Reinventing Failure – No Side Effects (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

35193531_2024828247793364_3894154501191368704_nDifferent times can conjure different things to different people and when I think of the 1980’s my mind is cast back to watching The A-Team or Buck Rogers, collecting football stickers, wishing for a BMX, eating Highland Toffee and watching Top of The Pops on a Thursday evening.

One thing I noticed, aside from the ‘cool’ people in the studio dancing without a care in the world, was how more and more acts would have keyboards and computer monitors littering the stage and getting in the way of the dry ice, yes, synthesizers had arrived en masse from the prog rock bands of the 1970’s with a palette so broad that if you could imagine a sound, the chances were, someone could create it with the help of a selection of knobs, buttons and sliders. Music was dead. There was panic in music shops up and down the country, skips were filled with Rickenbackers and Fenders because Yamaha, Moog and Casio were the new makers of music and if you wanted to be taken seriously then you had better trade in your chord charts for a programming course at the local polytechnic.

Bands like Pet Shop Boys, Yazoo, Ultravox, Bronski Beat and Human League were dominating the charts but where these bands gave us the plink-plonk-pling of radio-friendly  tunes, others chose a darker route. Bands like Joy Division, Depeche Mode and Talking Heads were exploring where these new sounds could take us and, finally, we arrive at No Side Effects.

The debut album from Thomas Haynes and Adrian Wallington challenges the listener to question what makes us human and where we end up when we’re dead. All heavy stuff but it sits naturally in the synth arena and never feels cheesy or gimmicky. On first listen it can feel a bit over-bearing but stick with it because on the second or third listen the songs take on their own character and it then starts to unravel its secrets. The opening track, ‘Anti-Trust’ is a short taster of things to come, I like these sort of tracks at the start of albums, it hints at what is in store for the listener and, if done correctly, can tease you into what treats are to follow, and what is to follow is a vast, cleverly-planned trip into an electric landscape. At times the songs seem a little light on bass, particularly in the earlier tracks of the album but to suggest a pumping drum and bass line would be in total contradiction to what is on offer, but the earlier songs almost work as an evolution towards track five.

When I was given this cd, special attention was made about track five, a song called ‘In Your Brain Right Now’ which, running at 8 minutes, cleverly uses snippets from a lecture by American author and neuroscientist Sam Harris. The music plays between the audio of the lecture (similar to what the Blue Man Group has done in the past) and encourages the listener to breath and take notice of his/her own existence as a living, breathing thing, at one point the vocals echoes the words of Sam Harris and uses them to create backing vocals to good effect. But this song also acts as something of a shift in mood, the following songs, particularly ‘Outstare the Square’ and ‘Pessimonster’ are strong tracks with an energy that will keep most listeners interested and intrigued in equal measure.

‘Dark Light’ – which appears next on the album – recently received attention from BBC Bristol and featured as part of BBC’s Introducing, and rightly so, there is a Depeche Mode feel throughout leading to a powerful trip into what synth music is capable of with a steady, effects-laden bass line and slow burning production.

Actually, the production is the king here, with this much going on it would be easy to miss or misjudge a certain sound or rhythm, but each sound comes through clearly throughout this album. Record production is a labour of love at the best of times but there is a lot of sounds jostling for space. I’ve heard this album through car speakers and headphones and each method is a different experience.

If you fancy listening to some grown-up electronic music with messages that cover isolation, loss, mental health and all things in between, give these guys a listen, you might just find yourself going back for more.

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Nomadic  – Linqo (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a2465273143_16Rock is all about the big, the dramatic, the widescreen and sky scraping, at least the music that leaves a lasting impression is anyway. But that doesn’t mean that it is just about turning the volume up and delivering testosterone fuelled bombastic broadsides. Thankfully those days have (largely) long gone. Linqo understands better than most that you can make an impression through clever construction, musical textures, cinematic arrangements and well thought out dynamics. And Nomadic is a five track slice of exactly that.

Opening salvo, I Want To Be Your Lover, tells me everything I need to know about where this e.p. is likely to take me. Anyone who within 30 seconds reminds me that I haven’t played my Mercury Rev albums for a while is always going to sit high in my estimation. The Hourglass takes a more brooding approach, somehow sounding at once the most commercial track yet the most intimate, a personal plea that also happens to be a relatable anthem and Red Handed provides a soaring and cinematic full stop to this impressive suit of songs.

It is a big album yet elegant, powerful yet eloquent, creating its impact less through a packed punch but more through a feeling of being cocooned in rich tapestries of sound yet somehow it also evokes the feeling of being stood on the top of a mountain gazing that the night time stars. Classic rock? Who needs it? Cosmic alt-rock is the way forward.

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Scene and Heard – CCCLXXIII:  Juliet – Adabu Steven (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

37242027_275946399881463_8490974250532864_nIt is strange how much store people put in language, in the lyrics of a song, they forget that the musical element that lie below the narrative, the rhythmic qualities, its melody, beat, its very personality, are all just as communicative as the mere words. Juliet proves this brilliantly. Even though most of the song is sung in, presumably, the language of Steven’s Congolese birth place it doesn’t really matter as the sheer joy of the song just oozes naturally from it.

Juliet is a brilliant cross cultural blend, wonderful evocative African rhythms meets western pop, lush vocal harmonies adding wonderful texture and depth to this infectious creation and the result is a song that should be the easiest commercial sell in today’s music business but one that doesn’t just conform to the norms of the industry. The world is a big and exciting place, it is a beguiling and multi-facetted adventure and the best things happen when those various cultures, experiences, styles and sounds come together. Adabu Steven understands this concept perfectly.

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Zoetrope – Astronomical Twilight (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a0693404420_16On the strength of Astronomical Twilight’s previous album, Unheard, new music coming from this artist is something I already look forward too and so a new full album of sounds landing on my review pile really made my day. As expected, as an overall vibe, Zoetrope is a continuation of where we left off last time, which is perfectly fine. It isn’t that it is repetitious particularly, it is just that this is music that deals in moods and atmospheres, emotions and meditations and even if it were what is wrong with an artist realising what they are good at and just revelling in the beauty of what they do. And doing it far better than the competition too. Nothing, that’s what.

And this is an album to which the word beauty doesn’t feel in any way hyperbole. Most music stops far short of such terms, it might be fun, functional, energetic, euphoric even but Zoetrope, and Astronomical Twilight in general, creates soundtracks for the universe itself. The creative minimalism of what is being built here is so understated yet so majestic that it feels as if it is either the sound score, or possibly even the sound itself, to all of existence, the natural song of the universe just with all of the man-made white noise filtered out.

A Star in The Sky, for example, is just a drifting moodscape that initially conjures images as big, as distant, as dramatic as the title suggests, Restored is a blend of ambient pulses that trails off into its own world of distant radio noise and A Quiet Search For Joy is the perfect by-line for the music being made here.

Zoetrope is less beat driven than its predecessor, though that was hardly a dance record, but rather it is the drifting and meditative side which is the main concern this time around. If it proves one thing it is this. You can create powerful, elegant and eloquent music from so very little but of course the art is knowing exactly which “very little” to use and how position it on the musical canvas so effectively. Until someone else in the music community works that out, Astronomical Twilight will remain in a field of its own.

A wise man once said that we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. What he failed to add is that some of those stargazers are writing their very own musical suite to describe what they see and feel too.


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It’s Your Boi Fabulous P. – Fabp aka Fabpz the Freelancer (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

ITS YOUR BOI FABULOUS P (front)(GRAPHIC) - FABP AKA FABPZ THE _phixrAs Dirty Lil’ Communications proved previously Fabp goes much further than all of these rappers who claim to be pushing boundaries of the genre, he actually blows the whole thing up, rips up the rule book, erases history and creates a whole new year zero. But it is one thing to destroy, anyone can do that, but the clever thing is what happens next. He sifts through the twisted sonics and the broken fragments of music and puts them back together in new and interesting ways.

This time around the result is It’s Your Boi Fabulous P. A mash-up of stripped back rap, reggae vibes, skittering electronica, setting things off in a whole new musical direction. You could argue that this isn’t rap at all, in the same way that punk used rock and roll sounds to take an anti-rock stance and rave took dance grooves and beat them into a whole new genre. I guess anything that doesn’t quite fit into any one genre, any particular style, any recognisable form, anything that deserves its own generic label and then sits within it as the first of its kind could be a very important new chapter in the annals of music history. Only time will tell.

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I Want it All – Willy Wu ft. Ilka Schunke (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

maxresdefaultWilly Wu is telling it like it is. One of the great things about rap music is that it looks you in the eye, shoots from the hip and draws first, firing off salvos of reality, truth bullets packet with explosive honesty. I Want it All does pretty much what it says on the tin, it’s an anthem to following your dreams, to doing what is right for yourself and not allowing yourself to fall into line with other peoples expectations.

Through Wu’s seductive raps and vocalist Ilka Schunke’s contrasting sweet deliveries they create a dark and light combination, a sharp and soft balance through their boy/girl juxtapositions, both carrying the same message but framing it differently merely through the differing styles that they bring to the song. Street rap melodies meets sharp and annunciated pop vocals.

Musically it is a spacious platform, minimal beats and a plaintive piano carrying most of the tune with just a few electronic motifs and sonic embellishments to add colour but largely it is this room that allows the vocals to be more powerful.

Revelling in the past is all very well and good but the best music, or at least the most original, seems to be made as people move things forward. It’s all about evolution, it’s about forward-thinking, it is the way the world turns. I Want it All is the sound of the world turning and music moving into pastures new. Willy Wu pulls together various urban strands, ambient trap beats, hip-hop rhythms , cool rap flows and strange and glitchy electro-groove musical motifs and even a few sultry R&B tones and smooth, late night smokey vibes. More than that he uses the natural space, the atmosphere and anticipation found between the notes and in the space between the lyrical deliveries to great effect.

It’s a track that tips its hat to the past whilst shaping the future and it does really feel like a first, a bold step forward, a post-urban style that pushes beyond the rules and regulations. Ignores the fickle finger of fashion and has no time for musical guardians and narrow-minded pedants telling it what hip-hop, pop, rap, trap, electronic music or any other genre should be about.

It is an addictive combination of hypnotic vocal delivery and easy accessibility which really moves the ball forward, breaks out of the comfort zones and offers a new take on an old sound. If ever rap music spoke of the lives and aspirations of the young urban experience, this is where it is said most eloquently in raps own, new first language.

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Redwood reveal new video for In Your Arms

mailHertfordshire alternative rock band Redwood are pleased to reveal the video for their latest single ‘In Your Arms’, which is out now via all good digital service providers, following its first play from Daniel P Carter on the BBC Radio One Rock Show, and a premiere of the video at Clash Magazine.

The track is the latest to be taken from their new EP Lay Your Love Down which is set for release 5th October 2018 via Failure By Design Records. The EP is available to preorder now:

For the new video, the band collaborated with Cambridge-based illustrator, artist, musician and animator Phil Whitton to create a striking and unusual world that reflects the imagery in the song itself.

“We were beyond excited to work with Phil Whitton on the video,” said front man Alex Birchall of the partnership. “I gave him a small brief of key elements I wanted and he took the rest from there. He really delivered with this video that we couldn’t be more pleased with.”

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Roosevelt shares new single Forgive

mail.pngMarius Lauber AKA Roosevelt’s ambitious and breathtakingly modern follow-up to his self-titled debut is out next month. ‘Young Romance’ sees the German artist breaking free from the dance floor and stepping out into the light, effortlessly bridging that gap and asserting his place in the upper echelons of guitar and synth-pop royalty. Now less reliant on a four-to-the-floor kick drum as a rhythmic backbone, this sophomore record sees him embrace grooves of all shapes and sizes, and his first guest feature with the inimitable vocals of Ernest Green of Washed Out. Fusing chillwave and guitar-pop to sublime effect, the effortlessly breezy ‘Forgive’ combines guileless vocals with lush warm reverb and palpable bass frequencies. “I saw Ernest followed me on Instagram and I was so happy to find out he was a fan. He has always been a massive influence and this track was written around the vocal stems he sent back within days – a real collaborative effort,” says Lauber. It is out today.

‘Young Romance’ was written in his home town of Cologne and finished in Los Angeles, where it was also mixed by Chris Coady (Beach House/Grizzly Bear/Future Islands) at the legendary Sunset Sound Studios. Penned from self-reflective distance and brimming with fresh ideas and confidence, Lauber balances escapism and wistfulness in equal measure, documenting his own artistic transitions and personal experiences along the way. “I ended up processing a lot of emotions that I felt during my youth” he says, “faded relationships that haunted me for years, being on the road for what seemed like forever and the constant search for a place to call home.”

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Echo Town new album and tour dates

mailArriving on 5th October 2018 as the eagerly awaited follow-up to their benchmark album, 2016’s ‘Be Strong Troop On’, the dynamic duo of Richard & Robert Harrison make their return and clearly mean business.

A fusion of molten rock wig-outs, frenzied acoustica, riled-up reggae, and bastardised blues; ‘Kin’ is one hissing cauldron brimful of budding ideas, conscientious lyricism and impressive instrumentation.

Making their name across Europe as a band with a fired-up live show that rings out into the night air like a 21 gun salute at the helm of just two pairs of hands, ‘Kin’ sees the tenacious jamming duo deliver their immense live sound to disc with panache.

With the kernels of ‘Kin’ very much forming in the live domain, the brothers made a conscious decision from the get-go to attack this album as they would a sold-out show. In taking the most ear-worm worthy motifs and immoveable jams to emerge from their free-flowing performances, the pair began to stitch together the material that would form the backbone of the record. With a live and loose feel firmly on the agenda and in letting thunderous sticksman Robert Harrison essentially ‘do whatever he wanted’, the percussion on ‘Kin’ soon became something of literal heartbeat for the record.

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Scene and Heard – CCCLXXII:  I Want You More – Mikkee (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

31956415_2042307462446735_6402535386261749760_nAlthough built around a fairly simple dynamic, that of a soaring and euphoric, plea driven vocal juxtaposed with glitchy industrial electronica, it is such an effective concept I’m surprised that it hasn’t been done so well before. I’m not saying that the whole quiet/loud, on/off, binary music thing is exactly new, but the extremes that Mikkee takes them too is what really makes this work so well.

Short blasts of imploring and windswept deliveries, spacious and transient, constantly switching places with sonic mayhem and strange mech-alien sounds, simple but very effective. The video imagery also backs up these extremes wonderfully, the poeticism of the green and grey hills fast cut with a series of ever more strange and beguiling visuals, ones which pluck from the natural world, the industrial world, the artistic world and the open skies themselves.

What does it all mean? Who is he singing to? Is this unrequited love? Is this loss, longing, remembrance or merely dreaming? Does it matter?

Answers would only take away the strange and hypnotic effect that the music, and indeed the visuals, have on the listener. Sometimes it is better not to know the answers, a little mystery in life is a good thing. Right?

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