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.