Monday, January 31, 2011

At Risk Teen - Kill All Hipsters EP (part)

Hear The Track Here

'Noise-inflected DIY indie-lektro' is how LA based At Risk Teen describe themselves, if indeed there is any 'them' to it. For all we know it could be one person because I can find no information whatsoever about members, gigs etc. Anyway, I got a review request asking me to review a couple of tracks off the Kill All Hipsters EP, Goodbye Summerland and Pontius Pyro, and only one of them (Goodbye Summerland) can be found on their somewhat garish ArtistServer site. Of course, when you are listing Primal Scream, Chemical Brothers,and Public Enemy as influences you are probably going to snag someone like me who already has a very healthy taste for the electronically weird and wonderful, although you may struggle with drive-by listeners whose attention span is....what was I talking about??

Yeah, like that.

Mind you if you hadn't known that the Chemical Brothers was an influence, one listen to Goodbye Summerland would have spelt it out for you. Classic electronica mashup in the time honoured stylee, although it may be way too much if you are not a big fan of noise as a recreational pursuit. I've had much exposure over the last couple of years of unsigned musicians playing 'glitched' music and have come to like the style a lot, even though I know I am often in a minority there and if you are like me, you will get a lot out of this track. A lot more freakish than the Chems, and some of the breaks don't quite work for me but hey, small change for having your ears razored off with sound.

If I thought Goodbye Summerland was a hard track to assimilate, then Pontius Pyro is a lump still stuck in my throat. Whereas the former track has some structure (and I use that word in the loosest sense possible), Pontius Pyro comes at you from every direction, mugging you with an intensity that is nerve-grinding in the extreme. I grew accustomed to this form of music with people like Dross, drt, Guanoman et al and something this hard and edgy isn't likely to frighten me but I daresay it'll make more than a few people crap in their pants, especially if it should catch them unaware. Distinctly not for the more nervous amongst us, and probably only for those who already appreciate the noise as music school of thought.

Mashup much?? Recommended WTF!

Lia Rose - When You Need Me Most CD

Hear The Track Here

Regular readers may remember me yapping on about a website called Kickstarter in a review earlier this month (Ed: Pam Shaffer - Henry) where her entire album was funded by ordinary folk like you or I. Neat idea. Now, here's another one from the same process so obviously it's worth a shot if you want to make a REAL (ie not always digital) recording of your songs/music. Like Pam, Lia Rose has recorded her album in a professional recording studio, and had it mastered by TW Walsh (Sufjan Stevens, Damien Jurado). All financed by small denomination payments from anyone interested in the project, so again I say, here is a resource that is tailor-made for the unsigned musical world. More to the point, she premiered it at a special concert in San Francisco where all proceeds went to Free The Hikers, a site dedicated to freeing three hitchhikers arrested while in Iraq Kurdistan by Iranian forces and now held in Tehran. As a classic example of one hand washing the other, I can thing of nothing finer. We the people finance the project, the project finances something else...and so on and so on.

Now that is what the net is about!!

When You Need Me Most is a thirteen track album (with, I think Lia, Jon Latimer, Michael Fecskes, Daniel Mckenzie, Eric Kuhn and others) and, if I were honest, the first connection I made was with Norah Jones or even (at a pinch) Kate Melua, both of which are fine by me. As well piano and backline instrumentation, Lia has also added substantial quantities of violin, cello, pedal steel, trumpet, tuba and stand-up bass so there's a bit more to it than someone sitting there playing and singing. Lia uses these elements extremely well, the arrangements are as sparse and effective as they need to be and nothing steps in the way of everything else. One the highlights for me, not really being that much into the musical style which is a bit too laid back for my taste, is the way the various instruments have been used to colour each track, very skillful.

One thing is for certain, no hint of raucousness here,Lia is definitely not a rocker but hey, there's room for everything, right? Although most of the album does remind me of the singers I have named, it would be wrong to say that Lia is copying them - she just fits in with the current trend which is exactly what she should be doing. Certainly people who like Ms Jones, Melula et al will find much to like about this fine collection of songs, even if a long haired scruff like me doesn't take to it. Musically, I think Lia is very good, utilising jazz rhythms, folk-rock and soft, easy listening to get her songs across and - best thing of all - she has the kind of voice that slips easily into the spaces between your ears and - if you are willing - gives them a nice backrub and soak. Can't beat that on a stressful day, I tell ya...

Highly Recommended folky rock (kinda sorta folky rock anyway)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wreckless Music (Ejay) - On The Edge

Hear The Track Here

As I was saying in my 2010 roundup, hip hop has moved significantly forward for me as a reviewer during the last year or so; there has been an influx of newer, rawer artists that have breathed life into an almost moribund, heard-it-all-before mish mash only enlightened by a few good rappers and musicians. One of those keeping the flame burning bright is EJ Hooker (also known as many things) showing that rap isn't always about riches and bitches, or mass profanity either. It's also about delivering music that both entertains and informs and, to give him credit, Ejay has done it for a good few years now. The last time I encountered him was....mmm lessee now....Falling Thru (April 2010), which wasn't IMHO one of his better tracks.

On The Edge shows him back on form, doing hip hop the way it was always meant to be, with lyrics that are meaningful, or even important rather than an endless display of narcissism that currently plagues our existence. Having said that, there is no doubt that this track owes a massive debt to the original - and still unbeaten - The Message by Grandmaster Flash, and to the immortal line 'don't push me 'cos I'm close to the edge'. Whether this was intentional or otherwise on Ejays part I have no idea but there are marked similarities. If it is, to my mind, it is the proper nod of respect to your musical forefathers and exactly what I would expect from a musician of Ejay's calibre. Can't say I am a big fan of copyists, especially when they are Eminem clones, which also blight our existence, so its good to someone keeping it real.

I know, beyond all shadow of doubt, that hip hop and/or rap isn't to everyones taste but it certainly is to mine, having been raised on those originals. I remember how fresh and challenging it all seemed and - in some ways - On The Edge captures that spirit. Wreckless Music, like a great many hip hop artists, rely on bought-in or collaborative musical backing tracks and this is the area that most often lets them down, but this backing (supplied by Exile Beats)is rich, full and meaty. That is one of the main draws, at least in the first few plays, unless you are an old fart like me and recognise the Grandmaster Flash connection glomming on to that instantly like a man possessed. For my money, this is an excellent track for Wreckless, musically and lyrically interesting and it's not very often you get to say that of hip hop these days.

Excellent flashback in modern guise. Highly Recommended.

Howard Billington - The Meaning Of Christmas

Hear The Track Here

I'm fairly certain that Howard Billington will have been hearing the mental howl of rage from me for the whole of this month for heaping this indignity on me. After ALL the crap I gave you guys over Christmas tracks last month who would have thought Gilmore's Golden Boy would have been the very first to blot his copybook? Not only that, he choose to give it to me in the first month of the year so I shudder to think what he has in store for me this year. I jest of course, for indeed Howard can't do much wrong for me, I am a confirmed and die hard fan and he was only just pipped at the post in the just past Stevies for AOTY by Avalanche, and if that would have been judged mainly on output then Howard would have won hands down. He's a prodigious little ******* and no mistake, between these and his work with Smoke It 'n' Die, he's kept me busy most months since I first met him.

His primary appeal for me is as a songwriter, a natural ease in coming up with memorable tunes and a wicked approach to the whole lyric thing. Certainly if you are a committed Christian who believes that Christmas is one of the most holy times of the year, this may sting you into a bit of a fury. Again, though, Howard is a songwriter who is never afraid to tackle some thorny subjects - in fact he's got quite a mania about it. Even, so it would seem, towards the whole peace on earth and goodwill to man thingie that Christmas should mean. Should you think I am jesting (Ed: what you??? ha aha ha) I hereby quote the opening sentiment of the song 'Happy birthday Jesus, from everyone here on earth sorry we nailed you to a cross but let's celebrate your birth '. If that makes you see red, best you avoid this because it only gets worse.

Of course, one mans worse is another mans awesome and I fall into the latter breed. I like artists who are - how can I put this? - somewhat irreverent, and Howard is a dab hand at aural grafitti, spraypainting his lyrics onto your brain whether you like it or not. Although his musical genre shifts a bit, there is no doubt about the massive debt it owes to punk rock, and the whole UK political/musical tie ups ever since. So sure, he may standing on the shoulders of giants but his music (and general feelgood style) certainly earns him the right to be there and The Meaning of Christmas will absolutely confirm that. Think on, my unbelieving chums, a Christmas track even I could like. How cool is that? A word to the wise for young Howie though: don't push your luck and try this one again :P

Highly Recommended (and late as usual) Christmas Wishes (not for your grandma or the easily offended)

The Dead Company - Something

Hear The Track Here

The Beatles Something, it isn't. Let me tell you friends, there isn't much further alternative than The Dead Company (or Jon Bushaway in various guises) although I have detected a mellowing from the man of late, especially with his Zebrabook persona. Still, applying the term 'mellow' to someone like Jon just defies all natural laws because - for most of the many years I have known him - his music has defied all the natural laws too and probably some supernatural ones right back there at the beginning. But that was then yadda yadda...

One thing you can be assured of with Dead Company tracks is they will be different, great different or meh different, your choice. I know that some people would look at me with puzzlement at my continual championing of this admittedly difficult music. Let me tell you it was much harsher back in the day, consider yourselves lucky. Speaking of back in the day, it was great to see TDC member Black Circles reappear on Soundclick in a forum post a while back. Speaking of Sean Boyle (aka Black Circles), Something features the mans talent, and of the very first artists I ever met who was more interested in testing vocal boundaries and used to spoken word to great effect. As you know from TDC collabs with Larry Ludwick, these kinds of tracks are a trademark of The Dead Company from the beginning.

So it's nice to hear some of the original lineup of Jon and Sean, and if you like present day Dead Company, you will find this very familiar. I certainly do but I remember very fondly Sean's contribution to the proceedings, as well - for me anyway - the ultimate grouping of Jon Bushaway, Sean Boyle and Graham High in a short lived collaborative effort. Kinda like a supergroup of the weird if you know what I mean. It made your flesh crawl but was still positively fascinating. While Something doesn't quite have that feel, it's still a piece that will grate on someone with less than titanium ears and nerves of steel. The one thing TDC have always been able to do is perch me right on the edge of my seat.

History 101. Highly Recommended WTF'ry from back in the day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Karma Police (UK) - Experiment 5

Hear The Track Here

Mmmm, seems like I have reviewed more Neil Anderson (aka Karma Police (UK)) tracks than I thought. By my count, I have reviewed over half a dozen, including one in his own name - Guiding Light (September 2010). So, what did I gain from this exercise? Well, the first few tracks were, to be fair, getting on a bit. None of them dated any earlier than 2004, good stuff for sure, but dated. Several new songs have come up too but not, unfortunately made me sit and pay attention and that probably has more to do with stylistic differences as opposed to anything wrong technically, other than a sometimes bland sound.

And this experiment, Dr KP??

I am, as you well know, not exactly partisan when it comes to musical taste, anything goes you know? Doesn't change me still being human though and having my own tastes and as much as it pains me to admit it (Ed: it doesn't, he's fibbing) I don't do mellow. Electronic : Mellow is a particular bane in my life because, so far, very little that I find distinctive and different has emerged from it. Mind you, I am a self-acclaimed philistine when it comes to music of this sort so what would I know anyway? Well, I know that - once again - Neil has successfully skated over some very, very thin ice.

What saves Experiment 5 (Ed: what happened to the others??) is it's inner centre of darkness, which pervades the track - basically an electronic chill out - and gives it a tension that is noticeable. From the Hammer Horror intro to the string driven outro this track feels desolate, yearning and I am not sure if that is the impression one should be getting (can't believe I just said one) If you like a decent electronica tune then this for sure will send a sizzle down your spine, or if you like a bit of relaxing music for that odd moment that makes sense, Experiment 5 awaits.

Recommended mellow electronica

Big Wheel - Northwestside

Hear The Track Here

Aye aye, housey housey!! Come back! Why are you all running away? OK, let me explain my outfit. See, I've been getting ready for this review and I know already that the Round Rascal has prepared a dancey-prancey track for me so I thought I'd dress appropriately. So what do you mean shocking violet doesn't go with screaming pink? Damn fashionistas!! Tell you what, there is only one human being on the planet that I would let parade a naked four-to-the-floor before me, and he might indeed be a Big Wheel but believe me, he earned that right. I first encountered him with Far Away (July 2006), although I had been aware of him previous to that, if not musically then socially.

What always impressed me about this musician is his dedication to the groove. A man after my own heart, even if the groove he chooses to follow isn't necessarily one that I would choose, he does it with remarkable style. As pedantic, and pedestrian as most dance music is (especially of the electronica kind) Big Wheel always manages to pull something out of the hat, more often a cracking tune to go along with the bash-bash-bash of the drum-drum-drum. Regardless then, of the genre he works in - and dance isn't his only field - it's pretty much a given that listening to a Big Wheel track is very rewarding in most ways that count.

Northwestside, for all it's house style, is a good case in point. Sure it has many of the housey things that irritate (especially the kick), but then the Wheeled Wonder brings his arrangement/productions skills to the fore and gives you something that has a surprise around every corner. Fairly certain that jazz fans would also like this track because it has a great jazz groove, especially once it really gets going. A very classy piece of work for sure, and one that wouldn't be out of place on any self respecting dance floor. Whereas I, on the other hand, would be extremely out of place on the dancefloor on account of my fallen arches, flat feet and two left feet - although I try not to wear them all at once. That just confuses people.

Housey housey, but without my sartorial gaudiness. Highly Recommended.

Deflatables - Superstar

Hear The Track Here

Another review request now from the Rebel Riffs blog, this time a track from another unknown (to me) band from Scandinavia, Denmark to be precise. The question is just how many unknown musicians do these northern European countries contain. I suspect several million because since I have been online some of the best musicians I have found have been from this small group of countries. It was even more so back in the early MOD days but that was before the Americans/Canadians really got the musical internet bit between their teeth. These days it's a fairly even field, there isn't any particular area that is more fruitful than the other, and that's a really good thing.

So, snowgear on? Ski's ready? Then let's be off... Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Deflatables are a two piece band, Benjamin plays instruments and messes with electronics. Thomas sings and plays instruments and Superstar is but one of their tracks on offer. Apparently, according to the blurb, it features finger picked guitars with 'Weltschmerz'. Imagining that the band were about to put me on to some new way of playing only to discover that this meant world weary and you KNOW I have enough of that for everybody. Tasteful and refined are two words I have often applied to music coming from Scandinavian countries, something they seem to soak up with their mothers milk.

It is no use, therefore, to go looking for things wrong with the track - there just won't be. It's a hallmark and one I have become well aware of. Therefore, the only thing you have to decide is whether you like it. Actually, scrub that, listen to the track and you will like it, it's that kind of track. Beautifully put together, and as complex as a Swiss (Ed: not Scandinavians) watch, Superstar is the kind of track that insinuates itself into the very core of your being if you let it - and you will let it. If tracks like this are an indication of what 2011 has in store for us, look out world.

Well smart Weltschmerz. MUST HAVE indie.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Vanilla Willis - Let It Go

Hear The Track Here

Been a sparse time for new names from Soundclick of late, although the Rebel Riffs blog more than makes up for it. As you may have gathered, Vanilla Willis is from that site and a complete unknown to me. Interesting though, that the genre he slots into is rock: rock and roll. Really? Really?? As in quiffs, drainpipes and rocking around the clock type shenanigans?? Really???? (Ed: oh for **** sake of course not Gilmore, when was the last time you heard anything that was REALLY rock and roll?) Sad truth. Most rock and roll these days is, in fact, rock in all but name, not a sign of blue suede anything, just the leather clad mass of rock fans you could see anywhere. Mind you, rock is a many hued beast isn't it?

Vanilla Willis knows this, I suspect.

Truth to tell, the very first playing of this had me scratching me head somewhat, I wasn't sure, you see, whether what I was hearing was intentional or merely something to do with the way it was recorded. Consequent plays showed this was indeed intentional, and definitely sets you up nicely for the track which is a real neat piece of rough, grungy rock - and I mean that in the nicest way possible. Vanilla Willis appears to be a) new to Soundclick and b) a one man band but you definitely wouldn't think either thing by listening to this track, you'd be too busy being entertained.

Me, I do like a good rock song and although Let It Go tends more towards the grunge side in its vocals, the structure and arrangement make it work out a treat. Very anthemic arena rock for 'a song about nothing in particular' according to the musician. While it is undeniably lo-fi in feel, it actually isn't in practice, everything has its place and fills it exactly where it should. No doubt that Vanilla is dedicated plank-spanker (Ed: guitarist) judging by the head banging riff fest you will no doubt notice around the third or fourth play, and then there's that chorus.... Sheesh, chockful of damn goodies. Vanilla Willis may have been a new name to me but this track signals the end of that ignorance. Watch this space.

Highly Recommended grunge rock.

Ralph Atkinson - Yesterday's Blues

Hear The Track Here

For those people who follow such things, Ralph Atkinson is one of the names touched on in 2010's Stevies (as a mover and shaker) but there is so much more there than that bald fact. Point of fact, Ralph just missed getting major kudos last year and I'm sure 2011 is going to put that right. Although I have known this Canadian guitarist/songwriter since I reviewed Building A Time Machine (October 2009), it wasn't until mid-2010 that he really started hitting a roll IMO. Then Spaghetti Western Serenade (October 2010), a collaboration with Larry Ludwick on Failing (also October 2010), Firefly (November 2010) and Winterkill showed that he was really hitting the high spot. Each track still lives on my hard drive.

I think, because of my background, I am predisposed to like musicians like Ralph and that can often make me somewhat effusive (Ed: you don't say...) and that irritates some folk. Well, I like what I like innit? I have no choice in the matter. If I prefer Ralph's extremely easy on the ear style and approach to a four-to-the-floor bangah, that's the way it is. So nnnrrr. I like Ralph especially when he's at the blues, and obviously - given the title - this comes under that category. Although I appreciate most areas of the blues in general, rock blues is absolutely my all time fave, both to hear and play.

Yesterday's Blues, with it's echo of Clapton, Steve Miller and all points west, is exactly what he should have come out with after the brace of tracks I mentioned above. Put it this way, if any of those tracks finally convinced you that Ralph Atkinson is a musician to be taken very seriously, this will only confirm it. Chill, the man says, and chill is what you get but such a warn, comforting chill you could stay there forever. Top of the unsigned line for performance, production and overall songwriting ability. Knockout.

MUST HAVE rock blues.

Astorian Stigmata - The Seventh Chemical/Sexual Incision

Hear The Track Here

It's no good looking at me like that, I am as puzzled by the bandname as you are. Mind you, there's me thinking I was in for a dose of turgid space schlock - given the name like - and what I get is something of an entirely different order. Astorian Stigmata are a full four-piece live and gigging band and their material shows the tightness you would expect from such an experience. Certainly the music holds up to scrutiny although - to be honest - it's a bit too shoegazey for my own liking. Still, why should they care? Judging by the lists of gigs up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States, they don't seem to be doing to badly in the real world and I guess that counts more than this electronica fools paradise...

The Seventh Chemical and Sexual Incision are from a seven track Death and Exile EP from the band's website and if these tracks are any indication and you like shoegaze rock, then prepare to lose some time to Astorian Stigmata. Damn, that's a lot of if's, don't get me started on the buts... The Seventh Chemical is the more dreamy of the two tracks I got to hear, in that slow epic rock way much beloved of such bands. As such, it's a very good job indeed and in pretty much all counts too. The song is more than decent, intricate enough to keep your attention from wandering and the sound (and the band) are rocking. Bastard child of prog-rock?? Who knows?

Sexual Incision (ouch, gonna need ice on that) is much more a recognisable rock animal, especially if you appreciate the subtleties of American rock music. Don't know about you guys, but in this track I hear a million ghosts of the past, from Television to Talking Heads, New York Dolls - the list is endless. This track, for my money, is the more noteworthy although both tracks have a very high standard of songwriting and performance going for them. What it shows me is that this might even be an EP worth shelling out a few glass beads for, especially if what I have said has interested you.

Excellent American Indie rock. Highly Recommended (and a keeper for me).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jim Perkins - Grains LP

Hear The Track Here

It isn't often when I can start a review by saying 'hey this is different' but - believe me - THIS is different. But let's start at the beginning. 'Wondered if you'd be interested in reviewing my latest album Grains' Jim Perkins wrote, and how could I refuse after such a nice, polite approach? I could not indeed. Jim Perkins is a pianist, and a classicist at that, although that shouldn't be a problem should it? Well, not when it's done right, and Jim Perkins does it with tremendous style and technical know how. I am a sucker for good piano pieces and here is a whole album just full of them, and all as good as each other. How could this not be a good thing?

Unless you are a headbanger, yeah maybe.

Chopin Prelude (track one) will show you immediately that although this may be classed (no pun intended) as classical, it's not dead white dude music as we know it. Jim mixes in some tasty electronic tricks on this, and unleashes more as the album progresses and is especially clever at resonating sound which I just love. The segue from Number 3 to The Feed is memorable as are the two tracks in question with Number 3 getting the major share of attention. No matter which way you approach this material you will get a different feeling every time, and that - for me - is the main event. Shows that not only does the music have legs, it's got a brain too.

Aaah, back to the old highbrow thing are we? Well no **** off!!. To my shame I have only heard the barest scattering of modern composers, and usually in passing at that, so it was good to wrap my ears around such an album as this, overflowing with ideas as it is. It's also an album I really recommend listening to in its entirety because that's the way it works best, and considering it only 38 or so minutes long, it's just right for a tea break or - better yet - a musical nightcap. I don't profess to understand classical music at all, but like most plebs I know what I like and what interests me about this genre and Grains (the whole LP) is exactly what I need when I need a break from the musical hurly burly.

Highly Recommended modern classical experience.

Reflexion X - When World Comes To End

Hear The Track Here

Only the most facile among us can be unaware of the furore surrounding the imminent arrival of 2012, and not just because the Olympics are to held in London either. I'm sorry but I just don't subscribe to the generally held belief that somehow 2012 is going to prove to be the year of the Big One. In my life, going by the scheme of these things, I have been exterminated by a vengeful God many, many times. More to the point, so what if 2012 does spell the year humanity was wiped off the face of the planet would that be such a bad thing? That would put the row over bankers bonuses in the right perspective maybe. See, whether or not any of the dire predictions happens there is nothing you or I could do to avoid it. I think having lived under a nuclear threat for most of my early childhood I learned early on to live each moment for itself.

And what, pray tell, does all this have to do with Reflexion X? Not much as it happens because for all the doom-mongering I am fostering above, Heikki Roots (yep, the man behind the X), as always delivers a sterling track that is uplifting musically and lyrically, even when delivered in his usual accent. There was a period where so called 'euro' music went through a cheesy patch, but I have always found Heikki's music very euro-flavoured but still very likable for all that. He's always been a dab hand at the ol' electronica along with the social commentary, as his finest track IMHO shows. If the end of civilization isn't a big enough topic for you, you really should get a listen to God Vs Satan (June 2010) which incidentally was one of my Tracks Of The Year 2010.

Regardless of how you might feel about his musical feel there is no denying that a) he knows how to write a good, catchy song and b) knows how to orchestrate and produce it to a fine finish. In other words, everything you might want from something as ephemeral as music. Although it's billed on Soundclick as Drums and Bass, there is only a section that is truly DnB, while the rest of it is actually electro-pop, in the fine old tradition. While Reflexion X won't be to everyone's taste, I must admit that I have developed a taste for his style and When World Comes To End is a class example of it. Moreover, his accent becomes more charming the more I hear it, and I guess that's a first eh?

MUST HAVE electro-pop/DnB blend. Very neat.

Moral Factor - Old Dirty White Shoes

Hear The Track Here

Men are the strangest things - ask any woman. She'll tell you that they get insane attachments to certain garments of clothing that, once put on, should be left to rot on the body. Change?? Not in your lifetime dear. Obviously German Gabriel Gorchs (aka Moral Factor) is one such strange man because, as he tearfully explains between sobs, 'my mother burned my old shoes that I loved'. See? They just don't understand it. Their instinct is to burn, keep clean and hold back the night, mans instinct is to lay low and if that isn't sufficient to trot out the usual obligatory 'yes dear/mother/auntie/sister/social worker/prison guard' So, having established that German suffered severe footwear abuse at the hands of his Momma (a female I would point out) (Ed: oh good grief not again), lets get on with this sordid tale.

Fourth track down for Moral Factor and during that short space, he has shown a wide breadth of music taste and expertise as shown by his inclusion into my Tracks of the Year 2010 section of the Stevies with his Apagando la tele. All in all, not bad going. So, what kind of sound does a pair of smelly, dirty white shoes make while burning to a crisp? I dunno either so lets press this li'l ol' button and.... OK, so now he turned into a folk rocker, and he doesn't do too bad a job of that either although you'd probably have to like the genre to really appreciate it.

On the whole though, I found myself liking this more and more as I played it. It has an easy way about it that is helped immensely by the simple, effective instrumentation and arrangement which - it has to be said - are becoming a hallmark of this musicians work. While I may differ from time to time with him, it's only been about style never substance. In fact in the four tracks I have heard he has shown that he is a competent, talented musician with much to offer and if you don't believe me, this track will show you the error of your ways (and if it doesn't, you can **** off or I'll set German's Momma on you).

Excellent folk rock sob story. Highly Recommended.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pont des Arts - Poor Boy

Hear The Track Here

Another review request from the Rebel Riffs blog, Pont des Arts are a new name to me, and I suspect to you too. A duo consisting of Canadian's Barry Keighley and Hugh Little who inhabit 'a world where POP is not a dirty word' and - much more to the point - music that is ' awash in strum and jangle'. Yeah pick me. Canada seems to have an armlock on musicians specialising in good pop, so I suspect I have been somewhat 'softened up' Mind you, it wouldn't matter if I was that or my usual hard-boiled bitter-as-bile self, if the so called pop didn't do what pop is supposed to do - make me feel good.

Yes, or you...(sigh)

Pretty much the first thing I picked up from Poor Boy was an appreciation for the slickness of the production and mix, crystal clear sounds and textures, very nice job indeed. In fact, in both performance and production this is a neat piece of work and - if you like pop rock - this should go down a treat the next time you have a minute. All the time I was reviewing this, I kept being reminded of something and - as usual - my brain steadfastly refused to help my memory gather the relevant information. That's the problem with my body, it works on a 'need to know' basis obviously.

It wasn't quite 3AM in the morning but it was a 'wee hours' thing when it dawned on me, this sounds a bit like Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear The Reaper. Sure, it's a totally different song, and a totally different era even, but it terms of style (that relaxed lope and the jangly guitar) and even the way the vocals are pitched. If you are a fellow musician, about the only thing you would get from this is sick, it's that good. It's rare that you get music with all it's ducks in a row, and when you do, you need to treasure it. This is one such track, and probably a name to watch for in the future.

Excellent in all respects. Highly Recommended Pop rock.

Cam's Even Song - Taken From The Indian Man

Hear The Track Here

Well it was only a matter of time I suppose. Cam explains in the song comments that he was ' thinking about how screwed up our world is' (as you do) and, ' this sort of popped out' (as they do). My point being that Cam, like most rational sentients, spend inordinate amounts of time 'thinking about etc etc', and given that he is a musician, sooner or later it was inevitable he would write about the most egregious stain on the American character; their treatment of the native American indians. I think I've spent most of life incensed about this, having learnt about it in my teens.

I love the way, Cam is totally unafraid to make something topical and Stolen From The Indian Man is no exception between excoriating 'all [who] got a bonus' but then tempers that with 'It's all unfair, but then the whole wide land, was stolen from the Indian man!' Well, for my money, they are all the same thing; greed is greed no matter how it manifests, and all of it destroys. That, my friends, is the reason I like Cam's song because, it goes without saying, if he's thinking then he'll make sure we are too.

Take this line about social networking for example: 'It's so vicarious, we twitter and tweet, but nothing comes near to us, we never meet!' Ain't that just the truth, we know everything about a person and yet we know nothing about them. Mind you, the other side of the Cam coin is that his music - whatever the subject - is as positive and upbeat as you could wish and Stolen from The Indian Man fits right in there with the best of his material, this time he has unleashed his inner Dylan and you know I like Cam when he does that.

Social commentary and solid, good fun. Highly Recommended Pop.

PLB (Oakland) - Facebook, The Bullsh**

Hear The Track Here

Now if the PLB and the location are ringing serious 10 alarm fires in your head, you will know what is coming and are probably heading for the hills as we speak. As for the rest of you, let me explain that the Bay Area in general and Oakland in particular have become associated with one Soundclick musician, and all because of his music. Well, I use that term loosely because the PLB in question stands for Patrick Lew Band and now you know that there is no escape from him, we might as well deal with the track. This is a guy who has gone through endless changes of name and style, and - in many ways - the same applies to his music. Either one day everything will click for this guy, or he'll just explode with frustration...

...or we will.

Patrick and I have long had a marked discussion about what, or what does not make music. Nothing I say, or any other reviewer for that matter, can make Patrick respond except in the only way he knows how - by making yet another track for us to savage. Sidestepping the thorny question of why he keeps doing this to himself, I can only sit and be patient while Patrick find his muse. The really funny thing is that I think he just night - although it may take a while.

Facebook, The Bullsh** (oooh wonder what that is?) is pretty standard Patrick Lew fayre, drums and guitar seem to go to obscene lengths to ignore each other, and in the vocals both pitch and timing, let alone poor old phrasing, are left back at home. While there are many people who would denounce Patrick for making such demos let me just point out one thing. When a musician is trying to find his or her way. the transitory period is often painful, and yes even as painful on the ears as this. Nonetheless, look underneath all that sturm and drang and you know what I see? The bare bones of something. Not sure what, and I'm certain Patrick has no idea either, but there is something growing here..

Use at your own risk.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fear 2 Stop - Transparency

Hear The Track Here

It wasn't until Fear 2 Stop introduced me to it that I became aware of the Indietronic genre and - for what its worth - the name fits them like a glove. Although they have billed for most of their existence as experimental electronica, it's always felt a bit more than that. They had a reasonably quiet 2010, only releasing a few tracks, which considering the previous deluges, came just in time for me to be swamped by a million other musicians. Still, I've always liked Fear 2 Stop's rigid adherence to their own musical style - like it or not - and it has marked them out over the years as being truly different. However, because of that area they work in, the tracks are not exactly listener friendly although they have got a lot better at that the past couple of years.

Earache could still be a problem though, if you are not used to it...

Fear 2 Stop are probably the most linear (organic even) band I ever came across and Transparency shows that side of them gets stronger with each release, especially since they have been working together again after a break. Obviously I have to stress that Fear 2 Stop is definitely not everyone's cup of tea and you could be one of those agreeing with that statement. However, I do know that this trio have a small and very dedicated following through Soundclick and rightly so because, if you do manage to 'get' them, it's a sure bet you will remain so.

It took me a while, admittedly, to warm to them and it was only the band's sheer insistence that finally won me over, but since I have developed an ear for their particular style I must admit to being charmed by their tracks more often than not. As I have mentioned a time or two before, it is good to see the three of them working together again and if Transparency is to be any indication, they may be gearing up for a more substantial year this year. One can only hope so.

Highly Recommended Indietronic.

Bright Midnight - La Minuit LP

Hear The Track Here

Considering that I have already reviewed eight of the ten tracks on Bright Midnight's La Minuit LP, is it really worthwhile to go over it again. Welp, Hillis Emanuelson says that everything has undergone some further processing AND there are still two new tracks to assimilate so hey, why not? Hotel Saigon actually managed to snag a Track Of The Year 2010 from me, so there is even more need to listen. After all, a track of the year surely can't be bettered could it? Buggered maybe, but bettered say nada. I can't say I was overly impressed with The Fringe (track one) when I reviewed it (June 2010) and it only managed to make a Recommended from me and I must admit this version does sound tidier and more to the point.

Now watch the guy come here and tell me they haven't done anything with this one :)

OK so track one bodes well, on, on. White Shoes (December 2010) is exactly the track I reviewed but considering it was only last month, lets pass on. There is a strong Joy Division vibe so far but that is blown apart by Hotel Saigon (September 2010) which to my ears has suffered quite dramatically in this new mix, unless the rendering isn't quite right. Shame. Infant Days is the first new track to me, and on the limited listening I have done with it, is - to my ears anyway - good enough but a bit of a filler. Hand Me Down (August 2010) sounds like exactly the same track, although it may sound a little cleaner than it did previously. So, halfway, and what do we have. Actually, if you like Bright Midnight's style (and I do, although I always want better from them) then I'm sure you will want your own copy of this album.

There is no doubt that, although derivative, Bright Midnight have an identifiable sound and style - mostly rock oriented, with the occasional nod towards Joy Division/New Order and it often works. Overboard (October 2010) hasn't been through the remix/remaster stage yet I don't think, and that was the one comment I made in the review, the song was good, but the mix/production kinda blurred the point. Floating Feather (Vault Edition) is an extended version of Floating Feather (Blue Day & Age) (November 2009) which I did like and - in their own way - Bright Midnight have definitely updated it well. Count Me Sold (July 2010) sounds very much better, and it was pretty good to start with, my complaint about it was that it was a bit sloppy and seems corrected now. Out of the last two tracks, Skinny Girl (November 2010) and La Minuit (May 2010), only Skinny Girl seems to have had a makeover and again it makes an reasonable song much, much better. IMO, Skinny Girl is probably the best track on there right now. Nonetheless, if you do like this Texan band, there is a lot to get into here so go....feast....

Highly Recommended labour of love.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Charlie A - Before The 3AM Alarm

Hear The Track Here

These days, London's Charlie Armour should be rightly considered a Soundclick veteran, the man has been around long enough. I first came across him when I reviewed Bebee Bubba (July 2006) which - looking back - was an accurate picture of what Charlie is about - fun with sound. His finest hour, and something that will probably dog his footsteps until the end of his days, is that he is the composer of Read The Rules (June 2009), arguably the most poignant of online statements and one supported by every forum member I know. Of course, the problem is that it's made the rest of us lazier than ever. Where the flames of outraged egos at the temerity of SOME NOOB to post inappropriately singed the rest of us on a regular basis, these days it's easier to click the link to Read The Rules. It does what it says on the tin, after all.

and nobody dies. 'magine that.

Charlie has done a number of very fruitful collaborations over the years, and Before The 3AM Alarm is one such. Written and sung (I presume) by Trina Brunk and (also presuming) scored and produced by Charlie boy. A lot of presumptions I know but I don't want to blot my copybook do I? Dr Seuss's famous Green Eggs and Ham makes a surprise appearance in the intro but don't let that confuse you, because it may sound a bit like nursery rhyme it soon develops into a far deeper, slinkier being indeed. Listening through I was struck by how much Trina sounded like a cross between Tina Weymouth (as in Tom Tom Club) and the older female rhythm and blues singers. Whatever it is, this is an authoritative voice, one used with confidence and no mean skill.
It's a given, of course, that Charlie should come up with the musical/production goods. He always has. Again though he's gone on a nice little detour with this track and I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by it, especially after that simple nursery rhyme intro. What comes out eventually is a full blooded piano blues a la Jools Holland that, although restrained, really fits the style of the song. The arrangement is pretty stripped down and between Trina's vocal and the music is where I think I get the Tom Tom Club connection from. A very nice piece of work indeed and I look forward to hearing some more of Ms Brunk. Charlie, meh, he's always around :P

Awesome. Simple but effective. MUST HAVE Pop.

Jane G33 - Things I Say

Hear The Track Here

You may remember us encountering female emcee/rapper Jane Do3 when I reviewed Babel Remix Feat Daddy Go Go (September 2010) which was a pretty good stab at old school rap, although I did prefer - on balance - her older mixtapes. Since then, although we've seen Daddy Go Go, Jane has remained elusive until she reappears here with a new name (kinda/sorta). She still Jane, you still not Tarzan. God knows what all these numbers signify, not being an expert in leet speak, but hey, what's in a name anyway? So long as the joint is rocking innit? Aahhh, but there lies the hip hop rub, a lot of of it just doesn't rock, in any form - must be all those treacly lyrics. On the other hand, I do have a soft spot for old school, hip hop as it should be.

Although Jane is the named artist on the track, it is a track (debut even) from her group Pick One, and yeah, they actually do sound like a group and a pretty good one too. I'm sure there will be those who automatically turn up their noses at the very mention of rap but used properly and purposefully, it can be a stunning communication tool. As far as I can tell, Ackurate is the male rapper featured on the track, the music and beats coming from the intriguingly named Sindustry. Can't say I have heard of either of them before but hey hip hop is a big scary place and I'm a yellow bok-bok chicken, I just take what I am given.

Where a lot of unsigned hip hop falls down in either in marrying the musical style with the rap or finding music that is decent enough in it's own right. Now although the musical backing for Things I Say isn't likely to set the world aflame, it does a more than competent job of holding up its end. For my money, the whole track could have done with being mastered a tad heavier because it felt kind of lightweight in parts. Nonetheless everybody involved should feel proud to have made a piece of hip of that is at least true to the original spirit of the thing.

Recommended hip hop.

Dave Meredith - Your Whispers

Hear The Track Here

Like real life, there are few people on the internet that I can honestly say I knew them back when but one such person is Dave Meredith. I think I've known this guy for the best part of eight years musically, and let me tell you that is a LOT of music to cover. The first actual review I still retain is Money Talks/When It Ends/Y Niggaz Front (June 2003) although I'm certain I spent most of 2002 reviewing him in various guises, in the case of the previous three tracks going under the name Worlds Apart. He was also a long time collaborator with the much missed Slippy T who is somewhere out there in real life. Sigh. Anyway, you lot may well know him simply as Mezzer.

Aaaahh, THAT guy!!!

Joining in Your Whispers is fellow Mixposure-ist and numbah ******* one guitar player Joseph Rodriguez who I have brought to your attention a time or two before, mainly over at the old MP3 Unsigned site. The real surprise here is so present in the music, it took me several plays before I could concentrate on what was happening. Annette Scott has a voice to die for, rich, vibrant, soaring, you could easily run out of words... OK, I already 'fessed up to a marked liking for female vocalists, but come on, when they are good, nothing like it on the planet Guv'nr. Annette Scott is one of those and believe me she really had to hold her own against the music.

Dave has always been a tasty songwriter even way back there at the beginning, and time and experience has only honed and sharpened that, resulting in beautifully constructed, artfully recorded and mixed songs that just scream radio play. Dave has just re-appeared over at Mixposure I believe but by the looks of it, the site has already taken him to its bosom and so they should, radio is where an artist like this truly belongs. For those people used to Joseph's more rocky, passionate side, his acoustic contributions here (I presume it is him) are exactly the right touch and fit the song like a glove. What will get you though is the combination of that voice and the song, shivers down the spine time....

MUST HAVE power ballad (and I mean that)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chris Cape - Major Tom (video)

Hear The Track Here

Ok, so right off the bat, don't go looking at me like that. I might well be the human equivalent of Dumbo, but even those with stupendous fly batters (a la said Dumbo) need a break from the constant clatter of life. At least that's my story and that's the reason why this is a review of a video - albeit with music in it of course otherwise that would be me out of a job right there. (Ed: A job?? This is a job??? Ha I think not young sir!) I have come across some good music through You Boob (damn those misprints) so don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Quite why you would want to get so close to a horse is something between your God and yourself obviously. Now, where was I?

Aaah yes, eye candy.

Got to love this modern age where just about anybody can make a decent video on next to nothing but, lets face it, all that eye candy can get a bit much especially if the music isn't right up to the mark. I have to assume that this Major Tom is an affectionate nod to David Bowie's first real hit Space Oddity, but it's nothing like the Bowie track - and I mean that in a good way. I've watched endless videos on the Boob and when you come across a good one, it is worth bringing to your attention and - believe me - Chris Cape is a breath of fresh air (and it's hip hop!). I have, as you know, a liking for the genre but certainly not for the lifeless, soulless commercial variety. Major Tom is so full of energy it may burst a blood vessel, but hey, that's show business right?

I personally like the 'use whatever is available' approach and the Major Tom video is a classic case of that, from flatboard, stop-start animation, to getting all his mates around for a laugh and filming the whole thing. At this point you may be thinking that we are talking another amateur hour here, but you know me, it's got be to professional and it's got to rock the ******* house. All of which Major Tom (the music) does with great style and drive. Truth is, I added it to my own You Tube station and that's pretty small and select... If the music is rocket fueled (and it is) then the sheer life, energy and exhuberance of the Cape Crusaders (nice boys and girls all) make this both a visual and aural feast and I'm chomping down like it's Christmas again.

POW!!! High energy hip hop. MUST WATCH.

Refrag - Several

Hear The Track Here

There is a small, grizzled bunch of Soundclick veterans who, upon spying this artists name, start to shiver with an impending dread. As well they should, because they know full well the power of the Desbo. There are few artists from back in Soundclick's golden past and I welcome the return of each and every one. This one, I just sigh wearily and go and put the kettle on. It's the only answer to him really. Refrag, all joking aside, is an experimental musician whose 'experiments' have warped many a mind in their day, and that's just from the titles alone. The key to Refrag was always rhythm, and a clarity of production that marked him out of others. And there was his strange ways....but I still have nightmares about that and my doctor warned me not to think about it so...... fluffy bunnies.....soft clouds.....

Truth is, Refrag has long been one of my favourite Soundclick musicians simply because the guys tries harder than anyone else to make his sound identifiably Refrag, and OK its a fair question to ask why would anyone want to sound like that anyway, but you obviously have no taste, soul or life. If you get past the deceptively chillout intro, the main track will run to you with arms outstretched for a huggie-wuggie. Keep breathing through your nose and whatever you do, don't ever, EVER take your gloves off around it. It has always been my contention that of something makes a sound, Refrag has used that sound somewhere and what Several shows is that he's been putting time in learning some new tricks.

When my world was bounded on one side by Refrag and on the other by Burp (both truly awesome electronic experimental musicians) you would have been hard pressed to find a happier camper. Life, however much you kick and scream, has a nasty habit of moving on anyway, leaving you eating the dust of time. I can't think of a better prodigal son to share that meal with than Refrag who - I think - had one of my very first Soundclick reviews back in the day. You may have noticed there isn't much comment about the music, and the reason is real simple and consists of six letters - R-e-f-r-a-g. Impossible to describe. My kinda guy. Top quality sound experiment. (Ed: eh? wot? ******* guy has deafened me)

Highly Recommended and MUST HAVE for fans.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gangbangsters - I'm An Epidemic

Hear The Track Here

Think I'll to stop lumping LA's finest, Gangbangsters, in with the general hip hop hoi-polloi because although Ryan Wixted (aka whatsname) does indeed dabble in hip hop, his output is far broader than that and always has been. I first came across him in 2008 where he did kinda/sorta fit the general genre (if you know what I mean) but the last few track I have review have strayed further and further from the main genre. In fact of the three tracks that got him Tracks Of The Year 2010, not one is really hip hop any meaningful extent. In fact, if you like Letsgetfuctup (July 2010), a straightforward rock bellow and pelt, then BOY are you gonna love I'm An Epidemic.

Classed as Rock: Punk, this is one track I would have to say fits the label classification exactly. It's loud, noisy, boisterous as a box of enraged baboons, and - no doubt - covered with spit and safety pins. Not, I'll grant you, the kind of thing a whole lot of people would go looking for of an evening but punk - in it's truest forms - does continue to exist in tracks such as this. So don't be surprised when, upon pressing play, you are smashed in the face, kicked in the family jewels, deprived of your hard earned money and left in a state of confusion. Some people, I'm told, like that kind of thing. Some people obviously don't.

Actually I have always liked the raw energy, sheer rock power that really ******* angry punk delivered and nowhere is that personified more than in the Sex Pistols immortal God Save The Queen. I'm An Epidemic tackles that side of the picture and does a right bang up job of it, and I knew that the creator of Letsgetfuctup had more of that up his sleeve, and it STILL blew me right to ****. Turning out that Gangbangsters also start the year running after last years successes, another indicator of how good this year could be. Obviously you will have to put up with sound and mix as rough as a bears bollocks, and a singer that spits the lyrics into your ears but personally I can put up with a track as good as this.

**** you punk!! MUST HAVE.

Jon Solo - Circles

Hear The Track Here

There aren't that many people around these days who actually remember when Soundclick was hopping (2003-2005) so it was nice to see Jon Solo popping up in the forums this week nattering about how good it was - and it was. A lot of the names you have been familiar with over the years - especially from these reviews - had their start around this time and although they may seem like part of the scenery, they are still relatively new in the scheme of things. One of the main engines that propelled that surge was the Electronica forum which - during those years - featured some amazingly talented musicians including, as it happens, Jon Solo. Jon seems to straddle every genre known to man, so that's a plus point for me right there.

But can he walk the walk??

Point of fact is that Jon Solo has been a member of Soundclick since 2001 so you would imagine he's learned a lot in that time, but I suspect he was active long before he came onto the site. Such proof as is needed for that claim is definitely found in Circles but before we get to that, let me finish. Experience counts, sad but oh so true. Crafting great songs (of any genre) takes endless time, devotion and patience. Crafting great pop songs is an art far harder than any other genre. For example, if you can write a song the (let's say) evokes musical periods of the listeners life, then you are halfway there. If you can then make it echo (in no particular order) Klaatu, The Carpenters, The Beatles and even ELO in their prime then it's a given it's going to hook you in.

Bold claims, I know, but you know me, I wouldn't say it if I wasn't absolutely convinced. In fact, Circles is a masterclass of pop song artistry and although it tops out at just over five minutes not a second or a note is wasted. That, my friends, is how to do it right and if you need further convincing put on the track right now.... Hear that amazing stereo picture, wait for the vocals now, awesome stuff. The backing harmonies are an absolute treat for the ears and when it all comes together in the chorus the charge is stupidly good, the kind of stuff that plasters a grin on my face. Think ELO with bells and whistles and what a way to start a new year!! Circles is a track from 2008 btw, and Jon is promising new stuff so get ready for something real special.

MUST HAVE masterclass in pop.

Matthew Laming - The Never Forgotten

Hear The Track Here

A review request from the Rebel Riffs blog, and a musician I have reviewed before although he might be a new name to you guys. To Find Home (A Distant Call) (December 2009) was the track in question and although I didn't pound it into the ground in a fit of critical rage, I wasn't exactly fawning all over it either. I'd say, looking back, that Matthew escaped reasonably unscathed. So much so that he's back for more so maybe this time I will have to get goshderned vicious (Ed: riiiiiiight. About as vicious as a dead snail). One of the main problems with the track was that it was l-o-n-g, topping out at a good ten minutes and you'd have to be going some to keep people's attention that long. It also happened to be kinda dancey-trancey and you know how that makes me peevish.

Well the bad news is that Matthew still hasn't managed to get under that ten minute limit because - lo and behold - The Never Forgotten is as bold as brass about it's 10:21 running time. The good news is a) its actually 9:24 or so and b) it's is in a style that fits such extreme length (Ed: do you even care how much spam we are going to get for that casual comment). OK, so that style is almost a soundtrack, another area of contention for me, but again it fits the style of track full of epic and heroic moments. Like his previous track, this one takes a while to get going and even longer before you start to appreciate what it is.

The Never Forgotten is a piece written in remembrance of all those fallen in wars, wherever and whenever and you'd have to be brave yourself (or extremely foolhardy) to attempt such a thing and - hopefully - not get laughed off the internet. Thankfully, Matthew Laming took that risk and where To Find Home didn't justify the length, The Never Forgotten demands it and needs it to build the right sound picture; sombre, moving, and most of all memorable. Matthew Laming does more than a credible job on it, although I could have done with more instrumental definition and a bit more space in the mix but that's just me being contrary.

Highly Recommended Orchestral tribute.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Speak Words Speak - Edge Of The Abyss (On Life Support)

Hear The Track Here

Larry Ludwick, stalwart provider of Soundclick's Critics Corner monthly competition (with a REAL prize) is, in the modern parlance, a fearless mofo. I know he's a fearless mofo because I've had to review his music for a while and this is one musician who wants to share it all - the good and the bad. It is absolutely no surprise to me that he also teamed up with fellow gloomy gus Jon Bushaway in several collaborations - they both have a very bleak, and often very dark view of this thing we laughingly call life. Personally, I like musicians who stretch the envelope, regardless of their lyrical point, and I have had many long years of battling off the various depressions Jon Bushaway has thrown my way. I like these musicians because when their music is at it's starkest/darkest it has an eerie beauty about it I find fascinating.

Speak Words Speak is a side project for Larry, focusing on his spoken and/or weird side and the last track I reviewed - Out Of Love (November 2010) - was a song whose lyrics came from Jon Bushaway, and Larry provided a great musical platform for what he does best. Not surprisingly it got him a Must Have and a Track Of The Year and that's something that probably won't make him smile either. But hey, life rolls on, innit? 'The Abyss is not a place of joy' he gleefully says in the only lyric of the track, and if that doesn't give you the tenor of what I have been saying, then don't blame me for subjecting you to it.

The central tension of both Larry's and Jon Bushaway's work is that dark, almost bitter vision allied with some of the prettiest sounds and textures you are likely to hear. So as much as I feel the anxiety and edginess they stir up in your brain, the music makes it somewhat easier to take. It's always been the saving grace for Mr Bushaway, and Larry is following in that fine tradition. Certainly not as experimental as you might expect and, surprise surprise, quite an easy listen - especially of you are looking for a good soundscape with the merest hint of vocals.

Highly Recommended Experimental electronica.

333maxwell - All Gonna Fall

Hear The Track Here

As a musician, 333maxwell clangs between genres as if his life depended on it, which makes it nigh on impossible to pin him down and give him the 'Oi you, stop!' conversation because I really, really need to. But then, what would I eat between snacks?? Fact of the matter is that a steady diet of maxwellian proportions is very very good for you, especially if you like the main genres he peddles his wares in, those being pre/post war jazz and/or easy listening, and a decided Beatles tinge where he can't seem to make up his mind whether he's Paul or George. What is certain is that he isn't Ringo, but who knows, I might have sparked a feeble glow in that musical madhouse of a mind and I can look forward to it in next months bumper edition.

He can do that you know. S-c-a-r-y...

There was this incredibly schmaltzy side of the Beatles. Despite them being a great rock band whose credentials are impeccable, they actually came out of a tradition where musicians were entertainers into the bargain. Had to please the punters ya know, and it's well known they like a bit of sugar with their schmaltz. In many ways, this track could have come from Paul MacCartney but the vocal treatment is much more George Harrison whose vocal talents I grew to appreciate more and more after the Beatles. With all this kind of talk, is this then a mere copy of a once great art? I should bloody think not. This is, after all, Chas Holman in the house and while the comparisons are easy, the way in which he pieces it all together to make it so ******* authentic is enough to make a sane man vomit.

The hallmark of pretty much everything I have ever heard from this musician is his meticulous, highly detailed approach. You may be put off by the cheesiness, but you can't fail to notice just how good it all is. So, hand on heart, while I wouldn't go hunting this down of a cold evening (definitely not my style) I still have to bow to the master at work. For a while there I thought he was just trying to tick me off when he threw material like this at me but I've come to realise that it's a facet of his style that has great merit. As I've stated a million times, I prefer the jazz tip than the smoothychops, and this track reeks of smooth, easy, put-up-your-feet-up-and-take-a-load-off lounge stylee.

So smooth you could slip and fall on it. Highly Recommended soft rock.

Andy Mitchell - The Well Travelled Road LP

Hear The Track Here

Even though I place a high priority on the technical side of things, I am not crazy enough to think that this is the only thing that matters. As you know, with me it is, first and foremost, the song. Unless, of course, it's an instrumental (as is most one man band music these days) in which case it better be awesome because I think I speak for the rest of humanity when I say there are more than enough instrumentals. Thank God for the singer/songwriters I say, and I've never imagined a scenario where I would write that because there was a time when I hated them something fierce. See, EVERYTHING gets a little dose of venom :)

Andy Mitchell is a self confessed one-man show and The Well Travelled Road is his latest release, an LP consisting of eleven tracks in an Alternative rock style that - although rough in places - shows Andy knows his way around a song. There were tracks I did get (Moon In The Night, Hold My Breath, For You etc ) but then there were tracks where the recording limitations Andy is working with mar the proceedings. Overall, this is a very noisy album, and when there is a lot going on, a clear mix is essential and many of the tracks suffer because of this. Stylistically, I liked what Andy was about, and the acoustic numbers really show his potential. Most of the time though, you are trying to sort through the mix which does take work for the listener and that shouldn't happen.

One of the major pitfalls of unsigned tracks, and many bedroom musicians, is that they take a while to learn the disciplines that crafting a great track demands. Sure, production features big-time because that is what the competition is up to. Much more to the point, bedroom musicians tend to either not notice or pass those little flubs, vocal/instrumental mis-tunings,machine noise that commercial music filters out. There are internet musicians who do it like the big dogs, but they are generally more experienced in the arcane arts of production, arrangement and (crucially) mixing and that takes time. Mind you, I felt much the same about Pidgeman (who Andy reminds me of) some years ago and he has come on like gangbusters of late, and Andy has something going on here that should be followed up.

Recommended (if noisy) Alternative Rock.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pilesar - Into Thick Air

Hear The Track Here

I know it doesn't seem like five minutes since he was last here but believe me Pilesar didn't plan this (Ed: oh yes he did!). It just so happens that his The Fingerling Live (December 2010) was the last review of last year but he was pipped at the post in getting the first one of this year - and rightly so. No human deserves such an honour unless she is young, pretty and sordid in equal measure, and Pilesar is definitely none of those things. Well, he might be sordid but I prefer not to dwell on an artists proclivities, unless she happens to be etc etc etc. Loved The Fingerling though (although not in the Biblical sense) (Ed: is this getting sordid too?) and one of the reasons was because it was a complete departure from the chaos/string theory live performances he has thrown our way over the last year or so. Pretty even and we've already established what that does to me so let's not go there again.

Pilesar starts off this brand new year with a collaboration with one Zach Mason (I know not) and is well into Indian country musically. No, not geezers wiv turbans and weirdass guitars with long necks (although there is a bit of an Indian feel to the track) my meaning was in the unfamiliar and maybe hostile sense first coined in the American West. Pilesar is many things musically but I've never found him hostile, although just about every other feeling known to man I have attributed to his musical madness. Pilesar is, underneath the percussive live personna, a true experimental musician with a capital EXP, so whatever you do be prepared for the unexpected, so obviously not for the faint hearted.

Pilesar has long had a streak of musical perversity, and it has produced some quite dramatic tracks, although I freely admit that it really wouldn't be to most people's tastes but I developed the habit when I reviewed Acka Fracka way back ******* when so there is no hope for me. You, however, can make up your own mind or - should you be a lazy bastard like yours truly - have Pilesar scramble it nicely for you. Best not to exhibit this around grannies, small children, dogs with ears, cats with ears, any animal with ears and your current girlfriend. Should you mistakenly commit this act of social hari-kiri, you may find them running away screaming like banshees, or plastering your hide to the wall depending on their own pain threshold.

Aaaahhh, unmistakably Pilesar. Highly Recommended WTF.

Thomas J Marchant - High

Hear The Track Here

Yet another Soundclick musician making out like a bandit in last years Tracks Of The Year ratings, will come as no surprise to regular readers. Indeed, Thomas has featured in my yearly roundups pretty much ever since I started reviewing on that site, albeit in a manner of different guises. Finally though, he settled on the Thomas J Marchant personna, changed his whole musical style and outlook and snagged my Artist Of The Year 2007 award, as well as a string of Must Haves from me and a LOT of dedicated fans. Mind you, it's hard not to like Thomas's uncomplicated it's-the-song-that-matters approach even if sometimes we don't see eye to eye on other things.

Late last year, just when he was getting into his production stride, Thomas suffered the fate many of us internet musicians dread most of all - computer and/or disk crash. Having suffered the latter myself, early in the year my heart went out to him. Thomas, in true troubadour fashion, threw off this little obstacle and bounced right back with a lean, stripped-down killer of a track with Ego (November 2010) which I contend just gets better with time. So, where we find ourselves is right around where Thomas started off technically, which means lo-fi lo-fi (if you know what I mean) who reminds me more and more when in this mode of the late, lamented Syd Barrett.

Now maybe it's that English whimsy that Thomas lays on with a trowel that gives me the impression, because Syd for sure made that his trademark. It's really difficult too pull off successfully though, either sounding too twee and cutesy or pretentious, but Thomas throws off that obstacle with ease too. The track is recorded very hot and whatever additional instrumentation/vocalising is presumably Thomas playing with himself (if you know what I mean) so be ready with that volume control although, to be fair, there is no distortion or clipping which says a lot. On balance, I think I prefer this raw, much rougher Thomas J Marchant the more the tracks roll out...

Highly Recommended Acoustic and - of course - a MUST HAVE for fans.

Rustik - Fade Away

Hear The Track Here

Not looking like there is much chance of Rustik fading away any time soon. After scoring three Tracks Of The Year 2010, this is one Soundclick hip hop musician who is not likely to be resting on his laurels. Whatever that means. In short, Rustik is one of a new breed of hip hop rapper who is not afraid to stretch the ol' envelope. Out of the three tracks that most affected me last year, only Monster is still hanging on in there but that is because it really is IMHO his best track yet. Still, there is always another track innit? Rustik - in a short space of time - has become one of those musicians whose music I actually do look forward to hearing, even in its most commercial forms (which he has been known to do).

And you know how I feel about commercial hip hop...

One of the main appeals for me with Rustik has been his production values. Right from the start, he has shown that home-produced hip hop doesn't have to be as rough as a bears butt. The man is full of great ideas for arrangements too, even though - at least in this case - the dreaded Autotune (or it's equivalent) is a prime mover in the proceedings. Forgivable when treated with respect, aural dog whistles when it isn't. Rustik, to his eternal credit, at least uses this much abused effect with some modicum of sound ideas and he mostly pulls it off and considering my hatred of it's use I'd say that was a good result.

Ultimately though, as always, it's going to come down to the song and in all the Rustik tracks I have reviewed this has never, ever been a problem. The guy just knows how to put things together in an interesting way. Sure you will have heard something similar, that's for sure, but at least Rustik works hard to make it an enjoyable experience for the listener, even if hip hop isn't normally your thing. This is where, I believe, this new wave of hip hop musicians are going to score. When you actually straddle genres like Rustik tends to do, your reach is much, much wider.

Excellent, despite Autotune. Highly Recommended and MUST HAVE for fans.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pam Shaffer - Henry

Hear The Track Here

After all the excitement of the Stevies, it's time to get back to the daily grind and the first real review (albeit well late) of this new year is a request through the blog. You may remember me waxing lyrical about Julian Shah-Tayler and his track Wetter (November 2010) and Pam is a friend of Julian's and and.... It really is a small world. Funny thing, all the while I was listening to this for the review I kept wondering how the dickens I was going to describe this, because it isn't a track you are going to come across that often. Oh and btw, that's in a good sense although your definition may differ somewhat from mine. It wasn't until I saw her described (on her Bandcamp page) as an 'intellectual singer-songwriter' that it finally clicked.

Whoever said drrrrrr better own up right now OK?? At least I know what intellectual means.

Henry is a track from Pam's As We Are album, inspired and based on the diaries of Anais Nin whose writing I encountered in my own callow youth, changing my view of women forever. The Henry in question in this case being novelist Henry Miller who Anais adventured with in Paris during the 1930's so if you know the diaries you'll probably get more out of the track. Even if you don't, you can savour Pam's lyrics and vocals as they stand because - when all is said and done - Henry is a lovely piece of music, beautifully performed. All that remains is for you to decide whether you like it or not and if you hear it, you probably will end up liking it. Pam's voice and style is reminiscent of a more restrained Kate Bush and that's no thing, t'all at all...

It's also worth mentioning (I think) how this particular album came about because I'm sure there are plenty of people who could make use of information like this. Mind you, to make as GOOD a track as this you would have to have the endless list of excellent musicians Pam has drawn to this project. As far as I can gather, Pam raised the initial funds through the Kickstarter website, recruited said string of excellent musicians and lo and behold, an album was born unto her. If Henry is any indication, it's a very classy album from a classy singer songwriter, intellectual or otherwise. If you are a serious musician, you need to get up to speed with sites like Kickstarter and while you are about it, grab a listen to Pam and see what is really possible.

Very distinctive. Highly Recommended.

Distant Autumn - Shine

Hear The Track Here

Although Distant Autumn only got a keeper in the annual Stevies awards this year, I have no doubt that if they keep on doing what they are doing, 2011 could well be a very good year indeed. I've only reviewed one track so far, You Know What You Do (October 2010) and I ended that review by saying ' if you listen to a track at all this year, let it be this one' and I'm sure many people to me at my word. OK so they might have to be a bit of a rock animal, and like that mixed with some close vocal harmony work but who doesn't? Certainly it's a format that has shown its worth time and again - as I have mentioned before.

Distant Autumn is Silvertrain alumnus John Brandon, musician/producer Brad Strickland and vocalist Al McNeill, John Brandon, as many of you know, being an excellent songwriter of many years standing both with Silvertrain and lately with Those Among Us and - as it happens - one of my own favourite musicians.As I mentioned in my previous review, Distant Autumn are a somewhat softer rock version than we are used to with young Brandon, but that shouldn't stop anyone because it's heart is in classic rock for sure. It also isn't anything like as immediate as You Know What You Do, at least to me. While it's certainly a cut above the competition -as you would expect from such experience - it's isn't quite as graspable as the previous track.

I know, sounds like damning with faint praise... I think this is going to be down to a personal taste thing because while I realise that the guys have put in their usual sterling performance maybe the style of the track just doesn't get me - or at least not in the way expected. Don't get me wrong here, this track doesn't put a foot wrong and - if you like classic rock - it's going to go down a treat with you. John and I have often had different opinions about which of his song work and why, and I guess this is going to be one of those. Mind you, this is small quibbles and probably only something he and I find of interest so while we go off in the corner debating the point, you get stuck into this rock delicacy...

Highly Recommended soft rock.