If anyone ever tries to convince you that the technology that was enabled sampling and all the studio innovations that much modern music is built on has taken all the skill out of writing songs, then just play them The Keymakers. There will always be those artist who use such advancements to make up for any lack of requisite skills, but this duo certainly is not one of them. The Keymakers instead use the studio itself as an instrument, make (largely) digital magic and then learn how to replicate it live, as the accompanying video shows.
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.
Although normally associated with more intricate and wilfully over-saturated music, and also best known as the powerful vocal presence in alt-rockers Absinthe Junk, Altered Cinder is part of a musical project that sees Blair B. explore a more minimalist musical landscape. Working under the moniker of Luxury Eviction, space and atmosphere are equal parts to the instrumentation, allowing for the music to ebb and flow gently around the single vocal lines.
Lo-fi pop duo Malihini will release their debut album ‘Hopefully, Again‘ through Memphis Industries on 8th March 2019. Produced by Richard Formby (Wild Beasts, Ghostpoet, Darkstar), ‘Hopefully, Again’ was written in Sicily and recorded at the remote Giant Wafer Studios in Wales. Malihini, aka Rome-based couple Giampaolo Speziale and Federica Caiozzo, have unveiled the first single to be taken from the album, the soulful, superficially pretty ‘Hopefully Again’: its languid drums and woozy electric guitar hook-line usher in a sort of conversation between circling lovers – Caiozzo taking the first verse, Speziale the second, the two combining for the redemptive and addictive “Love is coming back” chorus line. “It’s about when you’re first really into one another”, explains Speziale. “When you try to be someone, as seen through the eyes of the other. It’s about flirting, and the moment when you come back from the slowness of depression, you dress up and you’re ready to confront with the fastness of love/life again”.
Curtis Newart has a fascinating sound going on here. Dance-pop it may be but it covers a lot of ground on its way to that day-glo destination. Whilst being ultra-modern and totally up to date it also echos with the sound of early pioneers of the genre, and particularly classic cuts such as Oakey and Moroder’s Together in Electric Dreams. And if you are going to go down this route those are two names that anyone would be happy to have bandied around as a point of reference.
It comes as no surprise to find out that the lives and career of the people who make music as The Venus Fly Trap are intrinsically linked to those of fellow explorers of dark music, Bauhaus. Same home town, same art college, same gigging circuit, Kevin Haskins was even to be found as their producer from time to time.
Things I Like: Unnecessarily convoluted song titles. Bands who don’t understand the term “generic boundaries”. Tongue in cheek lyrics. Silliness. Sultry beats. Sleazy grooves. Music with a larger than life personally. So the chances of me not loving the wonderfully named Fans of Jimmy Century was always going to be pretty slim indeed.
How to feel old in one easy lesson: stumble across the latest release of a band you first heard 37 years ago, a band that you didn’t even know were back making music. I remember being sat in my mate’s bedroom sometime around school being exchanged for college and listening to a song he had discovered and which we proceeded to play to death. That song was Remembrance Day. As far as I was aware B-Movie had left us with a string of singles and one great album as a legacy and returned to the mortal world. So stumbling across this gem of a release, not to mention the discovery that I have two more albums to savour and observe, was a most pleasant surprise.
There is a point where the past meets the future, an ever moving location on that cyclical musical loop that sees past glories become future potential, where the sounds of the past are recycled into new and exciting sounds for the future, that point where familiarity meets freshness. It is here that you find Function Space. This latest album is a set of slick art-pop songs and for every hint of Talking Heads outsiderness or post-punk reference there are a dozen more contemporary influences, such as War on Drugs or Foster The People.
Songs such as Reason are wonderful drive-time reveries, energetic and accessible, dreamlike and transient, which acts as a good touchstone from what Emilio Couchee has cooked up here and the album flows past ricocheting off the heartland and the heavens with equal joy. That Sound is a radio hit in the making but standing just far enough from the tried and tested, the predictable pop of the current clime as to hold a mirror up to that genres failings. Falling is 80’s pop for a new generation, taking all the infectiousness and groove of that era but somehow making it smarter, shrewder and cleaner limbed.
Pop music seems to have painted itself into a corner of late and now it sits caught in a trap of its own making. Thankfully albums like this show that there is another way, one that ticks all the boxes but which manages to break moulds too. A retro-futuristic classic in the making.
If the worlds of EDM, dance and electro-pop have always been seen as a place where style over substance is the norm, where the shallow and shiny out ranks the deep and meaningful, where the quick fix is preferable to music which makes you think, then Of Codes Off Course is something that you need to listen to. Opening with an intense and industrial-electro reworking of Bowie’s Hallo Spaceboy might, to many, seem like a clever and revolutionary move, but in light of all that is to follow, this seems like one of the albums less astonishing moments, relatively speaking.
Face Different shows just how widely referencing and deeply thoughtful Sobolczyk’s music is, taking fragments of a letter from William Blake, a constant source of inspiration, and turning them into a strange musical theatre soundtrack for a futuristic avant-garde production complete with a small sampling of Kate Bush as the song draws to its conclusion. More literary references abound with T.S. Elliot being the starting point for Smitten Kitten and more contemporary samples littering the tracks, from John Lennon to Tim Burton and from Jake Shears to cult group Maanam.
Living By My Flow is a beguiling reinterpretation of Freddie Mercury’s Living on My Own and Adamski’s Killer and if you are going to head into the mash-up/re-work territory you might as well end up with something new and radically different to offer. And this is certainly that. But despite the re-works and references, the samples and source material, Of Codes Off Course is nothing if not highly original. From the growling grooves of Rebel Swine to the compelling and creative Codes of Victim Behaviour suite of songs, it is an album that is ever musically shifting, that is chameleon like it its nature that apart from fleeting points of comparison to early post-punk electronic pioneers, alternative classical composers and off the wall soundtrack creators, it is hard to easily sum the album using generic labels or soundbites.
But that has to be a good thing, right? Music that hard to pin down is moving everything forward, taking radical new ideas and running with them into uncharted territory of potential and creativity. It also means that if you really want to understand what is going on in this gloriously uncompromising music, then you will have to go and listen to the album. Something that you should do right now.
In the few short encounters I have had with the fabulously named Mr Mooq, he has never ceased to surprise me. Whether he is updating post-punk pop for the modern age with Double Happiness or contributing to the post-industrial dance/TED talk machinations of The New Occupants, there is always something interesting going on within his musical outings.
This time out he follows a smoother, more chilled furrow, pop it still is, but this time it is built with soft, kaleidoscopic elements, soulful, late night mainstream grooves and hippy abandon. That might not sound very fashionable, and that is exactly why I love his approach. Fashion is only something that can be seen by those who follow, people who lead only catch fleeting visions of it as they check their rear view mirrors. And after all , if you opt to make music that never chimes with the fickle fads of the modern age, how can you ever be out of fashion anyway? Fashion is just something other people work with, Mr Mooq seems to have no truck with those sorts of limiting restrictions.
Since forming in 2015, London 4-piece band Indigo Face have made their mark on the live music circuit with their unique sound, drawing influence from the likes of pop, funk, EDM and synth pop. On 13th July, the group are set to launch their new single ‘The Seed’, which taps into the complexities of family life, with a refreshing funk-infused melody to provide the soundtrack to the summer.
“We wanted to write a song about family, a delicate matter that defines the lives of all of us, but we also wanted to make people dance and let go. “
‘The Seed’ follows up the success of their previous critically-acclaimed releases ‘Animal’ and ‘Can We Make It?’, which garnered support from BBC Introducing in London, Music Week, Music Times and more. Born out of late night jam sessions, conversations about parallel universes and a wealth of experience gigging on the London Pop scene, Mary, Max, Ray and Andre are pioneering their own approach to modern pop music. With members from Switzerland, Italy and France, the band are passionately eclectic in their sound, bringing numerous influences and soundscapes to the nuanced, indie-pop sound.
The band have gone from strength to strength over the last 12 months, recently winning the ‘1MEurope’ competition, as well as performing at the prestigious Primo Maggio Festival in Rome in front of 65,000 music lovers. Citing the likes of Bjork, Annie Lennox and Bon Iver as some of their biggest influences, the 4-piece bring an energy and a freshness which has captured the imagination at their live shows all over Europe.
Those 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.
Imagine if jazz had evolved from the New Romantic synth experimentation of the late 70’s or that punk had been instigated after the invention of the affordable synthesiser or even that computers had been programmed to write acoustic pop songs. All unlikely scenarios for sure but each of those does say something about the three tracks that make up Butsenzeller’s latest collection of mercurial musical musings.
The title track hits the listener’s consciousness, less like an opening musical salvo more like an oozing sonic life form, a dirge from the far reaches of space sounding like music which has fallen between the cracks, and indeed tracks, of a studio recording and that then gradually came together in a strange synchronicity to form a creeping doom jazz soundtrack. Miles Davis meets The Apocalypse.
The wonderfully named Voteshutupworkconsume says a lot about some of the underlying attitudes of Butsenzeller and is musically a call back to the industrial dance-noise-art-punk disco that we found on Seqs & Drums & Rockin’ Synths, a short sharp sonic shock and an infectious groover. The less expected inclusion here is Isabel, potentially just a rudimentary busking guitar tune but put through the blender, warped and weirded out, effected and affected and turned into something otherworldly, angular and only half-human.
As always Butsenzeller manages to surprise you with his music, even though you already knew that something surprising was going to happen and it is that ability to keep pulling the rug from under the listener’s feet that keeps things exciting, fresh and fantastically odd. Then again normality is a pretty overrated concept if you ask me.
Whilst many bands chose references and soundbites which say more about what they think they sound like rather than what they actually do, Zialand’s third and latest album arrives with the perfect tag line. Cinematic Soul Pop. And that is pretty much all you need to know, though obviously there is a lot more to her fabulous music than that, but it’s the perfect jumping off point.
I first encountered Zialand in a much stranger musical world, that of John Fryer’s Black Needle Noise adding vocal textures and sonic beauty to his mercurial creations, then, in this guise, driving her own creative vehicle and via the two previous singles, tracks which taken together brilliantly mark the boundaries of her personal musical world. If Landslide plays with brooding yet thoughtful synth-pop and Shelter takes a more soul-blues, classic piano line, both capture the wonderful restraint, elegance and late night hush that is the hallmark of her music.
Chose any song on Unbridled and Ablaze and you are immediately taken to a nighttime world, one of dark, neon-infused streets and cool up town clubs, of noir-ish scenes and soft-focused, urban drama, of romance and reflection. It is music which before you even concentrate on the specifics of the lyrical message or musical content, its very presence sets scenes, a score perhaps to a film yet to be written or a dream yet to be dreamt. Such are its ethereal qualities, its very essence.
As an album it’s all about space. Don’t Look Back is wonderfully dramatic but built only on cascades of vocals and the most minimal of piano lines and even more driven songs, such as Fever, are confident enough to saunter slowly through soft beats and sultry brass rather than rush to impress the listener. And that is the real charm here, Zialand’s ability to take only a fraction of what other artists would deem necessary and still fashion it into something so resolutely understated and so wonderfully restrained that its impact is as striking as any full band effort or more complex musical salvo.
This is music as watercolour painting, music which sketches the basic lines and then proceeds to add only the gentlest, most translucent and sparsest of musical hues, the space and the suggestion allowing the listener to see, or in this case hear, the whole picture. The phrase “less is more” may be a cliche, but cliches are cliches because they contain a kernel of truth. Less is more is also the only cliched thing you will find associated with this gorgeous music.
Clever pop music! That isn’t a phrase that you come across very often. In this world of throw-away music, it is the most commercial, by its very nature, which has the shortest shelf life, a product to be purchased, used and discarded as the fickle finger of fashion having writ, moves on. But Soulmates is something else, a combination of the best elements of the pop genre, vibrancy, infectiousness, an instantly hummable tune, probably the simplest and most important test anyway, coupled with a poetic and poignant look at relationships.
Electro-pop hooks and synthetic beats form the basis on which Lauren Waller positions her impressive vocals, vocals which wander between confident commercial strains and ethereal haze and which demonstrate a neat sonic range and varied range of deliveries. Here she waxes lyrical about the object of her affections not being all they might seem and the result is a clever and quirky mix of pop and dance, sassy enough to ride the waves of fashion and robust enough to, given the right tail wind and a dash of luck, become a future classic.