Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nigel Potter - Necromancer

Hear The Track Here

There is only one Nigel Potter and yeah his name is Terentek. Have to be careful what I say around this guy because we share a common history and - no doubt - he knows where the bodies are buried, so best stay on his good side. Our musical endeavours have travelled similar paths except he has probably been much more faithful to rock (and space rock in particular) than I have and more power to him because of that. If anyone deserves the accolade of being a consumate 'classical rock' musician it would be Nigel. Although you may not have heard of him prior to this, online veterans have recognised his distinct qualities for more years than either of us care to mention.

Necromancer should be attributed to ALBEDO 0 and 3, an album I know nothing about and - like you - am waiting for Nigel to give us the scoop on it. 'Albedo ( /æl'bi?do?/), or reflection coefficient, is the diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface' according to Wikipedia and if that doesn't give you a clue to the musical direction Nigel Potter is likely to take you on, nothing will. Space, the final frontier and Nigel has already been there for years and years although - to be fair - the meaning of Necromancer is absolutely down to earth, and maybe even under it. Musically though, as I say, space is the place.

Like most gentlemen of a certain age, Nigel has soaked up two major space-rock influences, The slick, highly engineered space rock popularised by the Pink Floyd in their heyday and the raw, agressive power of Hawkwind in theirs. This time Nigel steers more towards the Floydian side of the cosmos, and as fine a piece of space rock as you would like to find. Don't run away with the impression that Nigel Potter is some kind of copyist, far from it. He uses the style as a starting point and branches off from there and usually provides a significant musical journey and Necromancer is no exception.

OUT THERE (Ed: I'm sure Must Have isn't spelt like that).

Smoke It 'n' Die - Summer Revival

Hear The Track Here

Out of all the new artists I have encountered over the past couple of years at Soundclick, none have measured up to the pop phenomenon known to us as Howard Billington, and of course, Smoke It 'n' Die. Summer Revival is another track from the excellent Joyful In Defiance album and if there is an accurate descriptive word for this songwriters work, it would have to be joyful. Howard and the band have endeared themselves to Soundclick regulars because their music is so defiantly upbeat, so damn cheerful you can't help grinning at it bounding along like a week old puppy. It one of the reasons the band have so many Must Have's under their collective belts already and I am sure their will be many more.

Can't say that Summer Revival is going to score that highly though, although it isn't the fault of the song, more the extremely lo-fi and kinda sloppy approach to the music and - of particular note - the vocals. I say that because, to me anyway, the vocals are a major part of the enjoyment of a Smoke It track because - when all is said and done - there aren't that many vocalists around that sound quite like our Howard in full flow. He comes from a fine tradition of English humourists and singers and reminds me strongly of the late Ian Dury in some ways although - again - Summer Revival doesn't show much of that side either.

Now reading the above you might think that I don't like this, but in truth I like pretty much everything this band does, and Summer Revival is no exception. Certainly long term fans will love it because it has all the elements you associate with this group. It is, however, a lot sloppier in many ways to their usually high standard and even borders on the old 'demo' sound, especially when the vocals doubletrack, which is where its most noticeable. Songwise though, it's exactly what you would expect from the Billington mind, so serious fans will not be disappointed and the only reason I was is because I had become used to their usual polish....

Recommended Indie pop.

Eject Pilot Eject - Face To Face

Hear The Track Here

You may remember this Welsh trio, who I first met through my Rebel Riffs blog when I reviewed their Jump At The Right Time EP (July 2010). Very nice it was too, although - as I said at the time - it wasn't exactly earth-shattering but hey, early days right? OK well now here we are almost a year on so I would have expected something to change, a year is a long time, especially if you are a gigging band, as this one is. Sarah, Owen and Luke make up this trio, Sarah being the drummer which came as a bit of a surprise. Don't get many female drummers to the pound, that's for sure. She does a damn fine job of battering the crap out of them too in the time honoured fashion...

Face to Face is the kinda/sort follow up to the EP and I admit I was looking forward to hearing where they are now. Worth the wait, as it happens, because their sound and style has toughened up considerably giving them a much rockier sound than I remember from the EP. Face To Face is a terrific song too, jumping right out of the speakers at with with energy to spare. I didn't find anything wrong musically on the EP, so I didn't expect to with this track, but I certainly didn't expect the punch, the tightness of the whole thing.

Sarah takes vocal control this time out and, surprise surprise, she has a fine voice in the tradition of Bonny Tyler another great Welsh female vocalist and I do not make this comparison lightly. They make mention of their new sound and direction on their website, and how people have reacted to it, and I can see why it would be positive. This is what I was thinking they should like when reviewing the EP, tough and punchy but then Sarah was only doing backing vocals. There is no doubt that Face to Face is major leagues away from those first few tracks, now they are cooking...

Highly Recommended Rock pop song. (Keeper for me anyway)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Twizzie - Until I Break Feat Dreamcast

Hear The Track Here

One of the brightest spots for music for this reviewer has been the hip hop community at Soundclick, and such has been the case for a couple of years now. Although I have dabbled with the genre from time to time in my long sojourn on that site, it's only lately that I've started to recognise a younger, less commercially-minded clutch of rappers and musicians who have IMHO enlivened the Soundclick hip hop scene enormously. Regular readers will be only too well aware of my liking for Rustik, Gangbangsters, Scheezy McGee, Whitman Speck and many, many more including the musician once known to us as Twisted Angel, known much more cosily entitled Twizzie.

The last time we encountered this Canadian musician was with Animal (December 2010), an accurate description of the track to as it happens. One thing you can always guarantee with this rapper is that the ride will be musically interesting and - generally - lyrically too. Twizzie is another one of those rappers who eschews the whole riches and bitches routine for some real story-telling, and usually without a swearword in sight. Nope, what musicians like Twizzie are about it that most essential ingredient - a cracking song that reaches out to people and he manages that trick more often than not.

As I've said before, this musician just gets better with everything he releases, although it took a while for Until I Break to get to me because - strangely enough - I got fixated on the vocals. I could have sworn I have heard this before but I could be wrong. Maybe it's because Until I Break is both heavily commercial electronic hip hop and Twizzie's trademark rapping bombast and while they both work, it can make the track seem disjointed at first. However, the more you play it, the more that problem shuffles off leaving you to bask in yet another Twizzie track that takes repeated plays - got to love those legs.

Highly Recommended hip hop rap and MUST HAVE for fans.

Farrell Jackson - Another Year 2010

Hear The Track Here

Nice to see Mixposure musicians in my review threads, especially since I can never free enough enough space for that site these days. Sure do miss that ol' rock and roll and its a good job that friends like Farrell think of a poor starving fan once in a while. I am a fan, of that be in no doubt. Farrell, along with his Mixposure cohort, have the spirit of rock music embedded in their bones and - working together in small teams - have been responsible for some great rock moments over the past year or two.

His last track - It's Time U Faced It (December 2010) featured Mixposure stalwart Buddrumming and he shares the honours on Another Year 2010 too. Another Year 2010 is so named because the song was written some time ago (2004 I think) and this is the 2010 remixed/remastered version. Seeing as I never heard the original anyway, all of that is irrelevant, but the song most certainly isn't. As I say, I like Farrell as a songwriter and his rock side, especially the classic rock kind because he has a rare gift of authenticity.

'Monday morning has hit me with a brick', Farrell sings with some obvious feeling 'I'm feelin' down and I need a fix' which is a sentiment we can pretty much all get behind. It's in his songwriting that I find most appreciation for this musician, his experience merely adding weight to what is already there. There is no doubt that the main roots of this track belong squarely in the world circa 1966, complete with a lyrical tale about the difference in the writer between that time and now. Anybody who appreciates the earlier work of the Beatles et al will find much to like in this classic rock song and it definitely hits all of my musical G spots; good lyrics, great hooks and knockout music and arrangement.

Highly Recommended rock classic that never was.

C Anthony Goggin - Snow

Hear The Track Here

Damn, always seems to be mea culpa time around here. The object of my grovelling apology this month is C Anthony Goggin. Don't know why I should have developed a blind spot concerning this track and/or this artist other than to shrug and say it happens (Ed: more often than not) So where this should have been around fourth or fifth here it is almost last, yet another victim of the dreaded Gilmore Gremlin (latin: Brainius Crumblius), and one I am duty bound to rectify right now... Snow, that would have given me a blind spot right enough, after what seems like another endless winter - that's my excuse....yeah!!

When I am playing my guitar, I record everything. Not because I want to foist it on you guys but because it helps me to find how what works and what doesn't. Like all guitarists, I record more carp than I would be happy at releasing anyway. One thing about the net is that it's completely pitiless, like a big children's playground where a comment like 'your music sucks donkey dick' is tame in comparison to some I have seem. Sometimes such criticism is deserved but more often than not it is because the musician either doesn't know enough yet, or is unaware of how agonising it is for the net to tear you a whole new butt. Either way, seems to me like you should cut them a break.

We were all there at one time.

So what Snow is extremely lo-key in every way. The singing is soft and hesitant, the music a mere accompaniment to the words. It is, in short, the kind of stuff we all have littering up our hard drives, the difference being is that we know better than to release it. I would hazard a guess and say that Mr Goggin records this pretty much live there and then on the spot. I say this because here, and in other tracks, simple tuning and fluffs are completely in view. Not that that's a problem but I think the overwhelming impression that most people would come away with from this track is, heard the demo, now where's the track? I say these things knowing that the bar is very, very high EVEN with material of this quality and its a big place to get a bit of the spotlight in.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Solosounds - Across The Great Divide

Hear The Track Here

Like newspapers, you learn to read between the internet lines to get to the root of things. Regardless of the amount of crap that is out there on the internet, there is no doubt that it is the foremost tool if you want to know something about pretty much anything. Writing as much I do, I actually get to do some serious research from time to time, triggered by either the track I'm reviewing or a musical reference I want to pin down. Without this track, for example, I would have never heard of California Folk singer/songwriter Kate Wolf whose song this is a cover of. So, consequently I never heard the original song either at the time (1970's/'80s) or since. Sadly, Kate passed away some years ago and I guess it will be covers like this that will keep her memory alive.

Solosounds is a side project of one Jon Solo, who you may remember made the Gilmore eyebrows raise somewhat with Circles (January 2011) and - if I were being honest - I think I prefer his own work. Mind you, as he says, he doesn't do folk and neither do I, but I would do sub-country and western to death rather than give it ear room and I'm afraid this track falls squarely into that category. Now maybe the original track sounds like this too, after all it was a folk song and they can be a bit......overwrought. In my defence my early life is dotted with tracks like this and it scarred me forever. Then it used to be called 'middle of the road', stronger words apply these days.

Understand me, all of the above is a personal opinion, not a critique because, as we discovered before, Mr Solo can't be faulted in getting the feel right. In every respect, this track is musically and structurally sound, giving off a 1970's Carpenters feel, aided no end by the more than able vocals of Stacy. Stacy?? Well, she is the friend who wanted to cover this song and she roped Jon into providing the necessary soundtrack and - despite my personal view - created a very listenable 1970's style rock ballad, if you like that kind of thing. One thing this track does show, beyond doubt, is that both Jon and Stacy know what they are about, they should feel good about creating it. I'm just a venomous old man innit??

Highly Recommended pop ballad (think Carpenters).

Ralph Atkinson - Ghost Ship

Hear The Track Here

On the surface it would seem to be an impossibility. Even knowing Canadian Ralph Atkinson to be a very creative and adept musician, as he has proved to all of us time after time, there is no way on Earth he could do it, could he?? 'It' in this case being a cover version of (hang on to your wits) Thomas J Marchant classic Sails. See, our Thomas is a very unique musical character, having forged his sound over many years. He can do what he does exceedingly well, but could anybody else? Ralph can. His version of Sails (which I rate as one of TJM best songs) really keeps true to the original but brings a whole new slant to the song - exactly what I would call a great cover version. Top marks to the man, get a listen to both versions to see how... Damn, I'd like to hear them do this together!!

In the meantime, there's this ghost ship...

Just when you think you have a handle on Ralph, the man does a swerve and Ghost Ship is such a surprising swerve it took some getting used to. I can point to ten million musicians who I think would dabble in electronica but absolutely the last person I would expect to not only dabble, but excel in it, is Ralph Atkinson. What, the guitar-playing, song-writing, ex-barbershop singer?? But no, o disbelieving eyeballs, here is the proof so all aboard this 'ere Ghost Ship and have the crap scared out of us by the prospect that nothing is sacred to this particular musician, no stone unturned in his search for more 'input'...

The thing that gets me, like the Sails cover, is that he does it all soooo well...It's a mark of Ralph's prowess as a musician that he can pretty much turn his hand to anything (and believe me Ghost Ship is the anything) and make it a worthwhile listening experience as this track amply demonstrates. In essence, it's one long build, in an eerie, sub Hitchcock incidental music arrangement that screws up the tension nicely. While you will have heard similar from lots of sources, I think Ralph puts his own particular brand on this one. Damn thing is as broody as a mother hen...

Recommended Electronica soundscape from a most unlikely source.

The Unknown Artist - Save The Planet!

Hear The Track Here

My children think that when I was their age, the world was in black and white because the only images they have seen are so. We were talking about this the other day when I received this review request, about a time when the net just didn't exist, at least not in its current form. I first started uploading music and connecting with like minds through something called Bulletin Boards (BBs); a system slower than drying paint where each byte was miserly measured because of the cost. Hence files had to be much, much smaller than the MP3's of today. MODs were the name of the game, and it is in that scene that I first started reviewing this way. One of the names from that decidedly murky past on Usenet's ABSM forum was Pleonist, who seems to have morphed into not only an Unknown Artist but one who labours with a couple of local difficulties.

I actually have the MP3 of this track and let me tell you its sounds HUGELY better than the video on the link I have given you. Hopefully, the musician will come along and give us a URL for the track because it would be good for you guys to hear it properly (kinda/sorta). Oh God, sounds like Caveat City in here doesn't it? OK, 'fess up, the sound on the video is - to be brutal - crap so why, oh why do I still think you should listen to it in lieu of the actual track? Because it is that rare thing - even as rough as a bears butt soundwise - a good song, well delivered in a sprightly English way (think Blur).

Save The Planet is essentially a piano track, although it also has a energetic bass and drumtrack, but that's it. Add the vocal on top and shove it out the door. If I didn't know this guy from a while ago, I probably wouldn't have given this the time I have although I am glad now I did. There is no doubt that even the MP3 version is very lo-fi but to me that is part of it's charm, along with the lolloping beat - a kind of stagger from beat to beat if you like. Almost Britpop I guess but that doesn't detract from it's charm but that's probably because I do like material like this, witty, beat smart and thought provoking. 'Remember, folk in the future will have enough on their plate...' Now, where is that guy for the URL...

Rough yes, but interesting nonetheless. Recommended '60's style protest song.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The New Royalty - Here I Go

Hear The Track Here

This track has had more time with the review process and that is because a) it's actually very, very good and b) it's taken me a while to dig up any info on the band and that is really important because - believe me - you'll want to know more about this band. If you are currently imagining that this rhapsodic euphoria must have come about because the band has a female singer, then aren't you a clever boy/girl/either-or/an alien from another galaxy. Yep folks, my middle name is transparent. Of course, just having a female singer isn't the whole deal, she has to be able to sing and Bree Lafelice sings like an angel. My niece says that she sounds like Paramour and I just nod and say me she just sounds good.

The New Royalty is actually a five piece American indie band with a very modern sound. God knows how they made Here I go but it sounds as good as anything out there in terms of audio quality, but again if the material being performed isn't up to scratch, it won't make any difference. If Here We Go is an example of what the band can do, then this is one new name I am going to be keeping up with because it's professional, tight and incredibly well executed. It makes me question if the band had a professional hand in putting it all together or whether this is all their own work.

If it is, I am astounded that a band so young looking could sound so confident and relaxed, although the track's energy and drive show that the band can deliver solidly enough. Certainly it is more than enough to get me wanting to hear more so maybe next I'll be checking out their new CD When Poets Dream. Have to say, hand on heart, that as good as the song is, it does sound like a good few other indie bands but - all in all - I don't think that will make much difference to someone stumbling across the band or being directed from reviews such as this. For sure if you like energetic, straight ahead indie rock, then will be certainly do the trick. Now all I have to do is wheedle a CD out of them lol...

Highly Recommended American indie.

This Modern Empire - First Time

Hear The Track Here

I have reviewed This Modern Empire three times, thus far and been quite taken by this Australian trio although not even to be shouting from the rooftops but hey it's early days yet innit? I think the truth is that - so far - it's either been something with the sound or the song being alright but nothing remarkable. In my last review, Love Is The New Black (May 2010) I wrote 'Going to be interesting to see where the band go from here because, to me, they certainly have much potential' and now we have 'where they went from here'. To be brutally honest, I didn't think this one promised much initially until I started to notice how much like early Talking Heads it sounded.

From that moment, I was a goner guv...

Actually it isn't that the band sounds like Talking Heads so much as the vocalist sounding very like David Byrne, as I discovered as I got to know the song better. It's a kinda sorta punky rock thing anyway a la the kind of stuff coming out of NYC in the punk era, and if I were judging it in that context this would be scoring very high indeed. It's actually quite hard to make a decent rock song poppy (ask anyone who has tried), but This Modern Empire - in terms of the song and it's structure - have pulled it off very well indeed so on that score, top marks at least.

Unfortunately, and probably because the vocal is so understated, it lacks the essential drive needed and that - to me anyway - is where the track dragged. If it sounds like I'm dishing the dirt here, you'd be wrong. I really do like this track but somehow soundwise, it fails to convince. Of course only niggardly old bastards like me would be so crotchety, the rest of you would be too busy dancing your butts off to this track. And, to be fair to the band, they have managed to knock up some Highly Recommendeds from me and the past and this one slots right on in there - at least in terms of the overall deal.

Highly Recommended nod to the past.

Karma Police (UK) - Angelix

Hear The Track Here

If the words ambient and chilled make you adopt a glassy stare and increasingly floppy limbs, it's probably better if you stopped reading right now before you fall asleep. Go for a run around the block or something, come back much refreshed. As you already know (to your cost probably), I also suffer from the ambient/chilled ennui and that run usually does the track, in fact I just did one before I sat down to write this review. Can't be sleeping on the job after all (Ed: oh? you mean this is you awake??). Neal Alderson (aka Karma Police) already bears the scars of my past maulings proudly because he is more than happy to stick up for a genre he obviously loves and, truth to tell, I've been quite gentle with him.

All that stops now...muahahahaha! OK, bit over the top, I admit.

I think, to be fair, that my lukewarm attitude towards Neal's work is mostly my antipathy towards this kind of material but it also has to do with the age of the material itself. A great many of his tracks are in fact from some years ago, Angelix for example is from 2004. Now whether Neal has remixed/remastered this I have no idea but it sounds pretty good for it's age, bright and clear with the right amount of punch. That's never been a problem between us, the man sure as eggs is eggs knows how to put music together and even those with even the slightest taste for electronica will find much to like in this.

Unfortunately, to my ears, it does sound dated. Had I heard it back in the day, I would certainly have plenty to say about it, but that was then and this is now. However, that's me being crabby again, I suspect because I can find nothing wrong whatsoever with the track technically or instrumentally; the pads are warm and comfy, the sequences flow effortlessly and the drums are exactly what is required. Unfortunately none of it seems to go anywhere special and, once you have heard it a few times, it tends to sound very repetitive. It would probably work a charm with a decent vocal going on though, and that may well be on the cards for all I know.

Recommended electronica instrumental.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

eXcel (Freshset) - Ya Know What

Hear The Track Here

I do hope eXceL and the rest of Just FAM (Freshset) have forgiven me yet for the crap I gave them about Christmas, and their part in it. See, they gave my my first Christmas track of 2010 in the shape of Christmas Shop (November 2010) and if there is one thing I cannot stand at Christmas, it is Christmas. I know, I know but just think about it a minute. Despite much pissing and moaning about such a state, I couldn't help but recognise that they - again - managed to skate by with a mild dose of critical rabies because they are just too good, even when they are making songs about Christmas lol.

Out of all the hip hop bands I know on Soundclick, Just FAM (Freshset) happen to be some of the most commercial, but the same doesn't hold true of eXcel's solo work. So far I've reviewed three or four of his tracks and haven't found much to complain about, and even managed a couple of words of praise here and there. So far, so Gilmore eh? This is his first recorded work this year, and it shows that he may well have a good year indeed, as he points out in the rap.

Hand on heart, I don't really like commercially inclined hip hop (of the softer kind) and Ya Know What is exactly that but hey I can certainly appreciate the work and effort the man puts into it. Although I can always find something to like in eXcel's tracks, he is yet to hit me with something that I can appreciate more but I live in hope ya know? Having said all that, don't get me wrong, this isn't aimed at someone like me after all. So if you like soft, mellow hip hop, eXcel's Ya Know What will go down a treat. Me I prefer my meat a little bloodier than this but that is a personal thing, I'm sure lots of people will like this.

Recommended hip hop.

Thomas J Marchant - I Am Really, Really Tired

Hear The Track Here

And, if we hadn't got the point yet, Thomas tells us in the song comments that he is 'really, really f*** ing tired' and I echo that sentiment. I think I've been tired ever since I crawled out of the womb, it definitely feels like a lifetime of tiredness. Is this, we wonder, our favourite Soundclick troubadour coming down with a bad case of man flu?, or a bit of the dreaded yuppie flu (otherwise known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)? I don't know and - to be frank - I'm too tired to care and all I can say to Thomas is, if you feel tired now wait until you see what old age has in store for you :P You're going to love that.

Vindictive much tonight?? Naaah, just joshing...

In case you have been away on holiday, off-planet or inside prison, you won't have heard that Thomas had a major computer disaster a while back which seriously affected his way of making music, and I have only reviewed a couple of tracks since then. Where other people fall apart under such conditions, Thomas stiffened his lip (he is English after all), swore copiously and vented all the frustration into the tracks he was able to make, off-handedly delivering some of his best songs yet. Not sure I can say the same about this track because IMHO it's a kinda throwaway track and features a chorus that features a part of the female anatomy (rhymes with hunt) in glorious, glowing lo-fi. You can tell how much he is enjoying singing this particular refrain. I was just surprised we couldn't hear him smacking his lips. No, scratch that too...

OK, I've taken my truth pill so here goes. If I wasn't already a big, big fan of this songwriter, this track might have me scratching my head with some degree of puzzlement; is it supposed to be funny? (it is, wildly) or is it ironic? Actually, I have never been about to tell but the things I like about Thomas are all present and correct in this song, even if the general feel may be a bit haphazard. Even Thomas admits to not knowing what this track is about. So, dear abused listener, if swearwords offend, don't go there. If you don't like lo-fi acoustic music, don't go there. If you like Thomas you have already heard this, and if you haven't you should but remember he has far, far better tracks than this curio.

Odd, lol funny rant... Recommended world-weariness.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ofelia Dorme - All Harm Ends Here LP

Hear The Track Here

My life seems to be full of Italians right now, and as if to prove the point, here's Ofelia Dorme back for more. Ofelia whosit??? I first met this Italian band when I reviewed their Sometimes Its Better To Wait EP (July 2009) and absolutely loved it to bits, in fact it got a Must Have rating and it became of one my Tracks Of The Year 2009, and I don't give those away freely. As much as I liked the musical side of the band, the real clincher for me was their female singer, Francesa Bono (Ed: oh there's a surprise...NOT). As you know, I have a thing about female singers and Francesa has exactly the kind of voice that melts my hard heart. She popped into my inbox this month with an eleven track album from Ofelia Dorme (she also sings with Let Her Dive which is why I make the distinction) and lo, one happy bunny reviewer.

Ofelia Dorme are Francesca Bono, Gianluca Modica, Tato Izzia and Michele Postpischl who hail from Bologna, Italy and the reason why I raved about their first EP is exactly the same reason I find All Harm Ends Here so listenable. Ofelia Dorme delight in being different, I find them absolutely impossible to categorise because their music is a blend of almost everything from post punk to out and out experimental and if you think I'm joking listen to Paranoid Park and Ian in that order and tell me I'm wrong. One of my all time favourite female vocalists (this may come as a surprise) is Siouxsie Sue and Ian (the track) reeks of her influence. Whether that is intentional or not, I have no idea but what I do know is that I LOVE this track; all five minutes and change of it. By time Grow! starts sprouting on you, I have no doubt you will be as hooked on this band as I am. There is a musical freshness and vitality about their music that I just don't hear in any of the current crop of UK bands, and this is something I have commented on before.

Musically this is some of the richest music I've heard this year, this band pack more into each minute than most bands do in a whole track and inventive as all get-out into the bargain. OK, the proviso is that you would have to like music that is challenging (ie not verse, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus etc), and that takes chances with ensuring that the listener is pushed to respond. Here is an album where each and every track is like a piece of clockwork, intricate, detailed and as wide as an ocean. Hearing this, it really ticks me off that I never caught the band live the last times they have played in London, but after living with this album I am not going to make that mistake again. If I thought that the Better To Wait EP was the dogs danglies, this is some awesome power way above that. Hand on heart, there isn't a track on this album that doesn't deserve absolutely to be there and its an indication of the strength of the band at how tight and professional it all sounds. Unsigned music doesn't get much better than this and that's for sure. Don't, however, take my word for it, I strongly urge you to check this band out if great music rouses your soul...

MUST HAVE (nothing else like it) awesomeness.

Reflexion X - 6th Instinct (Feat Dave 909)

Hear The Track Here

Out of the seven or so Reflexion X tracks I have heard (and there are some Must Haves in there), it's usually the music, songwriting and style that have won me over because, being honest, Heikki Roots doesn't have a standout voice. What does mark him out, however, is that he is aware of it and makes the kind of tracks that suit his particular style - with one exception. All of us, no matter what, sing with an accent and obviously it is wrong to point out (Ed: time after time) but it IS part of the whole package isn't it? Especially when the vocalist's mother tongue is not English. As I've said before, I would prefer it if they sang in their own language, and they would certainly feel more comfortable about it. Reflexion X (with the help of Dave 909 of course) proves that point beautifully with 6th Instinct.

God knows what language this is, and no doubt Reflexion X will clear this up for us, but I do know it makes the music that much stronger and God knows it was strong enough already. 6th Instinct is funky, it's hip hop and rap and a million others besides and a glowing example of what this musician does best. Catchy songs, great arrangements and an almost faultless production, considering the guy is doing it all himself (except where others like Dave 909 pitch in and lend a hand.

So, Dave 909? Who he? Again, I have no idea but no doubt all will be made clear shortly but I do understand he is called David Nyberg and that's yer lot. Doesn't matter a light when put against such an energetic and entertaining piece of music, even if you don't understand a word that is being said. As far as electronica goes, Reflexion X has an unerring touch, getting it right every time. For sure if you are fan of early electronic pop then 6th Instinct will float your pleasure boats. It also shows me yet again that Reflexion X keeps on coming up with the goods, whatever his own limitations are.

Highly Recommended electronica hip hop and MUST HAVE for fans.

Rustik - Mind Right Music

Hear The Track Here

For a while there, I admit, I found it hard to say anything good about hip hop, especially the more commercial varieties but even the unsigned world had its problems. I've been reviewing solidly on Soundclick - month after month - for many years but haven't had much occasion to jump up and down about the hip hop tracks I heard. Then, a couple of years ago, I started to hear a different breed of unsigned hip hop and lo and f****** behold, this one I could really get behind.

See, I'm waay too old to be obsessing about riches and bitches so why would tracks that do exactly that interest me? Or you for that matter. Personally I like my hip hop old school, at least lyrically. Songs and raps with meaning, intelligence and yay a marked disdain for the commercial side of this genre. Rustik has played a large part in that transformation, getting serious mention in my 2010 roundup and, believe me, I choose all of those with great care. Fact is Rustik has confidence, style and a knack for getting the right backing track. 'I guess I get to find out what you think of some of my older stuff' he said in the review request so I guess this pre-dates the tracks that have singled him out (for me anyway).

That much is noticeable because Mind Right Music has a much more mainstream feel than (say) Monster, even though Monster has the potential to be a huge hit. Mainstream as in musical style is what I mean although that doesn't stop it in any way being good, you'd just have to like the style. Although it doesn't carry a Parental Advisory be aware that there is copious swearing on the track, but it definitely goes with the shambolic, wtf-is-going-on-here feel of the track and mean that in the nicest way. I personally get off on music that is so laid back its almost falling over and Mind Right Music does that with some style. If this is an older track, it just shows that Rustik has always been an on-the-money rapper.

Recommended jazzy Hip Hop.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Whitman Speck - King Of The Sickos

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The last time I reviewed London horrorcore rapper Whitman Speck, as well as the usual frisson of fear and loathing brought on by the sordid tales of life in gritty, urban, downtown Palmers Green, I was also treated to a further immersion in the subject of blood, guts and mayhem by a kind reader who gave me an excellent rundown on the differences between serial killers and mass murderers. Gosh, what an exciting life huh? I was trying to explain where the bandname came from, suffice to say it involved killers (whatever their motive). Whitman Speck's whole dog and pony show revolves around scenes of violence (to all and sundry though, so at least he's democratic), vivid and unrelenting rap images that burn their way into your brain ensuring you will wake up screaming most nights of the week. Luckily, I already did that so I guess you could say I was immune.

The only bright spot for you guys in this gorefest is that, when all is said and done about his material, Whitman Speck happens to be a very, very sharp and intelligent rapper, playing to his strengths musically and vocally and yeah, it always works. Not for the kiddies or grannies or pussies for sure, but if you have a strong musical constitution and a liking for hard hip hop then this guy is always worth a listen. What marks him out is an unerring knack in picking up righteous beats, all sharp angles and knowing grins and no-one, I mean NO-ONE works harder for those cute little Parental Advisory stickers. When the man is defending his territory, he is truly terrifying so whatever you do, don't just take my word for it grab a listen to any of this tracks.

King Of The Sickos is undoubtedly a nod in his own direction and probably as autobiographical as you want to get, as sexually explicit and non-PC as some of his finer works, with a beat that slams into your body like a fistful of jackhammers. I love it when the beats and the rap match perfectly and Whitman Speck achieves that time after time (at least he does to my ears) and is, IMHO, one of the best of his kind on Soundclick, London or anywhere else. Certainly I've never heard anyone like him lyrically, and when that music is slamming the man can't be beat. King Of The Sickos is (I suspect) going to end up as his theme song and - as such - it's going to have to be a bit special. This is, and then a bit more. However, if you are easily (or even hard to offend) you may well want to swerve out of the way of this bad boy.

MUST HAVE murderously wicked rap.

Ron Vogel - Speed Of Light

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If you had told me a few years ago that I would like a musician who cited both Styx AND Boston as influences, I would have treated you to my patented Death Stare, melting your head clean off your shoulders. Hah, try and hear Styx with no ears!! My hatred of such bands is my own personal baggage and nothing we want to saddle Ron Vogel with. Ron Vogel is the one with the baleful influences and yes, I do like his music which, by the by, is nothing like either of those bands I no longer care to mention. There again, this from a reviewer who thought Blazing (November 2009) sounded a bit like Hawkwind, those pioneers of space rock with was a very, very close relation to prog-rock but grubbier. However tracks like Human (June 2010) and the excellent Our Way Home (October 2010) show that there is much more to this musician than an ego.

Along with being a pretty sharp songwriter, Ron is a very adept musician, turning his hand to a great many styles although it's obvious he's most at home with rock, and there are no prizes for guessing what Speed of Light is - and it ain't space rock. Folk rock (think American West Coast) got a bad rep for a long time and I think that is partly the reason why Americana raised it's head and thank God for that. What Speed Of Light is, more than anything else, is a terrific piece of Americana in every respect, vocally, musically and instrumentally. There again, that is a fairly common thing with this musician, I think almost all his tracks have scored no less that highly recommended, with Our Way Home being the sole Must Have (so far).

This, after all, is a musician who is not afraid to feature harmonica in his tracks, and that will always appeal to me. In my view, Ron seems to be maturing and growing in confidence with each track I hear, vocally in particular. His last track, The Forest (December 2010) was a close vocal harmony piece that was beautiful to hear, as indeed is Speed Of Light although in a very different manner. If you can imagine a cross between classic rock and pure American country music, then you'd be getting close to the musical treat that is contained in this track. Again, for a home musician, Ron's ability to get a clear, clean sound marks him out from the norm. Ron Vogel had a pretty good year last year in terms of musical gems and it looks like he's going to do the same this year too if Speed of Light is any indication.

Highly Recommended Americana.

Joe McGrady - The Road To Nowhere EP

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Despite my views on sites like Myspace, there is no doubt that it is a good tool for a serious musician to invest in. Where else, for example, could you count Eric Clapton, Fallout Boy and Coldplay (among others) as friends? Well, kinda/sorta friends anyway. So Gilmore, ya nosy bastard, I hear you mutter, friends of who? Joe McGrady is who, an acoustic guitarist and songwriter, from Ireland who was kind enough to send me his latest EP. Now, it's great having friends like that, but ultimately - of course - the likelihood of those people actually hearing your tracks has to be slim but hey every little counts innit? Actually, his work is not all acoustic, there's some rock in there too but this is an EP that really requires a lot of playing to tease out all the little touches Joe McGrady brings to this party. Having grown up knowing a great many Irish musicians of all stripes, I have tremendous respect for their talent, drive and passion and am probably heavily biased because of that, but do I look like I care? (Ed: no, you look as stupid as usual).

The Road To Nowhere is a five track EP which stretches over some interesting musical territory and, to my surprise, it is surprisingly low key. Mind you, considering the lyrical content (lurve and romance) that should be no surprise. After some considerable exposure to the tracks, it is blindingly obvious that this is home produced, but pretty good for all that. I think only pinheads, audio geeks and nitpickers like me would notice anyway. Joe has, as I said, a laid back, folksy vocal delivery that sustains the pop sensibility of the music, although I dare say his style might be something you'd learn to love. For my part, I think its a great thing to hear a singer who manages to actually make the lyrics intelligible, saving the listener much less 'eh?' time. It actually makes the tracks come across better too, isn't that a thing to savour. Tell you what, if you like the softer side of music Don't Think Of Me is the one you are going to have to sidle up to, as cool as you like.

Where Don't Think Of Me is pretty much a piano ballad, Love Sick shows off some pop rock roots. While the treatment is OK, there is a plodding quality to the track and I'm not sure where that is coming from, the track or the vocal. I wouldn't think it would make any difference to ordinary mortals but to us review gods (Ed: did you take your meds today?) it is noticeable. Doesn't stop it being a good song either. For my money, the real highlight of the EP is track three, To Be Loved. Finger-picked guitar, effective use of strings/keys, and the most confident vocal performance of the whole EP really make it stand out for me, and I really, really don't like usually like this kind of song. It think it's simple, spare delivery is wot saved it, guv. It's Time To Leave was pretty much my second choice because of it's quality as a song, and again the simple delivery, although not without it's flaws. All in all, The Road To Nowhere is very decent considering its genesis and Joe should be feeling some pride at least. Moreover, this is definitely going to help him pull women... (Ed: oh, tasteful Gilmore, tasteful)

Recommended Acoustic Pop from Ireland.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Modern Dogs - R

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It would appear that Modern Dogs, like old ones or even rockers when it comes to that, cannot be taught new tricks. So it's probably a good job that the Modern Dogs trick is a bloody good one. However, I get ahead of myself. Speaking of John Paul Carroll (Ed: we were?) otherwise known as JPC (NZ), from one side he can also be seen to have a good trick. Put them together and you have two good tricks, and that explains the reasoning behind the change of name. 'A testpage for unmastered mixes and demos' is what the webpage promises and that's exactly what you'll find. Anyone with even a passing interest in the doings of JPC (NZ) - who btw delivered an Track Of The Year 2010 with the Tin Man Friends EP (September 2010), a great introduction into this very idiosyncratic rock musician - would be blown away by what he delivers. You may not agree with his style but by God, you can't deny the power of the music.

R could stand for Run! which could well be the underlying theme of this dark, dense little song. His songwriting has always been, in my opinion, one of his strengths and R doesn't let the side down in any way, especially if you are aware of the man's history and long involvement in Soundclick and its community. He first came to my attention as Fluidity, with a track called This Time (January 2006), which was a somewhat restrained introduction to someone who would turn in some of the most consistently good - and original - rock music over the next few years. I mention this because R has many of the hallmarks that Fluidity held, a return to the roots perhaps?

Certainly it has a lot of the same dark, dense atmosphere, the almost physical weight of the music grinding your ears to a fine powder, no doubt to be inhaled by some passing, and totally innocent, bystander. So best not to hear this is public eh? Naaah, go right ahead, although you may get a few heat-seeking stares for your trouble. The more I hear the track, the more I hear those echoes of a younger, less disciplined, musician which puts into stark relief the huge strides he has made in terms of structure, arrangement and technical ability - even on a so called demo. I like the rawness and bleakness of R and it's echoes of John Paul's past because it's like he's all growed up, kinda makes me puddle up. It isn't all plain sailing, of course, JP has reverted to type and generally mumbles the lyrics but hey, that's part of his style. The whole picture is what counts. Damn I'd like to see this with real production bones on it. Damn thing would level cities.

Heavy? **** yeah!! Highly Recommended rock.

Pilesar - Wife Stink

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The enormous, crushing weight that is my life was enlivened lately with yet another visit from my postman. It may seem to you like me and my postman have become quite close, he certainly thinks so. The reason is you guys, or to be more accurate in this case, Pilesar, Mad Scientist of Soundclick and other spheres. Wrapped in an anonymous bundle was a CD with great artwork, radio friendly and featuring some of Pilesar's finer musical moments such as Gator Wrasslin', No Good For Eyeballs and much more. The arrival of Radio Friendly in this beautifully put together real-world CD is perhaps an important moment for this Maryland based musician and oddball. In terms of professional delivery and quality merchandise, the CD can't be beat although the music will obviously have to speak for itself.

Not sure where you can get a copy from but no doubt the big P will be along to tell you.

Wife Stink, however, is not on that CD but is the track Pilesar put up for review this month so - pegs on noses - we continue. Pilesar has always been one of the most innovative musicians I have personally known, and one of the hardest to pin down but he's not as smart as he thinks he is. I have discerned a slightly different picture. See, I always knew that underneath all the seeming mayhem beat the heart of a true musician but never, in all the warped, twisted universes he has taken me to would I have thought that we would end up here. See, when it comes down to it, Wife Stink - despite the title - is as simple a pop song as someone like Pilesar is ever likely to make. This, remember, is the man whose music has been known to madden stone to a pitch of frenzy.

Obviously I have a very soft spot for Piley (it rhymes with Kylie damnit) but like all experimental musicians - even one as talented as this - have their detractors. Each to their own and more fool them because IMHO Pilesar is one of the fresher talents inhabiting a much reduced Soundclick veteran community, so even the most hard hearted would grant him his pop moment right? OK so the sound may be well on the rough side, and it is kinda straining the pop tag somewhat but nonetheless Wife Stink has all the ingredients of pop and (gasp) it's even a f****** song!! Who woulda thunk it?? From weird three-faced cyborg menace from another universe, intent on rearranging our brains to innocuous (well, by his standards) poptastic harmonisation, such a thing can only be Pilesar. Not pop as we know it Jim.

Great song though. Highly Recommended pop rant

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Third Best Guess - The Answering Machine (Catch You)

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Although Third Best Guess members Travis McCarthy and Daniel Farrell are not quite the youngest musicians I have reviewed, they are certainly in the listing. 16 and 17 years respectively and yet here they are with a whole album under their belts and a fine producer/manager/whatEVAH in the lordly shape of one David Pendragon. Yes, him. I also feel that the man gets everywhere these days but who can blame him? Also a fine musician in his own right, David Pendragon is in danger of being known more for his video/production work than for his musicianship, and that would be a shame. Still, this review isn't about us old farts, it's about the next generation and here David has (as they say) a track record. This is not the first young band he has given a helping hand to.

As a father of young boys, I have an endless resource of comparison (at least now we are past the Bob The Builder stage) and their musical tastes range from Justin Bieber all the way to Eminem and Tinie Tempah. When I played them this, they were quite taken that the people singing and playing this song were only a few years older than them, but outside of that it was a bit 'girly'. What they meant was that it is a love song, and they are still at the age when appreciation of such things is some way into the future, Mind you, I hope when they get there they can handle such lyrics with the same ease and delight in their achievements that Travis and Daniel have. God that would be something to see.

I often use the term vibrant but here is a track that literally pours it's life and soul into your ears with such sunny style you can't help but smile at it. If I didn't know that the band was Australian (as is Mr Pendragon), the track would certainly spell that out for me. It sounds as if it were made for a marketing campaign extolling the virtues of a life Down Under, all glowing skins, wide smiles and welcoming people, and if it were, it would suggest Australia in every note. While it's true that many of us sing with our own accents to the fore, there is something very endearing about hearing it on such an uplifting track as this. Two guitars, a couple of voices and boundless optimism will definitely get you a good way in this world, and I KNOW this track isn't aimed at me so if I like it, it's intended audience will wilt and swoon :)

Highly Recommended slab of sunshine.

Atropos Project - VII - New Leaf

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One of the real good things about growing older (and there are many more bad things, believe me) is that you get to know a lot of stuff. Since the net entered my life, my stock of useless and irrelevant trivia has reached record levels although the fact I am about to impart to you comes from further back; my classical English schooling including Latin and Greek. You can't delve into that without unearthing the whole gamut of mythology associated with these ancient languages. Atropos is Greek and the name of one of the three Fates we are told control the strings of life, our Fate is the cutter of life threads so obviously not someone to dick around with. Much more to the point, wouldn't naming a project after her automatically lead to one of Zeus's famed lightning bolts up the butt??

Enquiring minds want to know...

As you can no doubt tell, I can't out very much about this musician except they appear to be a one-man band but aren't they all these days? Alternative Metal is what this Project promises and I'm all for a bit of metal in all its various forms, although truth to tell, while it has metal overtones, it's a bit too noodly to be the type of metal that really refreshes me. What it does show, however, is that a) Atropos Project is a guitarist of some note and a class songwriter too boot,metal or no metal. While I did enjoy the metal stuff, the bulk of the track is much more musical (refined even) especially the piano interludes.

VII - New Leaf, as you can tell by its numbering system, is track seven (Latin, ya see??) of Atropos Project's current Circulus album and very nice it is too - for an instrumental. Aaahh, snag right? See, as good as it is instrumentally (and it is), only fellow musicians are REALLY going to be interested in it. Your average Joe or Joess wouldn't hang around to find out whether it was a good instrumental and therein lies my problem with this track. There is a comment about these tracks (from Circulus) that he is looking for vocal collaborators so if you've been looking for something that might stretch you as a singer, this will be it. I hate to say this but this was very nice, know what I mean? Doesn't go much beyond that though, whereas the addition of a smoky yet raucous vocal would make it happen.

Highly Recommended instrumental nonetheless.

New Nobility - Galactic

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Here's a funny thing. A few years back you couldn't move with the amount of Antipodean (ie Australia, New Zealand) musicians around but they seemed to have been supplanted (at least in my view) by Canadians - a country where, it seems, everybody and his brother is an aspiring muso. New Nobility, then, arrived in my inbox just in time and although its taken us some time to sync so that I could get the track, it finally panned out. Checking the band out I discover more than a few members and find that they make music that is 'straight-forward rock with political lyrics. They sing about fighting for global justice and peace throughout the world' according to one of their websites.

Galactic is a track from the band's current album Blue Butterfly (Revolution) and this - and the tracks on their page - will show you a terrific rock band in complete sync which - I guess - explains why they have become quite so feted worldwide but I tell you what, one listen to Rebel Hero (on their page) would show why. Awesome song, and in some ways I wish that had been the review track, for sure I've heard it as much as Galactic. (Ed: he reviewed that track too a while back) As a grizzled rock veteran from back in the day, I am super-critical about what (or what doesn't) constitute the term rock - especially if it's rock of the classic variety. On that score, New Nobility meet every criteria; great songs, clean, powerful production and inspired performance.

The only real fly in the ointment is that - if I had a preference - I would say Rebel Hero is absolutely knockout. So is Galactic, but in a different way. Certainly the band deliver all that is expected of them, as does the song itself but to my ears its nowhere near as catchy and instant as Rebel Hero. One thing is for sure, if you were in the market for a good new rock album then I definitely recommend you check out these guys. Great rock songs are like cowbells, ya know? Can never get enough of them. Now while it sounds like I am ambivalent about this track, that would be very wrong. Damn, getting a band to sound this tight is a lifetime achievement all on its own, let alone making a whole album this good.

Highly Recommended classic rock

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fear 2 Stop - Groundhog Pot Pie

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Of the two hundred odd tracks Houston's finest experimentalists Fear 2 Stop has online at Soundclick, many of them seem to feature animals of some kind; either being grossly distorted in pics, ending up at title fodder or - in this case - ending up as tonights dinner. Don't know why I should be surprised though, this bunch of musical loonies are perfectly capable of all kinds of mayhem, although they may have bitten off more than can chew with the groundhog. In the pic that accompanies this track, this is a seriously tooled up and ready to rumble rodent and obviously just as intent on not becoming tonights dinner. So, while I am constructing this hasty barricade, let's run through the track Fear 2 Stop sent me...

But keep your eye on the marmot.. (Ed: mar-wot?) OK, the rat.

Someone said to me once that they really couldn't tell one Fear 2 Stop track from another, while recognising that what you are listening to can only be Fear 2 Stop - and that, surprisingly enough, is the point. This band has always been out there in all the time I have known them and yes, they have made lots of tracks that - on the surface - don't seem that much different. There is the usual blend of analog and synthetic, the usual busy beats, the doomy bassline and the ocassional tinkle of a piano just to lighten the proceedings somewhat. I can't say that I take too much notice of the content of F2S tracks because that isn't what they are about. It's the feel mang...

Now furry muff, they would be feeling something well weird to be coming out with material like this but I assure you, they have honed and refined this sound over the years and I, for one, definitely have a taste for it. Sure enough, I do spit it out from time to time but - on the whole - Fear 2 Stop's output doesn't frighten me the way it used to back in the day. Not that Billy, Dana and Ray are resting on any laurels (as if eh?) but it is good to hear them making their sound, their way and to hell with the rest of us. Obviously, this is not for the weak-willed, Fear 2 Stop do not take any prisoners but if you like experimental electronica (with a big beat lol) then this may well do you until the next car crash comes around.

Recommended blend of analog and digital experimental.

Those Among Us - Disco Ball EP

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You can find all four tracks from the Disco Ball EP on Those Among Us's's's Soundclick page, and indeed listen to them to your hearts content. You can't, however, be as smug a git as me because I have a physical, all-that-glitters-is-not-gold, artwork and everything Real World CD, courtesy of my old friend John Brandon. Now its no good muttering 'not him again!' because - as well all know - he's becoming a very, very busy boy. So, just so you know this isn't a one man show, let me introduce you to Lino Gonzalez and Steven 'Mez' Mesropian, both of whom have brought some considerable chops to the proceedings - even in a Silvertrain track! Anyway, Those Among Us's's's (Ed: do stop doing that) first EP - A Chance To Die (August 2010) got a very warm welcome from me, partly because it was so good to hear John meshing with other musicians and partly because the other members contributions were every bit as good. That certainly showed me that - however they work - Those Among US do come across as a coherent group.

I have reviewed a couple of tracks from this EP already; the first demo version of Disco Ball (September 2010) and I Need To Know (November 2010) and although I wasn't keen on the Disco Ball track, I Need To Know fared very well. So there are two other tracks, Waiting and As The Storm Comes In but hey, let's start at the beginning - with the final version of Disco Ball. 'It's just fine but there is a roughness to both the sound and arrangement that a bit of tightening up here and there wouldn't harm' is what I said in the original and by golly that's exactly what they have done. Tightened it up until it was as sweet a rock nut as you could find. Not, however, as immediate as some of their songs and I say this after some considerable exposure to it but what it is - a class, beautifully put together rock song more than makes up for my crabbiness. I Need To Know seems to be the same track I reviewed and if John's more wistful songwriting side is what appeals to you, this is a beaut.

Tell you what, not sure who is playing the guitar in these tracks but they own the place. I Need To Know has some blistering leads and the whole EP features some of the best crunch-rock guitar sound I have heard lately. The way I think it works is that Lino does all the electronica so either John or Mez are the purveyors of some serious axework. To my ears, although this is a small, small quibble, Waiting is much more American in feel than the previous tracks but doesn't suffer any because of it and again it shows that Mez has a classic rock vocal style. I think they must have raided the acid cabinet for As The Storm Comes In which is extremely Pink Floyd-ish in feel. Psychedelic to the max, complete with natural ambient sounds and keyboard sound that sinks right into your soul. Very adventurous, and if this is where the band are going next I can only respond brrrrrrr and shudder in delight. (Ed: TMI Gilmore). It took forever for this EP to get to me (by snail) but the wait proved to be worth it.

Solid workmanship, great rock songs. Highly Recommended and MUST HAVE for fans

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cinnabar - Wishing Down The Drain

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Considering that they cite some of the prog-rock nightmares of my past as influences, Cinnabar and I have had a surprisingly uneventful relationship. In fact, to go further, it's been very fruitful and - truthfully - whod'a thunk it? If you have been reading my scribbles for more than a few minutes you will come to understand that I am a man of many prejudices (prejudici?) and one of the sorest of sore spots is anything that reeks of prog-rock in any form. The same regular readers have no doubt been bored rigid by such acidic views so lets say no more about it. The reason Cinnabar have survived such venom is because they are good - whatever one may think of the genre.

Again, like all genres, there is music that fits and music that doesn't. Thankfully, Cinnabar exhibit none of the egotism and flash of the original proggies. They've had three Must Haves from me, including Lost and Found II (November 2009) and that was a decidely prog-rock track, although with heart and soul - and that I think is the main difference, I always found most prog kind of soulless, but Cinnabar's music is warm, rich and often welcoming. The track that finally convinced me of this was the excellent Morning Finds Its Way (August 2009), a beautiful, could have been Beach Boys tune that I still listen to every once in a while when I spot it lurking. I mention this track in particular because Wishing Down The Drain reminds me quite strongly of it, and not just because its basically an acoustic track.

What Wishing Down The Days reminds me of most is early Simon and Garfunkel - and I mean that in the nicest possible way. As I said, it was the vocal work of Matt Tyson that first attracted me to Cinnabar but its the combination of that and the solid musical nous - and backing - of Gary Judge that seals the deal. Together they make complex, intricate, highly structured songs that change before your eyes with more ideas on display in seconds than most tracks manage in hours. That has always been the saving grace for Cinnabar for me, the songwriting is of as high a standard as the performance. Don't take me at my word though, I urge you to go and listen to this track (putting aside your own prejudice of course) and not be amazed at just how good it can get.

Warm, breezy, and eight songs in one! MUST HAVE (whisper) prog rock

Collective Surrender - A New Beginning

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Not, as you might imagine, as new a name as you might think. OK, well it IS a new name to me, but certainly the characters involved are known to me through Satellite 3 who have proved to be very interesting indeed over the space of this past year in an alternative indie kinda way. Anyway, A New Beginning was - apparently - written by Justin Storie and Joey Saha before the Satellite 3 guise. All of which, I guess, you didn't really want to know but hey, I got to write something... So, this is an older track (by a year or so) and very different to the style shown by Satellite 3 being first and foremost an instrumental.

Not, however, just any old instrumental but one supposedly tainted with the 'ambient' word. However, like a lot of words, it's all in the interpretation and - thankfully - this ambient style is not the hated, sickly elevator music that so often tries to pass itself off as ambient.Best not get started on that eh? I know the very last thing most of you want to hear right now is yet another instrumental, I know that is true for me. It has to be a pretty nifty one (instrumental, that is) for me to really get into it, so jaded is my feeling for electronica of most kinds these days.

Surprisingly enough, A New Beginning is not exactly what it is billed as, in fact it's quite effective in the choice of sounds, and their placement and structure and not in the least what I would consider ambient - unless you count electronic drones as being that. I think what makes it sound so different is that it's a neat blend of electronica and live instrumentation worked out between the pair of them. OK fair enough, you will have heard the like a time or two before but this still contains enough of interest to hold a certain amount of attention. A nice diversion from their Satellite 3 work for sure.

Recommended Electronica

Marc Blackwell - Bring Me Trouble CD

Hear The Track Here

You may remember me foaming at the mouth with excitement while reviewing Marc Blackwell's Bring Me Trouble (December 2010), and I had good reason for such high spirits. If this track is anything to go by, I said, then the album it came from is likely to be a monster. Moreover, 'Gimmie the thing before I rip your arms off trying to steal it' sounds suspiciously like a threat and I guess Marc understood it because here I am: one happy bunny. Except, of course, now I have to write about it... Oh well, a small price for a brace of class rock songs. I met him through Dean Taylor, a songwriter I met some years ago who has co-written some of the track with Marc, including that amazing title track. Put it like this, it's one of those tracks you can find no fault with whatsoever and those are as rare as hens teeth, hence it's well deserved Must Have rating. The more I hear it, the more it reminds me of The Sopranos theme tune but that was always the case and - I suspect - one of the main reasons I like it so much. Anyway, it's suitably track one of the CD, a place it deserves so if you hear nothing more, listen to this track.

I Gotta Stay establishes that Bring Me Trouble is definitely not a one-off, either technically or in instrumental or songwriting skills. It should now be obvious that this kinda/sorta Tom Waits style vocal delivery (except nothing like as gravelly) is as much a part of his style as the sharpness of the songs. As well as writing some of the tracks with Dean Taylor, Marc has pulled in some excellent musicians to help out with the chores. Bring Me Trouble, for example, features Morgen La Civita on backing vocals whereas Bad Horizon (track three) features her again as well as an excellent flamenco guitar arrangement courtesy of Daniel Fries. Bad Horizon is also the first indication of how far Marc can stretch this style and as much as I enjoyed the first two tracks this is the track I started to get a certain twinge about. Awesome stuff. I Got Friends goes back to classic rock and features some nifty guitar work from the man himself, albeit tasteful and restrained. If you can imagine a cross between Dire Straits and JJ Cale, this would be it. Again, the level of musical proficiency on display here is absolutely top quality, whatever else you might feel about the genre. As it happens, there is a huge market for classic rock so I can see this track doing well. There is even more of a Dire Straits feel on Her Rusty Razor and Chasing Shooting Stars, although that's a lazy reference for sure.

I Know It's Complicated is a terrific pop song in disguise, helped enormously with some telling backing vocals from Amy Caldwell. For my money, this is my favourite track of the whole album and God knows that's an impossible task with music this good but I Know Its Complicated presses all my buttons and would definitely be another Must Have from this CD so that's two.... Amy also appears on Barefoot Girl, an almost ska-like track that is undeniably pop in style if not in structure. Funnily enough though, this one grows like a weed on you so be careful. There are ten tracks on this CD and I can only say I would recommend listening to just about any of them and now I understand why most of them have been snapped up for soundtracks, but they stand up by themselves as slices of quality classic rock, performed to a very high standard. As always, though, it's the combination of recording/technical ability allied to the performing and song writing skills that really mark out something as really worthy and Marc Blackwell and friends more than deliver on the initial promise Bring Me Trouble (the track) provided me with. It isn't often I can actually recommend every track on a project but I have no hesitation with this one.

MUST HAVE class classic rock.