Lust – Elea Calvet (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

14291753_1255725774486061_4248829946967448461_nIn a world of high gloss and cynicism, fashion driven style over substance, it is refreshing to come across a songwriter who exudes real passion through her music. And if you think that truly emotive and heartfelt music can’t also be commercially viable, then this is an artist works at that ever-elusive counterpoint.

 

From a hushed and minimal start the song builds in sensual, slow burning dynamic, naturally gains momentum but never opts for anything other than a gentle yet purposeful sashay towards its final crescendo. And that is the charm of the song and the hallmark of Elea’s music, it never over plays its hand, never rushes the task before it, never panders to the obvious or the immediate. And even whilst building dramatic soundscapes, playing with sky-scraping highs, subtle, melancholic depths and subverting structural expectations, there is a restraint and a timeless grace running through the heart of the music.

 

I have often heard word such as diction and clarity discussed regarding Elea’s vocal style and whilst it does often sit cloaked in the surrounding music or swerve the obvious delivery that the commercial world might demand, to me it is the voice used as an instrument and done so to great effect. Music for me, vocals included, are all about emotion and evocation, the feeling and the thoughts it conjures and a song titled Lust should at least be free to play with the more abstract ideas of sensuality and ecstasy. That might change as more studio time and money becomes available to her, I just hope it doesn’t change too much.

 

And that is the overriding nature of Elea’s music, it connects not with the head but the heart, it deals not in direct communication but a dark, deep, intangible embrace, one that you experience within your very soul. It is elusive and evanescent yet ecstatic and emotionally universal, it awakes primal feelings and stirs basic longings.

 

 

But whilst it harbours all of these not so hidden depths, it remains accessible, of wide-ranging appeal and dare I say it…. commercially marketable. Imagine if this became the new way of making pop music?

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A Sound Inve$tment – Tony Marino (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

aaeaaqaaaaaaaat2aaaajgewmjy0zgi5ltqxytitndhmzi05mwvjltmxnzjhnzblodexoqTwenty years and nine albums down the line from his debut release, The Latin Jazz Project, and Tony Marino is still expertly exploring the boundaries and back roads of that genre. This new album takes instrumental excursions through myriad sub-genres, from the expected Samba, Calypso and Funk to the more niche grooves associated with the carnival vibes of Frevo and the percussive urges of Baiao.

 

I have to confess that I am not as well versed in the intricacies of jazz as I would like, so I will apologies to aficionados for the absence of a detailed unpacking of the music. But then most of us approach such things, as a punter and consumer, which is fine, as those with only a casual relationship with the genre, like myself, will find an accessible, infectious and hypnotic collection of sounds within.

 

Forget the mechanics, music for my money is all about evocation, the painting of visions and vistas, a conjuring of people and places and here there is no shortage of images brought to life as these magical sounds pass before your ears. Draw a line connecting Brazilian carnivals to Cuban dancehalls, another from chilled beach parties to ancient African rhythms and then many more connecting places and thoughts, music and stories that have no business being connected. Stare at the pattern of the lines for a long time, and then shut your eyes. The stars and patterns dancing behind your eyelids is the music of this outstanding composer.

 

If you have found contemporary jazz too impenetrable, too complex, then maybe this is the place to start. Not only does the straighter delivery of the Latin groove sit more easily on the listener, but also the gathering of global influences keeps things nicely fresh and spontaneous. This fusion of world sounds hits a high point on Pradeep and Neera, a tabla drum driven groover that matches classical India rhythms with modern jazz piano, orient meets occident, to fantastic effect.

 

And it is this disregard for cultural boundaries that is the charm of the album, rather than explore just the one musical path way to exhaustion, Tony Marino is set on gathering the largest amount of experiences, casting his net wide and taking in a broad range of musical styles. But it is then what he does with these musical building blocks that is the key, for despite the wandering and exploratory nature of the album; there is a consistency and house style that turns this coming together of ideas a unique brand.

 

And as a mere punter, I can easily see the attraction of this wonderful collection of tunes and it’s subtly changing dynamic means that it fits in as chilled background music, conducive to a quiet night in but crank the volume up and you have nothing short of a very sophisticated party sound-track.

 

Jazz fans will appreciate the dexterity of playing and the deftness of the compositions, regular punters will find a groovesome and fun re-examination of seductive and sensual sounds but everyone will find something to love in a collection of musical soundscapes that have one foot firmly planted firmly in Latin jazz but the other stepping out to explore the world and its music.

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Falling Star – Ray William Roldan (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

10682401_745550522205665_2244087431943877409_oTerms such as alt-country, Americana, roots and the like sometimes get a bit lost on us music consumers on this side of The Atlantic. I guess these terms refer to something that carries the distilled essence of the country’s musical heritage, something quintessentially from that place and nowhere else, something that is part of the musical DNA of the country. If that is the case then you need look know further than Ray William Roldon for someone to carry that torch.

 

Somewhere between the infectious vocal twang and the lilting acoustica, you can hear the sound of the wind blowing along lost highways and screen doors slamming in the breeze. In the atmospheric spaces of his minimalist delivery you hear the bustle of truck stops and see the glow of all night diners. Ray may be a product of the West Coast but like fellow Californian Merle Haggard, his heart is in another place, a place that once spawned an outlaw band of guitar-slingers, where his no nonsense approach to music doesn’t seem at odds with this style over substance world. Oddly enough it is the very lack of substance, by which I mean lack of unnecessary musical clutter, that makes him very stylish indeed.

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Heaven Only Knows – Rev. Peter Unger (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

1451504004_peter2One advantage of the medium of music, specifically the lyrical connection a song might have with the listener, is that you are free to interpret the words and apply the message found within in anyway that works for you. And whilst the devotional aspect of Peter Unger’s song is clear, the sentiment is one that even those on a different path can find meaning in. The directionless toil of an unfocussed life and the search for a fresh start is relevant to all walks of life.

 
And even if the lyrical component of the song isn’t for you, musically the song moves along some musically deft lines, one built from dexterous and unfussy acoustic work, clean vocal delivery and pretty much nothing else. It is exactly what you would expect from an award winning songwriter, but there is more two it than mere mechanics. There is a quiet grace to the whole thing, a calm that comes from not just the reflective nature of the lyrics but from the gentle nature of the music as well and when taken as a whole makes for a very sweet combination.

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Besta Venya – Nick Parker (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

16933680_10158290593405344_486648990_nTravel has always been a theme at the heart of Nick’s songs and with this new collection it is one he is more than happy to return to. From passing references that frame the location of his stories to the wonderfully celebratory Ode To Marburg, which revels in the anticipation of returning to a place that has left an indelible mark on him. Which brings us to the other cornerstone of Nick’s music…positivity. Even at his most reflective, most wistful, the songs always have an optimistic direction of travel, the next gig will always be more fun, the next town will offer new adventures or long overdue reunions, the next year will bring more contentment, the next tour new experiences.

 

And that is the charm of it all really, this is a man who relishes not only writing songs and playing gigs but also the lines that join those dots, the travel, fresh encounters, exploring new places and soaking up their beauty and potential. And I guess this is rooted in the type of performer Nick is. Whilst many of his fellow acoustic wielding, circuit buddies come from that punk infused, anti-folk corner, more interested in defining what they are against rather than what they are for, these songs come from a more social, more inclusive, place. They are character studies, diary entries and wry observations from his touring life, less about them and us outsiderism and more a celebration of the things we have in common.

 

And whilst he does often favour pun over poeticism (have you worked the title out yet?) there is eloquence to the writing, a concise lyrical delivery that is essential to pulling off a good joke or a wry turn of phrase. Musically, it does the same, even on the busiest of songs, such as the Oysterband-ish opening salvo Make Yourself at Home or the expertly driven More Like This, there is no clutter just a musical practicality that doesn’t over play the hand. At the other extreme A Simple Song delivers just what it says on the tin, dealing in minimalism and charm whilst the plaintive and passionate Not Fooling Me reminds us that for all the troubadouring and travel, it is all about the people around us, the ones who keep us on the right path, the ones without whom…

 

Besta Venya is a gem of an album. It tugs heartstrings, evokes memories, embraces the world and documents it all majestically, poignantly and best of all humorously. If ever an album has made me want to grab a guitar and a train ticket and head out for pastures new, embrace new cultures, people, places and possibilities it is this. And if this album had been readily available prior to the Referendum, the idea of an exit from Europe would not have even got a look in.

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There She Is – Be Like Pablo (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

 

12132490_10152982978526580_4634684785737781803_oFrom this video it is pretty obvious that they have played the off Weezer album from time to time but that’s alright as the LA four piece were themselves a conduit for earlier influences – pop punk, indie, power pop and a defining slice of 60’s whimsy. Infectious is normally a good word for describing such music but here it almost doesn’t seem sufficient to describe the sun-kissed, sugar rush that assaults your ears.

Moog synthesizers, noisy guitars and a healthy dose of nerdy enthusiasm all fall into one end of the mix and out of the other comes a song of such contagion you will need to update your shots after listening. If this is the sound of young Scotland then I’m seriously thinking of packing my bags and heading north.

picture courtesy of Carrie Davenport Photography!

 

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New Music of the Day – CLXV: Cake and Butter – Zahed Sultan

16716206_1325839324129381_3813628011047815733_oZahed Sultan is a multimedia artist from Kuwait and here his platform is a slow, brooding alt-rock musical vehicle through which to channel his observations and thoughts. As this slow, heady and hypnotic meanders through the consciousness of the listener it weaves an abstract, social commentary on daughters being ‘buttered up’ for potential suitors to uphold archaic family tradition.

It is a wonderful splicing of western rootsy rock made over via some fine electronic detail and more sensually eastern sensibilities but more than that it is music which discusses important social issues, even if it does it fairly guardedly and with only a few notable exceptions it has been a while since modern music did that.

 

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Contain – Ian William Craig (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a1895047974_16-1Some music is about energy; some about a more chilled delivery but Contain takes the latter into whole new and deeper territory. ((break)) But it is more than just relaxed in its approach, more than restrained in its delivery; it takes sonorous, minimal music into wonderfully elemental realms. The voice is strikingly beautiful and the piano plaintive and heart aching, but there is something otherworldly about the result. It’s an over used word but here no other will do.

Accentuated by background washes of galactic interference and the creaking of tectonic plates, Contain goes beyond the formal structures of song and at times sounds like the echo of the big bang or the noise of sand dunes shifting. It is haunting, ethereal and stunning and channels the minute and the majestic in equal measure. Craig proves that when you clear all the unnecessary clutter away from the process of song writing, what beats away at the heart of the remains is more powerful and more resonant than you could ever imagine.

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Scope Explosion – One Sentence. Supervisor (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

14708053_1135566346512305_4301296727555866818_oThis gang of Swiss cosmic adventurers fit so much into just this one song, it is difficult to know where to begin. I guess the rhythm is as good a place as any and the lilting and luscious eastern vibes certainly makes a welcome change to the usual straight out, four to the floor beats associated with music from this hemisphere. Throw in a dash of hazy psychedelia , west coast pop and a hypnotic vibe and you soon realise that they wander along very unique musical paths.

 
And I use the term cosmic adventurers to good affect here, for not only do they seem to underscore the spacey nature of a gentle acid trip they also capture a sci-fi vibe which feels like a theme tune to their wanderings around the galaxy, imagined (probably) or otherwise (you never know!)

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Rooftops – Laura James (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

14702399_10153748578987260_1597479584799105647_nThis “lament to Liverpool” covers a lot of ground over its four or so minutes. It starts by dwelling in minimalism and atmospherics as Laura’s emotive and crystal voice yearns for the city she left for London’s bright lights. A heartbeat drum builds the dynamic, not to mention the tension, before the song explores its glorious potential of expansive vocal treatments and widescreen cinematic lustre.

It feels like part of the soundtrack to a film not yet made, one about new lives, new adventures but one cocooned in nostalgia and wistful reflections. Soundtracks are usually the add on to a finished film production, a score to underline the visuals on the screen, but if ever a song demanded a film be shaped around its slow burning grandeur then this is it. Who’s up for the challenge?

 

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