Surface Tension (A Tincture For Integrating Shadow) –  Matthew De Ver (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

mdvA strange title for a strange album. And I mean that in the nicest possible of ways. Strange is good, strange is interesting, strange is the opposite of safe, strange is unpredictable. Strange is often great and there are certainly many great aspects to this album. The first great thing is its approach towards genres…Matthew De Ver isn’t really concerned with such limitations and here he wanders between the ambient and the funky, the spacious and the groovesome, the beat driven and the transient, often within the space of one song.

What is also great about it is the analogous nature of the lyrics, which on the surface seem to be of a man setting himself against the challenges of the natural world, of climbing mountains, of taking on the elements, of being lost in the snow. Listen deeper and you find the real story and understand that these physical battles are metaphors for the loves, longings and losses of his own life.

The Climb is a funky opening salvo but largely the album is happier to deliver cooler and more considered sonics with Blood on The Snow being an intimate spoken word one on one conversation with the listener and Battle Alone a slow jazz infused trip-hop groove. Between these extremes songs such as Secret Keeper come on like Mercury Rev’s angelic soundscapes playing a dance card and Up To The Air is a looping and beguiling, alt-pop ballad.

It’s an album that reveals its greatness slowly, that rewards the listeners regular return, peels back its textures and layers through constant re-examination. If you are looking for a quick musical fix, this isn’t really the place but if you wan’t to make a new musical friend, and the best albums do come to feel like friends, this is certainly the start of a new beautiful musical relationship. How great is that?

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Indigo Face share new single – The Seed

mailSince 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.

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.

Strip Me Bare –  Joel Leffler (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

barestrweq_phixrWe have got so used to fashionably attired guys wielding a guitar and sporting just the right beard, looking the part but, sadly, not delivering. Either they undersell you some sort of cliched indie-pop that appears to have come off a musical production line to cause a brief blip on the commercial radar before falling into the creative landfill site of history or they deliver a mumbled, angst ridden slab of melancholic college poeticism. Well, not so Joel Leffler, he both looks the part and delivers the goods.

Strip Me Bare is a collection of upbeat, funk infused, dance driven pop. It is groovesome, effortlessly cool, well honed and brilliantly delivered. Although it might walk the same territory as the likes of Ed Sheeran, Leffler seems somehow less contrived, as if the music seems to just ooze from him rather than have to be fashioned, and as such puts him more in the realms of Bruno Mars. On occasion you even catch a sidewise glance to the likes of Prince.

Speed of Light is a timeless, soul packed, pop punch, April’s Fool is an understated ear worm and Auburn Hair builds dance grooves on reggae rhythms. It’s a great sonic suite of sass and sentiment, soufulness and sultry moves…you can’t ask for much more.

Play That Funky Music  –  Gonzo (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

PlaythatfunkymusicCovering iconic songs is a tricky thing especially songs as ingrained in the public consciousness as Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music (White Boy). Many have tired, Euro-poppers Roxette made it sound predictably…well, Europop, Tim Campbell delivered an over-produced, over-polished version, Extreme rocked it out, Prince made it sound like it was his own song and a host of TV music show wannabes have sucked the very soul out of it. The problem with attempting to cover a well-known song is that you have one of  two options. Either you bring something new to the song which implies that you think that you can do better than the person who wrote it in the first place or you stay faithfully to it which begs the question why bother covering it at all? The answer, it would seem lies somewhere between the two approaches.

Thankfully that is exactly what is going on in the latest foray into this funky hallowed ground. The original is a blend of groovesome and soulful guitar licks, stomping bass lines and funky, energetic drumming. All good so far. The thing that most people generally get wrong is over filling the space between the backbeat and the vocals, not here, here there is just the right amount of space and anticipation. Brass attacks punctuate the air and backing vocals do no more than underline with raps and shout outs. And the reason for this space is to create a dynamic restraint, which is blown wide open when the white hot, jagged guitar gets its turn in the spotlight.

True to the spirit of the original with just the right amount of originality and freshness to justify revisiting this classic, exactly the fine line you need to walk to make such a cover work. Perfect.

 

Dark Day Afternoon –  Timothy Dark  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

149993Lead single She Put a Spell on Me is funky stuff for sure. Steeped in 70’s funk ethic, the excessive and effortless groove of 80’s Prince and fusing R&B, rock guitar and hip-hop rap and flow, it wanders between the downtown hustle and the uptown glitz, the urban and the urbane. As a calling card it is certainly going to draw the moth-like listeners to this beguiling flame of an e.p. but once there you realise that it is the eclecticism of this song which sums up this e.p. as a whole rather than providing its signature sound.

That Look is more of an early synth pop piece, existing at the point when the underground sounds were starting to be courted by a wider audience and more commercially minded, somewhere between the cultish, elitist underground of the late seventies and the more accessible and commercial sound of the next decade. Last Days starts in a similar place but delivers funky raps rather than pop rhymes and Performer is the song where all the previous threads come together…and more. It drives on a glam rock stomp, distant, early U2-esque guitars, Bee Gees harmonies, bruising rock-hop grooves and spoken raps, and still evoking the aforementioned P word in all his mercurial majesty.

Dark Day Afternoon is a beguiling collection of songs, playing with the decades, re-inventing, re-imagining and subverting as it goes. The references are great, the premise is brilliant and the conclusions are out of this world. It’s safe to say the boy done good. Good? Make that great!

Seasons Change – Joel (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

27788412_1677126015664595_4940261110465672751_o.jpgAs soon as opening salvo Spirit of Summer kicks in, you know that you are in for a bit of a treat. Its deft blend of addictive pop vibes and solid rock drive, its sassy and sublime, slick lines hit like oasis waters in a musical desert of up-tight indie and po-faced pop. And it is this vibrancy which drives right through the album. The styles may change slightly, pop-rock fun becomes grove some funk (On Top) which in turn becomes infectious staccato blues (Speak My Language) which becomes stadium anthem (Between Us), and so on, but there is a consistency and focus beating at its heart.

It may shimmer with a pop sheen, but Seasons Change is a world music of sorts, reflecting the cultural diversity of the modern world and saying something about the exotic blends found in Joel’s South-East Texas home. It is a place where southern blues, latino beats and funky Caribbean vibes all hang in the air, where serious rock and throw-away pop sit side by side and where past traditions and future potential compete for space. Its all there for the plucking but it takes a gifted artist to capture it all on record. It takes an artist like Joel.

Different Kind of Free – Grayson Word (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

27657139_442189646196320_8684336271249793246_n.jpgI know age shouldn’t really come into such things, I always see art, music… creativity of all sorts as being a level playing field and it is all about the end result not the back story so beloved of TV shows and marketing companies. But I will say this. Damn! Grayson Word is seventeen years old and he has delivered a stone cold soul classic. Or more accurately the hottest one I have heard for a long time. It runs on a blue-eye groove, of course it does, but it is miles removed from the modern pop-R&B that commercial artists seem to be infusing their music with of late. This is no Sam Smith or Conor Maynard re-appropriation of classic sounds for commercial gain, Grayson Word feels like the real deal.

As someone who hasn’t travelled as much of the world as I would like, who explores a lot of the world through it’s music and everything that it evokes, Grayson Word sounds like nothing less than America’s beating heart. And to be fair it is probably an America that never existed outside its road movies, TV adverts, beat legacy, films literature and other rose tinted nostalgia, but in my mind it is what America should sound like. Away from the celebrity spotlight of what we laughingly call the music industry, disposable pop with it’s bland shopping mall beat and faceless landfill indie – all complicated hair and scenester regulations, he offers us something real, something authentic, something that you won’t look at in ten years time and just muse “what was I thinking!”

When he funks it out he does so with the same eloquence as the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Forget How To Fly exhibiting the same genre-hopping brilliance as it drives funktastic bass lines, rock guitar lines and evocative Hammond swells through soulful territory. Striking Matches chimes with vintage soul-pop and the title track pops and pulses with the same inherent cool that Stevie Wonder energised his songs with.

It is the sound of basement soul gatherings blending into back street Chicago jazz clubs which in turn become the sound of illicit blues parties and underground gigs. It is the sound of an alternative, underground path that music took when it should have become the mainstream. It is the sound of a midnight ritual designed to re-animate the zombie corpse of the muse of music that mattered, still matters and will continue to matter, long after the current boy band wannabes have returned to a day job where the main concern is asking the customer if they want fries with that!

Sadly the modern pop picker probably only has access to the glorious past that this album references via modern cash-ins such as James Blake’s distorted musical musings or the pub landlady of pop, Adele, and her false retro posturing. Even if this wasn’t the case, Grayson Word would still be important to the cause, but the current bandwagoning makes his brand of modern-retro classic essential as a torch to be kept burning. Word!

Check the album out on Spotify

 

Yehan Jehan releases new single Future Ringtone

m767_YehanPicWritten, recorded and produced himself, Yehan Jehan’s new single ‘Future Ringtone’ is the work of an assured craftsman with a preferred set of sonic parameters. Born in London to Bosnian parents, the 24 year old’s handsomely scuffed vocals and inventive melodies are met with a rhythmic vocabulary that draws equally and naturally from psych rock, funk and soul. A sublime lesson in gentle yet surging euphoria, Yehan’s voice balances the smoothness of Unknown Mortal Orchestra with the ebullience of George Michael, supercharging the melody with it’s falsetto heavy ad-libbing. Assured, inventive and unabashedly fun, it’s an intoxicating ultramodern stew that combines a myriad of influences meshed into one imaginative whole.

Continue reading “Yehan Jehan releases new single Future Ringtone”

Nine Beats To The Bar –  Nine Beats Collective (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

91231d3a-41a9-4fb7-865c-8fa03a96089cThe fact that I have been saying the same thing more and more in music reviews lately means that there must be something going on. Some music is all about having fun, about letting off steam, about just enjoying the moment and moving on, and that’s fine, but I am finding more and more music crossing the review desk that has something more to say, a deeper rooted agenda, a message. A lot of musical movements have their birth in action and reaction. Rock and roll, hip-hop and punk were all borne out of boredom, dissatisfaction, intolerance and unrest and there seems to be an upswell of artists who wish to address those issues once more. And whilst the likes of Idles do it with and iron fist, The Judex rabble-rouse and Ignacio Pena uses articulate rock, Nine Beats Collective have subtler but no less poignant musical weapons to hand.

They blend soul, hip-hop, funk, jazz, rock…anything that comes to hand really but lyrically they rely on much older ideals. They take ancient writings, wisdom taken from The Biblical Beatitudes and weave it through their music. The songs become a call for tolerance and understanding, taking their lead from archaic communication and hearing in them the whispers of another world and the invitation to a path of recovery and hoping that the empty hand is a mightier weapon than the sword.

The music often takes the form of spoken word over soothing and groovesome musical vehicles, from short jazz backed sound bites such as Purgatory to the gang vocal driven Call ‘Em Out (chants would be a fine thing) but it also evolves via evocative instrumentals such as Song For The Earth and funky and joyous workouts like Wild World.

It is a new approach to music, a new form, a new genre and it isn’t everyday that I get to say that. But this is a totally new approach one that blends wonderful new musical fusions with the fundamentals of what it means, and what has largely been forgotten, to be human.

Soundhaus –  Mickey 9s (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

mickey-9s.jpgAt a point where rock muscle, funky bass lines, jagged electro-pop and European club anthems collide you will find Mickey 9s, a bunch of musical miscreants who have just released their latest album Galactico Radio. They seem to be on a mission to subvert all musical genres into one riotous sound, to recreate the rave scene via live band shows and who feel like they sit somewhere between musical rule breakers and some sort of sonic cult.

Normally the job of a reviewer is to try and dissect a record and explain to the potential buyer what is going on under the hood of that particular musical vehicle. With this bunch of Glaswegian generic gene splicers it would be quicker to tell you what isn’t in there.

Like some sort of big, brash, souped-up street racer, Mickey 9s burn through mutant garage rock, glam stomps, euro-disco, pulsing new wave electro, punk-blues guitars, CBGB’s era street bands,  re-engineered, industrial pop and re-animated funk grooves. And like those over-engineered beasts of this analogy, in just a few minutes they have blown themselves out in blast of flames and smoke leaving just some tire marks on the road, the acrid smell of burning oil and an odd feeling that you need a lie down and possibly a shower. What a way to go….

Everybody Move –  Man Called Noon (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Man_Called_Noon_CoverLife affirming, that’s what this is! It is a term which gets banded about a lot but there is something so positive, so infectious, so groovesome, so…well, great, that there is really no other term for it. At a collision point where pop contagion smashes into soul vibes, where just enough rock solidity underpins strutting funky moves and then all topped off with vocal hooks so strong you could hang your coat on them, this song and indeed the band are masters of all that they survey. They walk a line between unselfconscious cool and industrial strength party anthems creating a sound which has only one function…to get you up and dancing and even on the first play of this wonderfully addictive track, it is difficult to see how it could ever fail.

Sometimes you want something sophisticated, slick and introspective, something to dwell on, make you think and ponder the meaning of life…but this isn’t the song for that, this is the track that kicks the night off, fills up the dance floor, the soundtrack to a series of summer beach parties and the last song of the festival and it does all that without breaking a sweat. It may sound like throwaway pop soul but it is cleverer and more infectious than that. Even if it could be considered short shelf life, throwaway music, it is executed so brilliantly it is better termed “throwaway pop that you will want to keep forever.”

Porgy – Labyrinth Lounge (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Labyrinth_Lounge_-_Porgy_(cover).jpgWhat happens when a hip New York jazz rhythm section share their musical visions with a West Coast musical shaman? Well, one possible outcome can be found by listening to Labyrinth Lounge’s debut album. Never far from a chilled jazz root this fascinating collection blends soulful vocals, contemporary urban pop grooves, funky rhythms and musical theatre narratives within its often seemingly unstructured songs.

Storytime in particular is a wonderful band back-story put to skittering, echoing electronica and jazzy, distant piano, delivered more like a teasing whisper in the ear than a song in the traditional sense. It’s Just Water is a bang up to date alt-pop-funk groove and We Be Rocking is a short, sharp futuristic tribal blast but it is perhaps the opening salvo of Trouble Won’t Last which is the best calling card for the band. Smooth and sassy uptown cocktail bar vibes meets urban soul and shot through with De La Soul style jazz rap, it provides the perfect introduction to what Labyrinth Lounge is all about.

And what they are all about is taking those well thumbed pages from the slicker and more groovesome end of the great American songbook and using them to play musical origami, folding one sound around on another, having one edge run at right angles to another, creating something new out of something old. And that is the art of it really, we can see what they have used to make their sonic origami songbird and we marvel at the deftness of the finished result. It’s just that we don’t really have much of a clue how they got from one to the other. We are just happy that they did.

Turn It Up – JV and Teej (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Turn_it_upCover_1If you think that hip-hop missed its chance to go wholly over ground as a musical style and that rap music seemed to jump the queue and became the radio friendly, unit shifting, happy to compromise, edgy dance music of choice, then JV and Teej are probably just what you need in your life. These two long-term friends blend elements of old-school hip-hop with a slick later R&B and a chilled funk vibe to create a sound which is both aware of its place in musical history, yet manages to keep things fresh and exciting as it strides off towards new musical horizons.

Casual choruses share space with more direct rap deliveries, the beats are solid, the flow of the song wanders through interesting dynamic shifts and underneath is a fluid musical wash which emanates both warmth and cool at the same time, if you know what I mean.

But if these guys are on a mission to remind us of the sounds of the old days, give us a glimpse of an alternative version of musical history, one where songs like this form a large section of commercial radio play, and give us a chance to reset things and aim for a more interesting musical future, it isn’t their only mission. Part of the proceeds from their new album will be going to ensure school kids in their local community remain properly feed and looked after.

The world needs all the help it can get at the moment, it is a time to bring people together and lean on each other. If you can further that ideal by releasing a song that may turn out to be the chilled party track of the summer, all the better.

The Mothers Earth Experiment – The Mothers Earth Experiment (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

18485717_1302109889902920_6898810738426586778_nBefore we get down to the nitty-gritty of exploring the music too closely, right from the off the two things that scream out at me as I dip my toe in its sonic waters are the sheer eclecticism and the texturing of sounds. It’s the same feeling I get when I listen to Steely Dan’s Aja and there are more than a few similarities – the innate soulfulness, the progressive landscapes containing wonderfully accessible ideas, the execution of the musicians that somehow combines precision with a loose and often louche style. And simply the sheer scope of the territory being explored.

But this isn’t the seventies nor is it the West Coast. This is the 21st century and this is the West Midlands, which probably has a lot to do with the record’s often darker, more overcast and psychedelic vibe. Whereas with the aforementioned Aja you need to put on sun block just to listen to it, this has a more primal, edgy and ancient feel, even when grooving out on a sonorous jazz vibe or a funky shuffling beat.

This used to be called fusion music which normally meant either a rock band with ideas above its station or a bunch of jazz-hands dumbing down to find more lucrative markets. Thankfully this feels a million miles away from either but much more natural, just a collection of musicians conducting interesting genre-splicing experiments in hidden basements.

Pagan jazz? Psych-soul? Primal-funk? It doesn’t really matter what you call it as I doubt there will be enough bands who ever come close enough to these brilliant and mind bending sounds that we are going to need to think of a collective label. A genre of one? Why indeed not?

New Music of the Day – CLX : Gone As A Friend – Park Hotel

5tqs_mmi892parkhotel650Whilst there is more than a nod to the new wave, funky-punk of Talking Heads running through the track, it is what else they bring to the table that stops this being a mere pastiche or homage to past times. The groove is timeless, disco meets upbeat funk-soul but they dress these iconic sounds in upscale, modern electronica that is so slick, so now, so cool, that it hurts.

But even playing with such recognisable threads and ultra hip, urban trappings it still refuses to come quietly and brave dynamic breakdowns shoot holes in the smooth groove that it created. Disco may very well be back and this time its not playing by the rules.

The Morning Kings – The Morning Kings (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

album-artSometimes the right band comes along just at the right time. This isn’t some grandiose statement about the nature of the universe, more an insight into how my morning is going. When you have spent the day so far struggling to find something new to write about yet another grim faced, earnest, indie band from a northern industrial town looking to change the world via a working knowledge of A minor or had to grapple with yet another sub-genre of dystopian Norwegian metal, finding The Morning Kings on the “to do” list was like a breath of fresh air.

With their previous EP, Sunrise, 5 years down the line, a new self-titled release is going to be warmly welcomed in many quarters, a much needed dose of sunshine funk and groovy rock jams in these cold, dark winter days. The Morning Kings revel in slick blends of soulful blues rock, funked up reggae rhythms and Latin grooves all delivered in a way that is wonderfully loose but still technically right on the button. Not a bad skill to have. In a world of production line pop and transient, fashionable fusions, it is great to see a band take some tried and tested musical building blocks and still find interesting new shapes to build with them. It is easy to see what is going on under the hood of the engine but you are still going to be blown away by the ride.

The new e.p. will undoubtedly help propel their already rising stock towards more established musical markets and the forging of a sound that both suggests an illegal beach party and a totally commercial venture is either a very astute move or a very lucky creative break. Yes, this is just what my morning needed and now every time the pressures of the day look like getting to be too much, I am safe in the knowledge that this is stashed away in the medicine cabinet marked with the label “take with a glass of water up to four times a day.” Well, not water, obviously.

To The Border – Browlin (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

13938372_1187221004632101_3181558456578511960_nWell, this is different, but that’s a good thing right? As you join Browlin on his musical journey toward the titular border of his albums title, you realise that the border isn’t necessary that Tex-Mex river crossing that seems to readily spring to mind. The border in question is more likely to be much further south in a Latin-American hinterland as those southern rhythms infuse the subtle and supple Americana top line of the record.

Let me draw a line connecting South American street parties with Morricone’s apocalyptic western soundtracks, another from Santana’s west coast latin fusions to Detroit’s funk groove and then many more connecting places and thoughts, music and stories that have no business being connected. Stare at the pattern of the lines for a long time, and then shut your eyes. The stars dancing behind your eyelids is the music of this outstanding musical fusion.

In short it is timeless in that it can’t be pinned down to any era, it is evocative and nostalgic without tugging unnecessarily at too many heartstrings, it is fresh without trying to be fashionable and it is effortlessly experimental without seeming to try too hard to be clever, though a wonderfully clever musical creation it certainly is.

Exploding Universe – The Brainiac 5 (Reckless Records) reviewed by Dave Franklin

11390565_888226164580608_6829514471951239911_nIf you can tell the character of a man by the company he keeps, then you can tell a lot about a band by the references they juggle. One quoting Beefheart, Gertrude Stein and G.I. Gurdjieff, lyrically spouting a wonderful low-level street philosophy and described as “the West Country’s answer to Television,” is an attractive prospect.

If the psychedelic-punk spirit that put them on the map is still in evidence, these days it has been tempered by a free ranging approach to genric identity which sees them embrace the diversities of gentle acoustica, Weller-esque undercurrents, peripheral jazz touches, proggy thought processes, rock, funk, reggae and everything in between. Not bad for their second album but with a quarter of a century  to think about things it is no surprise that they have nailed this being in a band lark.

Originally part of the Cornish punk scene they relocated to London, shared stages with the equally mercurial Soft Boys, were praised by NME, but split before their debut album could be released. Eventually it saw the light in 1988 with Reckless Records where it rubbed shoulders with releases by the legendary Bevis Frond, Black Sun Ensemble and Mu. Their recent regrouping certainly hints at a second chapter to the bands story and if this album is anything to go by, this is where things start getting really interesting.

Mushroom Tea – David 9 Lunas (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

1484685_805283046207607_1133384217454557347_n-1For a man whose past weaves between such rock and hard places as No Sweat, B.L.O.W and therefore by association Little Angels, David 9 Lunas seems to have found a mellower musical place to inhabit these days. The 5 tracks on Mushroom Tea blend soulful restraint and chilled, acoustic vibes and even when heading back into his old stamping grounds on Angel in a Tree, the result is funky blues rather than anything more blatant. And whilst such a song shows Lunas to be a fine gravel voiced rock singer it is the soft tones of the more considered tracks coupled with the lyrical poeticism that provides the more memorable moments of the record.

As with last years Rain, Water and Wine, Lunas again shows that musically he is happy to wander across various musical boundaries, work in genres ranging from folk, soul, pop, funk and blues but which ever he choses is able to deliver sensitive and restrained tunes, something he does with ease.

Guard Down EP – Salute The Sun (reviewed by Ian O’Regan)

10846314_358156134309199_3971624639670358907_nSalute The Sun is a 4-piece soul/funk/pop band from Bristol, who have been together just a year before recording this EP, and on first impressions, they’ve done extremely well in that year to be able to produce such a tight, well-defined sound. (Their live videos suggest the same well rehearsed unit.)

Overall, the five tracks on offer are put together in an almost mini-concept sort of way, building, for me at any rate, a sense of being at a club gig over a whole night, starting with funky upbeat energy, through intense atmospherics, and on into end-of-night chillout. I like an album that sounds like it’s been put together with some sort of narrative. It’s old-school, like recordings used to be before the age of the “shuffle” button.

The opening two tracks, “Levels” and “I Ain’t Ever (Giving Up)”, suggest a mix of 80s/90s funky pop in the Jamiroquai feel, mixed with a Red Hot Chilli Peppers type vocal and melody, but that’s not to say that the sound is derivative or retro in any bad way. It’s fresh and approachable, and does what I think any good EP should do: it makes you think that this would be a great band to catch live, and makes you want to hear the rest of the EP as well.

https://soundcloud.com/salutethesunband

Track 3, “TLG”, changes tone, and puts a rhythm section that feels more Dub or Jamaican Dancehall under atmospheric guitars and keys. The rhythm is driving and insistent, and the overall feel, particularly in the guitar solos, is that dark, almost psychedelic, 3am club mood (the good kind of club mood, not the rubbish, what-are-we-still-doing-here kind!)

Track 4 and 5, “Guard Down I” and “Guard Down II”, close the EP with the Chillout moods. As a connected pair, these might work better at the end of a 10 or 12-track album. Here, with only 3 tracks to build the energy and fatigue for which the chillout would be the counterpoint needed, there is a slight feel of imbalance: for my mind, one of these (I’d have picked “Guard Down I”) would have been enough. But that’s looking at the EP as a whole.

On a slightly negative note, the overall production of the EP might be better for being brighter and more sparkly, but as a first EP from a band that has been together for just over a year and is still developing a sound and a following, you get everything that you need from the production that’s been delivered here to know that this is a band well worth seeing.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Sco-Mule – Gov’t Mule (feat. John Scofield) reviewed by Dave Franklin

securedownloadNo two Gov’t Mule shows are ever the same but even by their own eclectic standards this record takes the band, or should I say took the band, into new musical territory. Although released as part of their recent 20th anniversary celebrations, Sco-Mule is a live collaboration with guitarist John Scofield that dates back to when the band were only five years into their career and starting to really find their own voice. The resulting two shows with the jazz rock legend seems to have become a watershed moment for the band and showed new possibilities as to what their music could be.

 

Sco-Mule is therefore not only a record of a unique point in time but also describes a pivotal moment in a bands career. What follows is a fairly improvised (only one rehearsal preceded the dates) and wonderfully fluid collection of live instrumental songs. Flitting between jazz and blues, funk, southern rock (the band has its roots in an Allman Brothers side project) and soul, this is a melting pot of all the elder genres, and it is great to hear such masters at work weaving these complimentary sounds together.

 

Even though it is easy to list the generic building blocks they use to create their sound, some unexpected soundscapes are created along the way. For every recognisable, Scofield, acid jazz signature and bluesy Bonamassa-esque moment, the warped worlds of Zappa and Mingus seem to occasionally overlap just to remind you that this is a group of musicians who can pretty much take their music anywhere they want.

 

If you thought jazz-rock was the domain of dry and studious academic players or that blues has anything to do with people like Eric Clapton, then this album is the education that you have been waiting for.

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