Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Usual Pleasures - Kevlar Hearts

Hear The Track Here

If you are having an attack of the deja-vu's panic not. Yes we have seen this band and this track before. I first reviewed a remix of the track Kevlar Hearts (January 2010), and quite liked its punky, raw approach, although it wasn't without its flaws. There again, it's punk innit. Rough and ready is the name of the game. You may remember I also reviewed the bands All In The Eyes (March 2010), yet another example of just how true they are to the ethos of punk. Both tracks showed that if true punk floats your boats, then let Sheffield's finest do it to you in fine style.

In the intervening year or so, they have had a lineup change and at the time of writing now consist of: Mark Fletcher (vocals), Chris Jones (lead guitar), Ryan Donohoe (rhythm guitar), Rob Neutron (bass neutrino) and Sam Taylor bashing the skins (Ed: yeah, drummers I think they are called). Not only have they made the definitive (their words) version of this track, they have made a video for it too. I have to say that watching the video (directed by Elizabeth Holly Hurt) really helped me to feel the power and drive that it contains, and it was the first time I was aware that the track had backing vocals...(!). Remember the rough and ready thing?

There isn't much difference between the sound quality in the video and on the MP3, so it doesn't really matter which one you latch on to. I personally prefer the video because, as I say, it puts the song across so much better when you see the band performing it. There again, although I do like punk, it isn't a genre I dip into that often but The Usual Pleasures have proved themselves to be - in the few tracks I have heard - a known quantity. Good, solid punk rock with a pretty decent song attached. This version of Kevlar Hearts is set to be the bands debut single and I'd say it shows what they do - love it or hate it. Me, this is as good as I've heard from them, if not better. Just wish I could hear the backing vocal...

High Energy punk rock. Highly Recommended.

Love, But Louder - Nothing

Hear The Track Here

Just when I thought I had got through the month without a dose of the Billingtons, along it comes - but in a slightly different guise. I speak, of course, of one Howard Billington, Soundclick stalwart, songwriter, musician and all round funny fellow. He is, as we know, a man of many guises and Love, But Louder is yet another side project, this time with a more electronica slant than the usual rock-pop we have become used to from this source. A distinct change from my obsession with the Smoke It 'n' Die (yet another side yadda yadda) Take Your Shot video which I seem to have become inordinately fond of and is well on its way to being a track of the year and its only April...

So, whats new, nu?

Howard Billington is my kind of songwriter, subtle yet easy to access, his songs always carry a punch that grabs the listeners attention. Although the electronic sound and feel of Nothing is kind of odd to my ears, the fact that we are dealing with a Howard Billington song in that same sound and feel is extremely familiar. In short, if you like his other output (whatever the name he is using), then you are going to love this too. Shows too that Howard can turn his hand to a lot of genres with ease, yet still maintain his own sound and style. As I say, my kind of musician.

You'd need to go back to the late 1980's to find the inspiration for this track, an electro-pop classic that never was. The write up on the band intimated that this was a collaboration of some kind, with Howard playing a part, but I have become so used to his style that I wouldn't put it past him to be doing the old one man band trick. Whatever, it does sound as good as it gets with an energetic performance from Howard, and shows once again what a class pop songwriter he is.

MUST HAVE Billington Electro-pop

Mike B is for Byj - Crybaby

Hear The Track Here

Its no good looking at me for explanations, I have no idea what this bandname means but maybe you will get an explanation from the musician himself - stranger things have happened. Mike B is for Byj is a completely new name to me from Soundclick who appears to be a Canadian one man band (Ed: ooh, there's a novelty). Best, I think, that you don't make the same mistake as I did by (inadvertently obviously) reading part of the lyric beforehand. Imagine, if you will, that sinking pit of fear that seized me when seeing the lines 'my feelings are hurt, I desire everyone to see' and 'You make me a crybaby' that come as standard with this song. How does that make you feel? I know how it made me feel and I can sum it up real quickly...

Aaaahhh, boo - ******* - hoo.

Too much introspection (that's navel gazing in the real world) is not good for a growing boy and certainly not for the master of assumption because - as you can imagine - by the time I actually got to listen to this track I had built up a fair head of prejudicial steam. The sheer quality of the song and the track soon quelled those fears though, and all told I found this a very commendable track - in a navel-gazing kind of way. I have empathy for such feelings, I just seem to have misplaced it in my old age, and I have a low tolerance for people telling me how crap their lives are while surrounded on all sides by the beauties of life.

Crybaby is essentially a fairly standard acoustic, soft pop rock song that has been made popular by band such as Coldplay, Snow Patrol and their ilk. On that level, it is good enough to do very well indeed. It's a terrific song, and the performance and production show that although his name might be new to me, he has been making music for some considerable time and devotes time and effort to get it right. Besides anyone who uses an accordion (real or virtual) in a track AND sports a pic of Johnny Depp when he was young and pretty can't be wronged. You will need to like the softer side of rock, and the requisite navel-gazing ability, to really appreciate this fully but anyone who appreciates modern songwriters will find something to like in this track.

Highly Recommended soft rock song.

Farrell Jackson - Lucky Day

Hear The Track Here

I am a man of many biases. (Ed: sounds nasty, go see the Doc) The mountains of prejudice I have been known to build up towards certain musical spheres is in marked contrast to my welcome for work of a more rock nature. I am, by instinct and training, a rock animal through and through and if there is anywhere that is more liable to intense scrutiny, I would be hard pressed to say. See, I grew up as this template was being made and cut my musical teeth on the genre (albeit in a extremely Gilmore-like way), so if you are not going to spend the time getting it right, it's not going to get through to me. Mixposure has been a particularly rich website for these kinds of musicians and Farrell Jackson stands tall on that site and rightly so.

As good as Farrell is in his solo work, his collaborations are nothing less than excellent and IMO is where I heard some of his best work. On Lucky Day he is joined by one of my favourite rock guitarists Joseph Rodriguez, whose lead playing is extraordinarily good in that time honoured burn-the-house-down rock style so beloved of old rock farts like me. Joseph supplied the music and Farrell supplied the vocals, lyrics, harmonica (yeah!) and melodies and a wonderful rock experience it is too. See the other thing about good tracks, for me anyway, is that they have to actually have a strong song attached to all that macho bullshit...errr...sorry...meant to say artistic posturing.

Songwriting, as it happens, is one of Farrell's strengths, and Lucky Day is a peach, full of rich harmonies, redemptive lyrics and a performance so powerful the wind blows your hair gently as the track roars through the speakers. A lot of that power comes, also, through the auspices of Joseph Rodriguez who is one of the most incendiary players I have ever heard. The man can rock in a way that is both retro and refreshingly modern and when you chain all these things together with a tight production, you come up with a track that doesn't just say it's a rock track. It pounds you in the face to let you know it has come to town. Even despite my overwhelming bias here, this is still a masterful track.

MUST HAVE red-hot rock.

JCH (UK) - Nightmares

Hear The Track Here

James Crosbie Hancox (or JCH innit) isn't just from the UK, he's from one of the most musical cities in these beleaguered islands, Liverpool. Not that geographic locale is going to save anybody from the Wrath of Gilmore but to people of a certain age to say you are a musician from Liverpool is going to carry a certain resonance. Moreover, I am glad to say, I've always found that James (and his JCH alter ego) are carrying on that fine tradition. Having got a few tracks and one complete album down my critical gullet, this is one musician who is not going to disappoint, even grabbing a Track Of The Year 2010 with the quite unique Painting By Numbers project.

So, having said all those nice things about him, how does he repay me?

Gives me a track that is effectively a ballad is what. You would not think, looking at this cool and calm exterior (Ed: riiiight), that I can get aereated about anything but ballads have never been, nor will ever be one of my strong points. I 'ates 'em I tell you. So, has the lucky Liverpudlian managed to fall in the dirt like the rest of his peers with this appalling blunder? Fat ******* chance, know what I mean? You wouldn't know if you haven't heard this musicians songs, but even his ballads are going to offer more than most peoples, and as an arranger/songwriter James is up there with the best of them.

Therefore it would be dishonest of me to say that I actually liked Nightmares even though it wasn't in any way 'I want my mommy' scary, as nightmares are prone to be. OK, sure it's a ballad and that's nightmare enough for me but if I had to listen to one, this would certainly fit the bill. It has a extremely slight country and western feel that I think helps it to creep into your mind, it's very familiarity like a warm blanket on a cold night. As always, James delivers technically and artistically although, again if I'm really honest, the vocal didn't really do it for me but not because of anything James was doing - just a style thing. Still that's small change and a personal opinion (on the whole ballad thing). Anyone who does happens to be crazy enough to like a good, well performed Alternative ballad, start forming a queue right here.

Highly Recommended Alternative ballad.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Charlie A - Toy Run Video

Hear The Track Here

It's a good job that Charlie A is a mate, otherwise I doubt that I would really be reviewing a video. I know I have included them in reviews before ranging from the sultry Inessa Lee to Kappa Danielson, and many others but I generally avoid them because I am a music reviewer after all. Videos can only illustrate the track, without the track there is nothing. As someone who loves the English language, I am extremely particular about the words I use, and the way I use them. Whenever I refer to someone I am reviewing I usually say artist because I think that word covers what we do quite nicely.

I wouldn't, however, call most artists composers because there are very few who I feel actually compose music in the time honoured fashion. Charlie A does though and that is why I refer to him as a composer (as in film/tv/short soundtracks) with no hesitation and his soundtrack work proves it out. Which is why I spent ages watching Toy Run, nothing to do with the fact that as soon as I put it on my kids become consumed by it. To the point where I can't enter the room without it being on a computer somewhere. There again, I guess that is where this short animated movie is aimed and - on that level - this is very good indeed.

Charlie Amour (for it is he) has proved time and time again that he has a musical touch just right for film/video, not to mention the endless raves of his stand alone music tracks, Mind you, as the The Aswang Phenomenon soundtrack proves, composing scores is where this guys main strengths lie. For me good soundtracks amplify and enhance what is going on in the scene, not as a musical background (which is the general usage these days) and Charlie's score for this short is a great example of what the genre can really do. So the burning question for me was did Charlie write all of this, including the concluding music? If so, that's an incredible bit of music there young Chas...

Highly Recommended cruelty to clay...

Wwolves - It's Morning/Something's Got To Give

Hear The Track Here

Not, as you might suspect, a musician with a stammer, Wwolves is a band (it says here) from Derby in the UK whose request for a review has finally worked its way to the top of the Everest of reviews in my inbox. Completely new name to me but they are an Alternative (Ed: who isn't?) band who started off as a solo project and grew from there. Something's Got To Give and It's Morning is their debut release which Paul Whittington (main mover) was kind enough to send me. I don't know about you guys but personally I find pretty much all labels meaningless and the Alternative one worst of the lot. For instance, it's genesis is because Americans (being right lazy bastards phonetically) couldn't get their head around the term 'punk' so pretty much labeled everything that was a bit different Alternative, which totally defeats the purpose to my sense of reason.

No dear, that's mind reason not Reason reason (Ed: wtf??)

Truth is, these tracks have a lot more to do with folk and country than anything spotty and confused, which is the image Alternative usually springs up for me. What sets them apart, however, is the way the various musicians (Lee Horsley (piano/organ), Jade Brightwell (violin), Jim Widdup (pedal steel) and Frazer Knight (drums) among others) step up to the mark and the flawless way all of this was recorded. Wwolves are signed to a label, Intention Industries, but I suspect that there isn't a lot of money in it therefore - surprise, surprise - these musicians did these because they wanted to, and made a brilliant job of it into the bargain. Seriously, the best kind of music, one where the prime object IS the music...

The problem is that then you are faced with the choice of which track is better, although from the first plays my preference leaned hugely towards Something's Got To Give. Having said that, both tracks are more than worth a drive-by listen especially if the lineup I mentioned above appeals to you. My hat is off to Jim Widdup on the pedal steel, an instrument I have a special taste for, especially when played with a touch of subtlety. Kinda unfair to single him out though because every participant contributes their all, as the music undoubtedly shows. You can always tell when love and devotion has been lavished on the music, it gives it warmth and - God forbid - heart and soul, and these two tracks have an abundance of all three qualities. For sure, you won't hear much that is more professional than this. As good as it gets.

Highly Recommended folk/country tinged Alternative.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Alchemystic - You Pay (Argle Remix)

Hear The Track Here

Alchemystic has long been a favourite electronic musician of mine, ever since I first met him with Sands Of Time (May 2005), a track that established early on that here was a musician who knew how to keep your interest, no matter how jaded your palate. Since then he's managed to keep up a steady stream of excellent tracks , gaining himself shedloads of fans and a string of Must Have's from yours truly. However, on this track we get two terrific musicians for the price of one because You Pay is a Alchemystic remix of an original track by another of my favourite Soundclick artists - Rude Corps. Although there is usually clear water between their different styles, this remix sounds surprisingly cohesive - a nice combination of Alchemystic muscle grafted onto an already wonderful original.

Therein, as the saying goes, lies the rub.

See, when I say I like these musicians, you should take it seriously and both - in their own ways - are a bit special. Having said that, you might say that there isn't much that is different about the two versions, and that would carry some weight. The fact is that I absolutely love Rude Corps gobbing off in revolutionary style, and the original You Pay is a classic example of this particular side of his musical character, Essentially a history lesson and a political polemic all rolled into one, the original You Pay became one of my favourite Rude Corps tracks and I admit I was surprised to hear about this remix. I do urge you to listen to the original, if not for the content then for the slumbering, lumbering rhythm which is a delight to the ears.

Alchemystic toughens the whole thing up, gives it a hard-edged drum and bass feel but - thank God - didn't really interfere with the essential core of the song which is exactly as it should be. With a tune like this, you'd be hard pressed to come up with something that was as different, or powerful as the original. What Alchemystic has done is to beef up the musical heat enough so that it competes with the fire in the lyric, and that's not a bad thing. The real truth is that I am in thrall to the original and as much as I enjoyed this version of it, it will still be the original I go back to. Anyway...

MUST HAVE electronica on both counts.

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Dead World

Hear The Track Here

Although we stumbled a couple of times, the last Weylin's Slayer Orchestra track definitely helped in my opinion of this musician who - I freely admit - didn't really get at the beginning. Shoot though, most of this stuff isn't aimed at old farts like me so I suspect my opinion in nothing to really worry about. Now the question is can he do it again with Dead World - a suitably apt, dark subject. Thinking about it, I guess my problem with Weylin's Slayer Orchestra has been in the labelling. Now I know it's not fair to judge someone by a label but that is what they are there for, after all. To help us decide whether we want to listen or not. Take Dead World, for example. It's billed as Power Metal and granted it's got some poke when needed, but to me this is nothing like the description.

It's power complement comes from the rock guitar that is the mainstay of the track and, despite some noodling, is pretty good as a pure instrumental although there were marked flaws that definitely didn't endear the track to me. Chief among those has to be the drum track which worked in most sections but fell apart completely as soon as a fill happened or - worse - a kick drum that triggered on every-single-beat. While it might have helped in certain tracks, IMHO it definitely didn't in this one. I suspect it is some kind of machine drum thing though, so that is forgivable, we all deal with our recording limitations.

So, in this world of twenty four trillion instrumentals, what does Dead World have to offer? Welp, the drums notwithstanding, the musical content is well decent showing that underneath all this is a good guitarist, at least on this level. That is something I got from his other tracks though, and for me this track didn't do much, or at least didn't impress me as much as Endless Night (March 2011) did. As I said back at the beginning, this isn't aimed at someone like me, and for fans of a certain rock kind this will go down well. Extremely abrupt ending though, also something that signifies home production.

Recommended for the music at least. Drums? Meeehhhhh

Sunday, April 24, 2011

PreOKL - Combak

Hear The Track Here

Hang around any place for any length of time and you are going to start to notice the comings and goings. I've been part of the Soundclick landscape for so long now, I have got used to history repeating itself. For those regulars who are right now puzzling about where they have seen this name before, the clue is in the OKL part. When I first met the Christian rock duo known as One Kid's Lunch, I couldn't have been more surprised. First they were songwriters of considerable talent, they had a wicked (and I mean that in the nicest way) sense of humour, all of which they poured into the music they made. My first review - There's More (May 2006) - couldn't have said it plainer and for a couple of years there I was a very happy bunny.

And this is Christian rock we are talking about....

Anyway, OKL Dave pops up this month completely out of the blue and requests a review for this track. So, if going back in time to those heady days is not enough, this is from even further back. It isn't the first time I've reviewed this earlier material either. I reviewed Something Green (Insurance Policy) (January 2007) and liked it for it's style although the One Kid's Lunch material cast a long shadow at that point. Seeing as this is the first time I've seen him since forever, and the last One Kid's Lunch track was back in 2008, I was well pumped up for this one -as old as it might be.

The one thing Dustin Runyan and Dave Stewart (aka pre and post OKL) could always be relied on to supply in vast amounts is good old fashioned fun. Haven't heard a track from these guys that didn't bring a big smile to my face, and this is no exception. Even in their OKL guise these guys are very, very sharp wordsmiths, turning out lyrical and musical gags like some crazed standup comedian. It's the lyrics, however, that are always the ultimate prize for me. When was the last time you heard an out-and-out pop song (this one) with a line that went 'Remember when you caught me trying on your underwear one Saturday?' or, 'Remember how you'd look at me the mornings after I had wet the bed?' Do yourself a favour, have a good old belly laugh with this odd little track.

Combak? Please. Highly Recommended F-U-N.

Refrag - Nothing To See Here

Hear The Track Here

Discussing my reviews with friends I am often asked what is the strangest Soundclick music I have ever reviewed and you may instantly be thinking of the likes of Pilesar, Guanoman, drt or many others... However, my own pick goes way, way back and is one of the first musicians I reviewed when I first started reviewing on there (2002 or thereabouts). So let me tell you the tale of one Desmond Murphy, the son of Irish parents growing up in a West Indian area who soaked up both musical cultures while doing so. He moved to New Zealand, got married, had children and got a computer and lo, Refrag was born. 'I like music that does not sound like anything you heard before' he says, and I can only second that.

There are precious few musicians out there in this massive scene of ours who can truly be called different, and that has been the sole, defining quality of Refrag's entire output. Music that you most definitely will not have heard before. Back in 2003-4, both Refrag and the much missed Burp, were the bright eyed experimentalists in my book, with Refrag just slightly ahead on the out-there stakes, although both have them had an intense love affair with rhythms and their uses. Over the years, Refrag has polished this style until it sounds - to me anyway - an entirely natural thing. OK, I admit that to others it might sound like a herd of squalling cats but hey, they know not Refrag and brain-re-arrangement.

Having said that Nothing To See Here is a classic slice of what Refrag is all about. So if you find yourself liking this, as you well might if you like a bit of a challenge, don't stop at this one. There are over eighty songs on his Soundclick page and you'd be hard pressed to find a duff one. There is no doubt that Soundclick veterans have to learn their craft well, it's a tough audience and Refrag has had many years to perfect this style, and - should we have any lingering doubts - Nothing To See Here does it with class and style. Refrag comments that it's 'more like two tracks' but I think he's being conservative on that count... Damn, I love this...

Inspirational. MUST HAVE musical mayhem.

Sovroncourt - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

In amongst Cameron Sharp's Sovroncourt Bandcamp page is the following tag 'cameron sharp croak folk freak' which is not a nice way of saying here is someone who plays folk music. Despite all the fuss, I find nothing much wrong with folk music, although of course it's usually of the lo-fi kind but - like most music - when done properly it can be a very satisfying musical experience. This review request comes through the blog so obviously Cameron Sharp (and Sovroncourt) are new names to me although I have gathered that he is American and is looking to play more live gigs. Funny that, almost everyone I know wants to play more live gigs...

It's a musician thing, apparently.

Cameron sent me three tracks, all from his Trunk Ship Perth album being issued by Ohio label Wild Kindness; A Crowded Room, Butch Cassidy and Requiem. Here's a quote from one of his pages: 'Sovroncourt plays a peculiar brand of folk, with a voice that might rub you the wrong way at first' and I'd say that was an accurate description. However, I have spent the last few years getting used to Thomas J Marchant and his particular brand of lo-fi and - to be honest - Sovroncourt do a very, very good likeness. Certainly if Cameron has not heard of Thomas before, then he should because they have a lot in common. A songwriting style that is wry and perceptive, and an interesting line in what constitutes 'percussion'.

Musically too, although folk is an influence, there are much more modern strains than that, notably mopy indie and shoegaze and that accounts for two of the songs on here. Although the sound, production and arrangement may sound a bit haphazard and ramshackle, like Thomas's tracks, it's best to give it time to take root and grow because when you are used to it, there is much to be said for this kind of music. Truth is, though, if I hadn't been educated by such musicians, I would probably have passed on this as being 'demo' and that would have been a shame. See, Thomas is good for something after all ;)

Recommended lo-fi indie.

Friday, April 22, 2011

This Modern Empire - Tom Roberts

Hear The Track Here

Between their appearance as The Empires a couple of years ago, and a couple of tracks under their new moniker This Modern Empire, I have come to the half dozen stage and some have been definitely worth it and others not so much. This Modern Empire are a three piece (that's trio to you) band from Australia specializing in alternative/indie of the shoegaze/mopy type and - I freely admit - I'm not always comfortable with this genre. I suspect there is only so much introspection I can take before I fling my hands into the air and pelt off into the distance at top speed (Ed: about 2mph is my best guess).

One of my main problems with them has been with the production because where that has come up to the mark, this band can be excellent. Vocally too, they have proved to be weak in spots and Tom Roberts carries on that tradition although it is - I suppose - meant to be lo-fi like this. One thing my ear has definitely become accustomed to over the years of reviewing unsigned musicians is when someone is holding back, especially vocally. This is the main flaw, in my opinion, with this track but it is still worth pursuing because there is a good song here.

It's also, as far as I can tell, a fairly personal tale so don't go looking for famous Tom Roberts's's's's's (Ed: like he did) because I suspect that this one is known personally to the writer of the song. As I said, this track is worth listening to for the song, although it was marred for me by the laying back of the vocal, I'm sure this vocal could be delivered in a more assured manner. One more small niggle (God is there no end to this?) concerns the drums which are probably live and therefore nothing much can be done about it but this has one of the lamest snare sounds I have heard in a while. Nonetheless, this IS worth checking out and I hope a remix could be in order.

Recommended melodic indie.

Rustik - Evil

Hear The Track Here

When I am not hammering down all these squiggly lines (Ed: it's called writing Gilmore...), I do live a normal life, or at least as close to normal as possible in a world like this one. Not that I know any other, mind. I believe that most of humanity is basically the same as me, except not as ****** in the head, but certainly as far as the nature of evil goes. Google's mission statement is a fact of life to billions of people around the planet without it being said, although now that they have purloined it, it debases the whole concept.

Obviously this track has put me in this frame of mind but that is something Rustik has done more than once. As much as Soundclick has many dime-a-dozen rappers, there aren't that many that are truly different, but Rustik is one of the more adventurous of the current crop. Time and again this musician has delivered class slices of modern, intelligent hip hop, flavoured with a great many musical influences and that is why he has already got some very high praise from me and other reviewers. Work like this does get noticed and passed around.

Funny thing is that this is a hip hop version of a ballad, and you know how they get my hater instincts flaring. It's the way the whole thing is put together that really saves it for me, and is a hallmark of just how innovative Rustik can be. Everything that you hear comes from him (I assume) and given that he's delivered track after track just like this, the man definitely has his chops down. Evil will go down well with the ladies though, although it doesn't cast them in a very nice light. Musically, this is one of the most interesting tracks I have heard from him and I can only look forward to more.

MUST HAVE hip hop ballad (yep!)

Pilesar - Liquid System Revealed

Hear The Track Here

If Wife Stink, Melon Balls, Dog Water and Itchy Carrots sounds to you like some dodgy nouvelle cuisine, then your life has not been blessed (or cursed depending on viewpoint), by the knowledge of the man who would be Pilesar. Personally, I suffer from too much knowledge of Pilesar which is why I shake constantly and gibber nonsense when faced with his mighty works (Ed: oh I say!!) Speaking of which, here's yet another mighty work but lo, the P Man is not alone. He's roped in some unsuspecting bystander by the name of Gary Rouzer to sing a duet with him. What? What?? Look I KNOW it sounds completely insane but let's just remember who we are dealing with here, if he says it is so, it is so...

It is written (somewhere)...

I am a die-hard fan of Pilesar and have been ever since I first met him many years ago, although I do understand many people's reticence about his more out-there work but hey he's kept me amused/bewildered/catatonic for all that time and that's a hard thing to do, especially if you are really experimental. Pilesar is a master of experimental with a degree in advanced wtf-ery, although he's also been known to turn out some equally convincing work in other genres. So if you were expecting something along the lines of two geezers harmonising together in the manner of (say) The Everly Brothers then for ****s sake think again.

Gary Rouzer is obviously as mad as a box of frogs, an exemplary partner to the chaos evoked whenever Pilesar is around, although being a mighty work it takes some work to really get into it. OK, what I really mean to say is that other side of this track driving you (and your animals) insane, is an appreciation of just how much rhythm and pace mean to this musician and when he says he uses anything to make music with, you'd better believe that too. Oh, and don't listen to this if you think you may need the bathroom because by the time it ends, you certainly will - although that could be an old man/running water problem (Ed: waaaaaay too much information)

Insidious, bewildering. Aaaaahhh, that'll be Pilesar. Highly Recommended WTF

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Larry Ludwick - Farewell - A Poem

Hear The Track Here

Third one and out for Larry Ludwick this bumper review month he's been having (Ed: mmmmmmm). I don't think any other artist has ever managed this feat unless I did it myself. Now the only reason Larry got this dubious honour is because he is a prime networker; a sterling example of the breed even. Not only does the man run the monthly Soundclick Critics Corner Competition (with real prizes folks!!), he also manages to collaborate with all and sundry. All and sundry - not a band name after all - being anyone who he can schmooze into his nefarious schemes and so far this month he's managed it with The Dead Company and Densyl and, I add grudgingly, managed it well too.

Farewell - A Poem is exactly that, a farewell to Evelyn Theologia Ludwick (1920-2011) in one of Larry's inimitable tone poems and for me, this is the Larry I know best and - if I were honest - prefer. I know I bitch and moan constantly about the slower side of music but there are places where it is apt, and if anyone has the right to such musical stateliness it'll be our man in the Corner. This is something he has proved time and again in his more traditional classical pieces but more so in his electronic work and this track is a neat combination of both.

Grand flowing themes, an arrangement that has more twists and turns than a rejected pretzel and a (well deserved) reliance on the flow of the piece show that Larry pours his heart and soul into his own work, and - had I known Evelyn Theologia Ludwick - I have no doubt she would be very moved by this tribute. I certainly was and I am a cynic of long standing but some emotions come through loud and clear, yet another trait Mr Ludwick is rightly getting well known for. While it is certain that Old Sombresides is not going to appeal to that self same all and sundry we were discussing earlier, I've definitely got a taste for what he does so well.

Highly Recommended tone poem.

Daniel Berges & The Windsurfers - She Is A Nuclear Bomb

Hear The Track Here

The average wait time for a review requested through the Rebel Riffs review blog is now some six weeks which means that poor ol' Dan Berges has been waiting for a good while to see his work crucified (Ed: he's joking.....I think). I'm sorry, did I say crucified there? I did, of course, mean critically acclaimed, and I am not sure the Roman barbarism came into the plot and whats more I'm certain neither you or I wants to know. So, with all that loitering going on, it's nice he doesn't have to wait alone because Dan has a band (The Windersurfers) and there are a few of them. Daniel Berges, Maria Montilla, Linnea Eriksson, Dylan Coleman, Ignacio Rivas and Philip Hundhausen to name all the culprits and they are a rock band from Boston, MA - home of a great many fine musicians.

Now when Dan writes 'Realizing he needed two really hot rocking chicks to sing his songs, he found the best Windsurfing girls in the US' you can be sure I will respond because - as you know - I have a thing about female singers (and no, it's not that thing). Maria Montilla and Linnea Eriksson are the ladies in question, although it seems only one of them is really active on She Is A Nuclear Bomb whose musical pedigree has to stretch all the way back through the Pretenders, the B-52's and then right back to the early hippie bands of San Francisco and Southern California, primarily Jefferson Airplane, although whoever is singing this has a much more modern sound.

It's partly the music that gives this impression because if there is anything deserving of the title classic rock, this would be it. Tell you the truth, I wasn't much impressed with the track at first, although once I realised that Drop By Drop (the CD this is from) contains track after track in this style I definitely warmed up to it more. The best thing I can say at this point is that if you like this track, it's a given that you will hoover up the rest of the tracks. Moroever, if you like the sound of classic rock a la the original Summer of Love stylee the album will have you dropping tabs before you can say 'Owsley'. As retro as they come then, and proud of it too - and rightly so judged on that perspective.

Highly Recommended classic rock (hint: try the album)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thomas J Marchant - I Sold My Heart (To Goldman Sachs)

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This month Thomas showed his decisive indecisiveness by giving me two track to choose from simply because he couldn't be arsed to pick one himself. Having said that, I've probably picked the one he didn't want reviewed but hey, that's the problem with indecisiveness. Maybe. Probably. In my own defence if you were given a choice between a track called blah blah blah and a track called I Sold My Heart (To Goldman Sachs), you would, wouldn't you? How could I resist having a tout at mankind's favourite financial octopus, along with the rest of the world. They may be masters of the universe but it isn't any universe you or I would recognise, so **** 'em eh?

After we stole the money back, of course.

For people who have latched onto Thomas since he went acoustic (as it were) will have gained a certain image of his work, so this track may come as a bit of a shock like the Bob Dylan 'electric' moment albeit in an unsigned context. There isn't (I'm sure) an acoustic within a thousand miles of this track so if you latched onto Thomas back in the Station For Imitation day (Ed: a previous bandname), then this track will bring that time back to life although - to be fair - it has a lot more structure than any of SFI's material. More to the point, Thomas has not forgotten to bring a song into the electronic proceedings, and a bloody fine one it is too.

I swear as time goes on, and he gains more and more confidence as a singer, his voice is getting deeper, more expressive. I want to say fruitier but he may take that in quite the wrong way, but certainly his voice is getting more interesting rather than less. I Sold My Heart is a deceptively simple track, like much of Thomas's output, and that is - for me anyway - one of his major attractions. It's seems hard for songwriters to be concise and succinct these days, where words overflow in a meaningless pile, but Thomas can always be counted on to being it back down to earth - even, it would appear, with some olde tyme electronica...

Highly Recommended (and topical) ditty.

National Snack - Hoodwinked

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Although I wander around dear ol' London town looking like a bag of **** tied with string, I do actually notice and admire fashion, and obviously the more female the better. I may be classed as an old man but I am not dead yet, and while I have breath in my body and eyes to see, those eyes will always glom onto what people are wearing. Well, not people, just women if I were being really honest. I've always been like it, but I do understand how weird that is. I even get odd looks from the female friends I have when I comment about this dress or that bag or those pair of shoes... Why are you looking at me like that? I'm 'fessing up here (Ed: and that's probably the reason Gilmore, way, way too much information) Although, like music which I also love, fashion can be a hard mistress (at least in a commercial sense). Like all the glamour industries it is a dog eat dog world.

Nothing glamorous about blood and guts...

This is pretty much the thrust of both the track, and video of Hoodwinked from London's own National Snack. You may remember me reviewing their Apply Machine EP (December 2008) and My Head Hurts (November 2009) and nice and punky it was too. I do like that rough, very London sound and National Snack do it to it exactly as required. Gemma Storr and Joe Carlo (collectively National Snack) contacted me with the video link and I was so impressed by it I begged the MP3 version, and believe me I don't do that often enough. Actually either the MP3 or the video will do the trick but obviously the video makes the point better. The point being contained within two words: **** fashion.

The video starts with the quote 'Fashion is something so ugly it has to be changed every fifteen minutes' and proceeds to maul the industry in a excellent black and white video that pelts your eyes with some startling images culled from the fashion world. Right around the middle, you start to see another picture, of the sweatshops and the young workers often forced into working all hours for very little - and all to make a 'fashion statement'. Personally, I was struck immediately by the immediacy (and savagery towards the industry) of this track and couldn't wait for the review to be written. I don't have that many videos on my own You Tube channel but this is certainly going there.

MUST HAVE fashion statement (with intent)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Jon Solo - Elephant In The Room

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In strictly list rotational terms I should be doing three Larry Ludwick collaborations right now, but that I fear is more than too much for this mortal man so I charged hither and thither (as you do when in such melancholic states) trying to find some comfort, some solace for my aching heart. Where better to find such solace than in the more than capable musical hands of Jon Solo who, while being a long standing member of Soundclick, has only recently become known to me musically. His Circles (January 2011) a 'stupidly good' pop track that showed huge respect to its musical roots.

Elephant In The Room is, like its predecessor, a masterclass in how to write a pop song in the time honoured fashion and the influences I cited in my review of Circles (The Carpenters, The Beatles, ELO ) are still present, the Beatles more than anything else. What we are talking about here is music that derives from a time when music was much, much important to each and every one of us. When I look around the music I get through every month, it is actually very rare to hear something so unashamedly pop in the old school tradition and when it's done to this high standard, it's a pleasure indeed.

The thing about doing pure pop, as it were, is that it's a very difficult thing to pull off without sounding a) calculating or - maybe worse - b) twee and embarrassing. Both times Jon Solo has attempted it (so far) have been wonderful concoctions of my favourites instruments, blended with some great vocal harmony work (a staple of the genre and very noticeable if it is absent), and intricate and involved arrangement that belies the pop tag. All the very best tracks in this genre have been much deeper works than first appears and Elephant In The Room is a great example of that. Grow on you, it will...


Speak Words Speak - My Prayer

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Speak Words Speak is the alter ego of Soundclick's Larry Ludwick and is - as you might have gathered from the bandname - a vehicle for spoken word pieces. Not exactly poetry, although some may indeed qualify for the tag, more like prose poems. Not sure where I picked up this fascination for the genre but all fingers point squarely in the direction of one innocent looking chap by the name of Jon Bushaway (aka The Dead Company) and his pioneering work with Sean Boyle a good few years ago.

Since moving to Soundclick Jon has partnered up more and more with Larry Ludwick on more than a few occasions, it may be strange but it is somehow compelling......that's what I keep telling myself... To my ears, My Prayer is more like a Dead Company track than just about anything I have heard from Larry's wilder side, from the bleakness of the electronica landscape to the caustic, bitter lyrical content. It was only much, much later that I discovered the track was parked under this name while Jon Bushaway made a new Soundclick and I guess it's best not ask the most obvious question for fear of a frustrated knee to the knuts. Not good for a person, ya know...

Anyone who has been made aware of what The Dead Company is will recognise all the elements that make them somewhat special, at least to us dedicated fans. Over the years I have no doubt developed a taste for their material, but I am not alone in seeing this bleak, austere style as something different, something to be savoured. Anger and passion are as much an essential part of a Dead Company affair as the music and here Larry excels, spewing vitriol like a newly struck oilwell of the soul. Again, people who know this musicians work know that it's never going to be an easy or comfortable listen but that has never been what this about...

Unsettling...betcha. Powerful, unrelenting and not for the foolhardy.

Lera Lynn - Have You Met Lera Lynn CD

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One of the major benefits of the Rebel Riffs blog is that it exposes me to a HUGE range of music that even a site as big as Soundclick just doesn't encompass - or at least the Soundclick I know. I get to hear rough as razors material, and I get to hear beautifully performed and produced, just like Soundclick but the sheer range of material is so much more fulfilling. Regular readers may recall me saying pretty much the same when I reviewed my first track from Lera Lynn. Let's face it, I never would have heard anything from this singer in the conventional website based way, and I am certainly the better for it. Bobby, Baby (November 2010) was the track in question and it prompted me to comment that her forthcoming CD, of which Bobby, Baby is a part would definitely be worth watching out for.

and lo, fairy godmothers have nothing on me.... ;)

Funny thing, I would have probably formed a totally different impression of her if I had heard (say) Whiskey. I commented on Bobby, Baby that I liked it because it was more Americana than country and western which has never been one of my musical hotspots. Whiskey. on the other hand is absolutely country and western but of the bleary-eyed variety and features some fine country slide playing alongside enough liquor talk to salt the air. Happy Ever After is yet another side of this very versatile singer and songwriter, displaying an idiomatic pop sensibility that is every bit as authentic as her country and western stance. For my money, this is one of the real highlights of the CD for me, great ideas and a lot of fun. If you hadn't already noticed how talented she is, then Fire and Undertow (my other fave) shows what she is really capable of and boy, feel them neck hairs rise. I love this style of song and Lera's voice fits it like a glove.

There is no information on who the musicians are on these excellent tracks but whoever they are, they deserve recognition because the performance of these songs is faultless - as good as anything out there in the real world. What really seals the deal is Lera's capacity for strong songwriting and her ability to fit it to a number of different styles but I have to say my favourites are when she smoulders.... Bbbbrrrrrrr. Again it is worth noting that, because of it's c&w connotations, this musician could be overlooked by those who are not into the genre, and that would be a real shame because Lera Lynn manages to embrace a clutch of moods and pass them on to us as music. A class act, delivered in a very professional manner by all concerned.

Highly Recommended country/pop hybrid.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ralph Atkinson - Un Condo en San Diego

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There are many, many English men and women who work hard, save their money and make do with a slightly lesser life secure in their dream of savinge nough to retire to their very own place in the sun. Usually that ends in some fly-blown corner of Spain or Portugal or even - if you have real money - Italy, but usually when you are too old and ****** to really enjoy such an idyllic setting. Well, take heart fellow citizens because Canadians do exactly the same thing - well, according to Ralph Atkinson they do. While I do indeed understand the drive to want to do such a thing for your old age, I discovered early on in my life that putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea.

Shit, as the saying goes, happens.

So, there are these Canadians, no doubt shivering their bollocks off in that Canuckian cold dreaming of the delight of a sun-drenched patio somewhere in Southern California (San Diego in this case) and no doubt when they are ready to retire down there they will be just in time for The Big One and get squished by California sliding into the Pacific. Better to die onstage and working I say. Ralph, obviously, takes a definitely more upbeat route to the subject (although he mentions TBO and slipping into the sea too, so I'm not the only doom merchant around). Bloody good job then that Ralph Atkinson is not just a good musician but a pretty fine songwriter into the bargain.

On Un Condo en San Diego he takes a lightweight, almost reggae approach to the track sounding - at least to my ears - eerily like 10cc back in the day and I think that has to be a huge compliment to Ralph. There again, quality work has long been this musicians trademark and it's a rare track that doesn't cut the musical mustard, as the string of Must Have's he has gathered amply testifies. Can't wear with my hand on my heart that I actually raved about this but that has more to do with my own personal bias than anything Ralph is doing wrong. Considering I don't usually like reggae flavoured pop, this is a very good blend of West Coast laid back stylee, mixed with island riddims that works a treat.

Highly Recommended Reggae pop.

Densyl - Are You Feeling Alone

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I'll warn you all now that we are going to get heartily sick of the sight of Soundclick's Larry Ludwick this month. This is the first of three tracks he is involved in this month so, as well as the music, there seems to be another bonus side to collaborations. So here's a wee note: don't be thinking I'm not noticing this encroachment Mr Ludwick, no doubt a suitable punishment will spring to mind shortly. While we savour that delight, let us not forget that the music in the track is from Densyl, a Canadian musician we have encountered a few times now and - it seems to me - where he really shines is when he does collaborations such as these. There again, I am a big fan of collabs in general so maybe I'm more open to the appeal.

Both Densyl and Larry veer alarmingly (sometimes) toward the bland (or should I say smooth) side of the musical street and I have to say I don't care for that much, although - to their credit - both musicians have escaped serious injury from me and have done so this time as well. It is well known that Larry has a sombre side, and that he - like this reviewer - loves words; their values, their meanings and their sounds. This love shows up strongest in his spoken word project Speak Words Speak, but the same feeling pervades Are You Feeling Alone too, a suitable Ludwick theme.

Strangely enough, despite the intro, the strongest influence I got from this track was David Byrne (probably from the vocals thinking about it), although having been exposed to the music of Elbow just lately I'd say this shares some common ground. Grand, sweeping musical gestures will always count for something, especially when backed up with some musical muscle and Denysl does a very good job indeed, understated where necessary, punching out when it needs to. Having said that, it isn't truly the sort of track I would listen to much but I can certainly see a lot of people getting enjoyment from this track.

Highly Recommended song.

Those Among Us - The Final Hour

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Our history is a bit of a spicy curry, it keeps coming back to haunt you. Take, for example, Those Among Us whose John Brandon and Ritchie Allen were once known as Silvertrain and were the golden boys there for a while. Since then, John Brandon has sprouted like a musical hydra in as many different directions as he can manage for one man from Christchurch. More to the point I think this track originated with Ritchie and has since been taken over by John, aided by Lino Gonzalez and Steven 'Mez' Mesropian who, collectively make up Those Among Us. I'm not sure that Ritchie is actually a part of the band. There again, I thought that a lot about Silvertrain too so I guess nothing has changed. What has changed, however, is the music.

Both the A Chance To Die (August 2010) Disco Ball (February 2011) EP's have been a revelation, and have shown that Those Among Us are a band to be taken seriously - especially if you like rock with a melodic content. Having said that Lino Gonzalez plays a big part in the track and it's his electronica that first grabs you, although that soon gives way to the meat and potatoes of these guys - great songwriting. That isn't to denigrate in any way the performance or production, they are their usual high standard and maybe in some ways even better than normal, although I can't tell whether that effect is because of the song, or the effort they put into it.

Way back in the mists of Soundclick time, I latched on to the fact that Ritchie Allen and John Brandon were songwriters of the old school, and that has been proved time and again over the years since - albeit in a manner of different guises. The Final Hour is a classic example of just how good they can be, a rock song that has depth, interest and a banging, singa-longa chorus type thingie that had me bouncing off the walls from the get go. There again, I do like rock that has a definitive poppy bent and John Brandon has been very adept at supplying that and - with Those Among Us - I think he's finally found a creative home.

MUST HAVE rock anthem.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Whitman Speck - You Can't See Me

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Hardcore/horrorcore/sadistic rap is certainly part of the hip hop soundscape and I've heard my fair share of it, gaining a pretty high level of tolerance towards it along the way I suspect. One of the people making sure I don't lose that tolerance is London's own extreme hardcore as practised by Whitman Speck. Whitman who? you ask... Well, that name is a big can of consequences which I have already spilled and do not want to go there again. Do your own research for a change. Fact is, if you are going to do material that is offensive in almost every single way you can think of, you'd better sound like you mean it.

Whitman Speck does that and, in the process, scares the crap out of me. These are not songs you can enjoy, even though the music is ALWAYS kicking in his tracks but considering the outrageousness of his lyrical flow, with the profanity that also flows along with it colouring the whole thing a vivid blue. Almost anything Whitman Speck does so rightly deserves the Parental Advisory that is automatically slapped on it and - for that reason - there are going to be lots of people who wouldn't consider listening to something that stamps on...well....everything.

'I'm full of anger and bitterness' he raps and you'd better ******* believe he means every word as this self avowed lover of 'murder and mayhem' slaughters everyone around him with gleeful abandon which - going by his track record - is pretty much what fans would expect. It's true, this guys conjures up such lurid visions but to my ears, he may have even outdone himself on this track; anger and bitterness overflows into a tirade of epic proportions with some very disturbing lyrical images. Certainly one of his hardest tracks yet lyrically, and this from the guy who gave us the anthem of necrophilia, Dead or Alive (February 2009) and King Of The Sickos (February 2011). Don't say I didn't warn you but you know I'd like it. Hardcore rap not for the squeamish.

Highly Recommended horror.

Twiggy Frostbite - Written Within

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Over the last few years I have been very impressed by the general very high level of netlabel releases, as good as any other record label in terms of getting the product to market (Ed: oh God, he's been at the music mogul pills again!) and in some ways better. There is a long list of them somewhere because this is the internet, where you can find a list of everything. Anyway, Carl-Marcus Gidlöf and Despotz Records have been a source of good sounds before. You may remember The Deer Tracks and 127SexFrya (March 2009), a very noticeable track indeed. One of the reasons for that was vocalist Elin Lindfors, who now appears to be part of Twiggy Frostbite; a trio of lovely Swedish ladies with a marked fondness for dogs.. But hey, they are lovely, so let's not think about the dog thing OK?

Elin Lindfors, AnnaKarin Berglund and Emma Sjöberg (to complete the lineup) present Written Within and, to my ears, do not disappoint because I do like a difference in music and this track is definitely that. It's initial impact wasn't I admit, that easy. It had me in the old huh? huh? grip for a while there while - I guess - my ears got used to what they were hearing. As simple as it first seems, Written Within is a powerfully building slow burner and it will probably take some time to get used to but it is certainly well worth the effort. In my own defence I have to state that this is - technically - a ballad and you know what they do to my constitution. Thank your lucky stars that Twiggy Frostbite are around to remind you how effective one of the damned things are when done with heart and soul.

Actually, heart, soul and a teeny, weeny bit of off-the-wall zaniness but intelligent, emotive music that still manages to come across as something you would notice had it been playing on the radio. One of those 'oooh what's that?' moments. Call me lazy for such an easy reference but obviously a subtle hint of Bjork going on in here, and while I can take that in small doses - bit like ballads - there is a point where it works against you. It's a mark of how sharp their focus is that, once the track grabs you, you remain got. It's only when you've heard it a great many times do you really start to appreciate how finely this is crafted, and what a powerful song it is. Looking forward to more of this, oh yeaahhh....

Highly Recommended Indie.