FOXTROTT releases ‘Better With You’ from 2nd EP in ‘Meditations’ trilogy

mailMontreal’s Marie-Hélène L. Delorme, aka FOXTROTT, has shared brand new single Better With You – taken from the second in a trilogy of EPs, out on August 10th via One Little Indian Records. The second instalment, Meditations II sees the inimitable producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist expand on the contrast of an inner peace and the tension felt in response to an outer fast paced, outraged world. While Meditations I explored the inside and the desire to let the world in, Meditations II opens a window and lets a complex and noisy world swarm in. Meditations I saw an abundance of radio support from the likes of Lauren Laverne (BBC6Music – Headphones Moment), Annie Mac (BBCR1) and Phil Taggart (BBCR1).

Each of the three self-produced EPs – which are to be released throughout 2018 culminating in a full album release on October 5th – were developed during a solitary retreat to southwestern Mexico, with Delorme even mixing ambient sounds present while she was writing, into the music. Lead single from the brand-new EP – Better With You – incorporates the sounds of police sirens outside, juxtaposed with deep, pulsing beats and layered vocals, characterising the “inside”.

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Wild  –  Acid Hags (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a3638429872_16Sitting here in England writing about a band from Croatia not too long after my own country’s World Cup defeat to them, might cause some writers to look harshly on them through some sense of sport related, warped national pride. Well, with me, music has always been way more important than over paid prima donnas kicking a bag of wind about and get a weekly wage that is the equivalent to the cost of a new hospital wing. And anyway, how could you not love what Acid Hags do musically?

Acid Hags make instrumental music that wanders between rock muscle, blues interludes, prog-rock intricacies, off beat jazz infused post-rock and shimmering psychedelic textures. Yes, it is rock more than anything else but runs the complete gamut of sub-genres, eras and styles. It liberally mixes and matches themes and ideas, hops generic fences, gene splices the sound of one scene or era with another and pretty much sonically goes where it wants.

Instrumental music connects with the listener in a much different way than music that relies on lyrics, where the latter has the benefit of direct and obvious communication through words, the former must do so through the more fluid language of the music and the emotions, feelings and moods that it juggles. A much more challenging task, one requiring deftness, careful thought and an ear for interesting composition. Thankfully Acid Hags have these in no short supply. They also have no shortage of technical skill and it is this ability to build intense and infectious passages as easily as they lay down almost ambient atmospheres that is the reason they succeed where many lesser musicians have failed at the same task.

Misanthrope is a perfect example of the dynamic and diversity of the band, a hypnotic blend of chiming riffs and a bass line that moves between harmonising and marauding about being all broody and  menacingly and generally frightening the children, whilst Fungicide is a crazy and complex bundle of sound, sometimes songlike, other times just an intense workout, but engaging and challenging in either form.

At the other end of the spectrum, e.p. closer, Bon Appetite, cleverly uses space as an instrument alongside some off beat, off kilter and skittering soundscapes and Tanker is a slow burning combination of all of the above, taking its time to revel its mercurial nature and all the better for it. It’s also a collection of songs that drummers in particular and those interested in time signatures in general will love, as not only do they chose some pretty interesting beat structures for their songs, they also like to take a polyrhythmic approach, shifting timing and tempo as they go to create even more diversity.

Some might call it music made for other musicians and I’m sure that those with musical training will totally appreciate what Acid Hags have created on Wild. But it is also music for those with discerning musical tastes, those fed up with the 4/4 of the mainstream, those who want to be challenged, those who want to follow a band into exciting and fairly unexplored territory. As musical adventures go, this is great, why take the road well travelled when you can follow bands like this into new musical worlds…wait for me to grab my coat, I’m coming with you!

 

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Asylum –  Sianna Lyons (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

0008079122_350They say that the largest part of communication is non-verbal, through body language and context. The same can be said about music, if done well, you can convey meaning and emotion through the music itself, talk to the listener in a more primal, basic way, heart to heart, soul to soul with no need for anything as limiting, blunt or direct as mere words. And that is an idea which lies at the heart of Sianna Lyons new collection of songs, Asylum. 

Many of the songs lyrical content use more transient and opaque forms of communication, the private language of idioglossia, disembodied spoken word, of vocals used as an instrument, of wordless forms, of feeling, leaving the combination of the music itself and this secret and emotive expression to work its magic. And if that sounds as if this is all some ambient dreamscape, some fey delicacy it is so much more than that. The starting point is Sianna’s dynamic and impressive vocal range, songs such as Illusions showing the extent of it to perfection.

Where The Godless Pray, a song that predicted the dark times we are now finding ourselves in is the only one to feature universal language but it is bathed in such ethereality that the words shimmer and chime rather than converse and also feature 13 year old daughter Kiera Gonzalez Lyons, now heading out to embrace her own musical career. The title track rounds things off in a soaring crescendo, all dark drama and dynamic interplays.

And of course the vocals only land so impressively because of the music which drives them along, a masterclass in scoring and sitting somewhere between a film sound track and a Celtic odyssey, between ancient voices and future sounds, between space and atmosphere, anticipation and musical weight.

It is a stunning record, one that skirts a number of reference points, Enya, Clannad, Vangelis, the much overlooked Celtus, tipping its hat in reverence to all but maintaining enough distance and originality to be allowed to stand alongside those musical greats rather than merely follow them. Majestic, graceful, powerful, unique, it isn’t often that something this wonderful graces my reviewing desk. Day well and truly made.

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Scene and Heard – CCCLVIII : Fashion Man – Milly Tae (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

34258520_1809550765773425_4792166436900438016_nIf hip-hop started on the street corners, the social halls and basement  parties of the South Bronx, it has certainly come a long way both musically and geographically speaking since those formative days. And if those early a cappella battle raps and gang related power plays sit at one end of that timeline, Milly Tae’s Fashion Man sits at the other. Where there was dark and edgy music from the street, now we are offered its slick, effortlessly cool and ultra modern offspring.

It revels not only in upmarket fashion but uptown musical smarts, it runs on a skittering but groovesome beat, trap-rap percussive moves, delicate and beguiling electronica and confident and forward thinking vocal deliveries. This is urban music not just for the here and now but for the future, and the future has never seemed so cool or sartorially elegant.

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Scene and Heard – CCCLVII : Back It Up –  Dia Grover (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

imageIf songs charted because of sass and swagger rather than sales then Back It Up would be occupying the top spot for a long time. It is the perfect storm of groovesome old school R&B, pop energy, hi-octane soul and dance floor smarts. That’s a lot to fit in to a song but Dia Grover deftly weaves those threads together into a vibrant musical party. And more than just delivering a cool tune, via the video he also brings the dance moves to go with it. How great is that?

Defining the song really depends on which aspect of the sound catches your ear first. Back It Up is capable of driving like rock music, grooving like a dance floor classic, blending slick, R&B moves around echos of disco’s golden age, has pop infectiousness in spades and is delivered with effortless cool. Genres? Who needs them?

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The Songs of Chantitown (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

28576657_155410868490908_7154192027187769019_nThere is a grace at the heart of Chantitown’s music which has rarely been seen amongst modern artists. It harks back to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Carol King and a small number of artists who were part of that wave of rootsy pop and folk-revivalists who are still seen as the golden age of the art. But, thankfully, she is also well aware that mere pastiche or copy-cat plagiarism doesn’t cut it in the modern age either and the skill she employs to fashion her songs means that although they beat with a quietly nostalgic heart, they also sparkle with modern sass and deftly wander all points in between.

The real charm is this seamless blend of an ambient acoustic vibe with seeping electronica, of majestic but distant atmospherics, of intrigue and anticipation, of restraint and understatement. Even when the textures and sonic layers are writ large they are done so in a water-colour style application rather seeking to make their point through vibrant, thick oils. (Not the best of analogies but I’m sure you understand the point I’m making.) The result is a series of windswept and gossamer like sounds hanging around the lead lines rather than anything more intrusive or bombastic.

Truth immediately draws comparison with Natasha Khan’s gorgeous electronic balladry, the same ethereality meets electronica, emotive ancient sentiments evoked through cutting edge musical technology. And Bat For Lashes is not a bad reference point, sharing the same eclectic approach, the same blend of past and present, the same genre-hopping, musical gene-splicing and, in the case of this track in particular, the same exotic blend of eastern spice and western bite, of occident meeting orient.

At the opposite end of the dynamic spectrum Prince of Pain is the most dominant of the four songs presented here, but even then it still works more in an ambient surrounding than a pop one, yet like all of Chantitown’s songs it walks a fine line between the cool and cultish, and the accessible and commercial, and that is a trick that most artists never master. But here it is done so skilfully that you could almost use this as a template as to how to blur the lines of those two, often conflicting, worlds.

But it isn’t just the music which is tantalising and enticing here, Cause and The Cure in particular is spacious enough to showcase what an astonishing voice she has, weaving narratives which take in the personal and the poetic, which shift from direct, almost spoken word deliveries to the harmonious and cinematic, a style which runs through all of her songs but which for my money is epitomised best here. The final song found in this showcase of music is Mother of Sun, an epic, slow burning thing of haunting beauty, though, to be honest, that is a phrase which could apply to anything which has gone before.

In Chantitown I think we have found someone truly important, someone game changing, someone who sits on a line that links Joni Mitchell to Kate Bush to Portishead to Natasha Khan and who shows that music can be accessible, infectious and beguiling and also (fingers crossed) commercially successful, without being obvious and cliched.

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Unheard –  Astronomical Twilight (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a2181228105_16All music is going to remind you of something that you have heard before, how can it not, there is a finite amount of material to work with and only so many ways that you can combine it. It is a big number, but not a limitless number. Sadly most people are content to put the same building blocks together in pretty much the same ways. So when the opening track of the album drifts towards you like an as-yet-unheard Vangelis soundtrack, you know that you are in rarefied company indeed.

Unheard is one of those albums that, for the most part, shimmers rather than grooves, chimes rather than employs riffs, it moves with ambient grace and sometimes almost glacial pace and the result is stunning. Tracks such as Midnight conjures grand vista’s or dramatic images of deep space, Stratosphere is built of soaring crescendos and Satellite is a collection of wonderfully strange sonics and sweeping majesty. It is music that evokes such power in so few musical moves. It is conciseness personified.

But there are also a few less transient moments when beats are employed to better define structure and clothe a few of the songs in more conventional music trappings. Broken runs on a hypnotic and almost industrial beat and Radar is a wonderful trippy piece of synth-pop, bleeping rather that drifting, pulsing rather than swirling. It’s a strange futuristic minimalist alt-dance moment, where the music seems to often just hang between the beats rather than be served by them, all of which adds to the otherworldliness of the number, a glimpse of dance music to come perhaps? Perhaps.

It is an album of moods and atmosphere, where space is used as much as an instrument as the beats and notes are, where the pauses and anticipations, the non musical components, are used as punctuation, the points of grammar to this beguiling musical language. Glorious, graceful and nothing short of majestic.

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Pristine Babe release debut single Moonlight

mail.jpegLondon based electro-pop duo Pristine Babe have released their debut single ‘Moonlight’ on Axis Mundi Records.

Originally from Italy, Pristine Babe consider themselves European millennials trying to find their own way, using their magic to turn their everyday life into retro-sounding pop bangers.

Citing Madonna, Pedro Almodovar, John Waters and RuPaul’s Drag Race as influences, Pristine Babe create infectious, tongue-in-cheek pop songs, something that can be clearly heard on their debut, ‘Moonlight’. Of the single, Penelope says, “Moonlight is about being a girl, dealing with love, goodbyes and mood swings. Laughing and crying under the moonlight. Reality is entirely dictated by my dreams and fantasies, which keep me alive and bring colour to my world.”

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Scene and Heard – CCCLVI : Let ‘Em Have It – Abstract 90008 & Trap Des (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

avatars-000435394857-7r51mm-t500x500It is nice to know that in this world were a lot of rap and hip-hop has been dumbed down to mumbling bedroom wannabes talking in street tough cliches over the same off the shelf meandering beats that occasionally you can still stumble across something which reminds you of the golden age. Let Em Have It swaggers like an old school hip-hop classic but is anything but forward looking, talking in the language of today and adding a real street edge and dark anticipation through the choice and flow of words.  It is sharp, punchy and for a change revels in its own lyricism, something which seems to have ironically been lost from the genres which arose from a cappella street poetry.

East Coast lyrical dexterity meets underlying West Coast swagger, golden age 90’s vibes but laced with the fresh and exploratory sound of the contemporary scene, Abstract 90008 & Trap Des deliver the perfect blend of familiarity and forward thinking, of knowing your place in musical history and being brave enough to write your own chapter. The lyrics are filled with street philosophy and social commentary and land perfectly on the listener with style and confidence and the whole affair is spacious, allowing every word and every beat room to breathe and so work more effectively. A game raising musical slice if ever there was one.

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We Were Promised Jetpacks – signing and tour

mail.jpegScottish rock mainstays We Were Promised Jetpacks have announced their signing to revered boutique record label Big Scary Monsters, alongside an enormous tour in the UK, Europe and US throughout September, October and November (full list of dates below).

 

Tickets go on sale on Friday 13th July via https://www.wewerepromisedjetpacks.com/.

First emerging a group of 20-year-olds in 2009, with their exciting debut These Four Walls, the four members went on to release two further widely lauded albums throughout their ‘20s, 2011’s In the Pit of the Stomach and 2014’s Unravelling. Each band member recently turned 30 and felt like vastly different people to the four 20-year-olds that they were when they first started releasing music.

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