Mr. Fix It  – Brooke Josephson (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If ever a song was the sound of the modern clubland dance floor it is this. It seems as much built of sass and energy as it is with music and beats and with a video comprised of Day-Glo flashes and searing visuals, it is the perfect shiney object for the current crop of high-octane music magpies. Music can be staid and serious, poignant and poetic of course but sometimes you just want something to distract you from the grind of daily life, something to loose yourself in on a Friday night as the club kicks in to life, something that is more of a soundtrack or a sonic escape than anything particularly meaningful. And for those times, Mr. Fix It is exactly what the music doctor ordered.

Continue reading “Mr. Fix It  – Brooke Josephson (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

Advertisements

Miles Away –  Mark James (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Some music looks to the past, re-invents the wheel or perhaps merely polishes it in the hope that this new found sparkle will ensnare a new audience. Others follow fad and fashion, happy to piggyback on the current zeitgeist and try to slip through the doors that have been opened by other contemporary artists. And then there are artists like Mark James who are all about looking to the future. For although there is much that is familiar on his album, Miles Away, there is a definite feeling of moving everything forward, of striding confidently onto new horizons and leading rather than following the pack.

Continue reading “Miles Away –  Mark James (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

Love and Music –  MD Lyonga (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If you need proof that the world is becoming an ever smaller and more connected place you just have to look at the blends and cross-references that crop up in the art forms of the 21st century. Canadian based Cameroonian artist MD Lyonga is the perfect representation of this and his latest e.p. is a deft mix of styles and genres garnered from many different cultures and countries. As you would expect from an artist with one foot in either continent there is a wonderful clash of western rap and R&B infused pop with the more exotic beats and rhythms of west Africa’s rich musical heritage.

Continue reading “Love and Music –  MD Lyonga (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

Halo – tunnelmental experimental assembly (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Sitting somewhere between those early 80’s sonic experiments, ones undertaken by disenfranchised punks swapping guitars for broken keyboards, and a modern clubland minimalist chill out zone, Halo sucks us back into the strange and wonderful world of this mercurial duo. The term punktronica is often associated with their music and it is easy to see why. Punk was after all an attitude rather than a music genre, it’s just that skinny art students wielding guitars seemed to be the point where it crossed over into the commercial conciousness. And so meld that same attitude onto a more measured and subtle dance groove and you have punktronica, I guess.

Continue reading “Halo – tunnelmental experimental assembly (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

Multiplayer Erotica –  Jamit (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

The only thing that you come to expect from Jamit is the unexpected. Yes, you know that the music is going to run along warped, experimental dance lines, though I’m sure one day I will find something from him in my review pile that throws even more of a curve ball and completely jumps the generic boundaries. But, apart from his broad signature strokes, his sort of sonic fingerprint, you have to just be content to go where he decides to take you musically. As always his subjects are the world around him, and the title alone informs you that this is inspired by the more fun and intimate aspects of life.

Continue reading “Multiplayer Erotica –  Jamit (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

Rude Redux EP –  Rude Audio (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

oM2xzBCQThere is a wonderful cross pollination of sounds and ideas running through the heart of Rude Audio’s latest release. It is music made using the latest studio technology yet it beats with an ancient heart, it’s from a London based band but their brand of Balearic chill is infused with North African and India sonic thumbprints. They make spacious and ambient music yet it still has a wonderfully confident beat, depending on your state of mind you can groove away to its exotic charms or just let it gently wash over you.

Unlike the often brash, linear and direct music that comes out of such a scene, Rude Redux seems to ooze from the speakers, a dub platform is used as a base for all sorts of world sounds and cross-cultural blending and this solid foundation allows them to be spacious when they want to be or use it to really ramp up the woozy, hazy intensity.

As a band they seem to have all the right underground and off the radar credentials, operating away from the limelight and in doing so building up a reputation for being the alternative choice for the underground party scene. And you can hear why. For every strand of familiarity there are two strands of “what just happened,” where did that sound come from” and “I wouldn’t have thought of doing that.” If you remember the early releases from the Future Sound of London and the original Balearic dance scene then Rude Redux is going to really make your day. Cinematic, cross-cultural and totally accessible. Cool!

Songs With Venissa – djpe and Venissa Santi (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

songs-with-venissa-275-275-1534537610I love music that refuses to sit in neat generic demarcations. I love music that is happy to exist in a multi-cultural sonic world. I love music that looks to the future rather than back at past glories. To find that all in one place is a rare and wonderfully satisfying thing but that is exactly what I found when giving Songs With Venissa a spin. I might not know exactly what Afro-Futurism, the description that producer Paul Edwards uses to indicate the nature of the music that he makes is, but when you come out the other side of this 6 track e.p. you realise that it is the perfect name for what him and Cuban-American jazz vocalist Venissa Santi create here.

And for all the dark, sultry beats and spacious electronica that the name implies, there is so much more going on here. My Schwinn blends the sound of that continent with more exotic India traditions and Lucky mixes heavy dub grooves and infectious pop with warped western classical outbursts. Heartbeat takes a turn into lazy late night jazz-hop and If I Could Write A Letter is so ahead of its time, so unlike anything you have heard so far that it might truly be the sound of the future.

The world is an ever shrinking place, certainly culturally speaking. Tools and traditions, sounds and styles which may never have crossed paths in the past are now creative bed fellows. As people mix so do their sounds and stories, their attitudes and ideas and the more that happens the more interesting and original those new blends of music become. Genres are dead, long live music.

Tower –  The Goodbad (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

artworks-000402462144-d015zf-t500x500Dance music, like most genres, is a redundant label. The common factors that you use to identify music that belongs within such a grouping… beat, groove, infectiousness, accessibility… are the same factors that you would use to describe most music across many genres. Dance music is dead. Long live music!

The Tower may just be the birth of the genre-less club anthem, adhering as it does to the things needed to get people on the dancefloor and moving but hardly the stuff of the mainstream pop-picker and party animal. It grooves, pops and zings in all the right places for sure but it also seems to be built of strange mutated genes, of warped electronica and industrial pulses, hardly the “go-to sound” of Saturday night. But as alien as it sounds in places, it is the perfect replacement for the saccharine dance-pop that currently fills the clubs and venues, instead offering a darker and more experimental way forward.

And proving that The Goodbad are pushing out in all directions, Aeon takes some of that strange, leftfield stance and melds it on to a more conventional beat, cleaner lines and driving energy, the otherness of their nature still apparent but buried deeper in the music, maybe so as not to frighten those more used to standard club anthems and production-line chart hits with their dystopian dance visions. Delve even further into the back catalogue and Illusion is different again, glitchy, clinical, futuristic and buoyant.

What makes The Goodbad’s music work so well is that it is like a Trojan horse in an assault on the mainstream. It feels like a celebration of the norm, it appeals to the masses, it uses familiarity to be let into the mainstream club consciousness but then, in the dark of night under the neon glare it begins to infiltrate the musical status quo with its new ideas and musical visions. Music doesn’t move on by trying to change the landscape from without, it moves on by unknowingly inviting mavericks and strange creatives to the party who slowly set about changing the party so that it conforms to their needs and desires. Welcome to the party, its about to get interesting.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXIX :  I Am Bold – Janeliasoul  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

14124478_1333246146703373_7280665907639755590_oThere is a point where Afrobeat meets western soul, where the emotive beats of that continent connect with commercial, occidental melodies, it is here that some of the most infectious and near perfect pop is created. I Am Bold is a perfect example of that concept blending as it does jazz motifs and soulful grooves through those already addictive sounds.

You might be able to take the girl out of Nigeria, she is now based in Balitmore leading her band of the same name, but you certainly can’t take Nigeria out of the girl and its music seems to ooze naturally in joyful celebration from her. As well as being a great pop song, it is a powerful mantra too, a reminder of our individual power and strength, that we should all chase our dreams whatever form they take and whereever that might take us.

Making music is more than enough for most people, making great, life-affirming pop music takes a whole, more refined set of skills, skills which Janeliasoul has more than her fair share of.

Shine  –  Odella ft. Ivory Lee (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

licfminpdchkieffDifferent music serves different purposes. Rock music is bold, brassy and in your face, R&B is smooth and sultry and pop music is at its best when it is being infectious and full of energy. I know this, you know this and Odella know this better than anyone as their latest release, Shine, positively snaps, crackles and… well, does what it says on the generic label. Pops!

Shine is an infectious song, a song built with vim and vigour, alluring enough to seduce you on to the dance floor and addictive enough that you won’t want to leave it. Bass lines pulse, confident piano riffs provide the structure and the vocals land with such a familiar and cool quality that you will be singing along in no time. We hear a lot about dance floor anthems these days, it has become a bit of a cliche for sure but this genuinely is one. Simple enough for the listener to be able to immediately become part of the song and cool and clever enough that, although it sits on a well travelled generic road, rarely will you hear dance-pop done this slickly and this succinctly.

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.

Tropika – Von Rushton (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

TropikaAs the opening salvo Party Over Here goes about its business it is easy to get the feeling that you have heard all of this before but then Take Me Now comes along. By then you will have tuned your ear to the finer points of the album, to what’s going on under the surface and you realise that there is something slightly odd and off kilter about the programmed beats behind the vocal. The next thing you know strange and exotic middle eastern riffs are running around, exchanging their sonic moves with rock guitars and now your original appraisal of being firmly in familiar musical territory has to be quickly put to bed. At that point its best to start the album from the beginning again and listen with fresh ears and an open mind.

Tropika may, on the surface at least, be just another collection of euphoric dance floor groovers, and indeed it is but unlike its contemporaries, Von Rushton has a way of weaving unusual musical threads through the usual clubland templates. And if tracks like Take You Down play to expectations, and there’s nothing wrong with that, the album as a whole pursues any number of different directions from its vibrant dance-pop core.

Be My Escape plays with chilled modern R&B, a wonderful mix of electro-reggae grooves, ambient dance melodies and confident beats and I Might Hit the Club takes the modern obsession with skittering trap percussion and rap deliveries but shrouds them in a brooding and emotive finish. Taking something that is often a fairly unoriginal genre and building it into something totally fresh and exciting.

There is even room for soulful dream pop with I Wanna Know Your Name, a brilliant revival of the golden age of soul made over for the modern and more discerning club goer and Firefly is a hushed and harmonious slice of ambient pop.

For an album I went into thinking, “here we go again” Tropika not only covers a lot of ground but does a lot of sonic landscaping along the way. This is not just someone visiting various genres, this is the sound of someone updating them for a whole new audience. The familiarity lies in the raw materials not the finished design in the same way that when you study the sleek lines and beautiful demeanour of an iconic building you don’t look at the individual bricks but marvel at what they have been shaped into. Tropika might be formed of the same building blocks as its rivals, however, where for those competitors it might result in perfectly functional music, practical sounds that gets the job done, Tropika is nothing less than awe-inspiring sonic architecture writ large.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXI: Feels So Divine  –  Inanna  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

51T0kdA5rJL._SY450_Feels So Divine is a very interesting concept, part infectious dance music, part devotional, the result being a track which is both euphoric and graceful, which is spiritual and yet full of energy. Lyrically it is a celebration of life, inspired by a spontaneous healing experience on the part of the author and combines the sound of primal chanting with contemporary dance music and it is around these juxtapositions that the charm of the song is built. It is the sound of worlds colliding, but doing so very gently, it is the modern entwined with the ancient, the sound of the natural world dancing to the tune of the technological one… or perhaps vice versa.

Dance music is often an empty place, with vacuous and empty words being forced together with the latest musical dance floor fads or clubland fashions, but Feels So Divine is a song which soars above such trivialities. It still plays with the joyous abandon of the pop and dance world but whilst it does so it leans on a deep experience and uses that to create something that is celebratory and emotive. It also has that uncanny knack of being able to take something highly personal and render it into a wonderfully relatable message.

Pop fans will love its lightness and accessibility, clubbers with dig the groove and those looking for something with a deeper message will revel in the place that the song comes from. When looking for something musically deep and meaningful you don’t often look to the dance and pop set for answers but Inanna is happy to prove that wrong, to over turn cliches and to show that wisdom can be found in the most unlikely places. 

Pioneer Generation (feat. Orestis Milios) –  Jamit (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

pioneer-generation 2Jamit makes dance music for the modern age. It’s as simple as that. With so many acts liberally plundering from the past, re-working the golden age of Balearic music, of the Rave scene or revisiting those iconic early sounds of the the original synth explorers, it is great to come across an artist looking forward rather than backwards. Pioneer Generation is a pulsing and groovesome blend of contemporary dance, it is a wonderfully minimal, slow-burning and hypnotic EDM blast, it never strays too far from its beguiling singular vision, it draws its electronic trappings around it, slowly layering up beats and grooves and sauntering its way towards its final destination.  

And whilst Pioneer Generation contains the required groove and pace of a midnight dance floor, it also is sassy and sultry enough for the more laid back dance experience. It is built on trippy beats and airy electronica but allows enough space between that the music never becomes claustrophobic or cluttered.

Not everything has to be the fastest, the most intricate, the most driven; we have matured enough to get beyond that. What Jamit offers instead is solid and sexy, and when has that not been more than enough for a good night out?

Yallel –  Mavex (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

31280446_197293694397672_8595670645377859584_nWorld music has always mixed well with dance beats and electronic music largely because they share a common purpose. Music that can trace its sounds back though history and heritage, has survived the fickle fortunes and fads that fashion dictates because it was the dance music of its day. Club sounds are the dance music of today and so the two make a natural alliance. And that is why Yallel works so well.

The core sounds are those haunting vocals that have drifted across the deserts of North Africa and The Middle East for a millennium and the same energetic beats that drove Moorish warriors towards their targets or danced through the air above Persian philosophers, whirling Dervishes and Sufi mystics across the years. Add to this some high octane modern clubland beats and electronic washes and you have the perfect meeting of the old world and the new, the organic and the digital, the cutting edge and the timeless. Perfect.

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?

What You Wanted – Temporary Hero (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

36556846_1306974442773539_8756127471050424320_nThose of a certain age, myself included, remember a time when the first wave of bands emerged wielding the newly accessible synthesiser rather than the more expected guitar and the death of music was heralded in certain quarters. But what those rock classicists and pop purists couldn’t have predicted was that far from burying music, the new technologies saved it, to a point now where whole sub-genres in their own right and pop music in a more general sense sound they way they do today largely due to this change. How boring would the state of the music world be if we still thought that guitar rhythms and full kit drums were the only option. The world would be a much emptier place, for a start we wouldn’t have Temporary Hero’s deft and dulcet tones to revel in.

Firstly, it is worth pointing out that Jonah Bell, the man behind the moniker, is as much an eclectic warrior as he is an electric one, releasing everything from high octane dance hits to tribute albums to the likes of Bing Crosby and Chet Baker in his own inimitable way. To Bell there is no underground or mainstream, no generic demarcations, no tribal music affiliations, nowhere that is off limits for him to explore. There is just music to be made, music to be celebrated.

What You Wanted, the latest from his very busy release schedule, is an album of chilled dance creations and indie-pop wandering between sharp clubland sounds and spacious ambient vibes. At one end of the sonic spectrum there are songs filled with sultry grooves such as opening salvo Suitcase, the dynamics and dance floor hustle of I Didn’t know What I Was Doing and even some rock riffs blending with the late night chill of Consequences. What You Wanted even collects some sassy jazz-soul sounds and puts them to a compelling and minimalist beat. Elsewhere songs such as Sacrifice are built on more brooding tones wandering between slick beats and dark reflection and Fear is an intimate and emotive torch song built on vocals and a plaintive piano before heading towards a restrained crescendo…if there is even such a thing.

What You Wanted proves that the broad field of pop music has room to accommodate many different styles, that it isn’t always about obvious dance floor instant hits, although this album has its fair share of those. But the charm of the album, for me at least, is what is happening between those more obvious musical outings. The use of space, the dynamic twists and turns, the gentle merging of styles, both from within the dance world and beyond. It also reminds us that electronic music is a technique rather than a genre, a tool rather than the finished artefact and you can use those same technologies to explore any and every corner of the music spectrum, that confining yourself to the traditions and heritage of clubland is a step backwards. What You Wanted is not that, this is definitely a bold forward step. It is the path pop could have made if it had decided to explore more serious territory, it is indie music that doesn’t merely follow the latest fashion. It is indie-pop music in the truest sense of the word. It is exploratory, generically shifting, dynamically clever, mercurial and unexpected.

In fact if one track sums up the album as a whole it is, perhaps unexpectedly, Natural. Musically it is chilled yet groovesome, full of space and restraint, it seems to hang just out of earshot, distant music coming from somewhere just out of reach. Lyrically it is beautifully romantic, a far cry from the clumsy lyricism, if it can even be called that, which passes for pop-dance lyrics these days.

Dance music for the future? Alt-pop for the underground? Mainstream music for the discerning listener? Stylistically shifting tunes for the post-genre word? Yes, yes, yes and yes, it is all that and more.

Sex – Kingkween (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

KingkweenKingkween is a band who skirt the fringes of many different genres, deftly dancing around the borders of established sonic demarcations but never fully committing to any one, instead preferring to take a bit of everything that they find and use those various threads to weave wonderfully original music from. Genres are out of fashion anyway and such a magpie approach has got to be much more fun than merely sticking to the rules and following in the footsteps of what has gone before.

Right from the first notes, the chiming introduction which slowly warps and buckles, the band signals that this is more about strangeness and non-conformity than doing as you are told. It then proceeds to mix cinematic synth washes with dance beats, shimmering electronica with just enough rock urgency to take this beyond the usual expectations of the dance fraternity but neither does it pander to the rigidity of the alt-rock scene or the play the indie game. Fluidity is the name of the game.

This is music on the fringes, music that is on nodding terms with many genres but which is happier inventing its own labels, or better still doing away with such old school journalistic notions altogether. If ever there was a time to stop analysing the music and just letting it get under your skin, that time is now. Or, if you will allow me just one obvious cliche…shut up and dance!

Warren’s Jam –  Ionoship (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

30742331_1635802213155343_2298672183355899904_nTaken on its own Warren’s Jam is a great slice of high speed EDM built on fast and funky breaks, rapped vocals pushed back into the mix, emotive electronic washes but mainly pure energy. Play through the whole of Swimming Pool, the album that it is found on, and you will see it in a slightly different context. The album that it sits on is a beguiling mash up of clubland sounds, rave euphoria, trance sonics, left field EDM, urban vocal styles and crazy remixes. It’s mad, unexpected, utterly original and brilliant. Warren’s Jam is just one direction that the album pushes in, there are plenty to chose from.

If you can draw a line between I Feel Love, the song that saw disco spawn house music, and Strings of Life, the tune that saw the birth of techno, then this is music that decided to take a more charged and madcap root. This is music that stole the fastest car it could find and drove it high as a kite, joyriding out of control around the streets and not caring if it got caught. This is music which is all about the thrill of the moment rather than the long game. Music which packs in so much energy and excitement that it could self destruct in a blaze of sonic glory at any moment.

Its a song that exists in both the past and present, it echoes with the ghost of European house pioneers and Detroit clubland explorers but in that cyclical way that music loops through time, it also feels right for the here and now and maybe even marks the start of a nostalgia-tinged new take on those sounds and a new scene for the future. If you are tired of the chill-out vibe creeping over the dance floors of the western world and the way that urban music seems to have chosen conformity and fashion rather than driving new technology, new ideas, new sounds and new musical fusions, then this is definitely for you.

Mind The Ether  – Shaman Elect (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

shamanelect.pngIt’s very easy to judge books by covers, or in this case bands by titles and upon seeing both the name of the band and the album, I have to confess that thoughts of some sort of dreadlocked, hippie-esque, stoner alt-dance did immediately set off warning bells in my brain. And whilst they do occasionally work some wonderfully heavy and pulsating, psi-trance style electronica through the middle of their songs, there is so much more going on here. 

Defining the band really depends on which aspect of their sound catches your ear first. Their music is capable of driving like rock music, grooving like a dance floor classic, blending slick, wonderfully restrained and soulful guitars, has pop infectiousness in spades and is delivered with the effortless cool of an indie band. Genres? Who needs them, this is the perfect post-genre band for a world peopled by discerning music buyers who have no truck with the old music allegiances, demarcations or tribal divisions.

Woman in Black shimmers with psychedelia echoes whilst growling with heavy electronica, spins by on funky yet minimal guitar licks and throws some deft spoken word lyrics at the listener whilst Hugo of Bath warps a pop-rock song into a strange alternative dimension, bristling and brooding but still musically elegant and eloquent. Ships Ahoy sees the band referencing some old school indie, a sort of post punk vibe but one brought bang up to date with its strange eclectic mash up that sees sweet jazz-blues guitar lines compete with funky drumming and pristine pop vocals and Sangfroid is pure prime time, dance floor filler.

In short, its great, and it is great because although Shaman Elect enjoy explore many musical threads and laying down intricate and full musical textures in each song, they are the masters of the art of editing and production. This means that although there may seem to be a lot going on in their music, each element, each instrument, each idea, has enough room to breath. It is complimentary rather than competitive and is both free of rules enough to bring something wonderfully fresh and unique to the table but is still wonderfully familiar and accessible. I’m not sure how they do it…I’m just glad that they do.

Scene and Heard – CCCXXXVII : Paradigm Shift – Cyborg Asylum (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Paradigm Shift Single Cover lighter_previewCyborg Asylum has always been great at blending a sort of clinical, cold war, drama with a slightly apocalyptic musical vision. Their great art has always lain in their skill for looking at the political machinations and social choices being made today and extrapolating their views of where those decisions might takes us. And to be fair there is no shortage of blatant, sweeping  and impactful policies being forced upon an ever more helpless or uninformed (or perhaps wilfully ignorant) population. They may not provide us with answers but it is enough to ask the questions, instigate a conversation and raise  concerns.

And what better way to make your voice heard than wrap those worries in slick and cool post-punk infused, industrial dance music? They revel in robust electronica, the sort which replicates the grind and grunt of rock music but which uses the synth palette of electronic glitches and riffs, programmed beats and washes to create their dystopian dance sound. It is Depeche Mode heading into the dark places of their later career, it is Nine Inch Nails gone dance, it is a file sharing, long distance, collaborative process which reflects the times that we live in. With previous release My Metallic Dream having already laid out a stall for their beautiful and bleak sound and a full album Never Finished, Only Abandoned now available it is the perfect time for you aquatinted yourself with the Asylum. You’d be mad not to.

Scene and Heard – CCCXXXVI : 100 Steps to the Shoreline – Dr Optimiser (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

22489846_10154756428242015_1397146505708562180_nCombining futuristic jazz vibes, ambient EDM washes, alt-pop beats, electro-classical and film soundtrack riffs and motifs, it is hard to pin down 100 Steps to the Shoreline to any one genre but I always see that as a test to be passed for the best music. Why sound like what has come before when you can be the answer to the question, “So, what next?” Why follow and repeat when you can lead and instigate? 

This trippy instrumental runs along on a collection of confident beats and bass pulses and seems to evoke future Day-Glo dance visions just as much as the descending riffs seem to take a leaf out of 60’s TV drama theme tunes, a cyclical musical machination that paints contemporary dance music with nostalgic vibes and which then sets out to see what might be just around the corner.

It wanders a world lit by the argon soaked glamour of up-market night clubs and neon glare of illicit, down town, basement parties, a world where the fashionable and the favoured dance side by side with the cult clubber and the discerning dance floor diva. It’s a world where many roads cross, where futuristic beats weave through early house music, where the seasoned electronic music fan embraces the hedonism of rave culture, where rhythm isn’t just a dancer, it is the very heart beat of the artists making such music.

100 Steps… is a wonderfully minimal, slow-burning and hypnotic EDM blast, it never strays too far from its beguiling singular vision, it draws its electronic trappings around it, slowly layering up beats and grooves and sauntering its way towards its final destination, a destination which if it was a physical place could equally be a late 80’s Manchester happening, a 90’s Ibiza beach after-party or even a cutting edge Euro dance club of the here and now or the near future. That’s the charm, it bridges gaps between the past and the present whilst looking to the future and that’s a great thing for music to be able to do.

Scene and Heard – CCCXXIX : Ndakwikundira – Nattyva (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Nattyva-FeaturePhoto3Rwandan born Nattyva is a great example of the cross-cultural nature of today’s music. Mixing the heat of her African roots with the more mainstream influences that surrounded her French-Canadian upbringing, her blend of bi-lingual pop is a wonderful reminder of how small the modern world is. And it isn’t just geographic boundaries that she neatly side-steps, it is generic ones too with her sultry mix of afro-beat rhythm, heady clubland groove, pop infectiousness and confident vocals.

Ndakwikundira is a gloriously evocative song, spacious yet built on strident beats and exotic sounds, effortlessly switching between three languages and yet never losing the listener along the way. Sometimes the communication of music in general and lyrics in particular isn’t locked in the words themselves, but in their delivery, the way they sound, the feeling and emotions they conjure, and that is definitely the case here. You don’t need to know exactly what is being said to know that this is a song built very much around love and you can even see it as something bigger than even that. Ndakwikundira is one more step towards a more culturally connected, border-free (geographically and otherwise), creative, open and integrated world. Now isn’t that something worth helping to build? Nattyva is doing just that, one song at a time.

Magick Thing –  The Fell Swoop (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

The Fell Swoop coverYou could argue that The Fell Swoop’s sound is one that comes from a nostalgic place, from the golden age of soul, from a jazz and funk past and a disco dance floor of yesteryear. You could also argue, so what? If the music is worth keeping alive then keeping it alive is the thing to do. That said you could hardly call Magick Thing a mere pastiche or a rose-tinted retrospective glance, it sounds as fresh and funky as anything being made today, it’s just that you can see where it tips its hat. Or as the opening line stays…I know from where you came…” well, quite.

Guitars funk furiously, saxophones seduce, the beat pops and grooves in interesting and intricate ways but more than anything the music initially bypasses the listeners head and even their heart and aims straight for the dance shoes before working its way up the body.

You can approach the song from many directions. Jazzers will love the arrangements and intricacies, soul fans will love the smooth deliveries, funksters and disco divas, the inherent dance vibe. If you like the more traditional sounds, then there is a lot here that reminds you of past glories and golden age artists and more contemporary music buffs will just love the sassy vibes. Mission accomplished.

Scene and Heard – CCCXIV: Warm, Silky – Ant Cruze (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

ant_covaWell, this is a saucy little number and no mistake, something straight out of the Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg playbook I might add. For like the iconic Je T’aime it plays with the same idea of soft, sensual spoken word over a smooth and laidback beat. But a lot has changed musically over the last 50 years since that naughty little number first saw the light of day and its modern counter-part is a slicker but no less sensual affair.

But then Ant Cruze knows what he is doing, he knows which musical strings to pull and the man once described as ‘the world’s most accomplished party anchor’ of course knows how to put a song together. It struts on a confident beat but seems to ooze rather than swagger, it is smooth and sassy rather the usual vibrant clubland fare. But as is true of most things less is more and stripping things back to the right, few musical components and letting the spaces between adds to the atmosphere and the anticipation of this little minx of a tune. Cheeky!

Scene and Heard – CCCXII: The Birthday Party –  The Kunig (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

13323429_977490829038264_5737524542532727973_oThe Kunig, to paraphrase Forrest Gump’s mother, is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. (You just read that in the requisite slow, southern drawl didn’t you?) Anyway, I say this because the recent album Kunigunda was a wide-ranging, musically exploratory and sonically eclectic bundle of joy which took in everything that took in everything from hazy dream-prog to slick and soulful west-coast jazz-pop to straight down the line clubland bangers…as I believe the kids say.

The Birthday Party plays into the latter musical territory, but delivers a groover rather than the aforementioned full on banger. It is full of dance floor rhythms and easy accessibility but falls more towards the early hours, wind down delivery, the shifting of gear as the club, party or soiree heads into chill-out mode. As such it ticks all the boxes, vocals that wander between pitch perfect pop, sultry allure and lush ethereality sit over the swaggering beat and swelling electronic washes. And it delivers the goods via restraint and understatement, leaving the middle ground between beat and vocal spacious enough that it is largely atmosphere and anticipation which fill the void rather than sound and studio machinations. That in itself is a brave thing to do, knowing what to leave out is a much more difficult art form than knowing what to put in.

I would say that this is a great calling card for Kunig and the recent album Kunigunda, but being that the music made under this name wanders so far across the spectrum with no regard for genre or style, era or ethos, I can only say that this is just one example of what you will find when you open the door. It’s a case of come for the chilled dance tune, stay for the mind-blowing eclecticism. Now there’s a slogan!

Scene and Heard – CCCVIII : Dreams – The Kunig (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

2245f4_339ab752ae074ced9688fee4dc23b3fa~mv2The forthcoming album, Kunigunda, from which Dreams is taken, is a wonderful and searching collection of sounds and styles, of free-wheeling across generic demarcations and of dipping into any and all musical styles which takes their fancy. Now, exploration is great, actually it is more than just great, it’s essential, but of course the commercial market and the mainstream listener might not really be the place to have your more interesting creations tested. Dreams, though, is a track which represents The Kunig as a whole and will fit the tastes of the wider world too.

Okay, it only represents one aspect of what The Kunig do, but their drifting soulful ambience and strange psych-dance crossovers are probably going to be a hard sell out there, better to send out a slick and commercial, chilled and soulful dance floor groover as a calling card and hope that some people will use this as a stepping stone for the more exploratory tracks on the same album.

It’s a case of come for the obvious dance tune and stay for the more mercurial musical machinations. You can but try.

Kunigunda –  The Kunig (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

13323429_977490829038264_5737524542532727973_oThis latest 10 track slice of chilled loveliness from The Kunig comes from a very interesting place, one where psychedelic and progressive experiments of the likes of Tangerine Dream still float in the air above the more modern and mellow electronic dance vibes that form the album’s backbone. And like the mercurial nature of those early electronic pioneers, The Kunig is happy to wilfully genre hop to create its core sounds and sonically side step expectations to break new and unexpected musical ground.

Songs like Cut Up sound especially retro, but only in that same way that those bands of the past were using music to create the future…future-retro music, is that even possible, do the laws of time and physics allow for such a concept. Well, they may not but the laws of music do and that is all that matters here. Loser wanders some cutting edge dance floor territory, Morphine is a strange psychedelic rush which blends wonky guitars with slick world music, part a strange kind of blues, part globe-trotting soundscaping, but that’s drugs for you, and Chantilly sounds like a long lost Steely Dan track, and you can’t get better than that.

If you like music to fall in line with the neat and organised world of pigeon-holes and genres, labels and musical demarcations then this isn’t for you and to be honest you probably need to stick to your Rolling Stones albums. But for anyone with a broad mind and love of musical tangents, then form a queue right here.

Kunigunda Preview

 

Scene and Heard – CCCVII : Refugee Child –  B Freed (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

tumblr_p7zzi05sPU1rll5k4o1_500There was a time when music was used to highlight causes and drive issues, when protest singers had a point to make and disaffected punks and street corner hip-hop crews put their lives, longings and loathings into song and beat. Then things seem to settle down somewhat, which was odd because it is not as if the world had become a significantly fairer or safer place. But thankfully opinion and causes, politics and social momentary are once again becoming increasingly prevalent subject matter for today’s artists.

Refugee Child, as the title suggests, highlights the plight and life changing journey of just one child, of how the lucky ones can find a new life away from the torment of the war zones and transit camps. It is an important song, as indicated by the fact that it was nominated Best World Beat Song by Akademia Music, but this is more than just about notoriety, it is about spreading the word.  And whilst the politicians let us down and solutions have to be found from other sources, maybe part of the story can be told in the words and rhythms of songs such as this. It is infectious and memorable, full of easy grooves and strident beats but more than that it is a song which acts as a rallying point, a way of spreading the message, a gentle reminder that there is a lot that we need to change in this world and that things aren’t getting easier for many Far from it. 

Songs are often the perfect medium, passing on information and opinion without the listener ever feeling like they have taken a political stand or are doing anything more than enjoying a great song, that they are being gently educated. It’s about time artists remembered the power they have at their disposal, something that doesn’t seem to have passed B Freed by.

Scene and Heard – CCCVI : Double Happiness –  Mr. MooQ (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

bd66efcd3d57e5525f0e83901d9eb57fefa247bb_phixr.jpgI didn’t know people were still making music like this, but I’m glad they are. Double Happiness reminds me of that time when a horde of disaffected post-punks rewired the keyboards they had stolen from music shops to make apocalyptic, futuristic pop in direct defiance to the Leg Warmer and Shoulder Pad Bye Laws of the spring ’83. But it isn’t so much that the song sounds like those new-pop pioneers, more that it fulfills the same role. They sounded futuristic, ahead of the curve, alien even, and so does Mr. MooQ.

It’s a celebratory piece, the title tells you as much, an ode to togetherness and both the song and the video positively snap, crackle and fizz with pop perkiness, a jaunty slice of electronic dance that despite its low BPM when compared with your average clubland banger, packs real punch through its staccato grooves and sheer infectiousness. And unlike most if its dance floor rivals this has the potential to burst out of the dance scene and become an anthem in the fullest sense of the word, the soundtrack to every summer barbecue, wedding reception and event across the globe. Don’t be suprised if you hear it as the theme to TV adds too, its that damn addictive there probably isn’t anywhere it can’t go.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑