Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tesselode - Galaxy's Edge

Hear The Track Here

Almost certainly the last review of this month (Ed: unless I can squeeze another one in) Tesselode is another new name to me from Soundclick and that's very heartening news indeed because I thought I was just being subjected to the Soundclick Old Faithfuls (Ed: yeah, you know who you are). And here I was thinking that Soundclick might have an attack of dead man walking syndrome. So no information whatsoever on who or what makes Tesselode other than USA is their homeland and Electronica is their musical grazing patch. Oh dear, that was the 'E' word wasn't it? Highly toxic to reviewers like me I can tell you, having enjoyed (riiiighhhttt) years of agonised, spotty-faced bleeping...

Kinda makes you give up all hope, know what I mean?

'Not the world's most unusual song' Tesselode helpfully informs us, which might or might not be helpful advice. During the 1990 game explosion I was often knee deep in aliens and wormholes in a Chris Roberts space adventure - Wing Commander - whose soundtrack, I felt, was one of the first to be an effective part of the action. The only problem was in the awful sound of the instruments being used, especially the brass and the triumphant (but totally boring) orchestral sets. The reason I vomit up this bit of mental excreta is because Galaxy's Edge reminds me strongly of that music, except that the sounds being employed here are worlds away from those old Wing Commander games. And therein lies Tesselode's appeal....or not.

Straightforward electronica for sure isn't everyone's favourite musical brand and I freely admit that it isn't mine either, although like most musical styles, if it's done properly with ideas and energy then I'll be up for it. I think the connection I made earlier helped me with this track, at least it made more sense to me in that context. It also shows a clean pair of heels in the 'here's a neat lick' department too, which is an essential element in any successful piece of electronica. So while I wouldn't be tracking this down on my own, I am sure that people who do enjoy space opera (in an electronica sense) will get a lot from it.

Highly Recommended electronic space themes.

Sukuta - Out There

Hear The Track Here

A new name to me, finally, from Soundclick, Sukuta on paper looks like a sure fire winner - at least for me. Anyone who can drag 'sounds from the Yorkshire moors, the Australian Aboriginals and a street in Thailand' into a musical conversation is OK in my books. Then to go on and mention 'Arab and classical influences, European soprano, New Zealand Haka and Siberian Shaman Throat Singers'... caaamm on, you had me at 'sounds' know what I mean? See, you have just listed the very things that appeal to me in the most basic musical way and World music has always been my preferred genre and I've been in it long enough to recognise the good (and the bad) in it.

I think Sukuta and I have a few samplesets/instruments in common because there is much I recognise in his music, not necessarily a bad thing I like to think. Quality isn't really a problem here, I am really picky about what I use on my own tracks, so I guess Sukuta is too. Having hoovered up all four tracks on his Soundclick page instantly, I can see why he picked Out There for review because it is, by far, the best track on there in every way. That's not to say the others don't work, they do but not in the same, seamless way that Out There does it. For me, as a world musician, it's that melding together of instruments and styles that makes the best tracks, so that nothing can be added or taken away.

All the very best world music stands its own ground, regardless of whether you like the genre or not and IMHO most of it is exciting and vibrant, and as experimental as all get out. I like people who play with 'out there' and this musician can do inspiring and atmospheric, usually on the same track. One small problem I find, at least IMO, is that a lot of the tracks have a tendency to wander off after a while and so, I suspect, would the listener. A lot of the time the tracks (including this one) could have been shorter, and certainly more concentrated on a couple of musical themes at most. At over seven minutes and then some, this is a lot to take in.

Recommended world music.

Larry Ludwick - My House

Hear The Track Here

Not sure whether Larry Ludwick entered this into the special Critics Corner Halloween competition because My House is principally a ghost story in song or because the competition entries have flooded into me this month (I think I have reviewed three of the compo tracks so far). Larry Ludwick (as well as being a very competent musician and songwriter) is responsible for the most part for the endless competitions (weekly and monthly) that are a high spot for users of the Critics Corner forum on Soundclick and - as such - probably has the same problem as me. People know him more for what he does online than for his musical side and that's a shame.

While his eclectic musical taste is not going to be to everyone's taste, once you have acquired it his music is rich and evocative but its in his lyrics that this musician really shines - at least for me. Like yours truly, Larry is a word man, although I have to say that in reviewing his has me beat hands down. While I witter on about inconsequentials, Larry's reviews are a study in how to review constructively. Musically, it has to be said, Larry prefers a quiet life, well softer certainly. While I wouldn't go so far as call him easy listening, he is calm personified generally, as My House will show you in no uncertain manner.

Lyrically, however, it is far from calm. Like a lot of his material it is essentially a tale of lost love, in this case a man who has died but cannot let go of the house he bought for his wife who had passed away earlier and he couldn't bear to leave it. Larry has a knack for these kind of tales which, from someone else, would have me in a raging fury or foaming at the mouth but Larry always convinces, and that's a rare talent. Liking or disliking what Larry Ludwick does is neither here nor there, that isn't the point. The point is that this is man who can put across poignancy, emotion and drama, all done in that highly distinctive voice that neither speaks nor sings.

Classic Ludwick shock horror. Highly Recommended

Twizzie - Stay Sick

Hear The Track Here

One of the brighter spots in my reviewing life over the past two or three years has been my resurgent taste for hip hop, although I should stress mightily that I am not talking about the commercial 'riches and bitches' hip hop - this I cannot abide and I am not afraid to say so. Nope the kind of hip hop that raises my spirits these days comes mainly (although not exclusively) through Soundclick's indie hip hop scene and artists such as Gangbangsters, Rustik and Twizzie and beat factories such as Anno Domini and Sinima. These are all musicians and rappers who do not rely on the tried and tested commercial formulas but stretch into other genres and styles.

Not that it matters much but very few of these rappers happen to be black either, they are mostly white or - in Twizzie's case - Asian. Ever since I first came across him as Twisted Angel, Twizzie has been a fave of mine because not only does he stretch himself musically, he stretches himself lyrically AND generally posts lyrics too. If you want a taste of his style against the commercial norm, check out the battle video on his Soundclick page. Rapping like this is intense and you really have to be on your game to own the place but on Twizzie vs DVS the difference is stark and obvious. If you want to see the power of hip hop at work, do yourself a favour and have a listen.

Stay Sick is Twizzie's first release in 2011, been a very quiet year because he's been putting his time into these battles. Produced by Anno Domini Stay Sick is, materially, fairly standard hip hop although AD make beats that are markedly different to the kind of tracks the commercial side uses. Quirky and idiosyncratic is usually their style (which is why I like them) and Twizzie's rap style suits it perfectly. He is one of the very few rappers who uses bought in beats to great effect, you won't find glitches and/or pauses in his tracks, this is a guy who works at getting it right and it shows. Now while Stay Sick is not really my cup of tea (a bit too commercial for my tastes) it does show that this year of battling is sharpening Twizzie's style enormously.

Highly Recommended hip hop from Canada (even)

Farrell Jackson - San Francisco Daze

Hear The Track Here

Although I am now old(er), and was once a 'hippie' I'll deck the first person who calls me an old hippie. See when I was young and malleable (not to mention stupid and arrogant) I actually believed in what hippies stood for. That's why, to this day, I still have long hair. It's a form of remembrance. IMHO out of all the charges that can be levelled at my (baby boomer) generation the most damning is that we dropped the ball (so to speak). Hippie ideals flowered and died in America under a wave of greed, amorality and a wave of brutal, pointless police aggression - ringing any bells Occupiers?.

The same thing happened all over Europe to the ideals that inspired us. I know it seems hokey to look back on it now but we really thought we COULD change things. Fact is though, you can't. The real problem here (and then) is human greed and fallibility and to change that, you have to change humans, and that's an infinitely more gargantuan, and slower, task. Resonances, my friends, resonances.Farrell Jackson is also a baby boomer and has lovingly recreated it in many of the tracks featured in these reviews and, consequently, has become one of my favourite rock veterans; we are on the same musical wavelength.

This is a song about 'hazy daze of San Francisco's Summer Of Love concerts' which - I guess - he must have attended, in which case he witnessed history in the making - and we all hate him, don't we? ;) After all we're talking Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and no doubt many more. Heap big shoes to fill maaaannnnn. To call this track a song is a bit of a misnomer. It's a fretboard mashup in the time honoured fashion; more rock lead guitar than you can shake a stick and the distinct whiff of something naughty in the air. Even Farrell admits he could have been a bit over the top with the leads but hey, that's what it was like back in the day.

Highly Recommended rock flashback. (Ed: and stay away from the brown acid...)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pilesar - Melon Balls

Hear The Track Here

If any other geezer had sidled up to me and whispered melon balls in my ear, I would have wiped the floor with them. A person has certain standards doncha know and one of them is not talking balls with men. No wait, that's not right because men are always talking balls anyway - at least according to all the women I know. Wait! How in beejeesus did we get there?? Aaaahhh, Pilesar! he has that effect on me - and others - at least the people who have experienced his music. I use the word experienced because, no matter what else, it's an experience you are not likely to find anywhere else.

Melon Balls isn't a new track, and it isn't a strictly Pilesar track but in fact comes from his old Quagmire band (circa 2008) which featured: Pilesar: drums, vocals, Corpsefinger: sax, Logan Rainard: bass, vocals and Jason Tremblay: guitar. If I remember correctly he has worked with Corpsefinger before, after all it's not a name you are likely to forget is it? Anyway regular readers with long exposure to this musician (and his cohort) will be girding themselves for the experience so if experimental music is not for you, zip straight to the end where things kinda/sorta fall into a rock stylee that will be familiar to almost anyone. The rest of it (ie 90% of the song) is anyone's guess.

This is always the way with Pilesar's music, definitely a love or hate thing and I definitely fall into the former category and have done ever since I first came across him way back when. For those familiar with his work, Melon Balls (in sound and tone) harks back to that earlier - much more chaotic - musical style that first endeared him to many of us. I am not one to quote lyrics in reviews because I think that's kind of lazy but then there are times when the lyric itself makes it irresistible. So, here's the entire first verse... 'I got balls the size of melons, (Melon balls! Melon Balls! Melon Balls!), All my friends say they're not jealous, I can't say that I believe them, Well me and my melon balls don't need them( Melon balls! Melon Balls! Melon Balls! Melon balls! Melon Balls! Melon Balls!). As you can see, probably something to avoid if you feel in any way nervous or apprehensive.

Highly Recommended (Zappa-ish) experimental

Pidgeman - Adrenaline Rush

Hear The Track Here

Couldn't believe my eyes the other day when I was checking out previous Pidgeman reviews, a full thirty tracks of them!! Damn, I thunk, this boy spits 'em out at a prodigious rate. It's a good job then that generally I have a liking for Pidgeman's style and brand of rock music, for sure he's has lots of praise from this quarter and even a couple of Must Haves because he is - first and foremost - a songwriter of some note. He's also been around long enough to know a) how to record and b) how to present his material.

So generally there isn't much to snipe at in the way of sound and/or performance niggles, it's all down to a question of taste. You may notice I used the word generally there a couple of times. Well, there have been moments, as there are with most musicians. Adrenalin Rush is an instrumental and as someone literally drowning in a sea of them it was hard not to groan a little. It was only a little groan though because - having known this musician a good while - I know that the end result will be listenable and enjoyable as it is with most veterans at this game.

Even veterans though are going to struggle to keep anyones attention these days with instrumentals and even when they do get it right - such as this Adrenaline Rush right here - it's appeal is going to be limited, to say the least. I'm fairly sure that Pidgeman doesn't really care much either way, he just puts them out and we listen or not. Mind you, if you don't listen then you will be missing out on a pretty decent instrumental for all that. While it has more than it's fair share of shreddage, it also has structure and style and, surprise, a couple of hooks even. Don't get many of them in instrumentals. There's even a video to watch as you listen...

Recommended guitar instrumental.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cinnabar - Primeval Love

Hear The Track Here

Aaaaiiieee, the internet is a slippery place, and not always in a good way. So there I was innocently (for once) going about my reviewing business, in this case looking up spellings. See I always thought that primeval was spelt primeaval and, I was internet informed, this is a common mis-spelling. Primeval is correct and not, as I concluded lazily, a lazy American spelling of an original Latin word. So why am I so hot and bothered? Well I had the misfortune to try this innocuous activity on a computer recently vacated by my children who had been doing image homework; so the browser was set to that. I did a search on the words of the title and was horrified to see what came up - and glad the kids were not around at the time.

The internet where blindfolds are obligatory... ;)

I came to Cinnabar quite late in the story but both they, and I, have made up for it in the meantime. Over the couple of years I have known their work, they have three Must Haves out of the six tracks I have reviewed - that's a very good average. There again, Cinnabar are a very good band as even the most casual listen will prove and one of the only musicians on Soundclick whose prog-rock tendencies are more than just listenable, they are little jewels of sound. Cinnabar are Gary Judge and Matt Tyson, with the division of labour being Judge (music, production etc) and Tyson (vocals etc) and it works really well. Primeval Love is, I suspect, Gary's solo effort - it sure sounds like it - but that doesn't mean much other than I rate Tyson as singer very highly.

Gary Judge is a very competent and nuanced vocalist but I think even he would admit that his voice isn't the powerhouse Matt Tyson sports but it doesn't do the track any damage. I have compared Cinnabar (the two of them) to the Beach Boys in their prime and if that reference holds true then Gary Judge is making music that today's version of Brian Wilson might recognise. Or he might not, depending on which way he is facing. This is an older Cinnabar track though, not to be confused with their latest sounds. As such, it's definitely worth a listen even if sounding somewhat home produced (especially vocally)

Recommended Adult Contemporary innit...

Billy Shake - Crashing Down CD

Hear The Track Here

Although Billy Shake is a new name to me, one of the members of this duo certainly isn't. Billy Shake is lyricist/songwriter George Simpson and producer/songwriter Steven Mesropian (who requested the review) and Crashing Down, an eleven track CD recorded at Steven Mesropian's Musicmez studio. Now Mez, as he's known, is also a member of Those Among Us whose contribution to these reviews has always been warmly recieved so it goes without saying that I was interested in seeing what this was about. Mez's main role in Those Among Us is that of vocalist and this is one of the major draws of the band, he has a great rock voice.

Not that it's going to be much in evidence on this CD mind, because Mez's role here is all the music and production, harmonies, and lead vocals on one song Stronger Word. All the rest of the tracks are sung by George Simpson, who does a more than capable job of it, aided by some really. really good songs. Take a listen, for instance, to Big City Dreams (one of my favourites), it's complex, but still packing a serious rock punch and a style that is part Clash and part Lou Reed. I know, I know, wild comparison sure enough but you have to hear it to know what I mean. Certainly the first three tracks of the CD should convince even the heaviest doubter among you that these are skilled songwriters.

Spring Heel Jack (a nickname for Jack The Ripper) is a great rock workout in the time honoured classic tradition and remind me in some ways of the Who in their poppier moments. Draw The Line, on the other hand is definitely American in feel and tone and is a beautifully produced acoustic rock number that I know John Brandon (also from Those Among Us) would have loved to write. Rather than go through every track (they are all as good) just think, here is a forty+ minute rock experience that shows there is life in the classic rock song. Don't believe me, then one last track to savour I think... It's called Down The Road and - for me - it's the absolute standout track; a blend of Americana and rock that warms me on this cold winters day...

MUST HAVE rock pop (with terrific songs to boot)

Dollar Bill and The Unmentionables - Alright

Hear The Track Here

We've already had one entrant into Soundclick's Critics Corner Halloween competition - Whitman Speck's Halloween (In The N13) - and here's another and I suspect that this one will have fared considerably better than Whitman's but only because of a difference in taste, not because of anything the musicians are doing. You may remember Dollar Bill (not to mention the Unmentionables) when I reviewed Missing The Kerfluffle (October 2011), a strange, but oddly fascinating instrumental that was much better than the sum of its parts. Put it like this, that's where the oddness came in. Mind you, we were warned before hand that Dollar Bill (not to menti...(Ed: stop or censor, your choice Gilmore)) has a bit of humour about his person.

So that's alright then...

At first glance (as it were) this is a sunny, upbeat, Beach Boys type song whose golden glow darkens slowly as the song progresses and its protagonist insisting that 'I'm alright and everything is fine' when its obvious that he's not fine and its not alright. In other words, its an aural descent into one mans hell and it is perfect Halloween material. I need to check up on who won that compo because this is a very, very strong track on all levels and would IMHO take some beating (no pun intended) (Ed: as if...)

It wasn't until I rolled around to the video that it really made sense to me, but I suspect I had already been hooked because what this track had in abundance were great ideas, nay genius ideas. For example, this juxtaposition between the sweet, light beginning and the dark, hellish ending is illustrated beautifully by the aforementioned Beach Boys stylee and some of the more brutal modern versions of devil metal. I freely admit that although I liked Missing The Kerfluffle it didn't leave me with any lasting impression other than a mild interest in this musician. This track changed all that.

MUST HAVE mental breakdown (go on, you know you want to...)

Linwood Riley - Last Days Of Summer

Hear The Track Here

I suppose I really should stop bleating like a frightened sheep about my dislike for soundtracks (of all stripes) because I sure as hell don't seem to be able to avoid any coming down the pike. There are, of course, a couple of indie soundtrack musicians that I do like but they are usually the ones that have the visuals to go with the music, which is where soundtracks belong. One of the most important aspects, for me anyway, of soundtracks is that they either evoke a mood or an image. That to me seems to be the whole point of the things. So if it's not really part of a visual experience or it evokes nothing other than being a piece of music (of whatever genre) it isn't a soundtrack as such.

Having stomped over that old ground until its microscopic dust, let's turn to Linwood Riley who just happens to be one of those soundtrack musicians (he's made some cracking comic strip/cartoon soundtracks, all on his page). Linwood was also a member of Chicago's Muse Machine a while back going under the name byte19 or in collab with another MM member, The Rascal Theorist.. So he's a busy boy see...Linwood manages the evocation thing nicely enough and, as I say, he has worked with visual material before and I sure liked that. Wonder Woman Original Soundtrack (May 2010) is exactly what I would expect when faced with the 'here's a soundtrack' request

Unlike some overblown horrors I remember, Linwood keeps his tracks short, and to the point because - after all - it's only to illustrate. Or in this particular case, to evoke that end of summer feeling almost all of us would recognise. Certainly the first part of the track (say two minutes) definitely had me feeling melancholy and a bit down, shuffling the fallen leaves of the autumn disconsolately and remembering how long it takes for winter to be gone. Yeah, pass me a tissue would you...? Sad then is the feeling Linwood was trying for and succeeded for the most part. There are a couple of odd things about it (I think I noticed a gap there somewhere in the structure) and the sound was fairly pedestrian which was a bit puzzling.

Or maybe it's just me being a bit crabby...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Everyone's A Poet - Subtle My Friend, Subtle

Hear The Track Here

Everyone's a poet, even Nuff X it appears. In case you think I have a reviewing glitch (Ed: oh they know, they know), Everyone's A Poet and Nuff X are one and the same person. Where Nuff has perfected his particular brand of dark, disjointed, glitchy breakbeat and industrial rhythms that have become known (amongst those who know these things) as Nuffcore - and very strange and lively it is too. Everyone's A Poet is Nuff's sideline into the world of Electronic Trip Hop, and by gum he's kept this a deep dark secret for many a year. I'm certain that loads of us Nuff-nutts will have no idea that there was another shade to this musician and I admit to a very piqued interest in hearing it. After all, Nuff is extremely good at the ol' bleepy-bleepy (Ed: he means music of an electronica nature I presume...)

So, fasten your seatbelts, pin back your eyes and keep your eyes skinned (Ed: slow down, slow down) because we are going on (and I quote) ' a moody plod through a dark sound scape' Oh come on, it does too sound exciting!! It's the word 'plod' isn't it? Yeah me too. It does indeed kind of plod, although that's probably the least of its worries. Actually, I think this is one of the most intense pieces of experimental electronica I have heard in a good long while and I struggle mightily to discern what I would call trip hop anywhere within it. There again, if it sounds that I don't like this track, you'd be wrong.

I am intrigued, and uncertain and that's a first - even for Nuff. Now maybe it's because the trip hop that I know tends - on the whole - to be very smooth and even (dare I say it) jazzy and Subtle is nothing like that. It's not subtle either come to think of it, it's like a hard electronic fist in the face while it short circuits your brain. More to the point I was expecting, given the ol' poet and trip hop thing, that this was going to be rap thing and it's as far from that as it can get. No rap whatsoever, for a start. So, if you want a tasty piece of electronic wtf-ry this should be right up your street, I certainly found it so once I had got over the shock and awe - but I would because it is Nuff after all...

Highly Recommended wtf

Ludicrous - The Trickling Of Blood

Hear The Track Here

Here's a situation where the band name in no way describes anything this Anglo-French band does. There is nothing ludicrous about the music that the band have come up with, and plenty that is absolutely right - leading to some very good reviews from me for the five tracks I have reviewed so far. No Must Have yet, but I suspect that is just a question of time because Ludicrous have two things going for them according to my own personal taste; an excellent female singer and a knack for producing catchy, interesting pop songs. Mind you, The Trickling of Blood is billed as Goth Alternative and I suppose that's right too, Goths being a bit heavy on the whole blood and guts thing, and don't even get me started on the white makeup... Goth women are well tasty though (Ed: TMI Gilmore) but I couldn't eat a whole one.

Judging by the sound of the lyrics (they are not posted) The Trickling Of Blood is a murder mystery worthy of the blood drenched annals of our own Whitman Speck, although without the added terror and profanity. I think I'd question the billing to because - to my ears - this is more electronic experimental than anything else; what guitar there is in it is used in a supporting role. Not that this is a bad thing, in fact the track is a damn good listen, technically as well as performance. Still, good production values have been a constant in every track of theirs so far, so it shouldn't come as a surprise.

Funny, whenever I sit down with this band I always come away thinking that they are much more experimental that I first on first listens, it's only when you start to spend some quality time for their tracks that you start to notice just how...well.....odd they are. The Trickling Of Blood is an oddity right from the getgo; from its lyrical content, it's structure and instrumentation and the overwhelming sense of 'wtf is going on here'. Again, this is not a bad thing because, taken overall, this is a very decent track albeit a bit off the beaten track and not - to my mind - as strong as some of the tracks they have given me. Nonetheless, an interesting listen.

Highly Recommended oddity.

Whitman Speck - Halloween (In The N13)

Hear The Track Here

I have been known, in the past, to complain (Ed: b*tch and moan more like) about the Soundclick Parental Advisory stickers but - so far - every single one of Whitman Speck's tracks have fully deserved to be kept away from the kiddies (and the grannies, nervous nellies, anyone with a bleak disposition) because Whitman Speck is hardcore with a capital Ouch-that's-gonna-sting-in-the-morning. From the singalong delights of Dead Or Alive (February 2009) to the blood drenched, relentlessly violent images of King Of The Sickos (February 2011) and Butcher Of Plainfield (October 2011) this is not a man to meet up with in a dark alley at midnight. Or, come to think of it, in the very centre of a crowded city at midday. Or anytime really, best he stays in your nightmares, ya know...

When requesting the review Whitman stated that 'it doesn't seem to be too popular in the (Soundclick forum) Halloween contest' as if this had come as a surprise. Now if your hackles had been rising steadily since I started this review maybe you are now beginning to understand that even Halloweenies get scared when faced with this. Or maybe it's just the hip hop. Ahhh, yeah sorry, forgot to mention that Whitman is a UK rapper (the N13 refers to an area of London) and a very good one at that IMHO - even if it's more than a little disturbing to hear. Now I'm definitely an old fart that has seen way too much in the way of human behaviour so do admit to a certain mental callousness but even so, this guys scares the crap out of me too.

The self-styled 'Suburban Psycho' has always used aggressive musical tactics to soften up the meat of your ears before pouring his aural horror show into your mind; and this Halloween has more than a touch of deranged insanity about it. If the simple, nail biting, screw-you-to-your-chair edginess of the music doesn't get you sweating a bit, then the vituperative verbals that leave whole swathes of his native N13 end empty of all human life will definitely have you running right home to Mummy and a nice, calming Valium or six. DEFINITELY not for those offended by violence, sickness, death and destruction but if you like a good rapper on top of his game, Whitman Speck has that going for him.

Highly Recommended keep-your-eyes-closed Horrorcore.

Jon Solo - Laughing At Me

Hear The Track Here

I like a man who knows what he wants, as some legendary ditzy blond once put it. Why spend all those nights trying to dream up a vibrant, recognisable name for you band when you could just call it what it was. Take, just as example, Jon (his name) Solo (how he does it). Neat, effective and does exactly what it says on the tin. Moreover, it's so short and so simple that even yer average knuckle dragger could find their way to the page time and time again, also - as a side effect - elevating their own self esteem into the bargain. All the bases covered as it were. Damn, they should put Jon in charge of the Eurozone he'd have it working properly lickety spilt.

There again, maybe not...

From the outset, with Elisabeth Shue (June 2009) Jon Solo showed that he has a very fine pop sensibility that - for me - seems to improve with each succeeding release. Kill Shot To The Heart (October 2011), a Bond theme song that never was, could sit easily among the real Bond themes and nobody would bat an eyelid, so perfect was the recreation. Being the gearhead I am I fixated on one thing from the track that snagged me from the beginning. It's a kind of gamelan sound that occurs throughout the song and it was my personal hook into it, but one instrument does not a classic make. That's another thing this guy does well, his choice and blends of sounds all add to the overall impact of the track.

At this stage of the game, the man hasn't delivered a dud and isn't likely to if Laughing At Me (either version as it happens) is any indication. As I said earlier, classic rock pop is what Jon does best so expect to hear hints of Beatles, West Coast rock and even Duran Duran. On top of all this he is a very strong songwriter, putting together interesting and varied arrangements that always add to the proceedings and point the song right at your pleasure centres. I think it is right to say that Jon's musical vision might take more than a couple of plays to register, but the repeated playing is always a pleasure with music of this quality and style.

Highly Recommended and MUST HAVE for fans.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - What Lies Ahead

Hear The Track Here

Had a bit of a shock when I was starting the review for this track. Over the year or so I have been listening to Weylin's Slayer Orchestra, I've actually handed him a couple of Must Have's which - given the soundtrack genre - is a by God miracle. There again, the soundtracks Weylin imagines in his musical endeavours is a very different one to the one usually conjured up by those words. For example, most people would not equate 'metal' with soundtrack. Well, Weylin would. More to the point, I am wrong in ascribing him to the soundtrack genre, there is so much more to his music than that neat little pigeonhole.

If you'd have said to me a couple of years ago that I would be grooving on something called 'progressive metal' in the future I would have laughed and probably called you something quite rude. Had you also said that the groovy material in question would have a distinct whiff of soundtrackery about it, I'd have been dialling up the men with the little white coats - for you, not for me. Which just goes to show that even old farts such as myself can change their minds once in a while. Having said that, What Lies Ahead is pretty much what I expect from this musician (familiarity breeding contempt again?) but not, I suspect, as good as some of the tracks he has delivered in the recent past.

This is an artist who, despite every prejudice I parade before him. has still managed to notch up a couple of Must Haves from me so he must be doing something right. I think my problem (if that is the correct word even) with this track is something that is common in all of Weylin's material, that of an (extremely) over-active kick drum. If he had been using live drummers, no doubt Weylins would have killed a good many by now with massive exhaustion and whiplash from the speed you have to move at. Not natural for a human being, let alone a drummer.... Anyway, minor quibbles. If you've liked what Weylin has done in the past, this is a welcome addition.

Highly Recommended Progressive Metal

Charlie A - The Prayer Feat Abiodun Koya

Hear The Track Here

In this internet world there are networkers and then there are networkers. know what I mean? Some people seem to make friends (no, not the Facebook kind) everywhere, Charlie Armour is one such uber-networker. Mind you, given that he is in the trade of supplying film soundtracks and the like, he would have to be a pretty keen networker even just to keep his foot in the door. That's the only explanation I can come up with the the seemingly endless array of musicians he has introduced me to over the five years I have known him But wait, didn't I just say 'film soundtrack' and don't I have a fearsome rep for hating such music?

Indeed so, but that's another difference Charlie A brings to the party.

So, here's a new collaboration with a singer unknown to me, Abiodun Koya, a Nigerian born 'lyric soprano ' and apparently 'one of the very few African women who sing opera', it gets more interesting by the minute doesn't it? Or it would IF you were into that genre and I do confess I like some opera but there are many, many people who think it's as bad as film soundtracks. Sooo.... What separates Charlie A's work from all the rest of the wannabes is that the man has an incredibly sure touch with the genres he works in, as is evidenced by the many, many class tracks on his Soundclick page. He has even given me a couple of Must Have tracks and considering my usual hatred of this genre...

The Prayer, musically at least, is a wide genre bender encompassing electronic trance, world music and classical styles (along with the opera) and is - to say the least - aurally stunning. There is no doubt that Abiodun has a beautiful voice but Charlie utilises it to maximum advantage too, and that is also a hallmark of his work. Whether you like the style he is into or not, there is no denying the quality of sound he generates - on every track, time after time. A musician then, to be savoured and this - once you get used to it - is one of his finer moments as far as I am concerned. Absolutely splendid work.

MUST HAVE magical blend.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

N Talekt - So Gone Feat Anna

Hear The Track Here

Although he's been around on Soundclick for some years, Richmond VA based rapper N Talekt has been a bit quite of late, breaking a long absence with a new album out now. Feeling Good (October 2011) was the first released track from In My Loving Memory and that track showed that wherever he has been, he has not been idle. Now while Feeling Good was a tasty slice of jazzy hip hop, it wasn't - to my mind - anything like as punchy as it should be. What got me was how good he has become about things like production, performance and style, all of which have seen marked improvement.

I am very happy to say that So Gone is the track I probably should have heard first but hey, ya gets what you are given eh? It works in the same sort of general field as Feeling Good but is IMHO a far stronger song and rap, not mention it has a terrific female vocal to go along with it. No idea whatsoever what exactly 'Anna' had to do with this; my assumption is that vocal but I've been caught out by this stuff before so until I know better....schtum. If that is her on the vocal then I got to say she makes this track float. (Ed: female vocal you see, Gilmore's Obsession).

There is a video attached to this track which you will find here which is of very decent quality and - surprising for rap I know - doesn't feature any half naked women to sell it to you. Just the man himself, and he does a very good job of getting the message out there. IMHO, video aside, this is one of the tighter N Talekt tracks, and definitely one of the most together in terms of music, ideas and vision. It helps that there is a killer hook too...

Excellent hip hop. Highly Recommended.

Ralph Atkinson - Don't Hold It Back

Hear The Track Here

It's been an incredibly short time since I met Canada's Ralph Atkinson with Building A Time Machine (September 2009) but the man has more than made up for it, stuffing those couple of years with tracks in just about every genre imaginable. Most irritating thing of all is they are all very good indeed, high quality production and performance and considering that Ralph does everything you hear is no mean achievement. If memory serves me right, there may be one or two tracks that didn't quite hit the post but - overall - Ralph Atkinson can be relied on to deliver music of a very high standard. A lot of what he does is, of course, rock based but this track promises 'old school soul/r&b'

Yeah yeah, owww get down indeed.

Now I'll probably pay for making the next comment but in all honesty I cannot stand the sound of the Fender Rhodes piano, which is strange considering the huge contribution it has made to modern music but God, the sound drives me nuts. It came to prominence in the 1960's soul scene, much like the Hammond B3, and has been a solid instrument ever since, which is why I guess Ralph is using the sound on Don't Hold It Back. Moreover, it's the prime instrument so given my earlier confession, it's surprising that we are both still standing. Although the overall 'easy' feel doesn't sit too well with me, I can certainly see what Ralph was about here.

Having grown up with the original soul/R&B surge, it's not going to go down too well if you don't have the soul voice to deliver it, and would probably be the first to say he can't do it. Nonetheless, outside of the obvious 'white' voice, the feel and tenor of the song is overwhelmingly soul of the old school and - credit where credit is due - Ralph actually does do a terrifically good job of putting that point across, despite the limitations. What sells this for me though is that Ralph was willing to try something so far out of his comfort zone and still come up with the goods. Not my kinda thing though, but there are plenty who do like this kind of stuff.

Recommended old school soul.

Joe Paulson - This Fine Evening CD

Hear The Track Here

Joe Paulson is yet another new artist introduced to me by Amanda at LaFamos, a PR company doing some great work, they have introduced me to some really talented people. So, now that I've made sure that the check is in the mail (Ed: You get PAID!! for this), I have to say that their roster is impressed me so far. But there's always the next one eh? ;) Joe Paulson is a Midwestern musician (Indiana seeing as you asked) This Fine Evening is a ten track album and the album cover will give you big clue about what to expect from the music. It's beyond doubt that you will have heard something similar before - especially in America where piano based singer/songwriters are a dime a dozen.

Can't say that it's a favoured genre with me, although Elton John has done the job a time or two. Having said that, I am always willing to overcome the mountain of prejudice I normally shoulder when faced with a) American piano rock tracks and; b) ballads. Ahhh, now you get the picture now huh? I know I've bored you senseless before with my distaste for the ballad but I can see why some people (ladies anyway) like this stuff and would love anything by Joe Paulson because - like or dislike - the man has the tunes, the voice and the production quality to automatically gain listeners. Easy listening has always been a hard slog for me but surprisingly enough this review session wasn't as onerous as I expected (given the description).

Because of these endless phobias of mine, I always try to approach each review clean, looking at the musical quality and strength of song structure, then when I get musically surprised it's a bonus. After all, this material is not aimed at an old, grizzled rock animal like yours truly, but someone with a working heart. Should you have such a piece of equipment about your person I suggest that these tunes will make it all well up with emotion and such-like. Yet again, perseverance pays off because the more I listened to the CD, the more I found myself appreciating just what Joe Paulson has to offer even though it is nothing like my usual musical diet.

Highly Recommended singer/songwriter.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Afrolicious - Dub For Mali EP

Hear The Track Here

Now that I have decent source for decent reggae and dub (step forward Juan at Press Junkie) I am duty bound to bring some of it to your attention. As you know this is a genre very close to what I laughingly call a heart and I am a producer of the genre myself so my interest is a given. According to the accompanying blurb A Dub For Mali is 'a taste of the wide spectrum of sounds that have been cultivated weekly at the San Francisco based Afrolicious party, hosted by real life brothers Pleasuremaker and SeƱor Oz' and bloody good it is too with its mix of African and Caribbean rhythms.

Don't take my word for it though, just dive in...

Dub For Mali features three tracks, each of them excellent in their own way so let's start with Foolin'.. Billed as 'electro-Dub, reggae and down-tempo' it features some killer rimshots of the kind I have dreams about, a touch of jazzy horns (from Billy Magic and Aaron Lebowitz ) and a ridiculously infectious groove that is absolutely guaranteed to have you nodding with the first ten seconds. Vocally perfect too, thanks to a spirited performance from Trinidad's Fresh is Life. Righteous!! Dub For Mali is definitely the standout track, at least for me, and not just because of the killer vocals contributed by Burkina Faso's Yacouba Diara but by the laid back, yet energetic authentic African tone. A perfect piece of world music.

Thursday Night Kinda Swings rounds out the set and it's a magical blend of jazz, funk, electronica that swings in a way most indie musicians would kill to achieve. Again featuring a stellar vocal performance from Baba Duru Of course, we are talking about somewhat higher class of presentation, performance and production from all the musicians I have mentioned, as well as mainman Joey "Pleasuremaker" McGuire and producer Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation. In a world where just about everyone and his dog can make music is good, yeah, but not like this. If you live in San Franciso it would be a good idea to check out Afrolicious live methinks; judging by this it would be a very handsome night indeed. Awesome stuff.

MUST HAVE world/reggae/dub/electronica/everything.

Painted Water - Finding Tomorrow (Remastered)

Hear The Track Here

You know, if you let it, this reviewing malarky can really go to a person's head (Ed: O....M.....G, everybody duck) It's the dazzling power of it all ya see, it tempts lesser men to quail and run screaming from the building with their hands flapping like a girl. I long ago learned that hearing something by another musician is always but always a personal taste thing, although (as you know) I have a liking for the technical side of the story too. However, when Painted Water sidled up to me (as they do) and muttered 'I am going to try my other style. Please don't hate it too much' as if I had any say in it. I long ago set my ears free (as possible) and open to all comers and I don't think I hate anything (Ed: except let's see: disco, cheesy pop, prog rock, lifeless American rock, soundtracks of any stripe, ambient, meditative...)

OK pal, we get the picture...probably best to be forearmed.

So, if this is his 'other' style, what's his main style, you may ask; or not depending on how lazy you are. Well, seeing as you asked (Ed: wtf??) thus far two other Painted Water tracks have flowed past me ears; Feastia Of The Sun (August 2010) and The Chase feat John Holgate (September 2010) but of them lovingly crafted works of true world music, with The Chase being of the meatier, rockier variety and both absolute Must Have's for that. His 'other' style then just happens to be Classical of the Symphonic variety (Ed: ..and you hate that). I can't say I go out of my way to listen to indie classical generally because IMHO it just doesn't get the tone and sound right.

Based on Painted Water's previous very high standard of work though, even a dyed-in-the-wool hard hearted sob like myself can risk it for a biscuit. After all, how bad could it be?? Well the good news is that it isn't bad at all, in fact it's damn near excellent - for a string thingy. So yeah it's all a bit dramatic and smells strongly of soundtrackery (a sin akin to witchcraft IMO), it's sheer style and sweep is enough to placate even philistines like me. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and - given my natural antipathy towards the genre - is that I listened to this a lot more than was strictly necessary. very pretty piece indeed.

Highly Recommended stringy thingy (Ed: I am soooo despondent right now...)

333maxwell - Takin' The Trolley

Hear The Track Here

You know with some people, even a word can be like a loaded gun. Take, for example, Chas Holman (aka the Max) whose use of the word 'just' is a veritable minefield of understatement. So, let's 'just' recap to see where all this comes from... 333maxwell has been around Soundclick and elsewhere long enough to gather some tawdry, and no doubt totally tasteless, fawning from this reviewer along with Must Haves in the double digits and an Artist Of The Year 2009 bauble into the bargain. So when he says that Takin' The Trolley is 'just some probably unfinished toodlin...' I've found it best to nod wisely and go riiiiiiiiiiggghhhhtttt, all the while muttering under your breath that nobody, but nobody could be this relentless.

333maxwell, him productive mofo sure as ****

My own personal preferred state of 333maxwell arousal has to be when he is on a jazz tip, and the earlier the period the better. Chas has an uncanny knack of getting exactly the right feel in this genre, his recreation skills are second to none and I'd back that statement up all the way. Unfinished toodling it may be but its in a class of its own regardless of its state. This guys 'just' is something to be rightly in awe of. Now, I know for a fact that young Holman is an aw shucks kinda guy who thinks that people like me say these things because we all want to be loved innit?? **** that, I say, I say these things because that's what I think, no matter how many aw shucks you get in a pound.

At this stage of the game there is no doubt that 333maxwell has developed a distinctive and recognisable jazz back catalog, most of which has a permanent home on my hard drive, and this is going to sit nicely with them. Some of his best jazz tracks have dated from the 1940's and 50's in feel and tone and so does - in some ways - Takin' The Trolley. However, give this a steady hearing, and you'll start to hear echoes of a much earlier period, the 1920's in its blue phase. That, ladles and germs, is what singles this musician out for me time and time again, that ability to 'just' hit it right every time. 'Just' makes you sick I tells ya...

MUST HAVE (and no 'just' about it)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ian Dadon - Space Colours

Hear The Track Here

Ian Dadon states in the song comments that 'I feel like I see things differently' and 'not necessarily in a good way' to which I can only add, join the club. Almost everyone I know has this viewpoint in some way, and we definitely all agree that the world is a totally insane place for human beings so wtf aren't we all scrambling to get off this damned planet?? Personally I take great delight in being able to see things different, or even if it comes to that, being able to see at all. As I have often mentioned, I think that a large part of humanity is willfully, knowingly blind to the world about them. I love being engaged with the larger world that surrounds me, even though it often make me weep tears of frustration (as I suspect it does for Ian); it is what gets me up in the morning.

Now quite what all of this has to do with Space Colours (other than my lifelong wish to travel in space) I'm sure will be made clear. Out of the handful of other Ian Dadon tracks I have reviewed he has proved himself a very capable songwriter, even if sometimes the music doesn't work for me (or at least the more proggy bits), so it's a good job they don't occur that often. What I do like is a straightforward riff fest when I want me old bones rocked and Space Colours supplies that need perfectly, although - even now - I'm still trying to see the sense in the song itself.

One of the things I have noticed most about musicians (primarily one man bands) is the tendency - because you have the luxury of time that doesn't cost $1Bn an hour - to either overdo what you are trying to accomplish, or to underdo it. This is particularly true of singer/songwriters who are basically 'home' musicians, although Ian has managed to avoid that syndrome so far. What really gets me about this track isn't particularly musical, it's the sheer oddity of the piece, especially vocally. Give this one time to work its magic and you - like me - will be hanging on to it.

Highly Recommended rock something :)

Thomas J Marchant - Lifeboat

Hear The Track Here

Way back in Soundclick's murky past, when I first started reviewing on that site (10 years and counting folks...) there were a few musicians around who - I have to be honest - I absolutely dreaded reviewing. Funnily enough, they were all billed as Experimental Electronica and they seemed to thrive on dissonance, disjointed (nay fully fractured) arrangements and a very cavalier attitude to production quality. Yeah, yeah ya old fart, but we all have to start somewhere, right? Yes indeedy, and again funnily enough, those people who I tagged at the time as 'the awkward squad' are now Soundclick veterans and whose recorded work is a s good (if not better) than 99% of the stuff out there - at least in terms of ideas.

Seems odd to think about it now because Thomas J Marchant was one of those types of artists and it's only been the past few years where we have seen the advent of Thomas the songwriter, guitarist and general all round musical hero (to many). Ahhh, I have heard people say, but his stuff is a bit amateurish isn't it? Well, I guess that depends on your point of view. Remember, Thomas has been there and picked up the long service medal, as well as a shedload of experience in what works and what doesn't. What works, in his case, is his songwriting and arranging ability (regardless of how lo-fi and (sigh) amateurish it sounds), and that has led to a great many more fans than I think he suspected he ever had. In fact, it is those very qualities that has won him those fans.

You can stop patting yourself on the back for being so clever as to spot that I have reviewed Lifeboat before; in July 2010 I wrote ' absolutely no-one else sounds like this' even doing a extremely simple reggae/ska tune which Lifeboat just happened to be. As I mentioned at the time, the best reggae I ever heard is a guy on a battered old acoustic merely picking chords as accompaniment and that is why the original got a Must Have. So what's changed? Well, you can hear the original here and the differences are instant, this is what Lifeboat (the original) sketched out but taken to the nth degree. Now a fully fledged, multi-instrumental, extremely well produced track that shows that this musician is STILL learning new tricks at a prodigious rate. So if the original got a Must Have, where does that leave this one? Well, your life will shrivel and die if you don't have this innit??

MUST HAVE (for fans) MUST HAVE (or anyone) original folky reggae.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Strange Talk - Climbing Walls

Hear The Track Here

First track out of the review bag this not-so-sunny November day is not an a track, it's a video. Kinda/sorta. Anyway, when I first got the request (months ago as always) I was exhorted by a band member to check out the 'interactive video' and suffice to say I didn't do that BUT if I had have done, I might have won prizes!! Damn, why can't I ever read the small print/manuals (Female Ed: because you are a man and hard wired not to read instructions). The interactive part of the video being sponsored by Cheer (a washing detergent) which make me think we should ALL get sponsored but ignore that, it's just a passing thought. Besides, we are only here for the music, right?

OK, which clown said no??

Strange Talk appear to be a four piece Australian band (or at least they have the accent) and - surprise, surprise - a new name to me. So, as it happens is the Cheer detergent but enough of that considering I didn't get any sponsorship from it. Over the past year or so I have reviewed more than a few videos but - in all honesty - the production quality on this blows away any indie outfit I have seen. Which means that, given the detergent connection, we are looking at a high priced commercial product - broadcast quality video and, as an aside, a very, very good pop song. OK, I guess I'd better qualify this a bit. I was so blown away by the video and song it took me a while to realise I was grooving away on something that -stylistically at least - could have come from Stock, Aitkin and Waterman and that goes for the video too.

If I hadn't already made the washing powder (not for snorting obviously) connection, the video would have provided me with endless clues, bright, colourful and perkier than Kylie's butt. If this was X Factor these guys would ace it. Good job the video and song is a million miles above the dreck from that dreadful show and - despite me not really liking the genre - this is a superb track and video. Now I couldn't leave it at that. My curiosity was piqued, wasn't it and it is not to be denied. So I checked out whether this SAW feel was a part of the overall sound and Sexual Lifestyle shows the answer is yes. It's as well produced and turned out as Climbing Walls. Definitely a band worth checking you go......


Rustik - Bad Guy

Hear The Track Here

One of the finer exponents of indie hip hop on Soundclick, Rustik has scored a pretty impressive rep among those who know of his work. Over the space of a dozen or so tracks, he has certainly proved his worth to me and even given me a couple of Tracks Of The Year into the bargain. Yeah, that good. As you know, I do like hip hop but I absolutely despise the tawdry commercial aspect of the genre and there is a very thin line between right and wrong - at least for me. While Rustik has wandered into some areas of the commercial side, he's always been able to keep it as real as I like it. Going through his back catalog will show that he can back these words up but, as ever, what has he come up with this time??

******* awesome kick sound is my first thought, but I've always been a bit of a nerd like that. Mind you when you are dealing with a genre where bass and drums play a major part, individual drums sounds are ultra important. I've never been into this 'dirty' drum sound that prevails in so much hip hop, I like to hear the actual instrument, not some noise that represents it. OMG, I went off on one, didn't it? Sorry, I'll drop the nerd sad act now before I live to regret it. Bad Guy is pretty close to what I would consider true hip hop sound in every way, and energy-wise it's off the hook.

There again, that's always been a feature of Rustik's style and one of the reasons he has gathered enough listeners to make it worthwhile and while I am not exactly sold on the track, it's nothing for Rustik to worry about, just a personal thing. I noticed that this is billed as New School Hip Hop and yes, it's been Auto-tuned and I suspect that has a lot to do with my ambivalence towards it. It's a sight more original than a great many track you will hear of its type and that is enough to make sure it has a worthy place in any self respecting Rustik fan's favourites.

Highly Recommended hip hop (new school apparently)

Those Among Us - How It Feels To Fall

Hear The Track Here

I am beginning to suspect that Those Among Us might be the ultimate EP factory. Having just reviewed Fallen Hero (October 2011), the last track reviewed from the excellent One EP which everyone should have a copy of by now, here is a brand new track from their Final Destination EP (it says here). John Brandon, Lino Gonzalez and Steven 'Mez' Mesropian share the collective responsibility for Those Among Us and they are nothing if not industrious, how many EP's is this now? Three? Four? I lost count. What I didn't lose, over these endless tracks, is my respect and admiration for what Those Among Us do with rock music.

It's the combination of the electronica/production skills Lino brings allied with the songwriting (and rock) skills of both John and Mez that single this band out for me, and each track draws those elements closer together. While I couldn't - hand on my heart - say this is right up there with their best, this is a personal quibble and one I share with no-one. As I've remarked countless times, there is a difference between American and UK rock that makes it hard to travel and IMHO this track sounds more American than I personally like. Not, I hastily add to forestall any American jihad on my unfortunate butt, that American rock is any less relevant or 'good' - just different.

Having said all that I stress that this is a personal warp that could only come from someone like me who has witnessed some of this band's finest hours. I also add that I did review (very favourably) the original song. See, that's the problem with pitching above the bar, it just gets harder and harder to impress. Now maybe I need to live with this much longer, as is sometimes the case with material from this source but I somehow know - in my heart of hearts - that it doesn't cut in the same way some of their classic tracks do. Nonetheless, I am sure there are many fans (Ed: and Americans, Gilmore, don't forget them...) who would argue the case well and - for sure - Those Among Us shouldn't worry overly much...

Recommended nonetheless.