Long Vivid Dream – Discolor Blind (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Discolor_Blink_-_Long_Vivid_Dream_(cover).jpgThe ability to produce a suite of five songs which simultaneously seem part of totally different musical genres yet somehow sonically sit perfectly side by side is a great, and indeed brave, trick in this often musically narrow-minded world. It is probably because the driving force behind it, Ashkan Maleyeri approaches his music as a writer of scores, rather than someone interested in taking the more obvious route of song writing for a popularist market.

Long Vivid Dream moves at it’s own, often unexpected, pace from the opening, creeping strains of Migraine to the dark, raw edged dynamism of The Life of Lily then from the down beat, Kate Bush-esque Black and Grey to the drifting nature and cold musical climes of Poor Receipts. But if there is one song that stands out from the more ethereal sounds that colour the e.p. it is What Pain Brings and its ability to wander through the sounds of the jazz era, re-appropriating beats and incorporating brass section grandeur but still sounding like the product of a near-future, dystopian cocktail bar band.

And it is such strange juxtapositions which see big rock guitars sit along side slick eighties styled electronica, dark and haunting grooves bristle with pop aware catches and neo-classical vocals deliver fractured dreamstate operas.

The inherent eclecticism to be found here reflects something of Ashkan’s own journey from the warmth of Tehran to cooler Cambridge climate and the decidedly harsher Canadian Winters but just as everybody draws their own story across the world map, that story also suggest a very unique soundtrack. Add to that the breathy and sultry tones of vocalist of Alexis Nadeau and you have a very enticing soundscape indeed.

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Goodnight, Sweet Betty – 68 Creep (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

68creep_-_Goodnight,_Sweet_Betty_(cover)I love the fact that I have lived long enough to witness the word Lynchian become a recognised label, one that can be applied to art and creativity across a wide range of spectrums. In the visual aspect it is synonymous with delving beyond the ordinary surface to find the dark and unsettling underbelly of modern society, to turn the familiar into the something elusive, uncertain and eventually horrific. 68 Creep seem to be the perfect band to take such an attitude and render it into the perfect soundtrack.

As Kimberly Q sings “I killed my baby in the middle of the night” and then throws in a unemotional “I’m sorry” you get to the heart of what the band are about. Slow, meandering gothic jams and visceral garage rock grinding creates a canvas onto which they paint their terrible visions. But the real terror is not the things they sing about so much as the wistful detachment with which they deliver them, the horror seems so much more intense when it appears to be pointless or just for kicks.

Part PJ Harvey and part The Cramps, 68 Creep inject their own brand of darkness into the gothic musical heart, one for a more modern, smarter musical audience. Whereas first time around the genre was clinical and romantic, florid and pretentious, now it is focused and intense, raw and threatening. Guitars wander between razor wire shape edges and cavernous onslaughts and the vocals are 60’s girl group leads warped and lacerated by life all driven by an unrelenting distant industrial beat.

Strangely beautiful, wonderfully weird, taut and tense and as I said in the introduction, brilliantly Lynchian, it comes as no surprise that the album title derives from the great man’s most examined, interpreted and brilliantly confusing film Mulholland Drive.

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Ghost – Richard Wileman (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Richard Wileman - Ghost 1500x1500 2As the central hub around which the musically intricate world of Karda Estra revolves, Richard Wileman has been responsible for a wide range of wonderfully textured, unpredictable and eclectic music. He has wandered from intense noir-ish soundtracks to sweeping celestial grandeur and embarked on everything from progressive Avant Gardening trips to jazz infused meanderings. But everyone needs some time out now and again and so here we find him playing with a musically straighter bat. Voice, acoustic guitar, a guest Clarinet for the final track and little else, a far cry from the usual musical layers we find him swathed in but no less glorious a result.

The title track is one of emotive acoustica dressed with just a few musical motifs and sonic embellishments, simple yet stylish and acutely reflective. Best of all after producing a body of, if not instrumental work then music where vocals are used more as ethereal instruments, we hear Richard sing and immediately wonder way we haven’t got to hear more of this with Karda Estra.

Andromeda Variations takes some classical Latin guitar pathways but the songs that top and tail the e.p, The Veil and Chaos Theme For Clarinet, skirt his more familiar territory. What is both exciting and revealing is that these compositions feel like they are the sound of Karda Estra as first thoughts, its ideas refined, polished but retained as more direct and immediate musical communiques, you can occasionally see the same sonic thumbprint in evidence but here the joy lies not in the way those ideas are built into complete musical worlds but in their straightforward and unadorned beauty.

Ghost is a wonderful view into what the composer himself sounds like with the depth of his compositions stripped away, the beating heart and the nerve centre of the whole affair. But more interestingly with the complexity and therefore live logistics of his usual widescreen sound stripped away, does this e.p. herald Richard Wileman as a more regular live performer? I do hope so.

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Scene and Heard – CCXVI : The Drink That Kills Me – Willodean

614511845229Music and alcohol have always been in a relationship; from the inspiring to the fatal they are both connected in an on going dance. Music has long celebrated and cursed the liquid in equal measure and here Willodean take a more reflective approach to the subject. This modern take on the barroom serenade is refreshingly honest and accepting of the inevitable, a Tom Waits ballad but with a more accessible and commercially viable vibe.

The piano frames the vocals and a meandering violin acts like a second harmony voice but the power of the song comes from the stark subject matter and the space in the song which allows the realisations to hang heavy in the air. Neither a glorification nor a dismissal of the hooch and the hard stuff, more an acknowledgement that, in the western world at least, creativity and the barroom are more often than not intrinsically linked and rarely has this intertwined conflict been better or more poetically put into song.


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Orbs of Light – Beto Hale (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

artworks-000238890517-hydwa0-t500x500The fact that Beto Hale discovered the Beatles at a young and impressionable age is indelibly woven into the heart of this album. Whilst not always obviously Beatle-esque, the album seems to often think in similar ways and certainly Orbs of Light has a late 60’s charm and slightly nostalgic pop attitude about it. Nostalgic not so much in that it feels as if it trying to re-capture or pastiche those formative pop years but more that it echoes a similar classic feel, a deft and clean limbed approach to song-writing which seems to have been overshadowed by the march of studio technology and a lowering of musical expectation in recent years.

And in the cyclical nature of musical fashion, that 60’s vibe is often experienced through an 80’s post-punk filter and songs such as The Only One could easily have fitted along side a raft of, mainly British, bands such as Scritti Politti, The Psychedelic Furs and even Echo and The Bunnymen as they searched for the new pop sound.

But Beto Hale is nothing if not his own man and whilst it is easy to draw comparisons, Orbs of Light has a sound all of its own, proving that whilst it is often easy to be able to identify the building blocks of any given album, it is the sonic architecture which the artist fashions out of them which is the real story. The architecture here is quite brilliant.

As a tonic for these darker days which we find ourselves in, Hale’s way to combat the times is to make an album of optimism, poise and poeticism, one which revels in escapism and a universal celebration of the finer points of the human experience. He also does so by blending the infectiousness of pop and the rigidity of rock and then enhancing that structure with memorable choruses, wonderful hooks and blistering guitar embellishments. It is bold and beat led, poised and poppish, eminently accessible and wonderfully ambitious, given the cynical times that spawned it. Proof that no matter how worrying the world gets, there will always be the need for life affirming pop rock and it doesn’t come much better than Orbs of Light.


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Sleep Safari – Nick Nicely (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

artworks-000228299324-zd3o9t-t500x500If in the past I have described Nick’s work as being drifting and dreamlike, his latest album, Sleep Safari, is the logical extension of those signature sounds being nothing less than an exploration of the lucid dream state, a homage to unconsciousness and a mission to make music which reflects such a meditative condition. Ever since Joe Meek first conducted his homemade musical experiments at the start of the rock ‘n’roll era, musicians have been fascinated with trying to capture the idea of the otherworldly in sound, be it journeys into outer or inner space, and Nick’s musical odyssey into the subconscious stands alongside the best of them.

All too often such music has been the bastion of the progressive rocker or the wide-eyed avant gardener, the results wandering between the bombastic and the boggling, the pretentious and the purposeless. But the deft touches, creativity and wide sound palette that he employs here means that Sleep Safari encompasses much within its 10 tracks. It moves between futuristic dance and widescreen, cinematic soundscapes, rich psychedelia and stark clinical rhythms, eclecticism and electronica, plays with past glories and paints future visions.

It is a collection of musical scenarios built from a textural and conceptual richness plus a wonderful grandeur that exceeds the mere musical melodramatics which is more often the case when navigating such wide open sonic possibilities. As always Nick gives us something fresh and truly unique and again, as always, he is more than aware that even when you have such a wealth of sonic wizardry at your fingertips it is still all about producing something musical, something which has substance, purpose and poise as well as mere style. Thankfully Nick, as is his want, delivers all this and more.

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Eoin Glackin – Wear It While You Can (reviewed by Ian O’Regan)

eoin-glackin-artwork-e1504698340586There’s a corner of the music scene in the UK and Ireland these days that’s becoming more noticeable – insistent, even – under the increasingly inaccurate and irrelevant banner “Americana”.

What started as a more rootsy, stripped back objection (in part at least) to another of mainstream country music’s periodic drops into hideous cliche and soulless formula has become a cover-all label to describe so many different sounds and vibes, that surely it’ll soon be dropped as any kind of useful descriptor altogether, or, more likely, it’ll become more of an insult, much as the term “Prog” did in the 70s and 80s (and still is today).

In the meantime, one of the more enduring – and endearing – sub-genres in the Americana stable, and one that was one of the kick-starters to the whole concept, is the revision of late 70s and early 80s mid-west rock in the manner of Steve Earle, Tom Petty and the like.

The new single from Dubliner Eoin Glackin is the latest example, showcasing a solid, rock-along rhythm section overlayed with the requisite racing guitars and fiddle riffs, nicely propelling a song that is essentially a protest song in thin disguise.

Inspired by the story of Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston marathon in 1960, much to the outrage of the organiser – the photograph of him trying to manhandle her off the course lives in infamy – this is a foot-tapping clarion call to women (and one hopes, people generally) to get on and do whatever you want to while you’re still able. A simple truth, but then, as the song itself ably demonstrates, the simple things are often the most effective – and the most fun.

Glackin has scheduled one UK gig in October, at the Half Moon Putney on the 5th. If you go, make sure your shoes have their tapping soles firmly attached.

Wear It While You Can is out on Good Deeds on 27th October.

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Occultation – Dark Moon Lilith (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

20258110_861786170636371_2694518852271757995_nIf the band, album name and artwork seem to suggest something aimed at the black clad, wannabe pagans who still have visions of relocating to Sunnydale and hanging around with Buffy and the gang, I am most happy to report that Occultation rises far above such first impressions. Give the music a spin and you find yourself in a dark and emotive alt-rock soundscape. Even the term gothic, as a genre at least, is slightly amiss here, for it neither fits in with the old-school post-punk movement or the metal sub-genre it has since become. If it is gothic at all it is more in the literary sense, painting dark mystique, broken romanticism and haunted emotions across its musical canvas.

So if I have established what the record isn’t, lets look at what it is. Dark Moon Lilith at times reminds me of Concrete Blond and their ability to weave introspective lyricism through powerful and theatrical music and similarly to sound like your favourite cult band but drip with commercial possibilities. Songs such as Hiding Place with its jagged guitar riffs, pounding classic rock drive and sultry warmth seeming to sum this up more eloquently than I can put into words.

And as much as I am trying and failing to avoid the term gothic, maybe it is a gothic alternative, music for those who found the likes of The Cure too mannered, Bauhaus to fractious and The Mission too pretentious first time around or who misses the mystic and mythology which used to be an inherent part of rock music before classic rock double-denimed down and alt-rock became all about skinny jeans and complicated hair.

And then they throw World Away at you, a minimalist ballad dripping with pain, heart wrenching emotion, majestic spatial awareness and anticipation and you realise that there is much more to the band than fits into easy generic boundaries, which obviously is how it should be. Considering my own musical journey through the bands mentioned above and particularly along that tipping point where the glamour of the gothic world met the pose and power of rock, Dark Moon Lilith are a wonderful find and one whose dark dramas I shall undoubtedly be spending more and more time with as the nights draw in, the perfect soundtrack for my half-lit domain and fire side hibernations.

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Sooner or Later – Lynne Taylor Donovan (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Sooner_or_Later_cover_400There is something that lies at the heart of Lynne Taylor Donovan’s sound which seem to make me picture it playing from an old radio at a low volume at night, perhaps as the quiet sound track to the scene of a film, one tinged with love, loss and longing. It is a resonance, a certain sonic heart, a depth of classicism, and a feeling that even whilst hearing the song for the first time it is somehow woven into the very fabric of the human condition.

Although she works in the modern country genre, musically she seems to possess an old soul, remembering when such music was still connected to the emotive sound of the genre of the same name and equally so to the tragedy of blues, rather than the modern influx of urban cowboyism and career paths paved with rhinestones. But for all its traditionalism, it is still very much of the present as well, wonderfully reminding us of the cyclical nature of all music.

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Flag Burner – American Anymen (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

American_Anymen_-_Flag_Burner_(cover)One of the things which speaks volumes about just how much the world has changed over the last generation is when you are reading the comments of an on line discussion and some one posts something along the lines of “musicians should stay out of politics.” Surely the whole point of art in general and music in particular is to comment on the world around you. Yes, of course you can make throw away dance tunes and music that ticks aesthetically pleasing boxes, but equally valid is music as a soapbox, a platform from which to add to the social and political dialogue, to unite and energise or confront and accuse as you see fit.

With Flag Burner, American Anymen does just that, their disapproval of the current US administration and its controversial leader is never in any doubt. But ever since troubadours and folk musicians wandered between European inns spinning yarns about revolts, since revolutionary marching songs fired up the discontented masses and through to the likes of punk agitators and modern day musical commentators, it is a role that music has always played.

American Anymen play a staccato guitar music, restless, agitated, edgy and angst infused, it links the more articulate side of the British punk movement with the jittery, post-punk of the likes of Talking Heads and reflects the no holds barred observations of the likes of Sleaford Mods. American Anymen, whether they are aware of it or not, join a vague movement which is seeing a return to music as a flash point for debate and rally, one connected less by the actually music they make but more a return to the realisation of the power that a band and their songs can have, should they only chose to embrace that path.

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