suck My Face Right Off, who is to say?

Anyway, enough speculation, proceed....

Actually I would be proceeding but, sadly enough, there isn't very much in which to proceed anywhere. Xis is as enigmatic as its title, coming in at a miserly thirty three seconds, consisting - apparently - of the fastest guitar playing you've ever heard. Either that or its speeded up to make it even more incomprehensible. I guess it was a stroke of luck that this ended up back to back with 333maxells ukulele piece because it dovetails into that quite neatly although I think 333maxwell may have a different opinion about the matter.

See, I say apparently guitar playing because I am not sure this is a guitar, or at least not in a conventional sense and its similarity to the ukulele is obvious when put against a uke track. There again because of its brevity its kind of hard to form any conclusion really. The first couple of times I played this, I wasn't sure whether it was a joke or not. I went online and checked that the version I had is the version that the Soundclick player plays, and it seems to be. No problems then with download glitches getting in the way. So, all in all, I think I'm fairly baffled as to what exactly this is, other than some good picking (but not nearly enough of it to make me go ohhhh yeahhhh. Now you KNOW I'm not going to leave it there so let me tell you that all five tracks are like this, speedy beyond belief and about as short.

???? Enquiring minds want to know

333maxwell - That's Why The Band Keeps Playing

Hear The Track Here

But we can call it addiction. That's why the band keeps playing, or at least this band does. Comprised of the lone, but forceful and manly figure, of Chas Holman, 333maxwell have carved a very large niche for its musical works and other doings on Soundclick and on the Soundclick forums, notably the Critics Corner. For those who have just joined us in this exciting musical world 333maxwell has only been around for about (Ed: a hundred years (sigh)) three years or so but has a string of Must Haves from me a mile long. Moreover, in 2009 alone he had NINE of the little beauties and that's never been done before. Which is why he also became my Artist Of The Year 2009 to boot. Yep, Chas pushes all the right buttons, and I am not alone in this. His reputation for spotless, inspiring music is well deserved, and I'm pretty sure you would find something to suit your particular taste too. See, he's a little bit on the prolific side, and he's not one to tread in one genre when he can straddle them all. Go. Check it out. So, now that we've nailed down the REASON he's addicted (it's the unending fame I tell ya!!), lets taste some of his sugar.

Oh yeah baby (Ed: Stop. Now.)

You may remember me being all grass skirt and fluttering eyelids when I reviewed Island (June 2010) or maybe you choose to blank out that horrifying image, but I'm sure the track would have more than made up for it. Island is a track written in memory of Don Ho. a popular Hawaiian musician. That's Why The Band Keeps Playing, so I am informed, follows on from that. Well, kind of, in so far as the track consists of one soprano ukulele and one mic to capture young Holman in full croon mode. Chas said that this track was 'likely the least involved song I have ever sent you' and I'd say that was about right. If this was any more stripped down we'd be seeing its insides, making it IMO, an instant contender for the ewww factor to be displayed by a great many people. Come on, how many people do you know who would knowingly confess to hearing - let alone liking - a guy and a ukulele. More to the point, how many can you name?

Being a gen-u-wine old fart with bar and wrinkles, I even remember George Formby, probably one of the better known ukulele musicians of the middle 20th century, albeit with a distinctive English flavour. So, I do appreciate a good uke piece, and That's Why The Band Keeps Playing is exactly that. And nothing more. At all. No fan dance, so screeching bargirls and certainly no second drinks. So I'd hazard a guess and say that if you didn't understand a word I have been saying for the past God knows how long, this track is not for you. If, however, you know of the power of 333, then you'll already have this in your collection. Sparse for sure, but a lovely sound on the ukulele and some excellent crooning from whatshisname.

Highly Recommended Acoustic Interlude.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gangbangsters - Yellow Haze

Hear The Track Here

You catch me rubbing my eyes because I think they must be mis-functioning. See, I keep seeing the title of this as Jenna Haze (Ed: phowaaarrr!!) or even - when the light is right - Purple Haze, but there again this is a Gangbangsters track and that often has odd side effects. Mind you, when you are dealing with 'experimental psyched out punk funk noise' that's only to be expected, I guess. Actually we are a bit spoilt for choice on the 'experimental psyched out punk funk noise ' front right now, but I would always find time for LA's very own brand of 'pain and pleasure'. You may recall my last experience with this (very) Alternative musician when I reviewed the one minute plus change express-train rockfest Letzgetfuctup (July 2010) and. believe me, that is going to be a hard act to follow.

I do like a musician who is unafraid to stretch out of their comfort zones, and Ryan Wixted (aka Gangbangsters) has always been adept at that. Talk about keeping you on your toes, we seem to have run through as many genres as we have tracks and there aren't many musicians who do that on a regular basis. One area I am certain we haven't ventured into as yet is out and out electronica (Ed: actually you have but we'll pass on that) but oh look, here's Jenn...er sorry heres Yellow Haze which is exactly that. Experimental electronica at that, but still pretty mainstream nonetheless.

What you have here is a very decent musical track with minor oddities which, to my ears, keep the tune fresh and listenable long after it would normally have worn out its welcome. As you can tell, it's also an instrumental and a pretty decent one at that. While it certainly doesn't have the impact of some of this musicians songs, there is still plenty to recommend with this track, not the least of it being the dense production and obvious thought to sound and structure. What will probably single it out most is the main element, the sheer musical feel of the piece, all done with a kind of sonorous majesty. Got to say this about Gangbangsters, always a source for surprises.

Highly Recommended Experimental Electronica.

Those Among Us - A Chance To Die EP

Hear The Track Here

Those Among Us first surfaced for me when I reviewed Feel (May 2010) one of the tracks of their upcoming EP called A Chance To Die. So ******* what?, you might ask and I'll tell you what AFTER I wash your mouth out with soap young man!! What is John Brandon, aided and abetted by Lino Gonzalez and Steven 'Mez' Mezropian, all names that will be familiar to Silvertrain fans; John because he is a founder member of the Train, to which Lino and Mez have contributed of late. Which, I believe, led to this new grouping and very welcome it is too. I've always been a bit soft on John Brandon's songs and almost despaired at never quite hearing them done properly, but Those Among Us blew that one out of the water right quick. Much more to the point, for a pedant like myself, here - at last - is an EP that follows all the original EP conventions ie it has four tracks. See that? Four tracks, not three or even six but FOUR...

Sheesh. Don't ******* vex me man.

I'm certain that John is breathing a huge sigh of relief because he's been looking for this for so long, but judging by every one of the tracks on this EP, the wait was soooo worth it. So, first up is a hefty rock slice called Under Pressure, which I notice has been getting rave reviews and rightly so. It's an extremely good production, balanced perfectly between power and clarity, as I noted in my review of Feel. Lino Gonzalez produced all the tracks and he is remarkably consistent in getting the feel absolutely right. So Under Pressure is exactly the right introduction to this excellent blend of Alternative rock, and that impression is reinforced immediately because Feel follows it. In my review of Feel, I mistakenly attributed this track to Silvertrain, even going so far as to say that this is what I always thought they would sound like when they get their **** together. Same pop sensibility, but with the music on steroids - an unbeatable combination IMHO.

Track three, I Thought I Knew You, I have had much exposure too - having officially reviewed it twice. Once in its original incarnation back in March 2007, and again in a much improved updated version in October 2009 - all done under the Silvertrain banner. I'd already loved the song, even in its original form. and Those Among Us deliver the definitive version right here. The only track that I wasn't overly familiar with was the final and title track: A Chance To Die. As I stated earlier, John's natural talent for coming up with great songs, and I can quite honestly say that this EP hold four of his best. Since I got this EP I have played the thing to death, but no track more than I have A Chance To Die. Whether that's because it is (comparatively) new to me or because it just a killer song in every respect, it has light and shade, drama, excitement and prettiness in equal measure. I have already given two separate Must Have rating for tracks from this EP, and IMHO each of them could get that rating no problem.

Five Star EP then, I think. MUST HAVE Alternative rock at its best.