Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rustik - The Get Right

Hear The Track Here

Kinda strange that the last two tracks out the bag this month are both hip hop but hey, that's the way it goes. Obviously Rustik has become quite known to me (and you too hopefully) since I first met him a while ago. In my review of D3von's track I was bitching about the lo-fi approach to a lot of Soundclick's rappers and that can't be applied to Rustik, his production values are right up there, consequently he tends to stand out in the hip hop line just by doing that. If you have no idea what Soundclick hip hop should sound like, let me point you in the direction of Monster (September 2010) which is exactly what it says it is, but much more to the point this is an antidote to the hip hop poison spewed out in the real world.

From the opening bonhomie to the last note The Get Right demands that you pay attention, and if you appreciate good, solid music then you would already be doing that and you don't get to say that often about a hip hop track. Yeah, yeah but great production doesn't mean anything if the tune isn't there does it? Indeed not, and that is the second secret weapon Rustik has in the arsenal. So, AFAIK, production is down to Man Mantis who, you may remember also produced Monster and that, I think, is what turned Rustik from a highly recommended to a Must Have so this is not something to be overlooked.

The second, and obviously more potent, weapon is the sheer ability the man has to put his stuff down in the most meaningful way and - I don't think - all done without a cussword (Ed: ooh Gilmore that is such a porkie!!), ho or beehatch in sight. That' my friends, is a real breath of fresh air. Like a lot of the new rappers such as Gangbangsters, Twizzie and too many others to mention, Rustik is definitely not satisfied with the state of play out there in the hip hop world and is intending to do something about it and The Get Right simply lays out the simple truth. Just because it's hip hop and is beat centric, doesn't mean to say that it shouldn't have a good tune.

Highly Recommended class unsigned hip hop.

D3von - I'm Trying

Hear The Track Here

Like most people interested in music, I have a problem with hip hop. Not, I might add, because of what it is, but more because of what it has become. I had the good luck to be working as an engineer/producer in New York right throughout the 1980's and it was with some satisfaction that I saw this music rise and become a living, breathing (nay, fire-breathing) genre and the template for almost all we hear oozing out of wherever we get our music from these days. Like every other fad, the RW music business sucked whatever life it had in it and we are left with the ghoul on display to us today.

Thank God, I say, for the internet (and sites like Soundclick) because IMHO it's here where the true spirit of hip hop (along with most other genres) has had a new lease of life; a life where it can be what it was when it first started, a way for you - or I - to make music cheaply. I have been reviewing Soundclick hip hop for many years and have often been surprised by the depth and breadth of the music and styles on display. Sure it' rough and ready and sound isn't the first priority but it has LIFE! Even, some would say, it is innovative and that I most definitely agree with as seen in the latest crop of Soundclick hip hop artists.

D3von, obviously, is one of them although he's from The Netherlands rather than the Bronx and he is white. Yeah, but so is Eminem and he's come out with some outstanding hip hop. One of the main problems IMHO with commercial hip hop can be summed up in one word: Autotune. Sorry, don't get it. To me it just sounds crap. Singing in tune sounds much, much better. The fault lies in the music backing track that D3von and sidekick Beezy use as the base for their rap and it sounds 'store bought' to me. The raps however sound pretty good and it would be interesting to hear them on something that wasn't so blatantly commercial. Maybe next time.

Recommended 'ip 'op from 'olland.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Acoustic Brain Hemmorage - Frustrated by Conversations Lost In Translation

Hear The Track Here

The one immediately apparent virtue added to Acoustic Brain Hemmorage's credit rating was his complete and unfailing honesty. Most of us spend hours/days/weeks/years coming up with our latest big-me-up slogan, or busily preening others to say nice things about us. I'm not saying we all do it but that is the wider perception. Acoustic Brain Hemmorage just gets right to the point, and his point is really, really simple.

It comes in the form of the spoof Mastercard ad he writes about on his Soundclick site and it's so good, I have to repeat it: one old nylon string guitar = $10, one boombox with built in mic = $20, one pack of tapes = $3.50, one crappy recording full of screwups = priceless. See! Total honesty and you get exactly that; crappy recordings on crappy equipment. So why-tf bother with going on any further with this review?

Fortunately I have spent a whole lifetime listening to music made this way, and even watched it being scrubbed up, polished and made into bona fide hits into the bargain and I learned early on to look beneath the limitations the musician is working under. It's paid off for me a million times and has done so online as well so I am probably more willing than most to take one something really, really simple. Frustrated has a lot going for it actually but you will have to get underneath some hefty sound problems. This musician is particularly deceptive, given time this track turns out to be a very, very decent song and even catchy in a strange way and do I detect the ghost of Marc Bolan in there?

Strange but tasty acoustic treat. Recommended.

Distant Autumn - You Know What You Do

Hear The Track Here

If you had come across Distant Autumn in some random way you may be thinking, new artist and; new to Soundclick and you'd be wrong on both counts. The name may be new but look at some of those songwriting names, surely J Brandon will ring a bell, even if no other. The Silvertrain sounds owes much to Mr Brandon, as does Those Among Us and now - it seems - Distant Autumn. Again, here's an artist that has been on Soundclick forever, plugging away and refining his craft (writing the worlds best pop rock songs) hitting a roll that seems to be expanding and exploring the whole concept of what rock means.

Although a much softer sound (if that were possible for rockers) than either Those Among Us or Silvertrain, Distant Autumn shows - to my ears - some real surprises and this from the man who has heard everything John has ever even thought about. See, that's one of the real paybacks of being a regular reviewer, when one of my favourites finds his footing the satisfaction is enormous. In fact, Those Among Us and Distant Autumn are different bands, the only common strand being John Brandon (at least to my knowledge. No doubt John will be along presently to shed more light on this.

The songwriting credit is down as 'J.Brandon/A.McNeill/B.Strickland' and I personally think the blend the other guys bring to this track have significant meaning for just how good this grouping may or not be. Personally I can hear some wonderful vocal hints on this (almost CSNY stuff) that may be dribble with anticipation. I've always liked pop rock allied with harmony vocals and - let's face it - it's still a pretty winning formula 40-50 years after it first came to fashion, and Distant Autumn may have the newer version of it. There is only one track online right now, this one and if you listen to a track at all this year, let it be this one.

Powerful rock pop in the finest tradition. Highly Recommended.

All Those Ships - Avalanche Warnings

Hear The Track Here

Nope, the water is still cloudy. The puzzles that confronted me when I reviewed Temporary Coma (September 2010) are still as perplexing as ever and Avalanche Warnings just seems to darken the picture further. Is this a bad thing, you may ask yourselves, and surely a bit of mystery is a good thing anyway? Well, sure so maybe I need to explain further. The last track was both acoustic and folky and reminded me - in it's lo-fi way - of many singer/songwriters notably (in the review) Syd Barrett and Terry Reid but I absolutely couldn't make the same claims about this track. I quite liked the shoegaze style of Temporary Coma, even liked the lo-fi, low-key way it came across, and I guess that led me to say 'eh?' to this track - at least initially.

This is a track that took me some while to warm too, but once I did I was able to appreciate the amount of effort that went into making it, even though it doesn't come without some problems. Ahh but this is acoustic and folky innit so stuff like that doesn't really matter does it? Nope, not if you like the sounds that adorn many of the musicians in this genre - at least the more alternative side of it. So, stylistically, this has moved from the almost dated sound of the first track and updated it, and then sent it back to the 1960's for a proper mix.

That's where my initial trepidation came in you see, the first couple of times you play this - if you can get away from the lo-fi argument - musically it sounds like something from a 60's action show with The Ventures drummer sitting in. Said drums actually work well in the track and work pretty well in the intro too, if a little loose. It's the song and it's almost psychedelic feel that finally wins your heart, aided by some lovely vibe and/or mallet work and there is even a fine display of the harmonica too, and if that ain't folk, I don't know what is.

Recommended Alternative Acoustic.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Larry Ludwick - Failing

Hear The Track Here

You remember me yammering on about how there is always one track that I am really looking forward to in any given month? Well, guess what this one is. The first ever (I think) collaboration between Ralph Atkinson, Chas Holman and Larry Ludwick. All three are known entities in their own right, you may know Chas Holman better as the superlative 333maxwell. I can definitely see the connection between Larry and Ralph, but Chas mmmmm. Mind you, he's all over the musical field anyway and is well known to fit in just about anywhere and, as we can see, often does. What a pairing though, three seasoned, highly competent musicians who can play pretty much anything, and write it too. Failing was written by Ralph and Chas but all three kicked in some substantial percentage of the whole and if any track this year has blown me away this one does.

AND, get this, it's Adult Contemporary!! Weird or wot?

It's a given when dealing with names such as this that no holes can be picked in their creations (except for them of course) as far as performance, arrangement and production are concerned. Proven time after time. So the only thing for me to do is either like it or not. But then, there are those special occasions when a song steps right out of the speakers and enters your very soul, and that is exactly what Failing felt like to me. It helps that I understand the lyrical subject matter of course but it is so much more than that. Adult Contemporary hides a great many horrors, as we have discovered from time to time but this - believe me - is not one of them. Certainly THE most heartfelt, sincere song I have heard in forever.

Ralph and Chas work well together both as musicians and as vocalists, both of them being fairly easy to spot vocally. Larry shows he's in the game too with some excellent, well placed piano parts that compliment and enhance the song enormously. The real jewel for me comes in two parts. Part one is the vocals, crystal clear and as live as Christmas and part two is in the sheer complexity of the music and arrangement. You often hear the term 'labour of love' well this is what it sounds like. Pure honey, dripping in your ear note by delicious note. ****'s sake Gilmore, you shout, nothing could be that good? Wanna bet?

MUST HAVE song/music/everything

Pilesar - Drastic Measures

Hear The Track Here

Maryland's favourite musical eccentric has become extremely well known since he first appeared on Soundclick five or six years ago. Little did I know that Just A Turtle (September 2004), a fairly innocuous ditty of which I wrote 'It's a very good tune with some highly memorable moments' and (even) 'A very enjoyable experience all round. I look forward to hearing more from this artist'. If you are now shaking your head at the mismatch between the Pilesar you know and that guy back then, how do you think I felt?

Whoda thunk it?? If you don't know Pilesar at all, wander over to his Soundclick page and watch a video - he's got more on there than You Boob. You will see, he fully merits the eccentric tag. He is, without doubt, one of my favourite Soundclick musicians. Come on, he makes music out of thin air, how good is that?? Yes, it's very weird too, but that's always been part of his charm. Put it like this, he followed Just A Turtle with Acka Fracka (October 2004) - in his Mandible persona - and is one of my classic wtf tunes, designed to tease... Of course, you need to be nutty as a professor (or me) to really get this guy but hey, there's a good headcount already. You can also help him to put out his new album here which is IMO a smart move indeed on this musicians part.

So, if you like 'Noisey technoy beaty thingy's' then sit back and enjoy. For the rest of humanity, I guess this will need a little more explanation. As a musician, Pilesar veers drunkenly between what most of us recognise as being actual music, to fiddling with the oddest sounds for the weirdest effects and - in the process - coming up with some of the most interesting tracks that pass my ears. If I had to try and sum up Pilesar succinctly I'd point people to this track and say 'lo, there is ALL music'. Mashed together, sliced to an insane thinness and liberally smeared with oinks, whistles and bells. Exactly what I have come to expect from him having (I think) pretty defined the wtf reaction in me.

Toxic or Torrid? You Decide. I loved it, but I'm mad.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nuff X - Tunnel Vision

Hear The Track Here

One of the original Soundclick branch of the X Men, Nuff X successfully set himself up as inventor and purveyor of a hard, gritty substance that has been known to mash people into walls when exposed to public gaze. Insiders cast their eyes wildly, stand upright and prepare to bolt whenever they hear the sound of nuffcore, but that's always the trouble with Insiders innit? Can't trust 'em and they'se pussies. Personally, I have long had a fascination for the nuffcore although my introduction to his music gave me no clue as to what was to come. A couple of Must Haves and a string of raves from everywhere is what. The last couple of years being, sadly, devoid of anything of real nuffcore value.

That isn't to say that I don't enjoy Nuff's other endeavours (he has done some top rate collaborations) but I actually like the old slice and dice, shake and stir, fuqit up school of music that generally may be better known as glitch. Noise can be fun. Like many of Nuff's finer works Tunnel Vision contains equal parts of OMG and WTF. It twists and turns like a rat in a maze, slipping and sliding from place to place with artfully placed skidpans and banana skins, all the while brushing up behind you to make sure there's no mess left.

Takes a rare talent to construct the aural side of that and Nuff is well up for the job. The sort of track that has you thinking 'surely he can't be doing that' and 'isn't that illegal' You forget, however, the essential core of the nuff. This musician has always startled me by his approach to his music, especially when he rolls his sleeves up and really gets hacking at it - bloody inventive, that's for sure. So, electronica and IDM (a genre I really think I do understand) are both generously served from this latest Nuff novelty and, to my ears, one of his finer moments of nuffcore. The breaks are just insane...

Highly Recommended Nuffcore and a MUST HAVE for fans.

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Flight Of Sideria

Hear The Track Here

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra 'is thinking up ideas for a new beat and practicing his guitar' so we automatically assume one man band - and us all wearing our monkey suits and gowns too (I won't say who wore what). See, you get all snazzed up to go see an orchestra don't you? Oh well, seeing as we are here.... Weylin (obviously not his real name but he loves it so...) says that his main genre is Orchestral/Metal and that may well do what it says on the tin, I have heard some excellent darker metal things done this way. However, Weylin is only a starter, as he admits, and we all build our own mountains to climb, don't we?

Speaking of which...

Bad Gilmore, should definitely be paying more attention to genres while reading this guff about the musicians involved. Had I done, I would have saved myself from a rather public outburst of Gilmore Gobbiness. Given the build up described in the opening paragraph, the very last thing I was expecting was either a games soundtrack and/or a techno-folk thingie. I was expecting Gotterdamerung (musically as it were) and I get whirly, churny, slap a silly smile on music that may well work in a game but - in my books, it would be a bloody weird game. So: games soundtracks, I puke on them. Having said that, I've had to cosy up to a few of them here and there and some I even admit to liking so hope springs eternal eh?

There again I'm a Certified Cantankerous Old Fart but not so far gone in my dotage that I can see that Weylin knows what he's doing, and there is indeed an audience for this on Soundclick and elsewhere. So what if its a bit shaky from time to time. He's got some interesting sounds (should you like the sound of machines doing the nasty). Considering the short time he's been doing this I wouldn't feel that down hearted about anyone's opinion because if you like close encounters of the Mario kind, this is a pretty decent stab at the genre. Just not my thing is all.

Interesting instrumental nonetheless.

The Ran-Tan Waltz - Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong EP

Hear The Track Here

Regular readers may remember me bumping into this Northern English four piece band when I reviewed their eloquently titled Them That Help Themself, Do Themself More Good (February 2010), another EP release as it happens. So obviously EPs are obviously in their blood and that's no bad thing because at least it gives the listener a much more rounded view of what the band are about. I wasn't exactly overwhelmed by the actual production of the three songs on that EP but I was most pleasantly surprised at the bands sound, songwriting and drive. Right on the very edge between punky and ramshackle, it took a while to get to me but eventually I got it - and I'm English and that definitely helps because of their sound and style. One of the first things to say about Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong EP is that all three tracks were produced professionally this time - and by Steve Whitfield, no less.

Yeah, that'll up the game.

The difference in sound quality, of course, greatly evident, as you would expect but has it - I wondered - changed the nature of the band playing it? Believe me, that happens more than you might think, especially if you bring in a REAL producer/engineer rather than your mate who just thinks he is a producer. So Steve Whitfield's dabs are all over the production and mix but he's still managed to capture the energy and style of the band I remember. The title track, which starts the EP off, is agreeably bouncy and given the right sort of pop approach could do very well as far as RW radio play went. I don't know whether its Whitfield's influence or intentional but the material is less punky and more reminiscent of The Cure in their introspective days (Ed: When were they anything but...?) I am not meaning that this is a bad thing, in fact I like this EP a lot, but there is no denying the feel and style.

Underneath, of course, it's exactly The Ran-Tan Waltz that I cottoned onto at the beginning of the year and this EP just shows off - even more clearly and cleanly - that they are adventurous songwriters and musicians. Adventurous could mean many things, some of them usually painful but not in this case. One of the things I liked about the first EP was the band's willingness to do something that sounded like it shouldn't work, but obviously does. That little talent has been given lots of subtlety on this EP leading - I think - to some really clever moments. Obviously head and shoulders above the first EP, but the content is still quality - even if it takes a bit of work on your part.

Excellent indie MUST HAVE.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ron Gragg - Holy

Hear The Track Here

Chance is a cruel beast. It often occurs in my reviews when I get tracks that are either so similar or so diametrically opposed that they affect my judgement of them somewhat. In commercial terms it would be like choosing between whoever two of your favourite acts are. Victim of the beast this month is American Christian Rock musician Ron Gragg. Having to follow Michael Hughes is always going to be a hard gig, and the gravity of his track just made it so much more unattainable, regardless of how good a musician you were, and let me tell you Ron Gragg is no slouch. Certainly, in the last two years or so, Ron has become very visible on many sites and that can only be a good thing.

Holy is, if you hadn't already guessed, an acoustic instrumental but if you cannot take yet another one of them I have some good news for you. There is a song too, on which this new version is widely based. Written by Ron in 2003, Holy Is The Lord shows Ron's Christian sentiments as well as some pretty nifty guitar playing and a decent song. Ron's reasons for doing this are that he sees this both as a song and as an instrumental in its own right. Well, for all its Clapton overtones, Holy Is The Lord is certainly varied and would definitely go down well in some quarters.

Holy is composed and played based on the tuning E-B-C-A-G-E which may look like some kind of errant gene sequence to most people but open tunings have been around forever and much employed by guitarists everywhere. For me, I like their drone quality (and of course it makes playing look easier) but I also like them for the way they stretch the guitarist themselves, forcing them to think in new ways. Whatever, my personal take is that I would have liked the clarity of this instrumental with the vocal from the song in the same quality, that would be a pretty neat track. That doesn't mean to say this isn't, it is. But hey, two for the price of one? Who can resist?

Recommended acoustic instrumental.

Michael Hughes - The Dreamers Waltz

Hear The Track Here

'A little waltz in search of a good night's sleep' is how guitarist Michael Hughes describes this track but - as usual - it's going to be impossible to ignore. So, before we get to snoozing, lets just amplify this man a bit. Michael Hughes is a Soundclick veteran of many years with a great many friends and fans mostly through his music but also - it has to be said - through his contributions to the Soundclick community over those years. In short, Michael is one of the sane ones and, believe me, that's a prize worth having and keeping. It's also helped that he is such a ridiculously good guitarist and songwriter of the most hateable kind (from other musicians) and it's no good raising your eyes like that, it happens. Although he's been around all this time, my own interactions have so far been limited to three tracks, every single one of which got a well deserved Must Have rating from me.

Mind you, I do like acoustic guitarists, although I am not exactly partial to the instrumental kind unless they evoke the V word. Before your brains burn out trying to figure out what that word is, the term is virtuoso. Not something that I use lightly and indeed not a word I have used that often being well aware of the awesome connotation of such a word. Although they are very different players, Christopher Martin Hansen and Michael would appear to have much in common with this beautiful piece of acoustic music, and yes I am completely entranced by it.

As if the envy of such talent is not enough, the rest of us scruffy oiks have to also see what instruments he uses to make such music and that is yet another puddle of drool it would be best not approach. Like all Micheal's tracks, there are some beautiful sounds here but all used so tastefully it makes your eyes water. See there are instrumentals that I do want to listen to again and again, and this is one of them but it takes a rare, rare skill to really make one that counts on every level and The Dreamers Waltz does that with such style and grace, making it seem so easy. Except it isn't easy. At all. Michael is also of the 'less is more' school and nowhere is this best illustrated than on this track. Such a wide open space holding up a magnificent work of love, patience and art. Quality counts. THAT is what the V word means to me.

Awesome. MUST HAVE nightcap.

Esto - The Bedtime Tea EP

Hear The Track Here

Speaking as an Englishman I have a lot of time for people who value the beauty (and rituals) of tea drinking. I've been a tea belly (as my Mum calls it) since I was real small and although I have now outgrown that and gone on to the harder stuff (coffee), I still like a nice cup of tea from time to time. Much more to the point, here's a musician (from America as it happens) who has written a whole EP around the subject which is fine when you take into account that America now seems to be re-considering this whole Tea Party thing in a very different way (Ed: I hope this is a joke Gilmore and not a political speech!!) Esto (the musician in question is an indie folk musician who even gives you detailed instructions on how to make the tea to listen to this EP and that is why I sit with a cup of cheer before me.

Ahhhhh, that's better...

Its actually understating the case to call this an EP, it being seven tracks and over half an hour playing time; mini-album maybe? Blueberry Bedtime is the first sip of beverage on offer and sets the scene perfectly for Tea Party, the first real track. 'I drink way too much tea...' is its main refrain and you would think that this wouldn't be your cup of tea but you know what? I think it would be. Like all genre labels (indie folk being this EPs category), you can pick up totally the wrong image of the music from them, and this is one of them. Sure, it's definitely an acoustic project but the work on display here is of a time honoured singer/songwriter who always mixes genres seamlessly. For me, as a long time lover of simple, two things make it really work for me; musical vision and as perfect a performance as you can get. This EP fulfills all that and more. And...for the ladies, if you want a song that will melt your heart, Windows, a Chimney and I, has the largest and saddest looking of the bunch. It also happens to be a ballad of a high order and I love it and I ******* hate them generally on matter of principle. Fabulous songwriting, no doubt about it.

None of the tracks appear to have been top and tailed (Ed: cleaning up the intro and outro of recording noise) and - intentionally or otherwise - really adds to the effect of these tracks - especially when you listen to it as a whole. Blake Morgan (aka Esto) has a rare talent and the wherewithal to do something with it, his music is deep and nuanced, he plays and sings as if angels were perched on his shoulders and I am very, very glad to have stumbled across this together musically. While all the tracks are obviously recorded in some limited way, whats going on in them is the exact opposite. Certainly if you like the lighter side of music and acoustic singers in particular you really have to join with this party. Put it like this, there isn't one track on here (OK maybe with the exception of the first mini-track) that hasn't earned the right to be here. Vital, coherent and beautifully performed music with a warmth and softness that will warm you through a long winters night.

Absolute MUST HAVE. Drop dead gorgeous.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rude Corps - Solidarity (Remix)

Hear The Track Here

Seeing as I spent the last few Rude Corps reviews whinging about not hearing my favourite (usually political) tracks from this master of splenetics (look it up) and if there is one thing you need of a cold winters night, it's a red hot political diatribe. Rude Corps, it would seem, has taken pity on me and unleashed this to warm the cockles of my heart (whatever they are). There are two versions of this on the Rude's pages, a breakbeat version and this, a new improved Alternative hip hop zinger. Now now, don't be turning your noses up, believe me when I say there is hip hop and then there is Alternative hip hop and Rude Corps has had much experience at this both in his own work and his collaborations with the much missed stain(ed) Art. To me both of these artists showed that biting political commentary in songs was not a lost art, and that this music shows a quite distinct English brand of hip hop.

Much closer to the original premise of the genre, maybe?

One of the best things about Rude Corps that generally nails me is the man's lyrical style, certainly most of my best moments have been because I've enjoyed what he has to say, and the manner he gets the thing said. Mind you, he's no slouch musically either, and the wicked, wicked bass line on this shows only too well, and that chorus just begs to be lodged in a thousand angry throats. 'Solidarity elevates humanity' is a lesson learned by the Poles in the hardest way possible and showed that there are other ways to change your society - regardless of the level of oppression.

So, am I happy? Damn straight I am, this is exactly why I hold this musician in such a high regard and I will be the first to admit that I do have an enormous bias for this particular sound and style (whether by Rude Corps or other members of the fraternity) and perfectly understand that there will be people who go 'eh? what's he saying' because Rude Corps raps with a distinct Northern English accent and that can be offputting on someone raised on bling, glitz and cartoon tits, but for the rest of humanity this is a heartwarming message of togetherness. 'I've gotta insist it wasn't always like this' he says, and I agree with that statement whole heartedly and if it changed once it can change back. Or is that just an old mans wish?

Excellent Agitprop hip hop. Highly Recommended.

Ralph Atkinson - Spaghetti Western Serenade

Hear The Track Here

I must admit to a certain liking for these kinds of themes too and I am wondering if there is something in the air because I have been working on a couple of tunes in this manner and I am never surprised to find that it something that a great many people will latch on to. A musical meme if you like. It's been exactly a year since I made this musicians acquaintance with Building A Time Machine (October 2009), a damn near perfect blues ballad (yep) that definitely hit my pleasure centres.

Over the year since then I have heard a great many of Ralph's tracks but none of them, so far, have been able to match the rightness of that first track. Nonetheless, his rock based style and songwriting ability has stood the test of time and that counts for something. As do many people who follow his musical exploits, a tasteful refined musician who - seemingly - can take on any guise. While I do get the spag western link, this track is just so much more. For a start, the man knows cool and the lead on this track is the very definition of cool. Mind you, the piano gives as good as it gets but if we start talking about how good the music is, we'll be here all day.

See, regardless of my own personal likes and dislikes, I do like a good, seasoned musician. One who has learned from experience, who knows what works and what doesn't. Mind you, when he plays the blues is definitely my favourite Atkinson trait, but I have no qualms about this track either. From performance to production to some absolutely inspired arrangement, this track works on every level known to man. Can't quite see the Latin connection though, other than the subject matter and a smattering of horns, what this track is more than anything is jazz. Cool jazz. Shaken not stirred.

MUST HAVE hot tamale.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Zebrabook - Erstwhile Fraction of Time

Hear The Track Here

Zebrabook seemed to have lost half their name, heretofore known as Zebrabook music although that may be stretching one of those terms somewhat and it ain't to do with cute furry animals (nay, or the striped variety either!!). See, some people just don't get anything that Jon Bushaway (for it is he lurking behind the animal) puts out, and there are some people who see beyond that initial wtf reaction and dig deeper. Sometimes, of course, you may be digging up an even more complex can of worms but hey, that's the joy of the thing, you know? Even since I first met him on another site far away, Jon Bushaway and his propensity for HUGE musical spectacles has fascinated and baffled me in equal measure, soundscapes don't even begin to cover it. And the very, very last thing he is, is mellow. Miserable, morose and many other M words but never mellow.

Imagine then, while stuffing my palm with Erstwhile Fraction of Time, he whispered 'It is a bit mellow though, for me'. It took me a whole week before the shock wore off. It also, craftily, set me up to approach it in a much more relaxed mode (Ed: he means without the bomb disposal suit). After all, whether in Zebrabook or Dead Company guise, its best to approach this musician with stealth. There again, mellow is a good thing right? Much better than the dystopian, nightmarish visions he is usually so eager to ply us with. Well, I actually prefer him in his doom and gloom hat and God, could I stand him going mellow on us...?

Aaah, but we forget one essential fact, underneath the taciturn image beats the heart and soul of a musician, even one as warped as he usually is. Here's an interesting Gilmore fact: I normally hate the sounds of the Rhodes but in this case I will definitely put that to one side because Erstwhile Fraction of Time features a beauty. It also features another one of my pet hates (which are legion, mellow being another one of them) lots of plucky, plinky sounds; all of which spell out in yawning letters that this is indeed mellow, in a jazzy, blue kind of way. VERY different to his usual style, thats for sure but a fine track nonetheless - even though it is mellow to its fluffy pink slippers. Who knows, this may be the one his detractors will finally acknowledge that he is a very competent musician and producer.

Recommended Schmoozer.

Gangbangsters - UFO ft. Cosmo Blunt'd

Hear The Track Here

As I mentioned when I reviewed Scheezy McGee's Hands track earlier this month, we seem to be spoilt for choice when it comes to hip hop musicians willing to try and break the commercial cement that hip hop has set into the past few years. One of the musicians I mentioned in that review was LA's very own Gangbangsters who, ever since I met him with Shoelaces (September 2008), has consistently surprised me both with his choice of musical styles and his ability to work within them. Certainly one of the highlights of this year for me was the absolutely wicked rock of Letzgetfuctup (September 2010) which is, I believe, his first Must Have from me. To do that with a rock track, my own favourite groove, says something about this musician.

There are a couple of these tracks on Gangbangsters page, this and Space **** and of the two, Space **** REALLY deserves the Parental Advisory both for its content and its profanity level. It wasn't, however, the reason I went to listen to it. The main reason is because the vocal sounded so weird I had to check to see whether it was intentional, and it is. As it happened, it also gave me a chance to hear both of them and I do recommend you take them as a kinda/sorta double header. Certainly if you like your hip hop different, this will buzz you. Mind you, do watch out for Space ****, it has some images that may not be suitable for young minds.

The tracks were produced by Gangbangsters and, presumably, Cosmo is doing the vocal and I got to say I like it. I had to get over that initial vocal sound (think space monster) but once that settles in, the rap and music slink around like hungry tigers before mealtime. Gangbangsters using a nice assortment and breaks and drones which really propels things along nicely. Funny, I managed to pick up most of the lyrics on Space **** in seconds but I'm still working on UFO. It is fair to say that the track carries a certain amount of roughness of sound, but that might well be the intention because this sound is d-i-r-t-y (in the nicest possible sense)

I know, I know, but give it a second. Recommended Hip Hop.

Burn Down The Charade - Revelations & Revolutions CD (part)

Hear The Track Here

A request through the Rebel Riffs blog now, Burn Down The Charade being a 'indie space-rock' duo from Phoenix, AZ. Now I don't know about you guys but whenever I see the term 'space rock' anything I get flashbacks and look around wildly for marauding Hawkwind fans. Also, it has to be said, I had my fill of space rock the first time round, with or without Hawkwind who unwittingly seem to have become an institution on the gig circuit. Aaah, t'was ever thus? What?? You never heard of Hawkwind?? Damn, where have you been, correct your behaviour right here! Mind you, a duo would find it hard to make the kind of racket Hawkwind specialise in, so maybe this would be space-rock of the Jimi Hendrix and/or Pink Floyd kind...

Before he died and they went prog...

Sean Herring and Daniel Smith are the aforementioned duo and they sent me three tracks from their new Revelations & Revolutions CD and - as you can see - I entered the reviewing arena with all my prejudice bolstered. Believe What You Know started the proceedings off and I was surprised at how infectiously rhythmic it was, and considering that it's almost an acoustic track. Immediately obvious is the talent that these two guys bring to the party, Believe What You Know rings true on a great many levels; arrangement, performance and songwriting ability. Moreover, the indie space rock thing does hold some water although it's not the genre I would have reached for automatically.

Married To The Sea builds from the same template as Believe What You Know which makes me think that the band's claim to be 'a unique and personal sound' is certainly true, although they are building on classic rock roots and a lot of what you hear is hauntingly familiar. Part of that claim comes about because they perform and produce every note within the duo, and that will definitely give you a distinct sound. Great thing is that all three tracks don't sound home produced at all. Brilliant Kids is the third track I received and the absolute first impression was that it sounds like a Coldplay track (Yellow?) which, in certain quarters, could be taken as a compliment. Personally I preferred the first two tracks but that's because I like that particular sound. A good taster for the album, that's for sure.

Excellent, intelligent indie rock. Highly Recommended

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gabriel Sabadi - Where I Lay My Head

Hear The Track Here

Actually the bandname here is GSM (which is Chris Georgiou, Gabriel Sabadi and Chris Moore) but Gabriel has these down on his Soundclick page which is why he's down under his own name. You can find the main band page over at Mixposure where the band have become highly visible thanks to endless radio play, which is an inevitable by-product of the music they make. So radio friendly it is enough to make a grown man puke. Mind you, this comes as no surprise because both Gabriel and the two Chris's are held in very high regard among those who listen to the modern version of prog-rock. Oh dear, would someone please get that person some water and try and revive them? I'd forgotten what the words p-r-o-g do to some people (Ed: and that would explain why you are writing this with all your fingers crossed, would it?)

I have been, as many of you know, a passionate hater of all things prog rock for more years than I care to mention, having gone through the very first flowering of this musical demon back in the 1970's. Mind you, in the winter of my years, here it is back to haunt me again and - you know what? - it's not exactly the prog-rock that I grew to hate so vehemently. Thanks to artists like Nad Sylvan and yes Gabriel Sabadi and many others I have finally come round to the opinion that prog-rock is actually very good indeed, and I think I know why too. Lack of wankers, madam. See, the whole original idea was so tainted with big money, big shows and big egos it wouldn't have connected to musicians like me and it never did.

I guess that to play great prog rock (like GSM) you have to do it because you love it, and it is soooo obvious that these guys do. From the Pink Floyd-style opening to the panned wind that sees the track out some twelve minutes later, this is a soundtrack of all things prog rock, except the egos. One of the main complaints I have about the genre is its long-windedness and - as you can see - twelve minutes isn't a quick, easy listen. However, if you really like quality music in all its forms you'll find that twelve minutes will zip by, aided by some of the best sounding music and vocals you are likely to hear this side of millions of dollars spent in a studio - and that believe it or not is a high compliment. But Gilmore, you sob, you didn't say anything about the music AGAIN. Don't need to in this case, it speaks for itself and it speaks volumes.

Highly Recommended prog rock (and now I have to wash my mouth out!)

Just F.A.M (Freshset) - Fly (Revisited)

Hear The Track Here

It's been almost a year since I first made the musical acquaintance of Just FAM (Freshset), a group of four New Jersey rappers who - it has be said - do know how to do it to it. I am not one to really appreciate out and out commercial hip hop but if I had to listen to it, I would pick a bunch of professionals like Just FAM (Freshset) anyday. Of course, the term 'professional' shouldn't really be applied here because - let's face it - none of us are professionals in the time honoured tradition. Nope I use the term when the music, the presentation and production are as good as it can get and Just FAM (Freshset) have scored every time on that criteria.

So, out of the four guys in the band (eXceL, K~Fr3sh, WildBoy Bloaw, and Kevin) eXceL is the one who seems to drive things along (and indeed I have reviewed him also as a solo artist) and Fly is - apparently - an eXceL production, Busy guy, right? Regular readers may remember that I was less than impressed with the musical content of Grand Finale (September 2010) even though I gave it a high rating because of the rap but Fly brings us back to the Just FAM (Freshset) sound and style that typified Dreamer (December 2009), my introduction to the band and arguably their best track so far.

Well, let me tell you Fly comes real, real close to that, and this time the music is just right. Matter of fact, there isn't a lot of it. The bulk of the track is carried by the beats which, I guess, is exactly as it should be. I personally prefer my rap stripped down so that you can concentrate on the flow, for my money this is what separates the men from the boys. Coming back to the points I made in the beginning of this review, the raps are the thing and always were with this band so it would probably be a good idea to actually like hip hop in general, and rapping in particular to really appreciate the work that went into this.

Highly recommended hip hop.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Scheezy McGee - Hands

Hear The Track Here

I've been watching the rise of rock based rappers on Soundclick with some interest seeing as it combines two of my favourite food groups. Continued exposure to Twizzie, Gangbangsters et al have only sharpened that interest so I was well pleased when I discovered that Scheezy McGee was one of this distinct breed. L.O.V.E. (August 2010) was the first track I had ever heard from this American musician and well pleasing it was too, if a little too close to mainstream hiphop for my own taste. Nonetheless, there was an overall feel that got me about that track and the list of his influences bodes well as another rapper willing to take chances in musical direction and one track is not enough to satisfy that curiosity.

OK, grip yourselves, this may be a bit of a shock. Take a listen to the first twenty seconds of this track and tell me who it reminds you of. Yep, our very own Thomas J Marchant, vocally at least. That disappears quickly enough when the rap takes up centre stage and between that and a stomping chorus this will have you by the second or third play. You will need to have a tolerance for rough sound mind, and a much greater ability to pick up on the structure and tone of the song than with (say) his first track but by God, this one pushes all my go buttons.

A couple of years ago I found myself really liking an artist called stain(ed) art, a UK rapper who employed the same kind of musical lineup as Scheezy is using to such great effect on this track. In many ways it reminds me of just how fresh this sound is, even when its wrapped in a rough as old boots mix. Listen carefully though to the musical twists and turns of this track and, despite its faults, it will grow on you - especially if you like the genre anyway. So out of the two, I definitely prefer Mr McGee on a rock tip and I'm probably going to hang on to this a while longer...

Highly Recommended (for the ideas) rap song.

Patrick Lew's Band - In Her Garden

Hear The Track Here

Being an internet musician demands certain things from you; time obviously and (hopefully) some modicum of talent, and a strong sense of commitment to what you are doing. Oh, and a skin as thick as a rhino's for all the brickbats and rotten fruit thrown at you from the online peanut gallery. Early on, I learned that you need to take opinions in one of two ways, constructive in which case you might do something about it or destructive, in which case best thing to do is ignore it. A lesson, I suspect, that is not lost on Patrick Lew, a self-avowed musical anarchist.

Angst-ridden and anti-establishment are a couple of things Patrick says to describe himself and I'd say that was accurate and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with kicking against the traces, it's one of the finer traditions of rock and roll after all. Just because it doesn't appeal to me, obviously Patrick has found favour in some quarters and I say yay for him. As you know I am very partial to experimental music so wouldn't Patrick's blend of Punk Rock and Grunge do the same trick to me? Not so far, I have to say. Mind you, In Her Garden makes some large strides musically, for a start the drums and guitar almost work together and that's definitely a first for this musician who clearly couldn't give a toss what the rest of us think.

All of the usual suspects are present, highly dodgy lead playing that seems to live on a different planet to the rest of the track, and then there's the vocal. Yes, (gulp) it's a song. Written, as Patrick informs us, for an online female friend, and looking just at the words seems innocuous enough. Put the words to the music and vocals and that is where things get real hairy. Patrick knows full well that he's not a singer and if there is ever a illustration of that, it's right here but again that's not the only glaring problem. I've found that the only real way to deal with Patrick's is to dump all my normal rules, absolutely no point in talking about production or arrangement because Patrick doesn't do those. Still that backing track shows where this may (I stress that may) get better.

Beware, chaos beckons...

Fear 2 Stop - Legend of Biff Butley

Hear The Track Here

By the purest fortune then, I found myself in a situation where I had a project from Guanoman and a new track from Fear 2 Stop back to back and that can be well strange. Not a new track from Fear 2 Stop, of course, they come up with a new one every hour. The strangeness comes because poor ol' Gilmore is sandwiched between these two exponents of 'wtf was that?' in all its insidious forms. In actual fact, I think that Guanoman and Fear 2 Stop have more in common than a musical genre, some of their ideas mesh too. Not that I am advocating them getting together in collaborative effort, I'm not sure the space time continuum would be able to deal with it.

Our last encounter with this Houston Tx based trio was their first joint effort for a year, even though that didn't stop the seemingly endless flow of Fear 2 Stop tracks. Legend of Biff Butley is more or less a solo effort from Dana Castillo (Billy Castillo and Raymond P being the other two culprits) and there are parts of it that I find naggingly familiar and yet it's so out there you couldn't possibly have heard it before. Tell you what, not sure which way round this goes but either Dana picked it up from Billy or Billy picked it from Dana but there is a most definite Fear 2 Stop sound and it's captured here in all its insanity.

So if you are already a fan of the band this will be instantly likeable (if indeed such a term could apply here). I do like Fear 2 Stop and I like what they are doing, even if it has blown hot and cold from time to time. I do also know however, that their music is very much acquired taste, and definitely on the wilder side of weird experimental but I've always found the odd thread to cling to in the turbulence and just sit watching it all go on. Tell you something else about this outfit too, they use time and timing so well sometimes it makes me do a double take...

Highly Recommended wtf-ry.

Guanoman - Tawdry Seduction Disasters CD

Hear The Track Here

Do forgive my somewhat wide-eyed and dishevelled appearance, I am not always this seedy looking (Ed: he is, don't take no notice) Fact is, I've been under a lot of strain this week, and I lay the blame for that entirely at this musicians door. Put it like this, living a week in GuanoWorld is like living a 1,000 years back here on Earth and the reason for that boils down to one word: experimental. Although the experimental scene on Soundclick has always been one of the largest around, there are not that many people who I would consider to be really experimental, in an original way. Pilesar, of course, is one of them and Guanoman is definitely another. These are experimental musicians who REALLY push the envelope and consequently are often misunderstood.

I've been a big fan of Guanoman ever since I first met him with Bokonosolonoronach (October 2003), although - it has to be said - I really didn't get it at the time. In fact its taken me a long time to truly appreciate how out there Guanoman is so I admit I personally was very keen to hear his first ever album, and - despite my appearance - I am much better for the experience. Mind you, if you like your music straightforward and all tra-la-la then best to avoid this like the plague because here be monsters. If, however, you like experimental overlaid with heavy swirls of rock a la Meshuggah, Slayer et al then grab yourself a listen to this because it doesn't get much weirder than Guanoman.

Tawdry Seduction Disasters is a ten track compilation and I've already reviewed three tracks off it in months past - Minor Attack of Glass Sickness (September 2010) and Pectophus Rex (August 2009) and The Loves and Lives of Ratmen (June 2009) - all of which scored very highly with me. Personally, I like this new style Guanoman even more than I liked his even wackier previous offerings and I think its the blend of modern rock with all time weirdnessess that make it work for me. It is something new, even if its hard to see and probably would appeal to someone who (say) knows of and likes Dross (another Soundclick original). If however, like me you are a confirmed fan of Guanoman and his particular brand of music, then this a milestone. The first EVER real world (as in you pays your money) album from one of Soundclick's most innovative artists - and worth every penny.

MUST HAVE slice of history but do mind your ears..

Rumorse - Halogen Eve CD

Hear The Track Here

Rumorse is Jorge Sasera, a Spanish electronica musician who contacted me through the blog and Halogen Eve is his new project and my introduction to another label, this one the intriguingly named I, Absentee. It's an eight track CD described as ' a beautiful collection of IDM and melodic electronica' on the label's website and certainly the first track up - Aerostatic Xilophon - will say exactly that. As you all know, I am not a big fan of electronica and certain forms of it fair make me want to puke. New Age, for example, really creeps me out, and some of the dance electronica just isn't any of either, dance or strictly electronic. Nothing electronic when you are using samples is there?

Anyway, let's not get that soapbox out or we'll be here until Christmas.

Rumorse has been doing this a while, that much is obvious from the start, but hey this is a very, very crowded field and you are going to need something special to raise you above the herd. Presentation and material are the keys for me, always. On presentation this whole project gets full score from me, some of the sounds are awesome - and this from someone who knows how hard it is to coax something emotional out of unthinking silicon chip. I think it best to describe most of the CD as being of a mellow tone of mood and - as such - it's excellent, especially as the tracks seem to melt into one another very well. I spent a lot of time listening to this on the move and that it where Drifting Chroma came into its own for me; my kind of electronica, Exquisite.

Sidechain is a innovative little piece too, again much more my style than say the first two track which - to be honest - were all a bit too New Age in feel for me to truly appreciate. Soundscapes are really what makes this CD work, and provided you like the style there is much pleasure to be had and by far the best way of listening to this is all in one go. Seems to make much more sense that way and, to be frank, there is no track that is any better than any other and that is the the true test of this project. So while its not exactly what I would hunt for when I was in need of some electronica but I know there are many people who will love this - and rightly so.

Excellent electronic soundscapes. Highly Recommended

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ratchet - Compromise

Hear The Track Here

So, as I enter this review, I have a choice before me; do I throw on Guanoman's Tawdry Seduction Disasters CD or do I carry on with a rock jag and (as you may have guessed) the rock won out. Consequently my next review will concentrate on the bird**** man and there was NO WAY I could have resisted this track at this juncture in the month anyway. Fact is, out of all the tracks I have to review this month, this was the one waving at me, deliberately taunting me to play it before its allotted time, and the reason for that boils down to two words: Ty Kaufman.

Way back in the glory days of Soundclick (2004 for this moment) it was awash with great rock musicians and bands, and I emphasise the 'great'. One of those was the Ty Kaufman Group and (later on) EL84, all of them showing off the prodigious talent of this guitarist-de-force. A passionate, fluid, emotional player that won a great many plaudits here. So there you are with a new band and you need a name that describes what the band is and what better rock name than Ratchet eh? Moreover, it actually does describe - in a weird kind of way - what this (very) heavy rock band are going to do to you.

As a big fan of the newer brands of rock from Foo Fighters to Tool, Ratchet fits right in there very nicely and makes a very promising noise indeed. The only caveat here is that I think it is probably essential that you like your rock wearing steel capped boots (although there are some quieter moments dotted hither and yon). As far as following Ty's personal trajectory (as it were) I am extremely happy to see him settled in an outfit that has both vision and (presumably) staying power. Certainly stacking up the tracks on their page in a radio listen in a definite to-do for this reviewer but I was ever a rock animal through and through and I do love a bit of fresh, red meat. Excellent hard rock, and a welcome return to a Soundclick prodigal son (and guitar God).

Highly Recommended.

Vulgaria (AR) - Tomorrow

Hear The Track Here

Now before you even get started on the 'wtf!' routine, belay it. I have no idea what the band name may mean and I'm even sure it would be wise to know, I can - however - tell you what I do know. (Ed: Oh there's a surprise!) <--- less from the peanut gallery too methinks. Anyway, while doing the usual digging into this artist's bits and bobs (normally called researching your subject) I noticed something a tad strange. Vulgaria (the AR stands for Argentina) come from Buenos Aires and didn't I just review another band from there? Why yes, but not strictly a band. Moral Factor is the one man band of one Germán Gabriel Gorchs who, as it happens, also plays in Vulgaria... Now isn't that cosy? It also means that this man has had two reviews from me and I give the rest of you permission to bite him for it ;)

That, however, is definitely not cosy.

I'm joking of course, as you know, I will review a postage stamp if I was asked in the right way. No, wait, I'm joking again and that MUST STOP. Vulgaria then are: Nico Montefusco (guitar) Gus Schulz (guitar/choir?) Jero Saralegui (bass) Germán Gorchs (vocals) and Gas Ripoll (drums). In my review of Moral Factor I wrote that 'The real surprise here is the vocal, courtesy of the man himself' so I admit quite freely that I looked forward to hearing this track. Musically, this is much more mainstream than German's solo work and again I guess that's fair enough, although the styles are quite different. It doesn't stop Tomorrow from being a very, very decent track all round, from arrangement and production to performance.

Where it falls down, for me anyway, is that it doesn't stretch the listener any, and it is the kind of track would have heard more than a few times already in one form or another. Mind you, the same could be said of just about any music these days, it's getting harder and harder to come up with something that is genuinely original. So from a strictly commercial classic rock standpoint, this is an excellent song that is well produced and performed, and most people into that would have a whale of a time with this track. Me, I'll reserve judgement for more material (this is the only track on their page right now)

Highly Recommended rock nonetheless.

Lewis Cat - The King Is Lonesome

Hear The Track Here

A review request now through the Rebel Riffs blog, Lewis Cat are a new name to me from Brussels, Belgium consisting of Hans Hoefnagels (drums), Mauger Mortier (vocals/guitar), Patrick Myles (vocals/guitar). and Diego Sanchez on bass. While the couple of video's on the band's Myspace site will show exactly what Lewis Cat do, the track I have been asked to review is their new single - but I couldn't resist looking/listening to the videos first, and maybe that was a bad thing. Certainly it didn't prepare me for the much more polished sound and feel of The King Is Lonesome, although it's obvious from those videos that Lewis Cat are a very serious deal indeed.

The King Is Lonesome is an odd track though, in a very distinctive classic rock way and - to my mind - is all the better for it. For sure, you won't hear much that is as inventive, tight and rocking as well sounding bang up to date. Funny thing though, if I had the good fortune to go and see this band live (if you live in Belgium I urge you to check them out), this track is exactly what I would expect to here and, I suspect, is the reason why they did it this way. There is no doubt that the track bounds out of the speakers with a good deal of energy, I think most people would be hard pressed to ignore it - and why should you, it's a blast from the get-go.

It's kind of a punky guitar phrasing, that establishes the tracks rock credentials but it's the first breakdown that cements your ears to the track. Whoever is singing this has a great rock voice, captured with great skill by whoever recorded it. Whatever, between the three Lewis Cat tracks I have heard this one stands head and shoulders above the rest - but only in terms of production. What is clear from all tracks is that Lewis Cat write great tunes, and know how to package them especially for year ears and I do suggest you give them a go. I'm keeping this bad boy, sho' nuff.

MUST HAVE high energy classic rock/punk hybrid.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Moral Factor - Breaking Point

Hear The Track Here

Moral Factor is a new name to me - and Soundclick too I suspect - from Buenos Aires, Argentina whose music is categorised as Acoustic Alternative, a genre that has found much favour with me in the past, why shouldn't it be so now? Moral Factor is in fact a one man band (step forward and say hi to German Gabriel Gorchs), I guess comes as no surprise to you guys that this is a one man band. There are more of them around than you can shake a stick at, the real question is how many of them are worth listening to or even - God forbid - develop a liking for.

I've always found that preconceptions and prejudices get in the way whenever the term 'acoustic' comes up in normal conversation and I wonder if this because it is in fact a version of a one man band that worked before they invented computers (Ed: or groups, Gilmore...) Most of us see the word and instantly conjure up a hairy shambler with a vague line in musical thought and - in my world - that has never been the case. Put it like this, I think I would be willing to bet that if you started the track right now, as we speak, I could describe quite accurately the surprise it gives you. Not at all what you would expect.

It isn't quite as home made as it sounds and that - to me - is a bit of a bonus because it means that everything is as clear as a bell, although when the (very slight) backing track kicks in things get a bit muddy but hey it works. The real surprise here is the vocal, courtesy of the man himself. One of those voices that instantly demand that you sit up and take notice and the man doesn't even have to raise his voice, German has a restrained way of singing that fits the musical style beautifully. Reminds me of singer/songwriters of the 1960's and 70's and that isn't a bad thing at all, especially when its this listenable and listener friendly.

Highly Recommended Acoustic Alternative.

Twizzie - Damien

Hear The Track Here

The musician formerly known as Twisted Angel has established quite a presence on Soundclick in a very short time, all primarily down to his willingness to do things his own way and to hell with the rest of us. Yep, my kind of musician. For the sake of all you lazy so and so's who can't be arsed to do their own research, Twizzie is a Canadian hip hop artist (I know, I know, but its true) who probably covers more genres than most hip hop artists unsigned or no. Moreover, I like a rapper who actually tells a story (or even a parable or two) and Twizzie has consistently done that. Our last encounter with him was Keep Doin You Ft Chelsea Tan (September 2010) which was only marred for me by my own dislike for that particular brand of hip hop, and that's a personal thing.

I am a sad man. Whenever I hear hardcore rap (as this is) I automatically start speculating how this would fair in (let's say) a Need For Speed soundtrack and I have to say that Damien would fit right in there with the big dogs. What are you looking at me like that for? Of COURSE I play games, who doesn't? Damien is the second 'leaked' track from the upcoming new mixtape The Dirty Bazement Vol.2 which should do this musician no end of good. See, although he might stray into areas of hip hop I wouldn't normally go far, at least he makes the effort worthwhile.

If I had to level an accusation at this track it would have to be that it was too commercial, but that's kinda the point isn't it? Whatever else I might find to say about Twizzie, his music has always had its eye on the main prize and yeah more power to him. Anyway, as I intimated, Twizzie is very much his own man and as such only releases of a certain (high) standard. Would have appreciated having the vocals a little higher in the mix on this track but that might just be me being crabby... No doubting that if you like muscular hip hop you'll already be aware of Twizzie.

Highly Recommended hardcore rap.

Cody Scott - So Let's See

Hear The Track Here

When I hear or meet a young musician, like for instance Penn State's Cody Scott, I am instantly struck by the world that they inhabit, and the world where I come from. Cody is a 20-ish musician who started as a drummer (in school) and branched out from there which, in a way, is similar to the world I inhabited when I first started making music. The essential difference is in the world as it is today. I must have spent millions of dollars (other peoples obviously) and more time than God at getting music into the hands of my listeners. These days, to be honest, it's a piece of cake. I have heard it said that this somehow cheapens the quality of the music on offer but speaking as a veteran (long term) reviewer who has heard thousands of unsigned musicians such statements mystify me; some of the music I have heard online has been nothing short of inspirational. Of course, I would agree that much of it is 'home produced' and usually sounds it, but so did 4 track recordings when I was first starting out.

All a matter of perspective.

The reason, of course, I am on this particular jag is that So Let's See wears its home produced sound right out there in your face which, in my experience, leads to a definite lessening of interest in drive-by listeners. Still, when you are a live gigging musician like Cody Scott, those drive by listens don't really matter but of course they do because they (music, style, production) are all helping to shape the image people see of you. Cody Scott sings and plays his brand of rock well, and considering this is a one man effort (although it also has producers) I personally don't think it shows the musician in the right light.

Sure, as far as song and performance go this is more than passable, but when put up against the extremely serious competition out there in the real internet world, this just doesn't even come close. Mind you, as I pointed out, Cody is young and if I had been making music of this quality and expertise (and releasing it!!) when I was his age, I would be feeling mighty pleased with myself - as indeed he should. While it might not be quite my thing (and its a technical thing, nothing to do with the music), I'm sure So Let's See will certainly get a few more people to come to his gigs.

Hear me Pennsylvania, support your local musicians.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ron Vogel - Our Way Home

Hear The Track Here

It's been almost a year exactly since I first met the musical side of American alternative musician Ron Vogel. While reviewing Blazing (November 2009) I wrote that it was a 'nice slice of rock' which - I guess - does sound a bit like damning with faint praise. Subsequent tracks soon put paid to that initial lack of contact and have shown that Ron Vogel is a man of taste with a fine rock sensibility but that's not always every ones cup of tea is it? Well **** them I say, because it definitely is mine although I do admit to an inbuilt bias towards the American version that I do my best to suppress but sometimes - as you know to your cost - it will have its way. See that's the problem with giving me rock tracks - it's a bit like Russian roulette. With that thought running screaming down the passage ways of your mind, let's step lively and accompany Ron on Our Way Home.

Cue music indeed...

I blame McCartney (Ed: that would be Sir Paul to you Gilmore, you peasant!) for singlehandedly perpetuating the kind of music I refer to as treacle rock. Full of cute, fluffy images of home and hearth and goodness and light and give-me-a-*******-break will ya? Now I'm not as much as a nasty as I make out but there is only a certain amount of sugar I can take before I puke up bile and venom. Now I'm English so I come with a certain amount of whining tolerance built in, but I can't stand when its pathetic as well as whiny. McCartney's saving grace is that he is an incredibly gifted musician. Although on a different level, so is Ron Vogel, and although Our Way Home is billed as folk rock it's proper name should be Americana.

Whatever you want to call it, it is undeniably lively, well structured and played with much style which accounts for the string of good ratings I have given this guy in the past. And - get this - sugar free!! I have always been a fan of the human voice (except the whiny kind obviously) and growing up in the Golden Age am much affected by close harmony vocal work and - for my money - Our Way Home is a classic example of the right way to go about it. As good as the music and singing are, the song itself shines out of this track like a blinding light. I love songwriters who tell tales and Ron is a bit of a dab hand at that but this, this is surely one of the very best tracks I have heard from him so far. From the inspiring use of harmonica, to the beautifully tasteful vocals this song has everything I need and more besides.

And - get this - sugar free!! MUST HAVE Americana.

Smoke It 'n' Die - Taquilla Chihuahua

Hear The Track Here

Today's Pop Quiz, I think. What does a fluffy pussy and Howard Billington have in common, and it really, really isn't what you may be thinking. For those whose thoughts now need fumigating, it's obvious you already know who Howard is. I first came across this English songwriter/singer/whatEVAH a while ago and developed an instant liking for his bold, confident style. Smoke It 'n' Die is the band that Howard is in and they also have a string of praises a mile long - and not all from me I quickly add. Fact is, Howard Billington (in his many forms) has become a favourite of a good many of my readers and - of course - Soundclick regulars. Whenever I need a quick shot in the arm, Smoke It 'n' Die always but always supply it.

Vitality is their secret ingredient.

OK, I will admit that there music is rough and ready but damn, listen to the songs and there is no doubt that Howard is right up there with the best of them. Definitely one of the most interesting songwriters I have come across in a long, long time. Take, for example, Taquilla Chihuahua which may or may not stand for tequila and whatever you do don't eat those green peppers. Here's a song that, on first hearing, makes you wish that you HAD eaten them because - let's face it - this is not the most exciting intro in town. Around thirty seconds in though the chorus first kicks in and if that doesn't get you, nothing will.

Every time I have reviewed Smoke It 'n' Die in general and Howard Billington in particular I have commented on his place in the natural progression of a strictly English musical bloodline so you are going to hear some punk, some pop, some most definite britpop and a million other influences besides. All set in some very clever, if chaotic, music that is inventive, fresh and involving. In the short time Smoke It 'n' Die have been around on Soundclick they have proved that they have freshness and originality going for them and the string of Highly Recommended and occasional Must Haves from me merely emphasises my enormous bias. Give this a good workout and you'll be hooked too.

Class pop. MUST HAVE.

New Nobility - Rebel Hero

Hear The Track Here

Lets dart across the other side of the world now to meet a Rebel Riffs request, this time from a three piece band from Australia. New Nobility (there's a band in the name too but pfffttt) comprise of Maja St. Louis, Zoranic Munib, Krga Zoran, Sead Trnka and Juventus Kantat, none of which - you must admit - sound anything but Australian, but that's the beauty of this multicultural world of ours - what's in a name, right? It's the music that counts and judging by the labels rock and punk attached to them on Myspazz, it bodes well... It would be well to remind you guys of my thoughts on the differences between (say) UK rock and Antipodean rock (from Australia and New Zealand). There is a substantial body of rock music with that Antipodean sound and all very good it is too and - surprisingly enough - New Nobility - sound as English as they come.

Don't get me wrong here, I am not denigrating Antipodean rockers, just saying that their rock sound is different is all. Which is kinda strange considering that one of THE main English rock influences were AC/DC, arguably the most well known Australian band of all. While it doesn't have the relentless pop rock sensibility I usually associate with bands of this type, it's arrangement being a tad too intricate for the kind of nut-kicking joy this genre usually inspires. Nonetheless what it does show is something I have been aware of for some considerable time; Australia is a country creaking at the seems with talented, seasoned musicians of a very high calibre - even on an unsigned level.

Rebel Hero is an excellent piece of kickass rock in the time honored play loud fashion, helped enormously by a clean, clear mix and production that is as close to perfect as any I've heard, and at any volume. As always with this genre, it's the song that counts and Rebel Hero shows that New Nobility have a deft touch when it comes to putting out a song that is instantly familiar, yet as fresh as a daisy in spring. Great riffs, great hooks and a splendid production, I tell you what chums it doesn't come much better than this. As I say, while I can't quite get up to rave about this it's obvious that somewhere in their bag of tricks New Nobility will have a track that will achieve that objective.

Highly Recommended (rock) power pop

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rick0 - PRS Custom/Boogie Sample-1985

Hear The Track Here

Arguably one of the most successful TV programmes lately has to be the BBC's Top Gear, watched in so many countries it makes your head spin. Part of its attraction is because of the cars (obviously) and partly it has to do with the way the show is presented. Noted, in a way, for its off-the-wall review style, and cartoon stunts it appeals to a great many people. One of my own favourite reviewers is Jeremy Clarkson, the main presenter, who has been known to spend the whole time kvetching (Ed: complaining) about some little defect and never really mention the car at all.

Petrolheads (as it were) have a lot in common with guitarists, come to think of it. Guitarists of all stripes are noted for the long winded conversations about model, make and number, body style, and any number of other nut jobs that would have normal people screaming with boredom in seconds. Who cares what it looks/sounds like, play the ******* thing, know what I mean? As you might have gathered by now, Rick0 is a guitarist. Not only does he live, eat and breathe the things, he's even written songs about them viz. the title of this little ditty.

'Piece of a tune that I wrote a long time ago-recorded in a friends basement' is the explanation Rick gives us for this and considering that his last appearance here with Clean Fusion (August 2010) was pretty impressive (even for a guitarist yeah), I have learned not to take this a face value. After all, a song title is just that right? Unless it''s (as you may suspect) exactly what it says it is - a sample of someone playing guitar. You may very well ask what is the point then? No point, I guess in much the same way as no tune, no recognisable start and stop and not even a minute long wouldn't have much point. Sure it's musical, if you can count a sub Crossroads type riff, but the arbitrary nature of it does nothing for me. Best to go for his real music I say...