Friday, September 30, 2011

Azoora ft graciellita - Apart EP

Hear The Track Here

Last track out of the review bag this month is a special treat for regular readers so you new guys stop chattering and gawping around and I'll tell you why this is a special treat. A few years ago, I was tipping two bands for much greater things. One bit the dust (the late, much missed Can't Stop The Daggers) the other was Azoora. These bands were musical soulmates almost, same kind of professional vibe; one in the US, one in the UK. Azoora signed to an excellent netlabel (23seconds) and have done some great EPs with them over the years. So, true to form, here is their new EP, this time collaborating with graciellita about whom I know nothing.

The last time I heard from Azoora was with the Instrumentals EP (March 2011) which, to be honest, I couldn't in all honesty count as an actual 'proper' release because these were not songs, one of Azoora's main strengths. Not to denigrate their musical side, they have some very substantial chops in that department but their songs are what keeps me interested and you should listen to Motionless (track one) to see why. With echoes of the greats (The Who, Kate Bush and a million others in this one) Azoora have always been a band with their roots dug deep and it shows in the calibre of their performance, production and overall can-do attitude. So if Motionless grabs you, the rest of this five track EP will definitely fill that space between your ears.

I did a bit more research on graciellita and discovered her You Tube channel because she has a very quirky, individual style that I certainly appreciate but I do understand it is a personal taste thing. Face it, if you sound a bit like Kate Bush, there can't be much wrong with what you are doing. Put that together with the clever, incredibly complex melodies and arrangements that Azoora are justly famed for and you have some of the best alternative/experimental music around. Musically, it's a lot more intense than normal Azoora work but that's a good thing too, a bit of a change but still, it has that Azoora vibe about each track and that'll do it for me. Biased? Well, of course I am, Ever since I met Azoora some years ago I have expected them to really do the business and it's nice to see them (and 23seconds) still plugging away in there.

Excellent alternative/experimental songs. MUST HAVE for fans.

Ludicrous - Streets

Hear The Track Here

Last review out of the Soundclick bag this month is Ludicrous. That's the band's name btw, not the situation because Ludicrous's's's's's music is anything but ludicrous. In the space of three tracks - The Real World (June 2011), Dead Woman (July 2011) and Everywhere (August 2011) - Ludicrous have shown they are a group worth keeping an eye on, if not actively seeking them out. All three tracks scored with me because of two factors overall, the songs were well made and performed and they had a great vocalist of the Bjork school but with a lot more warmth.

Streets is an odd beast though, certainly had to arm-wrestle it for a bit before I finally came to see the whole picture so out of all of their tracks, this is probably the hardest one to get close to, so give it time. As I mentioned in my review of Everywhere, Ludicrous write songs that are 'clever, subtle but in no way experimental. Well this track ****s all over that theory because it's experimentalism was what made it harder for me to get a good grip on it. Mind you, it's there for a reason and I see that now, but ya know, first impressions and all that...

Soundclick labelling continues to amuse and entertain me because Streets is billed as 'Alternative : Dance-Punk' and you know what, it actually fits. It also rocks the house in a very punk way. Those Bjork overtones that coloured past tracks has been transmuted through Siouxsie Sioux this time around and to just as good effect. What takes the cake though is the overall production which seems to borrow reggae's bass heavy bottom, marrying it to an electro version of punk that really threw me. It's also the quality that finally won me over to this excellent lively trample through as many genres as possible (presumably wearing Doc Martins, naturally).

Highly Recommended Punk Pop with a brain.

Cam's Even Song - Heart Of Things

Hear The Track Here

I've known Cameron Bastedo (aka Cam's Even Song) almost as long as I've been on Soundclick and although it took me a while to really get what he was doing, I hope I corrected that somewhat when I made him my Artist Of The Year 2006. Even weighed down by that gaudy (and no doubt grubby) trophy, Cam has motored serenely on, landing great track after great track and all stamped with his inimitable style and personality. But wait, (sniff sniff) do I detect changes afoot in the Cam camp? For example, the last time we saw the light, cheerful and playful Cam was with So Faye Wray (May 2011), but First Sign Of Spring was classically inspired and quite unlike the Cam we know.

Then came Light Unapproachable (August 2011) where - like this track - the Christian message is literally right in your face. I have to say that for years and years I avoided any exposure to this form, due to some bad experiences in my sordid past no doubt. Whatever, Christian music did nothing for me, simply because I didn't let it. I believe a persons faith and beliefs are up to them, whatever my own thoughts on the matter. I just don't like people trying to ram their opinions (religeous or otherwise) down my throat. I thank Cam and a couple of other notable Soundclick Christian Rock musicians for showing that it can be done sensibly, with tact - and no little skill. There again, being a Soundclick veteran all these years does teach you a skill or two, and Cam has taken to them like a duck to err....errr...


In some ways Light Unapproachable softened me up for Heart Of Things and where I felt obliged to print the lyrics of the former, I think you get the picture by now. So why would you want to listen to a sermon, do you ask? Well, to be hugely entertained for starters because there is still no doubting that Cam's Even Song is one of the most inventive (and fun) songwriters around - on any website. What he has done with these two tracks is to harness his natural ability to tell a tale and make it an aural and lyrical pleasure and - whatever you think about the subject matter - Cam's Even Song always deliver that, and always has. That, my boggled friends, is what truly defines AOTY status.

MUST HAVE Christian rock (yes, I know...)

Agent Whiskers - Abstract Forms of Solace CD

Hear The Track Here

I am proud to say that I have reviewed music now from pretty much everywhere, although the US, UK and Europe are the biggest sources of that, I have received music requests from all continents. Not that many from Saudi Arabia mind, but Agent Whiskers is here to put it right 'finding it difficult to promote my music given the social climate' so come on, let's give it a go... The first real snag is that it's billed as a 'calming electronic/experimental experience' and that's a phrase I have come to dread over the years.

Still, give the man a chance eh?

I'm glad that I did because while it has it's 'calming' moments the eight tracks that make up Abstract Forms of Solace are classy and adventurous and that's something to be valued. To me there are two types of electronica at the moment; hip hop beats with electronica used as filler and electronica where sounds are generated/created with electronics to make music that is sharp, coherent and - above all - intelligent. **** all that four-to-the-floor I say, give us something to chew on. Thankfully, Agent Whiskers is up to that task too because by the time Interstellar Serenity (track two) snapped me up I was hooked anyway. To me though, this is one of the highlights of this very good collection of electronica instrumentals.

OK, so you'd have to like the whole electronica thing for starters, but plenty of people do and that's a fact. The work Agent Whiskers has put into these tracks (playing/recording and producing) is evident in each of the tracks because each has it's own slant and feel. Here is yet another album that should really be listened to in sequence (track 1,2 etc) for it to make the best impression. Taken as a whole like that, the whole project gains more cohesion, each of the tracks flowing easily into the next. While he might be struggling in his own country for acceptance, I think he'll find a real welcome for those people who like well made music for adults.

Very Highly Recommended Electronica and then some.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Thomas J Marchant - Cars From The 70's

Hear The Track Here

I'll bet you were wondering whether we would hear from Soundclick troubadour Thomas J Marchant but fear not, or fear greatly whichever is your preference, because here is with some scrap metal.. Oh good grief no, not THAT metal, car type metal. Thomas cautions us 'this is by no means a finished mix but I like this song' That's unusual for Thomas because he usually pushes his musical children out of the door as soon as they start squalling. It's part of his charm, if ya like. And I do like, along with many, many other people who have discovered this very original songwriter.

Thomas has dropped the acoustic guitar in this case for keys and piano accompaniment and, to my ears, that gives the track a fresher, brighter approach and a nice little departure from style. When I was a lot younger I had an early exposure to bands from Canterbury such as Soft Machine, Caravan et al and while I appreciated their music (the beginnings of prog-rock as it happens), it was their quintessential Englishness that had me gripped. Thomas J Marchant has many of the same qualities and not just because he comes from Maidstone (a town just down the road), but because he is so quirkily different to anything else around.

Having lived with this for a while I would scribe to the unfinished argument but even as it stands it as more than enough of interest. More than anything else, for me anyway, it's a beauty of a lyrical track; exactly what Thomas does so well. He's always been one of my favourite songwriters but - for all its unfinished-ness - Cars From The '70's is undoubted one of his best this year. Certainly in ideas and melodies if not in execution but even so I don't it really needs that much patching up because the style quality is all there.

Highly Recommended UK Alternative.

C Anthony Goggin - A Hundred Highways All Lead Home

Hear The Track Here

Having been reviewing now for some considerable time I am firmly of the opinion that there are only two types of music out there, good and bad. The increasingly insipid commercial field doesn't even count. Over those years I have heard everything, thanks to my come one, come all suicidal gestures, and I must admit large chunks of it has been very good indeed. The musical standard is, however, a lot higher than it was when I was first getting started and it takes a fine talent to shine through the HUGE numbers of fellow musicians jostling for the limelight. I've always found that the only sure way to get recognition is originality, freshness and that generally comes over time. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Now read on...

I first met Cody Goggin when I reviewed Snow (February 2011) in which, to be honest, I was not impressed. About as 'demo' as it got with an almost whispered vocal that did nothing to help the situation. More to the point, it was recorded (I use the terms loosely) in one shaky take and then slapped online. You know, of course, that would make me see red, and I'm sure Cody must have felt the sting. This lacklustre approach did turn around somewhat in subsequent tracks, and now A Hundred Highways All Lead Home is the fifth track of his to attract my ears, although not necessarily in a good way.

When all is said and done, Cody is a folkie in all but style (his songs tend to be rock based) but that's a difficult trick to pull off when all you have is a guitar, a voice and bags of enthusiasm. The good news is that the hesitant, whispery vocals that marred those first few tracks is definitely a thing of the past because this is a track that actually does show how a fine song should be treated. In retrospect, Cody has come a long way from that early start, gaining in confidence with each new track, and that's as it should be. This track is confirmation of his determination to get it right and I for one applaud it.

Recommended singer/songwriter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Whitman Speck - Paranoid

Hear The Track Here

You know those questions you have to fill in for your Soundclick profiles? I always read the one that says 'Would you sign a record contract with a major label?' because the comments are often hilarious. Whitman Speck, on the other hand, says 'Motherf***ers won't sign me, they too scared' and you know what, I think this is the first time in many, many years when I have felt some support for conventional music business. On the one hand I absolutely love Whitman's acidic wit, although it is generally directed at women or people he wants to dismember, on the other hand I do recognise what a very, very tough sell that would be.

Put it like this, entering his Soundclick music page you are hit by a thicket of Parental Advisory notices, all richly deserved because Whitman Speck is one hardcore rapper who never, EVER pulls his punches. So if anyone around needs to be feeling paranoid, it's us right? Shhhh, quiet now, here he comes... What saves Whitman from a whop uspide the head and a short sharp dose of boot camp is that, damn it, the man knows how to put a track together; always killer choruses and beats to go along with the violence mayhem and blatant misogyny.

Whitman Speck definitely rates the hardcore label attached to his brand of hip hop but, to my mind, he is one of the UK's better exponents of the breed. Ever since Suburban Hell (September 2011) this rapper has been building his own folder on my hard drive, despite it being the aural equivalent of some sadist's idea of a horror movie. The hooks in Paranoid are amazing, and probably something that is recognisable to someone out there who will recognise it, but I'm an old fart I'm supposed to forget stuff. Whenever I review this guys I spend a couple of days looking over my shoulder - just in case. Maybe I'm paranoid.

MUST HAVE horrorcore.

Pidgeman - Until Right Now

Hear The Track Here

Seeing as it looks like we might have an Indian Summer here in the UK, Pidgeman's latest comes along at exactly the right time. Until Right Now is 'a summery feel good power pop song' according to the billing on Soundclick and if there is one thing I have learned about Pidgeman over the years, he means what he says. Maybe you have no idea what a Pidgeman is and maybe right now you are poised on the edge of flight, so I say calm down dear, Pidgeman is not a musician to be afraid of (and God knows there are enough of them). In fact as time passes, I have come to appreciate his work more and more.

Pidgeman's standard mode is rock, classic or otherwise and Until Right Now has more to do with pop rock of the 1960's and 1970's. In fact the beginning reminded me really strongly of Friday On My Mind, and if you remember that track you are probably as senile as me. Admittedly it also sounds like some of the not-so-good tracks associated with these genres during pop music's toddler phase. This I would put down to the production which, although solidly recorded and mixed, still has a tendency to that home produced sound.

As usual it as a complete song that Until Right Now scores, it IS one of those melody lines that get right under your skin before you know, and I just didn't realise that until right now (see?). It has a arena woahhh woooaaah wooooaahh thing too that will go down a treat wherever football and frolics are concerned and shows that Pidgeman still knows how to deliver a solid rock performance - every time. So, hand on heart, this isn't exactly what I would reach for when I needed a break but that's a stylistic thing and Pidgeman has no control over that.

Highly Recommended for the ol' karaoke...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ralph Atkinson - Away On The Wind

Hear The Track Here

Having just reviewed a semi-classical piece from Soundclick stablemate 333maxwell, Ralph Atkinson is just as quick to get his version in. Now there is a conspiracy theory you can really believe in. Ralph, of course, needs no introduction to regular readers, we have long been enamoured with the excellent tracks he has provided for our listening pleasure. His last two tracks, Flashing 12 o' clock (August 2011) and When Love Comes (July 2011), have both scored as high as you can get with me, so he's looking like having a very good year indeed. Anyway, back to the classical bit.

Ralph assures us that Away On The Wind is 'an improvised orchestral piece' which may or may not translate into the classical (as in dead white dudes) style, as much of modern classical music doesn't. Says it does, but it doesn't. Now Ralph has established himself in the quick setting solution I laughingly refer to as my brain as a blues musician above all else, so I wasn't - truth to tell - hoping for very much from this track. All of which points up that I have underestimated (yet again) the things this man can do with music - any music.

Soundclick has more than it's fair share of excellent musicians but Ralph Atkinson must surely be right up there with the best of them, at least in my books. What makes Away On The Wind that much more special is that it isn't, strictly speaking, classical at all. If anything, this is a piece of world music. Nay, an excellent slice of world music, combining sounds from east and west, stitching it all together in a classical format that actually paid attention to the finer details. Such as, for example, the orchestral percussion, an often neglected instrument in a lot of today's versions of classical music. Of course, it IS (yet another) instrumental and you might not listen because of that. Wrong. If nothing else, this is a track that will give your ears a great massage, and surely that's worth a couple of minutes.

Clever classical blend. Highly Recommended.

Chromefly - Modern Guitar Music 2

Hear The Track Here

The Chromefly a.k.a King Ebow aka John Ellis asked me through the Rebel Riffs blog to cast my ears his way to listen to a seven track project entitled Modern Guitar Music 2. My immediate thought was, where have I heard that before? (Modern Guitar music, as it were) Well, kind of everywhere because almost all the PR blurbs I get (and I get a fair few) are always banging on about this modern guitar sound and it's all the same bollocks innit? Well yes, generally that is the case but - once in a blue moon - you actually DO get a guitarist who can truly lay claim to such a laudable title. That is where John Ellis comes in.

OK first off, you are obviously going to be into instrumentals in general, and guitar ones specifically, and lets face it it is not going to be a large audience, is it? You, me and that guy standing with his hands in his pockets even. Still, I am a guitarist so I am bound to appreciate someone else's playing, but will yer ordinary punter (Ed: listener, Gilmore, listener) get it. Actually, if you take this seven tracks as a good starting point then I'd say a qualified yes because the collection of tracks is extremely listenable in pretty much all the things that count (and I defy you to stay still through Sly Guitar!)

Doesn't seem like much in these jaded and cynical times but when Mike Oldfield first brought out Tubular Bells, it was considered highly revolutionary - because it was exactly what John has done with Modern Guitar Music. Every part hand-crafted by him into a coherent whole, none of which would helped in the slightest if the prime ingredient (good ideas) wasn't present. Each of the tracks has a distinctly different sound and style but surprisingly enough it all works when streamed in one go - probably better than listening to each track in turn because it seemed to make more sense to me that way. As a final arbiter of taste, the man even plays a Takamine...

Highly Recommended Modern Guitar music.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gangbangsters - Here Lies What's Left Of Me

Hear The Track Here

Certainly doesn't seem like it but I just noticed while doing this review that I've known Californian musician Ryan Wixted (aka Gangbangsters) for nearly four years. Unless you heard tracks from Shoelaces (September 2009) to Choke (August 2011) you would not have seen the changes and twists and turns Gangbangsters has taken until he has become 'one of the brightest spots of originality on Soundclick' I wrote that in my review of Choke which, while not exactly easy listening showed that Gangbangsters may yet be undergoing even more changes. His style has become increasingly electronic as opposed to the hip hop/punk blends that has been his staple in the past.

A change is as good as a rest, they say. Stupid remark, I say.

See I have grown fond of that hip hop punky thing but it is only right that a musician should experiment and Gangbangsters have gained a reputation for going places with genres, as I found out while reviewing Choke (his last track) To my ears Here Lies What's Left Of Me improves on Choke but only because it is less experimental than Choke. Don't get me wrong, I like experimental, but I fully understand that not everyone does and if I were truthful about it, it would have to be astoundingly original for me to rave over these days. Not a good space for Gangbangsters to be then, at this point...

Here Lies What's Left Of Me turns out to be a piece of experimental blended with some nice hard edged guitar that, for me, makes it an easy listen, certainly more so than Choke. Again though, it's a bit too slight a piece to really make much of impression beyond 'ooo that's nice'. That's the problem with coming up with tracks the calibre of I'm an Epidemic, Get Retarded and the ever popular Letzgetfuctup both of which will give you a much better sense of what this musician is capable of. Interesting diversion for sure, but this is nothing like as good as he can be.

Recommended electronica.

333maxwell - I Found Your Music Box

Hear The Track Here

I've written so much about the skills of Chas Holman (aka 333maxwell) that I found myself unable to type just an ordinary three. These days, they are a bit like London buses, always come in threes. So what is it about our Max that I find so interesting? As a musician Chas has pretty much everyone beat, the man can drop a killer tune the way that the majority of us drop the odd bum note - ie constantly. The list of Must Haves for this very capable and adaptable (yes hateful too) is endless as well as being my Artist Of The Year 2009 where he scored nine Must Haves that year; in so many different genres it makes your head spin.

I know for a fact that at one point he was writing songs specifically for this monthly review list but not this time, this time we are going back into Max's no doubt chequered past to a track first released in 2009. God knows how I missed this one but Max is determined to foist another one on me and hey presto! All joking aside, 333maxwell is among my top three Soundclick favourites and a quick listen to I Found Your Music Box will show you exactly why I hold him in such high regard.

While I think I might quibble a tad at this track's classical rating (unless you counted classical guitar in that) I wouldn't touch a hair of the tunes head - a normal occurrence with this musician. Regular readers will know one of my favourites in the indie acoustic guitarist stakes is Christopher Martin Hansen (he of the 27 fingers) and you know what, Chas is chasing him on this track. Don't know about you but I ******* hate music boxes and their tinkly titillation's but I will put up with it for the sake of the simply beautiful guitar piece that follows. Chalk another one up for the man.

MUST HAVE classical (guitar)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mike B Is for Byj - Look, Look, Look

Hear The Track Here

Although I haven't found anything to get really excited about with the previous two Mike B is for Byj tracks - Crybaby (April 2011) and Average Joe (June 2011) - I'm certainly impressed with this Canadian's knack of going about his business. Both songs are kind of pop rock of the melodic variety and show that the man has some chops even if the tracks haven't exactly set my ears on fire. Look, Look, Look on the other hand does that trick although even now I'm not sure how it pulls it off.

If you are stuck in that thicket of verbiage trying to figure out what it actually means, let me put you out of your misery. It's hard and heavy the way rock is supposed to be, but there is something in the instant impression that makes you go eh? Eh? (Ed: and all this is supposed to make sense, right?) Look, Look, Look uses a lot of classic rock tricks to get the musical point across but this is still a modern song, with a modern message and ultimately its that juggling trick that wins the most respect from me.

Technically this track has much in common with any 'home-produced' musician and kudos to Mike B for getting the sound that he does, especially on this track where the guitar sound is the aural equivalent of the Second World War. Not in terms of loudness mind, obviously that would never work. An incredibly heavy, chunky sound that has to be heard to be believed. Now whether this is something that occurred with the guitar/amp/room or it happened because of the way the track was put together, who knows - but it works.

Highly Recommended slab of rock

Larry Ludwick - Sandra Sits in the Station

Hear The Track Here

I have given ol' Lazza a lot of stick in the past about being one of the most reviewed people on my monthly Soundclick list but after all, we shouldn't forget that he's busier than a blue arsed fly. Not only does he have side project Speak Words Speak, but he can be found in collaboration with almost anyone who asks him including some stellar (but not comfortable) appearances with The Dead Company, my favourite chill down the spine. Actually I like Larry's work although it took me a while to settle to his very singular style, nonetheless it's produced some very unique listening experiences. This is a man who understands that experimental means exactly that.

Errrr...except this is jazz (blushes)

Much more to the point, it's also a tad longer than most people may be willing to tolerate (if they haven't run away screaming at the very mention of jazz), stretching out to a very leisurely eight minutes and a hunka-chunka change. Musically too, when you strip it down, the track doesn't actually do very much, what it does most is support the vocal. All well and good then because isn't that what its supposed to do? Weeelll (waggles fingers) In other hands, this most definitely wouldn't have worked, where Larry scores is with the instrumentation itself, and the beautiful sounds it all makes.

The other (big) plus is Larry penchant (damn, have to stop using them there foreign words) for the old verbals. Larry is a wordsmith and if you have no idea what that means, you should read one of his reviews. A very clear, focused writer and it definitely lifts Larry's style and, for fans like me, are actually one of the highlights of a new Larry Ludwick track. While I will certainly grant that Larry Ludwick is an acquired taste (that means you have to get used to it dear...have to listen for more then ten seconds or one play) he is a taste it is well worth getting. Stylistically, Larry has much in common with Leonard Cohen, but with a very different slant.

Highly Recommended jazz poem (I kid ye not)

The Usual Pleasures - Swollen/The Walking Dead

Hear The Track Here

Although I have reviewed Sheffield, UK band The Usual Pleasures a few times, one of those doesn't count. See, if ya remember I reviewed their Kevlar Heart a couple of times; once as their introductory track and again with a remix/remaster which did - in all fairness - definitely make the track better. Mind you, you'd have to like your music pretty raw because punk lives on and nowhere moreso than The Usual Pleasures. Strangely enough, yer actual punk rock sound is undergoing a resurgence here in the UK so maybe they've caught the zeitgiest (hee hee see that, just like a real journalist!) (Ed: he means using a word without having a clue what it means)

Now I have had more arguments with so-called 'singers' than just about any other brand of musician, why that is I don't know. I do know its the fashion generally in music not to give a crap about (say) pitch and timing, and yay verily even more so when we take the whole punk ethos into consideration. However, even the punk greats actually HAD to sing in tune, even though there are many people these days who scorn such things. The reason I mention it is because Swollen is affected by this but, surprisingly The Walking Dead isn't. Musically, the music isn't out and out punk, although Walking Dead gets real close to it, but a rocky kind of alternative. No bad thing as it happens but I do prefer The Walking Dead for its more punky approach.

Now I know that the vocalist here can sing in tune so I can leap to two precarious conclusions; this is intentional and I should therefore shut my big fat mouth before it gets slapped or it wasn't intentional and maybe they aren't aware of it. The third option (there is always one of them) is that they just plain don't give a **** so long as it sounds good to them. Nonetheless, it's easily fixable and nothing to lose sleep over. If I had to point you guys at a representative track that shows who The Usual Pleasures are, it would have to be The Walking Dead.

Punky Zombie anyone? (hint: not a cocktail)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Avalanche - The Golden Sun (2012)

Hear The Track Here

If I had known, at the beginning of this year when I named Avalanche as my Artist Of The Year 2010, what I know now, I'd have probably draped them in ermine and proclaimed them King Of The World, Ma into the bargain. For my money, with a band as long-lived as Avalanche, adaptability is a required skill but this year they have surpassed themselves in that respect, and in many others too. You remember that I reviewed the original The Golden Sun (December 2010) and rated that very highly indeed, despite it being a) some fourteen minutes long and b) an original recording from 1979 which has second life breathed into it by the capable hands of David Pendragon...who should so be counted as a member of Avalanche in many ways, because his presence has undoubtedly led to a new, improved Avalanche. I, for one, wouldn't have thought that possible a couple of years ago, and even then I couldn't stop going on about how ******* good they were. Wait!! Wait!!! New? Improved?

Beyond all recognition, grasshopper - this is gonna b-l-o-w you away.

As much as I appreciated the classic rock stance of the band, I must admit to a certain liking for the collaborations they made with the female vocalist Stephanie Krowka. It showed, to me anyway, a different side of the band I grown to love, not least for their dogged determination to do the right thing - whoever's feathers got ruffled. All their songs get it said bluntly, so there is no mistaking their intent with the track. That, my friends, is rock and roll in its purest form. Interestingly enough, I've watched the video of The Road Less Travelled a billion times by now and only just figured out why. It was my introduction to the new, improved Avalanche but I wasn't aware of it until Mike Foster announced that Stephanie Krowka was now an official member of the band. If you doubt the wisdom of this, you are an idiot and let the music tell you why...

Remember my description of the original? Fourteen minutes long, kinda/sorta West Coast in sound... Forgeddaboutit. Mike Foster is a demon songwriter and The Golden Sun is one of his finest creations, but what they have done to it with the addition of Stephanie's vocal (and judicial editing) just kicks it into outer space. Easily the very best thing I have ever heard from this band, and the list of Must Have's is endless. So, just in case you were wondering whether I'd been taking my meds lately, the proof - as they say - is in the pudding. What we have here is just about perfect in every single way, sound, performance, fire, emotion. All to push an enduring vision contained in the superb words that makes The Golden Sun much, much more than its parts. Stephanie's contribution is so seamlessly integrated you would swear she was in the band from the beginning, and that's icing on the cake. Music from back in the day - in this day. Whatever you may or may not think about my usual hyperbole, do yourself a favour - give this track a listen RIGHT NOW...

MUST HAVE (natch)

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - No Tomorrow

Hear The Track Here

You know ol' Weylin is a deceptive cove. Took me a while to get what he was saying but that's usually the way. Mind you, with a Goth image and metal(ish) material his music would be a shoo-in with me. Ahhhh, but that is before the P word enters already muddy waters (Ed: hope it had wellingtons....Good Grief!! I'm getting as bad as him) P as in Progressive chums, although yes it does look like a stick out tongue if you turn your head sideways (sigh) Flight Of Sideria (October 2010) was my first encounter and I wasn't getting it at all, but further tracks - usually the more rock oriented ones admittedly - managed to get through the hermetic seal I have between me and the P word.

Addiction (July 2010) has proved to be the highpoint so far and it showed that when Weylin's Slayer Orchestra are firing solidly, it's a very worthwhile experience. Of course, it's all a question of perspective and this stuff isn't aimed at me anyway, but a prejudice cannot be denied. Especially one as virulent as mine. Obviously Weylin takes not the blindest notice - as indeed he should - and does what he does whether I like it or not. That's the attitude that gives us those worthwhile moments. Like Addiction, No Tomorrow is almost instantly accessible, in a soundtrack oooh-listen-to-that way before kicking your head off once the main track gets under way.

As I've made painfully clear, soundtracks I don't get. Pieces of music that stand on their own two legs whatever their style I most definitely do get. So while No Tomorrow has much that says 'soundtrack', there is also a coherent, vibrant and wildly rocking piece of original music underpinning it. Yes, it's an instrumental but Weylin seems to have a knack at working intelligently with this tricky substance, making it enjoyable on and off screen (as it were). Having said all that, it really, really suits the progressive metal tag because it is progressive in the best possible way. Yeah, that's me saying that which should point up how different Weylin's Slayer Orchestra are...

Highly Recommended blend, a metal soundtrack.

Ramaj Eroc - Last Train To Japan Vol 1 Mixtape

Hear The Track Here

In all the years I have been reviewing like this I have never, until this moment, reviewed a 'mixtape', although I certainly got through my share of hip hop in general. Fact is, I have loved the genre since back in the day and followed it all the way to the hollow shell the commercial world is trying to foist on us. T'ain't hip hop I tell you, I call it by its true name - soulless lifeless shit. Hip hop isn't, and never has been, about treating women (actually ALL humans) as things to play with then discard. The hip hop I have been listening to over the past few years has been of a different quality, a fierce independence and the urge to do the right thing. Indie hip hop, then, is what I truly consider is closest to its beginnings, both in terms of ideas and content. So the burning question of the hour is what shade of this is Ramaj Eroc, a Chicago IL musician?

In tone certainly, the Parental Advisory is probably deserved, but in some ways that is also part of the original ethos so you know going in there is going to be a lot of cussing, but **** it eh? In case you have no idea what a mixtape is, it's a collection of tracks (a compilation) with a massive cast of characters all working to support the raps, in this case Ramaj Eroc - of which more later. By the time you are a handful of tracks into the mixtape it becomes obvious that Ramaj does hard and soft, treating with the respect it deserves, and if you like what you heard so far, check him. Well worth it if you do like hip hop that is smart and well put together. Mind you, remember that this is a mixtape and you'll time to take the whole thing in.

Musically the music is usually spare and minimalist which, you may argue, is what hip hop is all about, but I disagree. I've heard some very full blooded hip hop, muscular stuff and - to be fair - both of them work, but as always I have my preferences. Having had major exposure to Soundclick's hip hop rappers and musicians, it is a major frame of reference for me, and Ramaj Eroc is well up there with the best of them. Now, honestly, I wouldn't spend time with this mixtape outside the review process, but that's a personal taste thing and it's certainly not aimed at an old fart like me, but I can recognise the quality and sheer hard work involved in getting this bad boy together enough to pour down your earholes. If you are stuck for choice look for a track called Don't Say, very inventive...

Highly Recommended hip hop marathon.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Andrey Mishchenko - Children Of The Earth

Hear The Track Here

As the brighter sparks among you may have already gathered, Andrey Mischenko is a Russian musician. What you do not realise, maybe because you just plain don't care, is that he also proving to be an amazingly difficult musician to pin down or pigeonhole. Come on, you guys know me of old, you know I am going to try to fit labels to everything I see, it's a fine Gilmore Tradition. When I first heard September 29 (Window to the Fall) (May 2010) I automatically assumed he was a trained classical musician. Result? Egg on face. I think I've miscalculated on every other occasion too, yet now I tremble before a new - and previously undreamed of - dilemma. Children Of The Earth is yet another side to Andrey, this time it's....electronic dance??

Electronic Dance??? wtf??

I came to terms with his classical, prog-rock and various other offshoots but never would have I said he might come up with (dare I say it?) a dance track. OK, you sigh wearily, what's your beef with dance tracks then and I'll tell ya. Dance tracks are for dancing not for sitting on your butt pounding little bits of plastic to dust under your fingertips. Mind you, looked at another way, all that four to the floor does get the ol' letters flowing as you can no doubt tell. Now while Children Of The Earth is indisputably dance (beats and sounds) the way it is put together shows Andrey's fingerprints everywhere, and it isn't what I would called dance, closer to experimental IMHO.

Still, whats in a label eh? Well, as I pointed out at the beginning it helps lazy buggers like me to make sense of what I hear. To be sure there is a Russian strain of electronic dance, but Andrey is a bit too much of a classicist to really get swayed by annoying (yet strangely compelling) sequences or sweeps that go on until tomorrow. So, in effect, you get two for the price of one; dance undertones and a traditional classical flourishing happening above it. All, to my ears anyway, very Russian but hey, that's just me. Only real bad quibble I had was that some of the sounds used sounded distinctly weak, but you do what you can do, I suppose.

Satellite 3 - Little Monsters

Hear The Track Here

It would appear that this economic number storm whirling around our lives is also affecting our corner of the world. Even Satellite 3 are no longer three, but two with the departure of guitarist Joey Saha. Meanwhile surviving members Justin Storie and Aaron Cook have come up with the first tune since the excellent Love Was Never Enough (June 2011). Although my initial impression of the band was a bit lukewarm, they have come on a treat since Apathy (June 2010) first alerted me to their presence. Having said that, there have also been niggles from me along the way about the style, which I guess is going to come down to personal taste anyway.

All along Satellite 3 have teased the listener with their 'they could be rockers' thing and I suspect it is the reason I haven't fully bonded with them (Ed: that sounds decidedly unpleasant anyway, they could probably do without it) To me, a truly great rock song (of whatever 'style') has to appeal internationally, across all borders, and to me Satellite 3's music has had too much of an American flavour. I find that certain American rock style sound great when you are there, but don't travel well. However, I think with Little Monsters, Satellite 3 have now laid that canard to rest.

I am a sucker for a good, well constructed song and Little Monsters does exactly what it says on the tin; it is a direct descendant of such fine creepy-crawlies as Boris The Spider or any number of other pop horrors. Lyrically, this is awesome as you are told 'I've only seen Jekyll, drink your potion, show me Mr. Hyde' and then 'What can I do to make you come unglued?' before loosing all the rock hounds of Hell on choruses that have arena rock anthems stamped through every note. 'Let me out, let me out. Screaming from the inside' indeed. They should issue a safety muzzle with this track because you look away... It'll bite your ass.

Very cool and Highly Recommended.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Those Among Us - The Way We Love The Way We Live

Hear The Track Here

Another musician with a long Soundclick pedigree, John Brandon first came to my attention back in 2003 when he was one half of the then darlings of the Soundclick scene, Silvertrain. Having gone through considerable ups and downs after Silvertrain ran out of steam (come on, how could I resist it?), John landed on his feet with Those Among Us, ably and convincingly abetted by Lino Gonzalez and Steven 'Mez' Mesropian. The EP's A Chance To Die (August 2010) and Disco Ball (February 2011) are a testament to just how serious this band are about what they do, both getting the highest rating from me.

Aaaahhh, but it is rock, after all.

I have a well known bias in that direction (Ed: or any other if the light is right) but nonetheless can recognise when a dog is barking. The pop rock sound that first attracted me to Silvertrain (who were masters of the short song) has been massively pumped up with steroids, stretched out like a musical limo and produced to a very high standard indeed. Mind you, I don't expect any less after the tracks I have reviewed before. All three musicians make up the very distinctive sound Those Among Us have, so if you've liked previous tracks, this will certainly go down well this coming winter when you could do with the warmth it emits.

As I've often said before, swotting the fly in the ointment of this conversation, I don't particularly like ballads, and rock ballads have a special poison pen I made just for them. About the only thing that is keeping me from also dipping it into this conversatin' (Ed: talking to yourself again) is because it is so well done that picking a personal point doesn't cut it. Certainly if pop rock power ballads blow up your musical skirts, then The Way We Love The Way We Live is going to - well I dread to think... On a more serious note, this is a band who have delivered some of the strongest and most commercial songs I have heard in a long, long while, setting their own bar also has its flipside.

Highly Recommended pop rock nonetheless

Fear 2 Stop - My Secret Wish

Hear The Track Here

First Soundclick artist up this month (yeah finally), and that's a sudden break from this blogs norm, it's only fitting that the spot should be occupied by one of the very first Soundclick groups I came across back in 2003. Fear 2 Stop are probably the most reviewed (by me) Soundclick artists of all time, a three piece experimental outfit from Houston,Texas who have achieved a kind of notoriety with their often perverse musical style. No madam, I said p-e-r-v-e-r-s-e not pervert, and that latex outfit looks absolutely dreadful on you (Ed: pssstt Gilmore, you are treading on dangerous ground, on...on!!) For me, and a great many other long term residents, Fear 2 Stop have definitely become an acquired taste. For sure, they are one of the most contentious groups around, not yer average easy listening...

My Secret Wish dates back to when I first met them, having first been composed in 2002, this being a re-mastered and fixed up all snazzy version (the original being recorded on something ancient called 'cassette tape' whatever that is). Interestingly enough, this is a track that could have come from any number of the years they have been around, except for a certain formulaic feel to the drum track. Much more telling, however, is the quite astonishing fact that My Secret Wish could even be called a 'proper tune'. Now there's a ******* thing, who'da thunk it?

See the reputation that Fear 2 Stop have painstakingly built up over the years has been for aural versions of chaos, dissonance and ear-blistering chunks of pure noise, you really don't expect anything nice from them. Actually the track is really quite good, although sounding somewhat dated, still retaining a certain familiarity to people who know the band. For sure, if you have never heard of them before, I swear before all the Gods of Rock, try this because it's certainly the safest track I've ever heard from them.

Highly Recommended minimal electronica.

Sean Patrick - In The Midst of the Raging Storm CD

Hear The Track Here

Rebel Riffs review requests come in an amazing variety of styles, from every corner of the net world and it never ceases to amaze me how inventive so many people are. OK, so I admit that you do have to have a modicum of talent, a networking skill and a bit of experience in what works and what doesn't but making music (of whatever kind) is far easier today than ever before. Of course that can be a curse too, as we all too often find out because its about as hard to pin down what counts as music as ever. Take it from one who knows, experimental music can cover a multitude of sins. Consequently I have much more time for projects that are presented properly, musically and intellectually.

Sean Patrick manages that with this ten track album although, to be honest, it's a very American rock style that doesn't always sit well on this side of the pond. Before I get going on the 'differences between US and UK rock' dead end, let me say that - whatever my personal feelings - I'm going to give the material the chance it deserves. Sean sent me the album with instructions that it should be listened to 'of a piece'; in order. I generally do as a matter of course because to me one of the more arcane tasks in making albums is the right sequencing. After living with this collection of songs for a while, I have much respect for a) Sean as a musician and b) his musical and production team - all very professional.

Now maybe that's because Sean comes from the heart of the beast, Los Angeles and that is exactly what this album conjures up, slick, mannered and totally together. Musically, this is a really good collection of songs, and for this reviewer that is it's saving grace. See The Light and Calling For Rain are probably my favourites of the whole set but like Sean, I do recommend that you take a listen to the whole thing because it does work better that way. Mind you, it isn't until See The Light and the following tracks that the album takes off for me, but I'm sure that is a personal taste thing. Fact is, Sean Patrick has some very, very smooth moves musically whatever your preferences and In The Midst of the Raging Storm is a very classy album, especially if you like the sound of American rock.

Highly Recommended modern rock songs.

Friday, September 16, 2011

See-I - Homegrown

Hear The Track Here

As you well know, my musical interests cover a huge range of styles and moods but - like all musicians - I have my favourites; both to play and to listen. Rock, obviously plays a big, big part in it (because that's where I grew my own music) but 1960's pop, soul and r&b played their part too but I have to say that the biggest influence on me - all my musical life - has been the music of the islands: reggae and its various offshoots. I first got a taste for it in the early 1960's and it has been a constant ever since, so much so that a good part of my own output these days is reggae based. So, it's a given then, that out of the piles and piles of emails I get daily (and I do) one featuring a reggae/dub/ska/whatevah artist is going to be an automatic shoo-in.

Weellll, not really, but for sure I'll listen to it over others...

Mind you, the intro of Homegrown (the official track I was sent) was so convincingly rock that it had me having flashbacks and turning the air blue with a thousand wtf's. When the reggae element does kick in, I have no doubt whatever that it floors everyone who hears it because it is awesome. In fact, the whole track is just as good, the blend of rock and reggae is absolutely faultless and this from someone with a lifelong love and respect of both genres. Arthur “Rootz” Steele And Archie “Zeebo” Steele, the two brothers behind this knockout track are a force to be reckoned with for sure, their vocals are exactly what the music needs; energetic, forceful and right-in-your-f******-face. OK, thought I, if this is the calibre we are dealing with, what else is there?

Press Junkie (bless 'em) supplied lots of links, one of which leads to Dub Revolution and you all know that's my favourite D word sooooo...And it does exactly what it says on the tin, just what this reviewer needs because - let's face it - I really don't get much chance to review music like this amongst the rock/alternative/experimental that threatens to drown me. Dub Revolution is really straight-forward style-wise and exactly what you would have expected given the title but the quality of work really makes it stand out, the kind of dub I personally love. There are lots more tracks to choose from on their Myspace page (loved Dinner Of Herb, but I would)...

MUST HAVE unique reggae and I don't get to say that often enough.

Dan Fisk - Bruises From The Backseat EP

Hear The Track Here

You may have noticed that all the reviews so far are from musicians we (me and you lot, that is) haven't come across before and, in many ways, that is a mixed blessing. Mainly because I am scrabbling desperately to get past the long lead in between someone asking for a review and actually getting one. So I'm concentrating this month on reducing the ever increasing pile of requests from the Rebel Riffs blog, Soundclick artists will be along later. And for those who are confused as hell because you are reading the blog and wondering what Soundclick has to do with it, I post these reviews there too. So, let me bring forward Washington, DC based singer-songwriter Dan Fisk.

Bruises From The Backseat was released in June this year and - in a perfect world - it has done extremely well because I certainly couldn't find anything to fault with this well assembled and performed collection of songs. As you know, I'm not a great fan of the softer, more romantic side of music (especially the rock kind) but when it is put together this well, even I can come round to admitting to liking it. For a philistine like me then, the first couple of tracks (A Thousand Love Songs and Part of You) as good as they were, not for me. In fact, the track that finally dragged me into the party was Little Things, a slight country flavoured song that has an amazing grip if you let it.

What sealed the deal for me was the excellent cover of a little known Paul Simon song, Stranded in a Limousine and the truly staggering Life and Limb which is an awesome blend of bluegrass, barbershop and country that snagged me instantly. Dan writes 'A little bit bluegrass, a touch of country, and a tip of the hat to A Cappella and barbershop music. This song certainly stands out on the album' For my money too, this is the absolutely standout track but that is not to denigrate (in any way) any of the other excellent tracks on this six track EP. Go, listen, especially if you are in a romantic mood, Me, I'll settle for the brilliance of Life and Limb and that'll be good enough for this emotional philistine.

Highly Recommended songwriter.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mathien - The Night I Was An Alpha Male/You'll Never Learn

Hear The Track Here

One of the absolute joys of the often thankless task of reviewing is that - every once in a while - musical providence throws this particular starving critical dog a nice juicy bone. In this case juicy, meaty and all the other saliva inducing words we can conjure up. For sure, I find as I get further and further down the line as a reviewer, it is becoming harder and harder to knock me on my ass and it takes a really, really strong project to make me sit and beg and Mathien are such a project. Put it like this, I was sufficiently intrigued by the compositional splendour of The Night I Was...etc that I went exploring the video side of the band and THIS knocked me on my ass. Watch We Don't Need to Make Love to Know That We've Got it and Broomsticks & Cereal Bowls to see what got me so hot under the collar.

Mathien are a band from Chicago and that cities extensive musical heritage informs every note of their musical and it's that, to my mind, that really singles them out from the hundreds of wannabes. While you might have heard something like The Night I will certainly notice their extremely sharp, knowledgeable style, the depth and quality of the music and arrangement, and the sheer lyrical brilliance on display. As much as I liked both that track and You'll Never Learn, it was really only part of the story - at least as far as I am concerned. From a professional songwriting/producing point of view both music tracks are just as good as it gets, but don't show how nuanced a band they can be - for that, you need to see the videos.

There was no doubt in my mind that Mathien had an awesome singer (actually several) but the videos show precisely how good he is. Shifting effortlessly through rock and jazz phasing, this guy doesn't miss a vocal beat and it gets pretty hectic musically on all their tricks. It's the bands superbly judged vocals and the sheer goodtime vibe coming off all their music that sold me and - truth to tell - I'd be hard pressed to say that I liked any track more than another but, when forced to the wall, I have to say that the video tracks definitely have the edge; musically and technically perfect in every way and great fun into the bargain.

MUST HAVE (a good time!!)

Imposter Syndrome - Block Party EP

Hear The Track Here

Starting this month off (late again I know) with a review request from the Rebel Riffs blog, Imposter Syndrome approached me months ago to review their new (then) Block Party EP. Finally, then we get to it and, in some ways, I am glad to have heard some good old fashioned New York City rock because it's been a while since I've heard it this raw. I specify New York City rock because there is, at least to my ears, a very specific and unidentifiable NYC rock sound typified by the early NY punk bands and that is where four piece Imposter Syndrome have set down their musical roots.

Having spent a period of the 1980's working in NYC I think I developed the ear (and the liking) for NYC music, and Imposter Syndrome are worthy successors to those who came before. Powered by the singing and songwriting talents of Kristen Persinos, all five of the tracks on Block Party are worthy of extended listening and are made with that in mind; the more you play the more you hear. From the punky Just Once to the 'burn my apartment down' of Public Transportation the band gets it said in the proverbial New York minute and if those two tracks haven't snagged you, I dare say that the rest wouldn't interest you either. Except you'd be mad or deaf not to take a listen. Going 'eh? eh? eh?' and cupping your ears suggestively isn't going to cut it either.

The first sign you get that Imposter Syndrome are more than just rock, Don't Hesitate takes a neat turn into other territory both in tenor and tone and shows that there is a serious side here too. Aided by some excellent work from bassist Ken Nakano, drummer Damian Barker and 'co-conspirator, co-producer' Josh Weisberg, Kristen and Imposter Syndrome have both the songs, the style AND the production nous to be serious competition. While the root of it all is undeniably rock, there is still enough flexibility and variety to satisfy even the most cloth-eared amongst us. One thought, if the running order has any relevance, does it mean that Courtesy Call is an indication of where this is going next. If it is, count me in because this is absolutely the best track on the EP in my opinion.

Highly Recommended New York energy rock.