Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A brief hiatus...

Or this reviewer needs a break already...

You may have noticed I haven't posted for a while, I am taking a bit of a back seat right now because of real world issues.  ALL trakcs presently in my mailbox/review list WILL get reviews - just might take a little longer.

In the meantime I am suspending any new review requests until I get fully caught up.  So PLEASE, no more submissions.

Normal service, as they say, will be resumed shortly.  Thanks for bearing with me.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Steff Adams - Tunings EP

Hear The Track Here

Told you, I'd get to Steff Adams in the last review (of fellow Welshmen Dead Shed Jokers) didn't I? Welp, here the rascal is. Whadda mean, who he?? For the record Steff Adams made a HUGE impression on me with his Blue Pathways CD (April 2010) which subsequently became one of my Tracks Of The Year 2010 and why, you may ask? Because the man is plain just very good at his job, said job being songwriter and singer (let's leave aside all the technical crap most people wouldn't understand anyway) and - believe me - that's a hard one to nail. After all, the world we live in is infested with singer/songwriters, now more so than ever before, so why on earth should we listen to another one? No matter how benevolent I seem, I do guard myself in choosing tracks of the year, they really have to be the best of the best - otherwise there is no point.

No huge surprise then that I fretted this one down the all-consuming Rebel Riffs review list...

Musically, Steff falls into the Beatles acoustic period perfectly, and he has the plain, uncompilcated songs to prove it. I think that even Sir Paul (Ed: good day your majesty) would have a wry chuckle at hearing Hectic Day (the opening track), so comparable the styles. If, however, it looks like Steff is (as it were) milking it a bit, you need to listen closer (and probably more often) than a driveby. That was one of the things Blue Pathways taught me, you really have to let this stuff settle to its own level which means giving it time to establish its true identity. As obvious as the Beatle connection is, that's merely a by-product of Steff's own roots and culture and it's as a songwiter that he really shines. See the same charge could be leveled at our old friend 333maxwell (who would like much of this collection), but as Max most ably shows; it's just the way these guys sound. Damn, they should form a band called Not The Beatles!! We could make a fortune!!! Eerrrr guys (Ed: calm Gilmore, calm)

I wrote 'the emphasis for Steff is most definitely acoustic based pop' in my previous review and nothing on Tunings changes that statement. The shared details are all still in place; an awesome (and home produced) production and arrangement job and some absolutely cracking songs. If I had to pick a standout track on this excellent five track EP I'd pick the short but sweet Bus Stop, an effective and efficient use of all the tools he has available, and it works beautifully. No, it isn't because it's the shortest track on the EP but because IMO it says exactly what Steff Adams is about. There is a huge market for beatle-ish music and there is no doubt in my mind that Steff Adams is a prime exponent in keeping the flame alive and more power to him.

Highly Recommended pop rock.

Dead Shed Jokers - Peyote Smile Album

Hear The Track Here

'The average man spends just under a year of his life in his shed' says an informative source of trivia. However, no other nation loves their shed like the English love theirs. Shed in this case meaning a small wooden building, generally situated in the garden (or whatever passes for one) and can look like this (ie English) or even that (everyone else) For the English musician though, as small and dismal as some of these sheds can be, they are tremendous places for creating a studio on the cheap. Long term readers will remember me waxing lyrical about the joys of The Shed a few years back, that's the Irish band btw, not the actual wooden thing they worked out of. Now along come The Dead Shed Jokers and if the cover of this is anything to go by, they made it in the absolute grungiest shed they could find. Surely, though, that's the point of it? Down and dirty...?

(waggles hand) wellllll, kinda/sorta...

These shedded jokers happen to come Wales, a land which grows a great many good musicians. First to spring to my mind is Steff Adams (of which more later) closely followed by Maddie Jones; both of them breath-takingly (Ed: that's not a word!) good in their different ways so I'm getting a bit partial to the Welsh... If'n ya don't believe me and you like a nice slab of steaming hot rock dumped in your lap, then grab a listen to Dead Shed Jokers. Garage bands? Pffffttt. Shed rock mate!! ******* A!! I remember reading somewhere that the blurb promised 'a pure headbangers delight' from this band and - for once - they live up to the hype; down, dirty rock so in-your-face it's pressing against the back of your skull. Peyote Smile is a thirteen track album that pretty much covers all the rock bases so it should appeal to anyone with even the vaguest interest in the genre. Rock as it should be.

After continued exposure, when the cracks usually appear, I'm still liking what I heard and yeah, doing a bit of head nodding because - whatever else - these boys know their roots and are busily regenerating them in some magic rock tracks. As I said, they cover a lot of ground so you are bound to stumble across the odd nod to the greats, and that - to me - is what makes what the Jokers do something special. Each track has something to offer, a different approach significantly aided by the production qualities that spell less is more. Kinda hard then to pick a favourite and here I sit many plays later wondering if I even had a favourite track. Sure, some of them stuck out - Magic Teatime, Jericho, Too Quick For Comfort and the sheer **** you of Tabloid Hangover - but truthfully there isn't a bad track here. If anyone out there is wondering where the spirit of rock and roll is, you definitely need to listen to Tabloid Hangover.

MUST HAVE and Classic Rock gone mental.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Starbus - Obvious Ghosts

Hear The Track Here

Might be a new name to you but not if I change it slightly to read HELLbus, for this is the band new vehicle employed by one Jon Partlelow, a certifiable Soundclick legend. He started with HELLbus and the awesome Table Fate (January 2006) - which to this day is one of my favourite tracks - and although it was being sold for moola at the time I felt I had to urge people to hear it, simply because it was soooo different to almost everything out there. The same held true for his second major outing with the justly famed Can't Stop The Daggers, and if you don't recognise that name you to brush up on your internet history. Sadly, CSTD broke up om 2009 and although I've reviewed a couple of Partelow inspired tracks since then, this is brand new..

God, i'm soooo excited...I do enjoy it when old friends come by.

The reason for my excitement is that I understand that experience really does count and you can never tell what someone you think you know is likely to come up with, and it's nice to see a musician of Jon's calibre coming back into the Soundclick fold. First and foremost Jon's songwriting was the most impressive feature in earlier guises, and its assumes greater importance with an impressive production, although its a bit sparing about the air between things, ya know what I mean? Me, I'm a firm believer in the use of reverb and echo to bring our the nuances in a track, but that unfortunately a sound much heard in today's 'indie' world. Speaking of which, wtf does indie mean anyway? To me it should say indie(pendent minded) because - to me anyway - they are the only ones I am likely to take seriously.

As always with a new one from an old face (and friend) there's always that secret dread that somehow this one will turn out to be a dud, and I'd have to say so. Thankfully there aren't many veterans who let me down and certainly not Jon Partelow (and whatever bus he's riding on). Obvious Ghosts shows both the songwriting quality and musical/production ability to fully realise a dream, and it shows in every note. You might have heard something similar to this for sure, but that's my point. This is as good as anything out there in the ****** up 'indie' world. (Ed: he even said that with sneer) Quality counts.

MUST HAVE independent minded pop

Brandon Nicholas Pfeltz - Burn The Maps

Hear The Track Here

Last track from Soundclick this month is not only a new name to me but a track truly worthy of the Acoustic Folk tag - for a change. Folk, like a lot of genres, has become incredibly porous but there will only be one sound of folk for me and that simple; one man/woman, one guitar and a clutch of fine tunes that say things the listener then feels. It's why it's been around longer than just about any other form of music, although - as I say - the term has become much abused these days. The ultimate folk hero still is, I think, early Bob Dylan. Here was a musician on fire at what was happening around him, and he used just his voice and his songs to do something about it. But what songs, powerful, biting social commentary, insanely catchy singalongs...

Don't be looking so pale. I am not about to commit the sin of comparing Brandon to Dylan because it plain wouldn't be fair. Although he shares a lot of things it's only because Dylan invented that style and you can't help it. As a songwriter and performer, Brandon is surprisingly confident and there's a good song at the heart of it - a tale of leaving places that have become too familiar, reaching out into the darkness for something new or different. To me, that's always an excellent subject to explore and Brandon makes a really good impression, always a problem with folk I find.

Never a problem is being able to figure out the lyrics, for me the main point in the genre. Face it, if you have nothing to say the last place you would be looking is folk, a genre renowned for it's navel gazing capacity. Give a little time though, and a few plays, a clear picture emerges and it's the tale that finally emerges to grip you. You can picture Brandon's life through this song, and knowing where he is growing up obviously helps me to grasp it better. Nonetheless, this is an excellent and quite refreshing change from the norm, I look forward to hearing some more (Ed: you reviewed him in Sponsored By Poverty (March 2009) too but it probably slipped your increasingly addled brain).

Highly Recommended folk song.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jakob22 - Make You Smile

Hear The Track Here

I could have sworn that I reviewed something from this hip hop rapper recently but maybe that was just a dream sequence. Speaking of which Dreamstate 2: The REM Effect is the album which Make You Smile is from so we'd best get off that subject before we all nod off. Jakob22 is actually, then, a new name to me but considering the size of Soundclick's hip hop scene that's no surprise at all. Looks like he's only been on Soundclick a while though but long enough to upload a score of tracks (that's 20+ for the mathematically challenged) so obviously he's been making music a while longer.

As you know I am quite immune to the horrors of hardcore rap courtesy of prolonged exposure to people like Whitman Speck and a few others whose names I have forgotten. Not, I hastily add, because the music was rubbish it wasn't (and isn't). It's very good indeed (especially in Whitman's case) but by God it can make you crap your pants in terror from time to time. Of course, what I should have done is to read the musicians comments because a line like ' is a love song like only Jakob22 can make. A new meaning to love from afar' Funny thing is, it's actually pretty decent, although I'm not sure about the mix. There again, for sure this is not aimed at me.

As I have made clear time and time again, I don't particularly like the softer lovey-dovey side of hip hop and if I have to endure it (Ed: bit strong Gilmore) there better be a good song going with it and this is where Jakob22 nails it. Not sure where the refrain and female vocals come from but I don't think it suffers any for that; in fact the vocals are one of the strongest elements in the track. As much as I don't do lovey-dovey I also don't do guys whispering sweet nothings in my ears, but again Jakob22 made it a relatively painless experience, even after many plays, Be interesting to see what else he's got...

Recommended ohh baby, yeah baby hip hop.

Road Apples - Scottsdale Gurl

Hear The Track Here

My Feminine Advisor (Ed: he means his Mommy) tells me that there are girls and then there are gurls. Girls apparently can't be gurls and vice versa. Girls are giggly, scatterbrained and materialistic to a fault. Gurls just want to be gurls, tough where it matters, feminine when needed and in control of their own lives. No doubt in my mind that Scottsdale (AZ?) has it's share or both but our old friend Road Apples seems to have found the better kind IMHO. Now the whole world (and her sister) are probably coming round to sort me out about the opening comments, I blame Road Apples - he was the one who unearthed such a misbegotten nugget of information.

Road Apples is, of course, a very well known musical figure around Soundclick and elsewhere and the list of great tracks from him (in several guises) is endless. Always worth checking this guy out. Just don't mention the G word. Indie pretty covers what he does, although it in no way describes just how good he is about actualising it. Like a lot of the rock based one man bands on Soundclick Road Apples has matured extremely well and I say this as the person who reviewed August (November 2006) and described it as 'top grade Beatle-ish pop' He's not pinned down to any particular sound and/or influence either and in fact Scottsdale Gurl reminds me very strongly of early Tom Petty both in song construction and execution.

I know full well, with this quality of musician, that making such comparisons is meaningless because we all show our influences from time to time and there is no way it could be construed as copying. Guys like Road Apples don't need to do that, but they do need to show respect for their roots. That, more than anything else, is what separates Road Apples from the run of the mill and why he has so many listeners and fans. Scottsdale Gurl will only go towards that growing reputation as a producer and musician (everything you hear is from him) but - as ever - it's the quality of the songwriting that seals the deal. This is a track that has all the defining qualities that makes rock such a powerful medium. My only regret is that organ SHOULD have been a Hammond. Small grumbles are what I live on innit? ;)

Terrific classic rock song. MUST HAVE.

Rude Corps - Ed Wood

Hear The Track Here

Had to love Adele's rant about 'the suits' in the Brits over the past week, fair brought tears to my eyes to see someone actually saying what they think on prime time TV without having checked it with the producers first. What is it, I am often asked, that made the 1960's and 1970's such a positive golden age for music and the answer is in that first line. People willing to stand up and be counted, to say what they think and act on what they say. See, there was a time (very short admittedly) when WE were the music business and the music reflected that with songs that - literally - changed the world. Of course, then along came the suits and wrested it from us with the notable exceptions of punk and - at a pinch - grunge which wasn't exactly instructional as opposed nihilistic and depressing IMHO. Since then, things have become very tame indeed and it is rare indeed to come across a piece of music that actually says something.

There again, maybe you've never met Rude Corps.

Over the space of dozens of tracks (the man has 411 on his page at the last count) Rude Corps has kept the flame of radical thought alive virtually alone on Soundclick. Certainly there is no-one else on that site that even comes close to the kind of political commentary Rude Corps has become justly famed for - and it definitely helps that he knows his way around music too, some of his track are dynamite in every way. Aaaahh yes, just like the old days. Ed Wood has a reputation as being the 'worst film director in history' and the subject of a biopic featuring Johnny Depp in the title role and also for being the inspiration behind Plan 9 from Outer Space, probably the worst ever B movie in a world of terrible B movies. So bad it was good, know what I mean? Ed Woods story is more relevant these days than ever, here is a guys who just loved what he was doing and wouldn't have it any other way - despite some of the worst criticism known to man.

The story also lends itself to lines like 'I see a new world made of card and plasticine, I see space ships complete with child-proof caps, I see tin-foil dubloons and tea-stained treasure maps' because that accurately describes Wood's 'special effects' So how does Rude Corps choose to musically illustrate this scene? It could only be a weird cross between 1950's faux space sounds (the whirly thing going up and down) and the later spoken word songs that dotted the psychedelic era - all in all very tastefully done. So what about the political diatribes I mentioned early on? What, you don't think the Ed Wood story political? Look again. It's nice when Rude Corps veers off into songwriting and is something I have become used to over the years. Just didn't realise how sharp he was getting at it.

Highly Recommended Hollywood tale.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cinnabar - The Last Kiss

Hear The Track Here

People often say I am too kind in my reviews but I have to say in my own defence that I don't see it that way. I try my hardest, and always have done, to be scrupulously honest in my reviews, even with musical genres I detest. So, you all know the situation; Gilmore goes off on one of his habitual rants about this or that damned genre and then end up actually giving it a good (if not great) review. Certainly the entire edifice that was previously my eternal hatred of, say, prog rock has been shaken to the core over the past few years and - believe me when I say this - I never thought I would have to admit to such a thing.

Take Cinnabar for example... On the face of it, this is not music I would want to cuddle up to at night, not because it doesn't have all the right attributes but because it just isn't my style. When, however, you put that statement to the test, the five Must Have's I have given them (out of eight tracks) says something entirely different. So, back to being honest. I really am not much interested in music that isn't knuckle-dragging as a personal choice, but I can (and hopefully) do recognise musical quality and that is the reason for the apparent mismatch between what I say and what I do. The Last Kiss, despite being an orchestral instrumental, has all of the quality of sound and vision I have come to expect from Gary Judge and Matt Tyson (collectively Cinnabar).

I don't think it is being kind when I say that this duo have some of the very best music I have heard in genres I can't normally stand and that is an honest fact I consider worth stating. Stringy things (other than guitars that is) normally have me going green and leading to psychotic episodes of mayhem in the streets, so it's quite amazing that Cinnabar manage to keep the beast caged not once, but several times. In fact to the point that The Last Kiss (which apparently cannot be spoken about) has become a bit of a favourite of mine when I need a quiet corner to relax in. Again, not exactly my cup of tea but there is no doubting quality...

Highly Recommended orchestral piece.

Painted Water - The Desert Goddess ft Trina Brunk

Hear The Track Here

Over the space of just three tracks, Painted Water has shown that he not only knows what he's about musically, he can deliver in the production department too. Out of those three tracks two of them got the highest rating from me - Feastia Of The Sun (August 2010) and The Chase (September 2010) - but that is probably down to them being true World music tracks, and you know I am going to like that. The odd man out - Finding Tomorrow (Remastered) (November 2011) - also got a highly recommended and that is pretty good indeed insofar as it's actually an orchestral/symphonic piece and you know I don't usually take to them too kindly.

We've come across Trina Brunk before too, and with pretty much the same effect too. She first came to my attention on Before The 3AM Alarm (January 2011) and Running Free (December 2011) both collaborations with our old friend Charlie A. Trina has the kind of voice I just love, light where it needs to be, forceful when called for and - stylewise anyway - The Desert Goddess draws some interesting parallels with Running Free. Trina sings on The Desert Goddess in much the same style as she chose for Running Free, although with a decidedly Saharan/Arabic feel to it. On Running Free it was the turn of the Native American story and in both cases Trina supplies very subtle shading.

As much as I enjoyed the vocals - and I really did - the real star for me is the musical authenticity on display. As a long time World music exponent I know just how hard a trick this is to pull off. There is no doubt in my mind that Painted Water has a real talent for world music and to my mind, one of the best finds in ages. The Desert Goddess will go a long way to burnishing that already incredible reputation, the addition of Trina's evocative, haunting vocals is truly the icing on an already rich cake. OK, so I am incredibly biased but I would point you at this musicians other tracks as the proof of this statement but IMHO The Desert Goddess is more than enough to hook you in to this excellent musician.

World class World music. MUST HAVE.

Thomas J Marchant - Wager

Hear The Track Here

If anyone who has turned this reviewers head towards the joys (and the not so joyous) sounds of lo-fi it has to be Thomas J Marchant, his retro styling - especially over the past year or so - has been a joy to hear and behold. Never in my wildest dreams would I have said back in the day that I would actually LIKE something that is so decidedly lo-fi and low key, and I certainly would never have tagged Thomas as a future Artist Of The Year (2008 as it happens). My how things change eh? These days it actually hard for Thomas to put a foot wrong, and not just with this reviewer either. Since he changed direction (totally I might add) Thomas has become a regular star on the Soundclick stage, and that is no small beans...

He is also a surprisingly prolific songwriter, giving me on average 10-12 tracks a year which is why he makes so many appearances in these reviews. most of which get either a Highly Recommended or (more usually) a Must Have. It goes without saying then that I am a fan, but what of you? Well, you must like - first and foremost - a good song, delivered in a very idiosyncratic style (there isn't anybody who sounds quite like Thomas that I am aware of) and, of course, have a special liking for the lo-fi end of the musical market. As I say there was a time when, to be honest, I had no time whatsoever for yer basic (live) recording.

Thomas is the guy to change all that fusty attitude. Mind you, he has come some way from his first guitar/voice recordings and - dare I say this - Wager is actually quite a stylish multichannel recording. With all the usual oddities of course. As well as being a kinda/sorta jazzy blues, Wager also touches on an original blues urban myth - that of doing a deal with the Devil a la Robert Johnson illustrated perfectly by Thomas's insouciant, languid vocal delivery and the slow as molasses rhythm. Over the years I have come more and more to recognise what a good lyricist Thomas is and this is right up there with the best of them - well worth the read.

Highly Recommended sleazeball blues.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Moral Factor - Ojos sucios

Hear The Track Here

German Gorchs (aka Moral Factor) is fast becoming a review regular and that's no bad thing. Over the space of half a dozen tracks this Argentinian musician has shown he has some serious chops, Apagando la tele (December 2010) still gets onto my playlist from time to time - an excellent world music track. Funnily enough, world music is not Moral Factor's usual genre, he claims to be alternative acoustic and Ojos sucios shows this to be so. Ojos sucios doesn't mean 'you suck' even though yes, I know it looks like that but according to German's notes it means 'dirty eyes' which is - apparently - a pretty racist comment where he comes from.

Like a great many of us German's recording situation is restricted and usually I try to take that into account but then you get situations where it's in your face enough to matter, as is the case here. Let me be clear though, this is a technical flaw and nothing whatsoever to do with the music - which considering it's a straightforward guitar instrumental isn't too bad at all. The track is essentially two or three acoustic guitars, probably recorded in different sessions and, something I have discovered myself, it's incredibly hard to be accurate doing this. If that is the case, the track tends to sound a bit messy - at least to me.

There again if you like acoustic guitar instrumentals, then I'm sure this will go down a treat despite all my pissing and moaning about something completely out of Moral Factor's control but hey, that's just my opinion. On a material level too, I have heard this guy make better tracks, but there again guitar instrumentals are ten a penny, literally everywhere you look and it takes a Christopher Martin Hansen to turn my head these days. Ojos sucious does have a decent groove and a good idea or two about what works and what doesn't so don't let my boorishness put you off. Too many guitar instrumental reviews will often do that to you.

Recommended Acoustic nonetheless.

Julian Jayme - Smith Drive (Take 1)

Hear The Track Here

A new name to me from Soundclick, and I was beginning to wonder whether this would happen this month. Almost all the new music I am coming across right now is through the Rebelriffs blog which means that either Soundclick is slowly but surely silting up, or I am not as popular on there as I used to be. Now considering that the Soundclick forum list (despite there being no action in the forums) fills up in less than 24 hours, that says something about what is happening on that site - or at least it does to me. Anyway, enough of that. Julian is a musician from Canada who looks to be new to the site, there are only two tracks on the site right now, this one and Cog (live apparently). He says of Smith Drive that he 'wanted to write a jazz tune'. Tough call right there, I thought, especially if you are an acoustic musician.

Which should teach me not to take too much notice of labels because not only is he NOT an acoustic musician, but Smith Drive features a full band and yes, a REAL jazz tune in to the bargain. Now there's a thing. Julian is aided and abetted by Quincy Chimich on keyboards, Rayzel Linag on drums and Angus Lam on bass. Julian supplies the top line guitar parts that are the major feature of the track. Obviously the first frame of reference has to be Wes Montgomery and not just because it's an obvious reference (guitarist, tone, style) but also in the style and content of the overall track.

So Julian wanted to write a jazz tune and I think he's succeeded wonderfully, certainly enough to rekindle my interest in Wes himself (I You Tube'd, how sad is that?) and that has to say something about the man's style (Julian that is...) Smith Drive is, to be honest, a very pleasant surprise indeed and despite it's jazz tag really shouldn't be ignored; there is jazz, and then there is jazz. Way back in the middle of the last century Wes was a guitar god, and Julian has created the moment beautifully and if that sounds highly complimentary that's because it is. Certainly as far as this genre is concerned I often find it hard to get satisfaction from it, but not this time. First class stuff you guys, high fives all round.

MUST HAVE guitar jazz.

Pilesar - Absolute Zero

Hear The Track Here

Here's a turn up for the books. Whenever I see something categorised as 'indietronic' I automatically think of Fear 2 Stop one of the major practitioners of the genre on Soundclick, and yet here is Pilesar piling in with a track too. Actually, it's not too far a stretch between the two styles; they are both really, really weird with Pilesar edging ahead in the OMG-is-it-alive stakes.. Indietronic, in case youse guys was wondering, is a term used to denote music that mixes analog and digital, rock and electronica then throws it all into a massive blender and it comes out the other end squealing like a banshee.

If you think I'm kidding, you haven't heard Fear 2 Stop yet. There again, I'm about to introduce you to Pilesar so it can only get stranger. Actually I have to say I do like this new, improved Pilesar, especially vocally and this - despite it's indietronic patina - is a pretty good rock song in it's own right. Never one to do things in the same way as other mortals, Pilesar takes a destructionist approach to both genres (indietronica and rock) pulling it apart as he goes but in such an involving, entertaining way you could forgive anything. It's also, IMHO, yet another sign that Pilesar is significantly altering his music these days; in any other world I'd say this was a very commercial track.

Seems odd to be applying that kind of comment to someone with the checkered past Master Pilesar has assembled over the years (and years) He's been keeping us in thrall to his electronic and percussive trickery and it's a real eye and ear opener to see him tackling something - to be honest - I never would have had him down for. Mind you, it's results that count and by any standard Absolute Zero is a very credible track indeed and - damn it - you might even be able to sing along to it? What kind of world is it, I ask you, where even the musically insane start composing rock aria's?? All joking aside, for Pilesar fans this is a very special treat and if you've never heard him, this is the safest way to meet him yet. Go. Say hi.

MUST HAVE (absolutely)

Ralph Atkinson - Moonfire Woman

Hear The Track Here

Here's another Soundclick musician who seems to have been around forever and yet my first review of Canada's Ralph Atkinson was with Building A Time Machine (October 2009), a very tasty slice of the blues which got a well deserved Must Have from me at the time. SInce then, however, Ralph has gone from strength to strength both as a songwriter and a musician finally ending up as my Artist Of The Year 2011. I do like to see AOTY nominees getting right back on the saddle, so it's no surprise to find Ralph still pumping out the tracks like there was no tomorrow.

One of the major things I look for with that particular award is 'stickability' and Ralph has copious amounts of it, musically and personally. But this is another year starting and you are only as good as the last thing you released.... See, no end to the pressure when you get up there with the big dogs... One of the main things that keep me on Ralph's side is that his music, like the man, is simple and straightforward, so you either like what he does or you don't. I have a lot of time for his music because it is easy to grasp, usually upbeat and always interesting - at least to a fellow guitarist. As I have said many times, I prefer him when he's on a blues kick but when I can't get that, any of his other genres will do the trick just as well.

Moonfire Woman is unashamedly blues to its core, the kind of thing you would expect from someone like Eric Clapton (and I really don't say that lightly). It is a measure of how confident and assured a musician Ralph is. He knows what he does and he does it well and that's pretty much that. For my money, all true rockers are that simple, the only thing that really counts is the groove and Ralph has always been especially tasty in that regard. It's no surprise then that Moonfire Woman went down a storm with me but I do prefer this side of his work. The surprise - as always - is in the hugely enjoyable music experience he provides and IMHO this is one of brighter moments..

MUST HAVE blues rock (old school)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Time

Hear The Track Here

If there is a circle of Hell especially reserved for reviewers called Gilmore it will have two major features; 24/7 soundtracks at full volume, and the same with prog rock - presumably all at once. Soundtracks have always been my Achilles heel, just can't abide the things - unless they are encased in a great movie THEN I see the point in it. There have been musicians who have swayed me from such extreme viewpoints from time to time (more usual prog rock than soundtracks though) and Weylin's Slayer Orchestra have become one of them. Although he comes up with all kinds of guises, I don't think there is any denying at this stage that - at heart - Weylin is a soundtrack kinda guy. Now normally I'd be bending your ears something rotten by now but - like Charlie Armour (another soundtrack fave) - Weylin manages to bring something else to the party.

Both these musicians write soundtracks as if they were stand alone musical pieces, and to me that means that they think in overall musical terms - rather than fitting the music to visuals - and I think that is what makes the difference. While I will endlessly debate some of Weylin's production tools, I cannot fault the man on delivering a good track, especially if you happen to like soundtracks that have meaning and vision built in from the getgo. One of the main problems Weylin and I have had is of his IMO excessive use of fast kick drums and I do understand it's a stylistic choice and none of my ******* business but....ya know :)

Time is about as varied a piece of music I have heard from this quarter, drifting from mood to mood; one moment calm and relaxing, the next racing along like a greyhound on fire. The sound choices are as varied, veering from full orchestral sounds, to acoustic passages, to heavy rock and surprisingly enough it seems to gel together with ease. Now, hand on heart, I can't say that I actually want to like this but somehow - like a lot of this musicians work - it ends up with me giving a grudging nod of respect for the IDEA of the piece, as well as for the execution. But, as ever, damn that personal taste for getting in the way.

Highly Recommended orchestral rock epic.

Ian Dadon - The Incredible Inevitable

Hear The Track Here

Doesn't seem like Isreali musician Ian Dadon has been around Soundclick for so long but lo, I first met him with The Comedian (November 2009). My how time flies. Since then I have reviewed almost a dozen of his tracks, mostly liking his brand of (almost prog) rock although there have been a couple of tracks that did miss the mark IMHO. Still, it's just an opinion and I guess those people who already like what he does will take no notice but I tend to take a longer view. Having a niche audience is all well and good, if that's as far as you want to go. To get a much larger audience, however, means that you have to grab ears at every opportunity and that generally means superlative work.

As a songwriter, Ian has no problems, he is very good at this; his songs are nuanced and intricate - sometimes too much so. It's as a home producer where this generally falls down for me and I know it's not fair to get all antsy about something the artist has very little control over but facts are facts. It is almost impossible to up your game when your restrictions are great, made all the more so if you have no contact with others of a like musical mind. I bring this up because I do sense a lot of introspection in Ian's work, and that may well be a stylistic thing on his part; after all navel gazing is a huge musical industry these days. What complicates matters is that the songs tend to be less straightforward and the arrangements often over fussy.

Having said all that, The Incredible Inevitable is a much better sounding track than I remember him sounding before. It's punchy (especially the drum track) and meaty in the right places and it's a pretty good vocal effort although you will need to read the lyrics to get any sense out of it. In point of fact, this is a really good track for Ian and shows that he is doing all the right things. By way of reassurance, this is exactly the way it went with JPC (NZ) until he started hitting his stride, and now the man is unstoppable, albeit with a long time between releases. Quality, not quantity, is what always counts in the longer term. In the meantime, sink your teeth into this a while and see what you think.

Recommended rock builder...

Fear 2 Stop - Dream Installer

Hear The Track Here

Out of all the bands and musicians I have reviewed down the years, I've probably spewed more words about Houston's Fear 2 Stop than anyone else - by a country mile. Do this, do that, do this differently I wrote, month after month after month. All, I might add, to no avail. Fear 2 Stop started life as they meant to go on, doing their own thing which - in the process - has endeared them to fans on Soundclick, although I do fear for their sanity should Soundclick decide to call it a day. I think it is fair to say that Fear 2 Stop are probably the same now as they were when I first came across them; fiercely uncompromising in their style and delivery. It's always been the same, you either love them or hate them...

They have undeniably improved over this time. All bands do but musically Fear 2 Stop have always sounded like this, and probably always will and there lies their strength and their weakness. I would be very interested in hearing what other sites made of this outfit, but I guess I'll have to wait to find that out. Dream Installer is as hot off the F2S press as it gets, recorded at the beginning of the month and shown out of the door almost immediately, I think this is the first brand new track for quite some time. Of course, 'new' is a relative term, the track may well be new - but the musical ideas being pushed are the time honoured Fear 2 Stop staples; relentless rhythms, more wtf per square inch than most people can take in one go, and a line in analog sounds that clearly spells out who this is.

It's a given then that you should like the wilder side of the musical spectrum to get anything (other than earache) from a Fear 2 Stop track although I have to say - in their defence - this style does seem to grow on you. That persistence of vision helps, as I say they sounded like this right back at the very beginning, and that refusal to tow any kind of musical line has won them more than a few fans but has probably earned them more insults and abuse than most too. It won't mean anything whatsoever to them. of course, and that is the way it should be - despite what reviewers like me may think or say. Sure, it might be a lonely existence but it is a painfully honest one for all that. Credible wtf from past masters of the art.

Highly Recommended for fans, avoid if different offends you.

Phantom West - Vapourware Album

Hear The Track Here

While Phantom West is a new name to me, just a glance at the attached press blurb show me that Timothy Clark (aka the phantom) has been at this long enough to know what he is about musically. Anyone who has been making and releasing music since 2005 will have learned a trick or two along the way although, as we have found, that isn't always true. However, there is a previous connection here too. You may remember me reviewing the Neon Wild EP (October 2011) from LA based Animal Games, a vibrant slice of LA indie that was surprisingly good. Considering that Timothy mixed and mastered that EP in his home studio, Vapourware should prove to be much the same, shouldn't it?

In a perfect world...

Very different, and edgier than Neon Wild, but they are different bands even though they share the same producer. Had to work at getting into the tracks though, over ten tracks to assimilate meant that I was only really able to skim the ones that didn't really appeal to me, but I did go back and re-try them on later plays. Over the years Phantom West appears to have dabbled in a few disparate musical corners and if you went by the strict running order of the album, you'd pretty much glimpse most of them in passing. One though recurred to me time and time again, there is a lot going on and - in this gimmie now culture - that may affect the amount of people who would casually listen.

The musical basis that runs through the work is a combination of rock roots and electronica that probably harks back to the 1980's, definitely the songs have their feet firmly stuck in that decade. By far the most realised song, which is why it's a bit of a highlight is Leper Machine, a terrifically understated song that has real power to it, made all the more so with the male and female voices. Now maybe this is because it is a recognisable song structure, and there is more instrumental on this album than tunage. Of course, it does help that Leper Machine is a great song. A lot of the other material has hints of soundtrack and/or prog rock which - as you know - tends to turn me off, although not enough to stop me checking it out properly. It IS different though, that's for sure and I'm also sure it'll find a few takers...

Recommended blend of styles.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rayon Vert - That Girl

Hear The Track Here

The age of supergroups is, thankfully, far enough behind us to poke fun at. For a while there, back in the day, you weren't anything unless you were a supergroup; a gathering of formerly successful musicians who came from other bands. The most obvious is Blind Faith featuring the talents of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, or even - at a pinch Crosby, Still, Nash (and Young of course). Although a lot of the supergroups made great music, it tended to be shortlived, as did the bands. So, now they no longer plague our dreams I'd like to direct your attention to what I would consider to be a modern (ie indie) supergroup. Ladles and germs, I give you Rayon Vert...

Staffed entirely by jaded conmen and tricksters (Ed: he means seasoned musicians), Rayon Vert is comprised of DrC, Gary Carciello, Rob Grant and Farrell Jackson - all of whom we have come across many times in other guises. My first review was Rayon Vert Remastered (April 2010), a great power rock song but it was Life Under A Microscope (July 2011) that got their first Must Have from me and well deserved it was too. It's a given then, that I'd be waiting for this bad boy to roll round and you know what anticipation can do to me. That Girl is the first official Rayon Vert song of 2012 and that in itself is enough for good cheer. What makes all this really startling is that - by rights - I should be stating that Rayon Vert are an ashamedly prog rock outfit. If you thought anticipation was bad enough, the weepin' n' wailin' that comes with prog rock is awful to contemplate.

While there are distinctly prog sections to this track, it comes along with a cracking rock song attached to it and right there, it gets my vote. See, I can take any amount of instrumental posturing so long as there is a point to it. See, I actually liked Yes (THE prog rockers) right back there at the beginning, because they made sense to me as a musician, but when they went up their own butts - along with all the other proggies - I declined to follow. So while Rayon Vert's chosen genre still has that half dead greenish tinge about it, their music kicks seven kinds of **** out of anything you care to name. Hand on heart though, not as immediate as Microscope but musically much more satisfying to me. Odd that.

Highly Recommended class act.

Whitman Speck - Can't F*** With Me

Hear The Track Here

Whitman Speck is about the only rapper I have ever known where I absolutely agree with the Parental Advisories he manages to pile up at his door. Whitman Speck is a man to be taken very seriously indeed, he definitely put the hardcore into hardcore like no other I know of. Actually to be more specific it is actually horrorcore we are discussing here which seems to be a growing genre on Soundclick. However, Whitman is the guy who brought it home to me with the likes of Dead or Alive (February 2009), I Spit Hate (July 2009) and the eponymous King Of The Sickos (February 2011). All bloated, blood-filled tales of grotesque, and no doubt dastardly, doings of his cast of characters - none of which it would be safe to introduce to any members of your family.

Not if you want to see them again.

I do understand that something as extreme as Whitman Speck is very much a specialised taste, and I am not saying that his style will appeal to everyone. However, I will point out that the access point for me - at the beginning - was definitely the music. The man has an unerring knack for picking kickass beats and rhythms, and then flaying it alive with the verbals he injects into the mix. It makes for a potent combination, when it works. When it doesn't, and believe me that isn't often, it's still miles better than most hardcore you are likely to hear.

Whitman Speck, a London based musician, shows his roots - to me anyway - with his choices of music; a very English, hard hitting track. There's a piano figure running through it that gives you the creeps after a while, if the lyrical content hasn't made your ears curdle beforehand. Seriously, I am used to this rapper's uncompromising stance concerning a) profanity in all its various forms and b) word pictures of extreme physical and sexual violence but even Can't F*** With Me had me doing the ol' eyebrow raising trick. Definitely not a track I'll be playing to my neighbours, and - even given the rappers previous lyrical record - very, very close to the bone. Can't believe I just said that, but I think you'll get what I mean...

Highly Recommended Horrorcore (NOT recommended for sane minds)

Distant Autumn - Edge Of Town

Hear The Track Here

First out of the Soundclick review box this month is yet another outing for John Brandon who, along with Those Among Us bandmates, made a considerable splash over the last year or so with their three EP's - all of which got a Must Have from me. There again, I've always liked John as a songwriter right back to 2003 and the glory days of his previous band - Silvertrain. John is joined in Distant Autumn by musician/producer Brad Strickland and vocalist Al McNeill, and this is not the first time I have reviewed their material. As far as I can see, I have three other tracks under my reviewers belt, although - it has to be said - their music is quite different to Those Among Us and I think I tend to prefer the rockier style of that band.

That doesn't, in any way, negate Distant Autumn though, just a personal taste. I have no idea why one band tickles my rock sensibilities and the other one doesn't and I guess it is grossly unfair even to compare the two but I have known John's work since forever so that gives me some (dubious) rights, doesn't it? For me though, the quality of Edge Of Town is one of the problems, it's kinda weak production and arrangement don't do the band members any favours because - in truth - they all do a bang up job, especially vocalist Al McNeil who has a great rock voice, albeit used here in a distinctly soft pop rock style - which may well be another problem for me.

Developed, like a lot of their work, for inclusion in Xbox's Rock Band program and site. I think the more commercial rock market is where it's aimed at, and definitely not something specifically aimed at old farts like me. It's American (sorta) style and it's easy, singalong manner will definitely appeal to those fans of the game I know, and I know a fair few of them. Most of the indie music I have heard on there is similar in many ways to Edge Of Town but IMHO Distant Autumn have far, far more to offer than this shows - as good as it undoubtedly is as far as market placing goes.

Recommended soft pop rock.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Darius Lux - Best Day (Video)

Hear The Track Here

OK time to strap on the ol' printing press and get these reviews rolling otherwise I'll have another hundred or so lining up to have a go. Bit of a late start because ya boys been sick. OK, enough comments about 'always' being sick, not that kind of sick. Flu bugs and listening to music to not go together. It's like listening to something with your ears stuffed with popcorn. Anyway, enough of my travails, lets take a look at Darius Lux, an American musician/singer we have met before.You may remember me reviewing the Time Is Now EP (May 2011) and well tasty it was too, albeit in a fairly standard format, being rock based melodic songs.

Right up my street you would have thought and truth is I did enjoy the EP in all it's glory, including Best Day which was one of it's highlight tracks. It got a Must Have from me, which isn't bad seeing as Darius was then a new name to me from Lafamos, a bastion of quality as I have discovered. As good as the EP was there were two absolutely standout tracks on it, Best Day and Way That It Goes so I guess it came as no surprise that the far poppier Best Day was the one singled out to be made into a flash new video. Produced by London Penn Productions the video for Best Day is very slick, mixing cartoon like sequences, all the time draping the band in the appropriate get-up to fit and is a great showpiece.

It means nothing however - mere eye candy - unless the music that it is supposed to support can stand up for itself and as I said, Best Day is definitely the most accessible track on the EP and it fares just as well on this outing. In fact it reinforced my initial impression of it when I was listening to it before Christmas as part of my round up review of 2011 (the Stevies, doncha know). Not only was it a good song first time round, it's much better with added video and a second performance outside it's EP context. Now while it shares a lot of American roots (think Cars, Huey Lewis, Cheap Trick), it's still a standout track in that kind of standard rock pop way. Besides, it's a cute video....

Highly Recommended rock pop video.

The Blackwater Dead - Get Away

Hear The Track Here

Chris De Ieso appears to be the band, unless my hearing has been severely disrupted by last weeks flu, and I shamefacedly admit that at first I thought it was Soundclick's Thomas J Marchant in yet another guise - so similar are the styles. This is very much a fleeting impression because when you actually start to listen with extended ears (as it were) there are quite distinct differences in the way the music is put together. As you can see from the first pic on the official website, an amp, a mic and that's pretty much the studio covered.

Aaahh, but t'ain't what you got, it's what you do with it.

That has certainly helped Thomas and I suspect that Blackwater Dead (after an initial shock horror phase) will come through and be a welcome addition too. It is true that without continued exposure to such an avowed lo-fi enthusiast like Marchant, I probably may have missed musicians like The Blackwater Dead because there was a time when I really, really couldn't stand this inward-looking, low key approach. What sells it then is what sells it now; if you have a good clean sound (yeah I know how that sounds but bear with me), and you know how to construct a memorable line or two that's most of the tools.

The reality, however, is a LOT harder to achieve than it sounds which is why musicians like Blackwater Dead are as rare as hens teeth, although I guarantee you won't be thinking that the first time you hear this - you'll be wondering if I am nuts or what. The guitar wanders in and out of the volume field like a drunken trader on a Saturday night, all bellowing presence and absolutely no motor control. And yet, with it's cute electronic squeakers and what sounds like tabla accompaniment, it builds up very substantially. Do be aware though that this is most definitely an acquired taste but if you like Mr Marchant, The Blackwater Dead have a different take on the genre.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Andrea Ianni - LikeWise Album

Hear The Track Here

I know I said I wasn't doing any more reviews this month but this one is a bit special, as I am sure you will agree when you get to listen to the tracks. Have to own up to a massive bias here though because Andrea and I are good friends and I have been watching this album ever since it was first brought to my attention of a couple of years ago. Andrea is also my musical sparring partner and to make the nepotism even worse, the album has been mastered by one Steve Gilmore (Ed: who he??). So, right up front you should accept that I am biased beyond belief; however you know full well I am not going to get behind something that isn't 100% and this comes in several notches above that. As a long time rock animal, I know what I like and what I don't and the kind of rock I like most is one with a great song behind it.

Mind you, our first conversation didn't bode well.

'I'm into prog rock' he says. 'What's that smell' I say because regular readers know only well the depth of my hatred towards that specific genre. However, I find that it has mellowed somewhat over the years mainly due to Nad Sylan, Bonamici, Cinnabar and several other GOOD proggies. I've heard these tracks from the very beginning and even I am amazed at the final result, all down to the talent of the man himself and engineer Elad Levy, the production side of this is awesome. Andrea is an Italian multi-instrumentalist who I have come to realise is very talented in lots of unexpected ways but, IMHO, as a true rock songwriter Andrea Ianni is right up there with the best of them. Don't believe? Then listen to either Strawberry Girl or the massive King Of Prisoners for the proof of the pudding. Now obviously big exposure to these tracks will have coloured my opinion and I am not stupid enough not to take note of it.... Nonetheless, as I worked on the mastering I started to take real notice of how complex and intricate the work in it was.

Even though he lives in the wandering world of prog, there is a surprising amount of punchy, to-the-point rock music happening there too. I'd be very interested in what the prog crowd on Soundclick make of this because the blend of balls-to-the-wall rock, alongside almost ambient and/or classical sideturns is definitely not like any prog rock music I have ever faced before. LikeWise is a ten song set and, when the CD is finally out, I think there might be a surprise or two on it. In the meantime, this is one set of songs that should take some time for you guys to chew your way through, especially if like me, this music strikes a an emotional chord. The time, care and maniacal attention to detail Andrea poured into this project shows in every note and I am proud to have worked in some form in making it happen, and I hope you guys understand why I feel compelled to commit such blatant puffery. Majestic, moving and so much to take in it makes your head spin...

100% MUST HAVE (or I'll send the boys around)

Hannah Faulkner - Ni Ni Album

Hear The Track Here

Hannah Faulkner is a young lady who seems to be going places at a pretty fast clip and - I have to admit - I have become more and more interested in hearing her since the final session of Open Mic UK which is soon to be a Sky TV series. S'no good groaning and who knows, maybe it's better than X Factor or BGT, AND it will not feature anyone called Simon (hopefully). Sadly Hannah did not win, but the competition was fierce beyond belief - some very talented people out there. Mind you, if I had been the one to choose it would have been Hannah, hands down. Still, the compensation is that she has shedloads of gigs around the UK this year and I suggest you get your butts off the couch and check her out. Ni Ni has been out since late last year and it's a crying shame I couldn't get to it sooner. Tell you what, as rough as the sound is on the live videos it really shows her incredible voice off to great effect.

Didn't really get that off the relatively restrained track one, Never Felt Like This Before, at least not from the first listen. However, like this whole fifteen song album, it definitely grows on you. As it happens the UK has an abundance of good female musicians at this present time, all of them exploring some neglected corners of the musical spectrum so mentioning Amy Winehouse and Adele in the same breath should give you some idea what to expect. Must Be Dreaming shows that comparisons are meaningless because Hannah Faulkner has her own way, as the mentioned singers have and that's a really, really good thing. Left Right Left is another really, really good thing, for my money one of the standouts of this set. If there was any justice in this world, this would be a massive hit. God, when she growls out the vocal I swear that the hairs on the back of my neck are dancing, never mind standing on end. Stone cold MUST HAVE right there, I tell ya.

I've been around long enough to recognise quality, even in the rough (as in the videos), and Hannah Faulkner is a quality songwriter with a voice to die for. There's even a nod to the UK's rap scene in I Don't Understand so how can you resist. Want a weepie ballad, a proper three hankie job? The One will satisfy that urge to have a good bawl. See, that's the thing about this album, there is everything here, all adorned with the diamond vocal from the lady herself. It even feels kind stupid saying 'ooh listen to this' and 'and this!! ****' when the only really sane way to take in someone like Hannah Faulkner is to listen to the whole thing - again and again and again. For sure I have my favourites, and I do like the videos (and not just for the eye candy) but the real audio is by far the better way of getting to know this stunning singer and I can only say that each track stands on its own merits, you'll find your own favourites. My only negative comment would be that the restrained feel I mentioned comes from the recording and/or production because as you can see from the videos, she's a belter... A wider arrangement and fuller production would have killed from a 1000 paces but still...

MUST HAVE for all that.

Families - Deceitful Children Album

Hear The Track Here

Last couple of tracks out the bag this month are both requests through the Rebel Riffs blog. I am trying desperately to clear up the immense pile before it falls and crushes me and this one is months old so apologies to families everywhere. Families are a three piece band, consisting of Justin Rose, Erica Johnson, and Ian Smith and as the name may have suggested they are an American folk band. I say American there for a reason because there is an ocean of difference between that and European folk. Now, for all those who went ewwww when I mentioned the f word, grow up. And for the wag who has been passing around dried straw to 'chaw' on, I'm watching you....

There is a strain of music called Americana which, I think, has slowly become (or becoming) the new sound of folk and most of it is very impressive indeed so I started the review on this track with high hopes. I know, foolish but hey, I'm a devil-may-care kinda guy. Lot's Daughters is the first track out and it's a beaut; sparse in the right places but with the requisite propulsion being supplied by guitars and mandolins. It's the vocals though, that do it for me, awesome in a fine American tradition, if I'd had a porch I would have been on it, know what I mean? Their Facebook page states 'They are folk story tellers, with souls of grass and minds made out of the mountains, weaving personal tales from the Bible' and with titles such as Lot's Daughter, The Nazirite, Passover Pass Over and Oh Nebuchadnezzar you can bet this is unashamedly Christian in approach.

As it happens, this reviewer has some across some really, really good Christian bands (Cam's Even Song for instance who incidentally was my Artist Of The Year 2006) and anyone remember the excellent One Kid's Lunch? I am going to be more than happy to add Families to those august names because - Christian content notwithstanding - these are terrific musicians and vocalists, not to mention premium songwriters. If there is one song you have to hear if the whole Christian thing doesn't do it you, the music certainly will. Try the beautifully done Absalom, if this isn't true American country music, I really don't know what is. Great song, awesome performance. Those two words could be applied to almost every track on this eleven track set. Christian country never sounded better...

MUST HAVE modern American folk.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Larry Ludwick - Gone

Hear The Track Here

And this month it's the turn of Larry the Laggard to be Soundclick's tail end charlie... Yep, last review of the month from that site and it's kinda fitting that it should come from one of the brighter sparks among that community. Regular readers will be only too well aware of Larry as he pops up pretty much every month, in one guise or another. As is my habit whenever I am reviewing I go back and see what I said in reviews past to note changes and I happened to look at the first review I ever did. Nod's Ascent To Dave (July 2008) was a very classy piece of jazz which gave no indication whatsoever of the mayhem he was to unleash with following tracks. At this point, I think he's pretty much covered the musical spectrum and often most handsomely too.

However, be warned, Larry Ludwick is a somewhat - how can I put this delicately? - idiosyncratic musician, singer (kinda/sorta but more on that later), songwriter and producer as many have found out. Soundclick has quite a few of this kind of musician and I think that is a good thing because they are challenging, sometimes baffling but always entertaining. Mind you, I will admit that you might have to develop a taste for Larry's work, particularly his vocal work which often is more spoken than sung and certainly an acquired taste for many.

Put it like this, if you like Gone's style then it's a fair bet that most of his work will find similar favour. It took me a while to really get into Larry's particular musical view of the world, even though I appreciated his difference from the beginning. What has done the job for me is the man's range, and his lyrical skills and Gone is a classic example of that, Joined by saxophonist/guitarist Tim Lowe (aka Swingjazza) whose own Taking The Slow Train (December 2011) was very well received and he shows the same exemplary jazz style here too. My only quibble has nothing to do with the music or Larry, but I really. really have a phobia about Fender Rhodes sounds I must get treated...

Highly Recommended Blues with a dash of jazz.

Jane G33 - The Next Man

Hear The Track Here

I first came across female rapper Jane G33 when she was plain old Jane Do3 a couple of years ago and by God, was it nice to hear a female rapper by way of a change. Babel Remix (feat Daddy Go Go) (September 2010) was the track in question and a very entertaining slice of old school it was too. Her next outing was (I think) the first track from her new group Pick One, Things I Say (January 2011) was surprisingly together considering it was all a new thing. In both cases the only fault I picked was with the lacklustre backing tracks - perennial problems for indie rappers. However, Jane is a lady who knows her stuff, and her partner in Pick One is no slouch either.

So lets see whats up this time...

This track has a significantly better backing track, a musical echo back to 1960's soul so it's actually right up my musical street too. My only quibble was that the track lacked bottom end (bass) especially with that all important kick drum. It also sounded quite flattened, pushed to far into the background to give Jane's vocals enough room to breathe which shows off the vocals (as it should) but does tend to blunt the musical impact. Not sure whether this beat is from a Soundclick beat factory or whether it's someone Jane got in to help out but it works, except for the points I have mentioned.

Over the years I have reviewed an awful lot of hip hop, predominantly on Soundclick, and I guess I have developed an ear for indie hip hop so I don't even notice certain things any more. It used to really bug me at the beginning that, although the rappers were good, the equipment they used to get there made a lot of listeners give the genre a wide berth. Well, although this still sounds home produced, Jane shows that whatever you may think about her style she isn't likely to stop any time soon and more power to her. We need all the female rappers we can get in this most testosterone fueled genre.

Recommended hip hop rap.

Lino Gonzalez - Traffic Jam

Hear The Track Here

One of the most raved about bands of the last couple of years has been the combustible mixture that we know as Those Among Us. Well, if you are still struggling to find why Lino's name is ringing a bell with you, he's a member of that august band, along with John Brandon and Steve Mesropian. I've known John Brandon forever of course and I know his quality of work like the back of my hand. Mez (Steve Mesropian) was a great find as a rock vocalist with a fine sense of style and timing but - for me - one of the biggest surprises in Those Among Us tracks was all the backline duty being performed by Lino as string-meister/electronica wizard/accurate drum machine/engineer/producer and probably makes the tea too. Everyone, or at least every band worth a crap should have a Lino.

So, take it as a given that this Traffic Jam was created by just one man, everything you hear, but that's also the case on a lot of TOU tracks so not much change there innit? Lino's top gig though, is guitarist. No, let me refine that... Lino doesn't just play the guitar, he pounds on it like a man possessed of the spirit of rock music in all it's glory - definitely my kind of belt and braces rock and no fuss roll. There again, rock animal I am and shall remain so and I am only too well aware of the hatred pure rock has in some quarters so if you don't like having hefty rock balls rubbed in your face - stay away from this one.

Over the years, of course, I have developed a kind of immunity from such social embarrassment. These days I just don't give a ****. Traffic Jam essentially shows just how good a hard rock guitarist Lino is, something that isn't immediately evident from Those Among Us tracks although they don't lack in the testicular department either, as any one of their EPs will amply testify. Certainly if you are already a fan of rock and/or Those Among Us this is definitely a track to check out, and I do suggest a download to enjoy its full glory over a very loud system. Now all I have to do is get this annoying whistle in my ears to stop... (Ed: uh oh, how loud exactly?)

First class RAAWWWWKKK and MUST HAVE for machine heads

Kyma - Lost Sands

Hear The Track Here

The name may well be unfamiliar but the face(s) behind this track are very familiar. Kyma is the latest bandname wheeze from the musician formerly known as Karma Police (UK) or just plain Neil Alderson who we have met many times over the last couple of years, with mixed results. This track is also a collaboration with another familiar figure, Ian Henderson, who you might know better as the musician Painted Water who we have also reviewed more than once. Then it follows that these are two experienced hands, so what could possibly go wrong??? Have you noticed that all famous last words all end like that? What could possibly go wrong? What about everything??

Now now, don't go digging the nuclear bunkers just yet a while...

Remember these are musicians who have been round the block a few times and while I have liked both of their styles, there hasn't been anything that has really knocked my socks off, although Painted Water came close with Finding Tomorrow (Remastered) (November 2011) and Karma Police obviously underwent a remix. I am a firm believer in collaborations (of all kinds, not just musical) because they enrich us, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. I do believe that people working together can work miracles and Lost Sands is a little sound miracle. So let me get it said right from the outset, this is not really my thing although I really liked the world music intro - right up my street as it were, but interest pales as I get further in and it becomes more ambient.

Lost Sands is billed as Electronic Mellow and while it has its lie-back-and-think-of-fluffy-clouds moments, I wouldn't have called it mellow because then I'd have to REALLY hate it and that will never do. We don't do mellow in this 'stablishment, nope. We do do good music though and - whatever personal tastes you might have - this is a terrifically good piece of music and shows that this duo have hit a creative nerve here that has done something wonderful. Lost Sands is the result and it's exceptionally well thought out,and a beautifully produced track. This is certainly better than anything I have heard so far in both sound and composition, hope they have some more of it...

MUST HAVE moodchanger

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tesselode - Subway 9

Hear The Track Here

There is an English term 'damning with faint praise' which I notice I do a lot, especially with music that I do not really like or enjoy. Take, for example, electronica. Couldn't stand it back in it's dance roots heyday, don't much care for it these days either, unless it's something really out of the ordinary. Re-reading my review of Tesselode's first track Galaxy's Edge (November 2011) I am definitely not all for it, but there are things in it that are interesting and/or different either of which will lead me to play it more than most electronica.

Thankfully, Galaxy's Edge did have some of that, certainly enough for me to rate it highly enough,even if the overall tone of the review wasn't exactly lets-have-a-party. It still left me wanting more, greedy **** that I am.I think my dissatisfaction with the genre has more to do with being a song man, as opposed to liking instrumentals although, as I say, there are exceptions. I made a comparison on Galaxy's Edge to early symphonic soundtracks, naming the Wing Commander series as a classic example of where it worked, If anything, it was the main reason I ended up liking it. A lot of that quality is evident in Subway 9 too, although this is a totally different track in feel; darker, more introverted - as befits the title I guess.

More to the point, it's a piano led piece and that always helps. You can never get enough piano right? Weeeelllllll, I guess that's another debating point but - like most instrumentation - I prefer that it play an active role if it's around. Now while it does that quite admirably on Subway 9, it still doesn't raise the level of excitement, at least to my poor tired ears. Now while I can endorse this as being worthwhile technically, from a listener standpoint it might be a different beast entirely. That would depend, as always, on what floats your musical boats and - as I mentioned - this genre really does that for me.

Piano led electronica.

Thomas J Marchant - I Of The Storm

Hear The Track Here

Now don't be taking that tone with me, you should have read the review before you went poking around in the eye of that storm. You obviously thought that UK singer/songwriter Thomas J Marchant is the svelte, debonair indie crooner his latest tracks portray him as, but I'd have warned you that beneath that calm, collected exterior beats the heart of a complete lunatic. For the rest of you who didn't go plunging straight into Thomas's heart of darkness, allow me to explain. Over the last three or four years Thomas has become a primo songwriter and performer, definitely one of my favourite finds and getting known with each succeeding mini-masterpiece, OK, I'll concede that these masterpieces may very well be a personal choice of mine (I did choose him as Artist Of The Year 2009 after all) and won't appeal to everyone but I find that most people appreciate his style.

Well, wait until they get an ear full of I Of The Storm which, I kid ye not, does exactly what it says on the tin. This is a track that should come with an aural health warning. It's still undeniably a Thomas J Marchant track, but with an undertone and atmosphere that - for me anyway - harkens back to when I first met this musician. quotes like 'an acquired taste if you usually like more accessible music' and 'the first 10 seconds of this will have you banging on your system trying to make it sound right' were a regular feature so, as aurally wild as I Of The Storm is, it is also part of the man's roots. Thomas overlays the song with what sounds like an incredibly distorted guitar and several distinctly dodgy (but kinda cool) keyboard lines.

So, in effect, I always make a bit of allowance for his sonic ideas but even this one fazed me. I can only imagine what it would do to the unwary like our friend in the opening paragraph. That is not to say that this is a bad track, Thomas doesn't make those any more, but that it is different enough to take some getting used to, even for long-term fans like myself. I did find, however, that the actual song grew on me once I was able to prise it out of the background aural storm so repeated plays for this bad boy are a must. In the meantime it's left me wondering if we are looking at a whole new direction for this musician to stretch himself into...

Recommended Shoegaze.

Shawna Ross - Glass Jars With Lead

Hear The Track Here

A review request now from the ever lengthening blog list (this one I notice is almost three months old!!). Shawna Ross is a new name to me, a folk/indie artist from Birmingham, AL, who seems to have a regular gig there, and that to generally means they have something more to offer than yer average online musician. As a live, working musician myself, there is nothing more intensive than playing before a live audience and definitely something that hones your skills, whether you want it to or not. As a songwriter too, this is a vital part of teaching yourself what works and what doesn't. As you probably also gathered that Shawna is a guitarist, and all of the tracks on her webpage are pretty basic - as indeed is Glass Jars With Lead.

Essentially this is probably a track that was recorded almost live, and in one take as are all her tracks. She is, however, about to go into a studio but until then, if female singer/songwriters get you all hot under the musical collar, she has all the right credentials; a rough but ready guitar style that supports her voice. Said voice being certainly good enough to turn heads when she starts singing. In that respect Glass Jars With Lead is a good showcase for her vocal but, like all basic home recordings, leaves someone like me wishing that I could have heard it wearing aural blinkers. As much as I like what she's doing, and I do, I can't help the very basic sounds grating on my production nerves.

Bad Gilmore!! I hear you scream in horror, how can you be so mean??? T'ain't mean ya damn varmints, it's the truth. Having reviewed literally thousands of tracks online I know how high the bar is in pretty much every genre and, surprisingly enough, some of the indie folk I hear is very special indeed. My point is that, in this day and age, even a basic computer has powerful enough (often free or close to it) software to both enhance and clean up pretty much and track you want to name. Personally I think I will wait and see if Shawna now allows me to hear the studio stuff which I would guess shows her talent in a much more focused way. In the meantime, as I say, if you like the sound of her music then this track does indeed get the message across - but that's all it does.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rude Corps - ...And Then She Went Mad And Killed Everyone

Hear The Track Here

Got a bit of a shock with this. I had become so used to Rude Corps being a musical politician's nightmare I forgot where he came from and this track shows this artists roots more than most. Rude Corps has been a musical fixture on Soundclick for a long, long time, working with some of the best electronica collaborations around so it's no surprise that he should come up with a piece of raucous, stomping trickster jungle beats that you'll either love or hate. Either way, I guarantee, there will be no escape from the condition known to medical science as 'nodding dog syndrome'. Don't say I didn't warn you.

As a long time fan of the whole beats thing (I first got into it with DJ Shadow way back when) mad crazy cuts are fine by me, provided they make sense musically and some of the most relentless and inspiring music over the past few years has had some element of that around it. AT this stage of the game I think Rude Corps has just about attempted every musical genre these is, and usually to good effect too. Take, for example, the intro of this track which features a Harry Enfield skit on black and white Government health films, it's calm and reasonable style shattered into a thousand bits with a beat that eats worlds.

Now obviously this is pretty hardcore and I know that some people just do not get this style and, truth be told, I often don't either. When I do it's usually because it's also a good tune, or it has a few special production tricks I haven't heard before, or (more usually the case) it sounds fekkin awesome. And Then She... is the kind of track where, should it be played in a club would turn it's patrons into jam on the walls - and they would be loving every moment of it. To be sure, because of its jungle/d&b slant, it's not much to look at musically but it sure as hell give you a nice, solid kick to the brain.

AHDD in musical form. Highly Recommended.