Alive –  Victoria Celestine (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There is something wonderfully tribal about Victoria Celestine’s latest single, not normally a “go to” sound for those in the pop field but it works brilliantly. Rather than opt for the usual dance infusions and clubland beats to drive the song, taking this primal sound not only makes it stand out but really drives the point home through the simplicity and power of such an approach. We know that Celestine is great at delivering succinct and standout pop, Good Heart To Hide amply demonstrated that, but this time out she proves that she is also happy to break the mould and try something new. And that of course is where the most memorable music is found.

For those of us with longer memories, the song echoes with the sonic ghosts of Dream Academy’s iconic Life In A Northern Town, mainly in its similarly tribal urges and demonstration that pop doesn’t have to follow the same tried and tested rules. But that is a long time ago now, a nice touch of nostalgia for us oldies and in the main Alive is a wonderfully different beast. This is tribal pop for the modern age, a slick and slender production that still appeals to the masses. It’s great when you stumble across a song that is so vibrant and appealing but is also much bolder and cleverer than it first appears to be. 

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I Am The Dark –  Troy Petty (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

I Am The Dark sits on the edge of a wonderful vanishing point, one where recognisable music forms are being sucked into a musical black hole. Pop, indie and rock strands are all enticed over the edge into this abyss but just before the colour and vibrancy are replaced by a stark grey musical nihilism, Petty weaves them into his dark design. The result is a track that links the post-punk experimentations prior to the gothic movement becoming a parody of itself with the blunt trauma that boomed at the heart of nu-metal, it summons the spirits of old blues shamans and looks to write the sound track of a dystopian future.

Continue reading “I Am The Dark –  Troy Petty (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

Questions –  Agency (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If Exponents demonstrated Agency’s distain for generic boundaries and for following other people’s pre-conceived ideas of what one musical style or another should conform to, Question’s continues very much down the same non-conformist path. Having made a name for taking strands of broadly urban music – R&B, hip-hop, soul and the like – and taking it to strange, illogical conclusions, this latest album shows that there is a lot of sonic territory yet to be explored. As R&B seems content to become a modern substitute for throw away pop and hip-hop gets taken to a lowest common denominator by a wave of mumbling, bedroom rappers looking for a quick shot at fame, Agency’s musical machinations remind me more of the early pioneers of UK’s underground 4AD label such as A R Kane who mixed soulful sounds with dream pop soundscapes.

Continue reading “Questions –  Agency (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

So For Real –  Ed Hale (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There is a real skill to being able to make music that simultaneously sounds like you have been listening to it all of your life but also the newest, freshest music to waft through the airwaves and it is a skill that Ed Hale appears to possess in no small amount. I guess it is what happens when you combine a wonderful musical imagination with a template that has served songwriters so well for the past 50 years. But just because someone takes the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix out approach” that doesn’t mean that they can’t give it a fresh lick of paint, re-shape, refine, have fun with and add new and exciting sonic detail to it. And that again is something that Ed Hale revels in. So For Real is definitely a case of evolution rather than revolution.

Summer Flowers kicks things off majestically, a veritable heatwave of retro-pop vibes, a flex of rock muscle and some wonderfully psychedelic moves and it is these corner stones that define the album’s personality. But this isn’t plunder, plagiarism or pastiche, for all its backward glance to past glories, songs such as Gimme Some Rock ’n’ Roll chime in tune with bands such as Flaming Lips or Wasuremono as readily as it does anything from previous generations.

Continue reading “So For Real –  Ed Hale (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

Faith and Science  –  Moderate Rebels (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

In a world where people seem to feel entitled to all of the answers, where ironically the demand for knowledge has left us with a society who are less informed but more confident in their ignorance, it is nice to know that there are people who still revel in the mysteries of life. I don’t need to know how electricity works to enjoy a cup of tea and I don’t need to subscribe to a religion to know right from wrong, why not just follow your own path and try not to piss too many people off. Which is pretty much what Buddha said, I think.

Similarly when it comes to making music Moderate Rebels aim for an easy life too. “Less chords and words; simple and complicated; direct and vague. We have our mottos.” They sound like a band after my own heart. Faith and Science is a wonderfully swirling yet direct and hypnotic slice of modern psychedelia, one built around a tribal stomp, relentless guitars, crashing pianos and mercurial vocal chants and in many ways it is perfect in its blunt mantric simplicity. It doesn’t pay to over think things.

 

Miles To Go – Colin James (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

There is a saying; “Class is permanent, form is temporary” well that applies here, ‘Miles To Go’ is an album that takes songs from the vaults of blues music and sets about restoring them for the modern audience. It’s a strange concept for an album but one that succeeds in all aspects of what it is trying to achieve. Calling it a restoration project is very close to what it is and it never feels cheap or a quick fix to sell albums, it’s lovingly done and it’s clear there are two agenda’s; firstly to reintroduce us to songs that were written decades ago (one is from 1927!) possibly by people the musical world have begun to forget and, secondly, to remind us how strong, and relevant, these songs sound when handled correctly.

Canadian blues man Colin James has been writing and recording albums since the late 1980’s and he clearly holds this style of music dear because the songs are perfectly reintroduced to the new century with care and consideration.

Continue reading “Miles To Go – Colin James (reviewed by T. Bebedor)”

Baby Let Me Go – Smoking Martha (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Well, that’s a side of Smoking Martha that we don’t get to hear too often. Their normal go to sonic weapons are low slung guitars firing off salvos of jagged riffs, big beats and pulsing bass lines, fist in the air stadium anthems topped off with in-your-face vocal attacks. But everyone needs a break now and again, a chance to show a different side to their character, some time to express themselves in a more thoughtful and considered way. Baby Let Me Go is all of those things and more.

They take a simple acoustic guitar driven platform and instead of layering things up with bold and bombastic musical textures, they do little more than swathe it in delicate strings – cascades of violins and brooding cellos – and this is the perfect way to deliver such a heartfelt song. Vocalist Tasha D explains that the subject matter is very personal, a “way  of  dealing  with  death  and  finally  letting  go,” and allowing the emotion and reflection in her voice to sit centre stage with little to get in the way seems to make the song as powerful as any of their more “foot on the monitor” outings.

Continue reading “Baby Let Me Go – Smoking Martha (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

Last Chance Riders – Downright Disgusted (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Man, that riff! You can’t beat a low-slung, scattergun blast of straight and honest garage rock of the sort that might have lured you into a club on the Lower East Side sometime around ’78. It growls, it grooves and it echos with the ghosts of the greats of blues, rock’n’roll and punk. The advantage that Last Chance Riders has is that they have the benefit of modern production allowing them to stand with one foot in both worlds, that of the “let’s just do” and the “let’s make this sound great” simultaneously.

And great it is, both polished and impactful but also honest and attitude driven. Throw in Jessie Albright’s vocals that run from world weary to anthemic as the song requires and a band who know that its all about getting the basics right rather than covering things in studio glitter and you have a song that both makes us shed a tear for the likes of Johnny Thunders and begs the question that perhaps the time is right play that scene all over again.

Scene and Heard – CCCXCV: She’s Bleeding – Ignacio Peña (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

This time out Ignacio Peña pauses for breath somewhat with a song that mixes occasional soaring crescendos with more measured and lulling musical passages. She’s Bleeding, another song taken from the forthcoming Songs For the Fall of an Empire, is all about dynamics, about light and shade, power and pause, about understanding that if you start from a musical low point, with respect to impact and volume, when you do go for the big chord, the big hit, it is all the more effective for the distance covered.

As always Peña is dealing with bigger issues here. Where others are happy to write songs about relationship trouble, about temporary emotional issues and the pointless minutiae of everyday modern life, he prefers to tackle more complex themes such as the covert machinations happening out of sight of the person in the street but which are the real driving forces of the world around us. Heavy stuff? Certainly but his skill with a turn of phrase enables him to engage the subject poetically and with such deft and often graceful music as the delivery system for such a discussion, the song works on two levels. Engage with the song fully and you will find, as with all of the songs released from the album so far, something important, poignant and perfectly timed being discussed. Chose to listen from a distance and you still encounter a great alt-rock song, one built from clever dynamic and gloriously sweeping music.

Continue reading “Scene and Heard – CCCXCV: She’s Bleeding – Ignacio Peña (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

All That’s Left – Michelle Lewis (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

Elton John once sang “sad songs say so much” and it’s probably safe to say that we all have a sad song in our list of all-time favourite songs, those are the songs we are often drawn to, we can sympathise, empathise and relate to these moments of emotional outpouring. We find comfort knowing some rich, famous singer in LA shares the exact same emotions that we do.

Michelle Lewis’s album has more than its fair share of sad songs, but they are mostly delivered with an optimistic outlook, yes, she’s been hurt but she’s still here and not only has she learnt from those heartbreaks she’s managed to channel it into songs and it’s pretty uplifting in parts.

Continue reading “All That’s Left – Michelle Lewis (reviewed by T. Bebedor)”

Resist Lies –  Noise Therapy (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

maxresdefaultHonesty is the best policy so I’m gonna come right out and address the elephant in the room that is the stumbling block of Noise Therapy’s sound right away. There is a major discrepancy in terms of delivery and production between the quality of the vocals and the instruments playing behind it. Okay, this is metal, it comes with a certain brutality, rawness and passion but when it comes to the vocal execution you can’t help  but be distracted by it to the point where you fail to appreciate the music that it is paired with. I know not everyone is aiming to have a career in music, maybe this is just for fun but even on those terms I think it is a problem that they need to address.

But with that out of the way I can get on with talking about its selling points, I do prefer to champion a cause rather than poke a critical finger so let’s do that now. Even from the titles you can see that Noise Therapy have something to say, references to freedom of speech, anarchy, change and general statements about dissatisfaction prepare you for a lyrical onslaught that chimes so in tune with the issues of the day.

Devil’s Advocate follows a grunge inspired route, all muted, low end visceral riffs and Atom Bomb laces some dexterous textures through a symphonic metal landscape but for the most part the songs are based around a harder edged post-hardcore but one referencing a classic metal sound. Defend Freedom of Speech is Iron Maiden reimagined for a new generation and No More Platforms For Idiots is straight out of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal template.

If they could bring the vocal skills and production up to the level of the music, mix it in effectively rather than sit it on top then they would really have something here, I guess that they are on a budget to make this but with such a great job done with the music it seems that for a bit of extra money and effort they could really get this over the line. They have a lot of poignant things to say, they just need to find a better way of delivering it. 

Musically you could argue that they are not necessarily bring much new to the table but that’s okay with me. Sometimes it is enough just to re-invent the wheel especially if the wheel in question allows you to open up the throttle and take a white-knuckle joyride through the side streets and alleyways of the history of rock and metal before unashamedly heading down the highway to follow in the tyre marks of previous iconic musical suicide machines. Or something…I’m not great with analogy.

Next Weekend – Bilk (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

v7Uw6ZBQ.jpegBilk is back out doing what it does best. And what it does best is deliver short, sharp salvos of trashy street punk energy woven through infectious and highly charged indie blasts. Three eighteen year old Essex boys singing about exactly what eighteen year old Essex boys should be singing about, that is falling out of one glorious weekend of drunken chaos with the vow to do it all again once the working week is done.

Part social commentary, part pure celebration, Bilk is the perfect successor to the likes of Mike Skinner’s Street’s in providing the background groove to young lives in the modern age and echos with the same visceral sound that The Libertines found kicking about the backstreets of London where it had lain dormant since the punks packed up and headed off down new musical paths. But that was all a long time ago and a new generation has come through looking for their own soundtrack to urban life, to lost weekends, to one-night stands, to letting off steam, to irresponsibility, frustration and social carnage. Next Weekend proves once again that Bilk is the perfect band for the job.

 

Borrowed Time –  AALTA ft. Desi Valentine (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

unnamedBorrowed Time is the sound of past musical traditions, modern sonic inventiveness and future music potentials all mixing liberally in what can only be described as a fresh move for pop. For pop this definitely is, but it is pop with a soulful heritage, Valentine’s vocals alone leave that sonic finger-print on the track. But as deft and addictive as the vocals are, this is pop music built also from some gorgeous textures. Rather than the perfunctory, identikit sound of most of today’s chart bound competition, real thought has gone into the wonderfully layered musical threads that form the song’s body.

AALTA is not afraid to leave space when anticipation and atmosphere feel like the appropriate tool, sensual brass is brought in to carry the main riff, again a brave but wonderfully memorable approach and the cascade of subtle harmony vocals are exquisite rather than powerful.

Everything here is built with a soft and subtle touch and it is these wonderful gossamer layers of music threaded together rather than the usual big crescendos and blunt musical statements that actually land on the listener with a  bigger impact and mark out Borrowed Time and indeed AALTA as being in a class of their own.

Scene and Heard – CCCXCIV: Stay All Night – The Solsters ft. Jerri (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

TheSolstersStayAll NightReno180921CDCVR copy.jpgStay All Night is one of those  songs that feels timeless both in sentiment and execution. People have been falling in love since the dawn of humanity and people have been chronicling it in song for almost as long. Stay All Night echoes with the soft and subtle chimes of the chilled end of 60’s soul and Motown but also manages to make those same classic sounds ring with enough modernity as to appeal to a modern audience.

Unlike a lot of soul being produced today, there is a tastefulness to the amount of space left in the song. Whereas many modern producers would endeavour to fill every space, every pause and every draw of breath between the words available, here only the softest of peripheral sounds and succinct harmonies are allowed to pervade through the atmosphere that is allowed to build between the beats.

The video returns to their familiar territory of animation that served them so will with (Now We’re) Done though swapping the more cartoon look for something akin to watching someone playing The Sims. But of course the focal point here is the music and whether you are looking for something that tips its musical hat back to the classic sounds of the past or uses such influences to create a gentle soul-pop hit for today, Stay All Night is the song and The Solsters are the band to deliver everything you need.

Stay All Night will be available on Spotify and iTunes from Oct 12

Dionysus – Dead Can Dance (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

PIASR440_cover_lo-res_600x600px_WEB.jpgAs every student of Greek mythology will know, Dionysus was the son of the mortal Greek Princess Semele and was fathered by Zeus, but after Semele’s death (of fright after Zeus revealed his Godly power to her) Zeus took the unborn Dionysus and attached him to his thigh until his birth.

Pretty grand stuff, even for the Greeks.

This album, by London-based Australian duo Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, is written around the myth and legacy of Dionysus but, to my ears, it’s so much more. The album is split into two ‘acts’, each over 15 minutes in length and it’s sounds like an audio journey into history and geography.

Act One begins with ‘Sea Borne’ and has such grandeur and cinematic awareness that you can almost picture an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh surveying the landscape while slaves and labourers drag and position mighty rocks towards the under-construction Pyramids as the white sun bears down. The tempo and feel of the song put me in mind of hundreds of feet pressing into the sand while ropes are pulled, and whips are cracked.

‘Liberator of Minds’ has the gentle lapping of water as the introduction, we’ve moved away from the sand and dust of the desert onto the banks of the river Nile or the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea, palm trees slowly shift, and barges travel silently as the music rolls and pounds with traditional North African percussion and chants.

It feels as if I’m writing a review for an album firmly cemented in World Music but this is so much more than that, yes it takes it’s influence and energy from Africa and the Middle East but this is music to lose yourself in, a journey to far off lands from forgotten times taken from the comfort of your living room or headphones, this takes the sounds of Moroccan markets, from traditional folk, from electronic music, from private prayers and carefully, and beautifully moulds and shapes it into something so well produced that it’s easy to find yourself lost in it’s complex avenues and passages.

Two years in the making this album is interesting, exciting, powerful and could possibly nudge its way into your favourite albums of 2018.

 

Alt-Rock Tuesday : Hey Jealousy – Gin Blossoms

UnknownIt’s just one of those songs that seems to have really stood the test of time, at least in my house. New Miserable Experience, the album that this came from and the one that thrust them into the global spotlight was well named as during its recording founder member, songwriter and lead guitarist, Doug Hopkins, was forced from the band mainly due to record company pressure over his drinking issues.

Imagine seeing the band you formed and the songs you wrote going on to world-wide fame whilst you are given $15,000 to disappear. Hey, Jealousy was to be his finest three minutes before a sad decline that saw him take his life just a year later. Raising a glass to Doug!

Alba Griot Ensemble – The Darkness Between the Leaves (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

age-coverThey say that in life – and in music – timing is everything, and within ‘The Darkness Between the Leaves’ comes the feeling that we’re leaving summer and entering into the changing season of autumn, which, as I write this, we are.

The album opens with the words “the nights are getting colder, the summer birds are gone, the days are getting shorter…” and this feeling of the passing of time runs throughout this wonderful album.

Alba Griot Ensemble (Alba being the Gaelic name for Scotland and Griot roughly meaning a storyteller, musician or poet) is a clever hybrid of Celtic folk and blues played with traditional instruments of the West African country of Mali and is difficult to categorise. Fans of World Music will no doubt have in their collection more difficult styles of music to pigeon hole but those who follow more commercial styles will struggle to pin it down.

This isn’t the heavy rhythmic music that Paul Simon or David Byrne used in the 80’s, these are finely layered pieces which take on both genres without sounding like either is unwelcome at the table. We have acoustic guitar and double bass from typical folk music sitting side by side with a stringed lute-like instrument called a Ngoni, African percussion and subtle vocals.

The ngoni has a reputation for being able to be played fast, it features heavily especially on the instrumental ‘Horonia’ and shows its speed on ‘Shadow Queen’, it sounds lovely here and bridges the gap between African and Celtic music and sounds at home when the band move into blues and jazz territory.

There is a variation in the music that is welcomed and shows the ability of the band to stretch its legs into other styles of music, this keeps the listener interested because each song delivers a new flavour. ‘Long Way Home’ is one of three songs I keep returning to, it’s possibly the most straight forward track on the album yet it has a percussion and rhythm that remains enjoyable and accessible, ‘Blurred Visions’ with a melody similar to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ flies by at 5mins long before we end the album with ‘North Wind’. A mighty nine minutes in length, it gives the band, in particular the rhythm section, the chance to jam and groove until the album comes to an end. This song closes the album like the sunset closes the day. Great stuff.

 

See also Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward

Beyond Sunsets and Rainbows –  Arthur Rivers (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

40581708_890260687811269_5455143928082726912_oIt’s reassuring to find Arthur Rivers exactly where I left him last time, kicking off the album with the previously encountered single You’re the Ocean Waves, You’re the Sea. And although this gentle and wonderfully wonky folk creation gives you a hint at the soft textures and delicate treatments that make up the rest of the album, this is more a vague signpost rather than a road map. It would, of course, be perfectly lovely to follow such pre-designated folk paths pretty much knowing where you are going but instead the album wanders any number of rootsy routes and world music byways. As a famous man once said, it is better to travel well than to arrive and Beyond Sunsets and Rainbows is definitely about the journey. Armed with a vague sense of direction and a sense of musical adventure you head off wide eyed into his music.

Lead You Home takes us past cosmic country bars, You & Me is haunted with the mournful sound of gothic Mariachi, We Remain The Same wanders the bayou’s and backwaters of the Deep South to blend a gospel spiritual with a work gang chant and Heal Your Pain is a suitable soothing infectious pop-folk song. One of the most telling lines on the album is when Arthur sings “Let’s start a fire” and where many would follow that up with some rabble rousing rhetoric, he merely suggests that the “Dance around it remembering the past.” This is an album of intimate reflection, soul-searching and personal nostalgia something that comes as a welcome change of pace in a world where big seems to be regarded as better.

The clever pay off here is that many people mixing up folk, country, sweeping string sections, banjos and the like often produce some sort of nu-country or dream state folk music, something that seems to lose its rigidity and sense of direction, but not Arthur Rivers. For all the soft edges to the music, its gentle textures and subtle musical weaves it is inherent with melody and memorability. The basic structures are rigid and accessible, it is just that he is so adept at knowing just what needs to go into the song to make it work that you end up with a set of songs that do everything they need with the minimum of fuss. 

Rather than resort to studio tricks, over-playing, solo’s and similar showboating, instead the lyrics remain the focal point offering emotion, remembrance, love and connection, and rather than merely trying to get feet tapping along is designed to to do nothing less than get the very soul dancing.

Ebony Stoned  –  EllaMaeFlossie (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Ebony-Stoned (3).jpgDescribing themselves more as a collaborative project than a band, this musical tribe comprising of LiKWUiD on vocals, music director Zaven Embree and honorary member Willie Green in the role of engineer and producer, are the perfect response to the world we find ourselves in today. They stand for non-conformity and creativity as a way to promote love, peace, prosperity and aim to re-unite the disparate tribes that mankind is continually dividing into. Ebony Stoned is also a response to the patriarchal society that they see around them, the greed of capitalism and a rallying cry to instil hope, particularly in women, as the gender balance seems to be tipping against them at an increasing rate in the current political climate.

The song is an intense and relentless blast of forward thinking hip-hop energy, beat and groove topped off with a machine gun delivery of hard hitting rap salvos. A staccato explosion of attitude, it swaggers with militancy and confidence and bravely swaps the route through easy melody for punch after sonic punch. The result is a euphoric and tense musical message, one that you are unlikely to forget any time soon.

Sun To My Moon –  Lucy Kitchen (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

LucyCoverlowresIn a musical world that seems ever more dictated by fad and fashion, driven by bluster and bombast, concerned with big statements and immediate responses, it is reassuring to know that there are still artists unaffected by such concerns. Lucy Kitchen is everything that the usual modern approach is not. Her songs are deft and delicate, built on clean-limbed and gentle lines and embellished with only the absolutely essential sonic details. Beats are minimal, textures subtly woven and the music feels nothing more than gossamer and smoke-like layers skilfully interlaced to maintain a musical weightlessness.

That may sound like some ethereal dreampoppery, where music is swapped out for atmospherics, but that isn’t what is going on here. Sun to My Moon is an album of songs that are perfectly formed, balanced and melodic, it’s just that in their perfection they require little else to bring them to the listener. Conciseness is next to godliness perhaps! And all this room leaves her fragile and fragrant vocals front and centre to be better appreciated, better absorbed, to remain the focal point of the album.


Having only encountered Lucy as a solo act, the way that these songs have been recorded with a full band shows a wonderful understanding as to how best to serve them. Rather than driving them to new heights the extra instrumentation serves merely to capture their heart. Songs such as Hollow and Searching For Land are brilliant examples of the less is more philosophy with each player finding their way to the essence of the song and underlining it.

Lovers in Blue strip things back to the barest essentials, Charis is reminiscent of Suzanne Vega which is a pretty high accolade in my book and Lovers and Sorrow carries the same melancholic air that you find in Damien Rice’s groundbreaking O. You had me at cello! But despite my comparisons, a bad journalistic habit, there is more here that is original than reminiscent, much more. Sun To My Moon is a gorgeous collection, one which proves beyond doubt that when you write such beguiling and gorgeous songs they can easily stand, and indeed deftly dance, on their own two delicate feet.

Memory –  Murmur Tooth (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a3918558583_16The further down this dark, spacious path Leah Hinton takes her solo Murmur Tooth project, the more I love it. Always aware that there is more musical currency in atmosphere and anticipation than bombast and clutter, here she builds a powerful and punchy piece from the bear minimum of sonics. The icing on this rich, dark and bitter sweet cake is the melancholic trumpet that weaves its way through turning a shrouded modern indie song into a twisted, timeless Old World dirge. 

Dealing with the sensitive issue of memory loss, something that at least is being spoken about more and more in the current climate, it instils the conversation with an intimate perspective and a cold dread that comes with the thought that everything that makes up your life, your history, your personality, your very being, could one day drop from your memory piece by piece leaving you anonymous and detached from everything you once were.

As always it is the combination of beauty and terror that Leah captures so elegantly, the tension and drifting atmosphere that floats about the listener as if they themselves were part of a chorus line from a gothic musical. Cold, deep, poignant and reflective but also gorgeous, ephemeral and eloquent. It’s what she does.

A quick chat with Colin Moulding

TCI-Photo-credit-Geoff-Winn-2Ahead of the upcoming run of TC&I shows at Swindon Arts Centre I managed to grab a quick chat with Colin Moulding about recent events, a return to treading the boards and what the future holds. This time last year I had spoken to him and Terry Chambers about the release of their e.p. Great Aspirations, so I was interested to know how we got from that record to full band live shows.

“A few reasons really, all those songs I wrote for XTC, when I had finished recording them I just had to wave goodbye to them and I thought it might be nice to hear them in a concert setting as a lot had never been heard that way. This coincided with Terry thinking shall we play some live shows on the back of these new recordings but of course we only had four new songs. I knew he wanted to get back out and play live, that’s how Terry best expresses himself. I thought, I can’t go the whole hog, I can’t go back to a touring lifestyle, I have commitments but I can go half way and  play some shows via a more considered approach.”

Continue reading “A quick chat with Colin Moulding”

Bring On The Mesmeric Condition  –  The Morlocks (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

HGR-028_Morlocks-thumbThis may be their first album for eight years but as soon as Bothering Me’s boisterous Hollywood Brats style musical swagger starts emanating from the speakers, it seems like they have never been away. How quickly we fall back into line, them delivering acid-laced raucous garage rock and us lapping up every second of it. 

Now based in Düsseldorf, vocalist Leighton Koizumi has gathered around him a veritable who’s who of European psychedelia, fuzz and garage rock players including Rob Louwers on drums, Oliver Pilsner on bass and Marcello Salis and Bernadette on guitar. And if the line up might have been refreshed, the sonic identity of the band is still reassuringly single-minded. Guitars are sludgy, fuzzed out and pushed to the edge, drums are wonderfully tribal, basses pulse relentlessly, pianos are hammered to within an inch of their lives and in the eye of the storm Koizumi partakes in a shamanic ritual to conjure the spirits of long dead bikers and beatniks, hippies and surfers, drop-outs and freaks.

Songs such as Easy Action strut and swagger with cocky confidence, Heart of Darkness is a strange swirl of gothic-folk-pop and One Foot in the Grave is a solid gold slice of highly charged Bolan-esque rock. For all their raw approach, jagged angles, dark hearted rock vibes and warped psychedelic leanings, they never lose sight of the hook and the melody. Bone crunching and visceral this may be but you never lose the urge to dance, yell, jump about and spill your beer as a libation to the Gods of Rock’n’Roll. The more you spill on their behalf the stronger they become which probably makes The Morlocks nothing short of high priests.

Wanna join a cult?

Mats Ronander and The Dusty Runners –  Would You? (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

z63RdpyQEven on the first play of this album you come away with the feeling that these are songs forged by a very skilled writer and recorded by an experienced band. And you would be right, just one look at Mats Ronander’s resume reveals that he not only has a pile of solo albums behind him but is a go to, top flight session man and has toured as part of, not only home grown legends such as ABBA but has graced the ranks of the likes of Ian Hunter and Graham Parker’s live line ups. In short, the man knows what he is doing. And then some!

Having gathered around him an equally impressive cast of players he has created an album which mixes slick country grooves, polished blues and approachable rock, all shot through with accessible, soulfulness and infectious vibes. It’s where commercial possibilities meet rootsy traditions, where the sound of the American dream gets dressed up for an even bigger international audience.

At one extreme you have the purer Nashville infused sounds of the Karin Risberg led Nothing’s The Same, a song that just glistens with rhinestones and personal reflection and at the other The Bridge plays with big funky, soulful blues. The title track wanders through some latin inspired beats, Spare Me Some change is a bluesy plea and My World showcases the gospel harmonies which are never very far away from the proceedings.

It’s a fine album, deftly constructed, able to wander across genres yet deliver a consistent overall sound, one where rootsy underground music is taken from the truck stops and downtown blues bars and represented and repackaged for a slicker uptown audience. Purists might prefer their music with the rough edges still in evidence but Ronander’s ability to create such sounds for a much bigger stage is exactly why he has had such a successful career.

Nevertheless –  Trio of Awesuhm (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Trio of Awesome_phixrThere are so many well constructed, clean-limbed and classic sonic lines running through Nevertheless that it immediately feels like a song that you have been humming along to all your life. That simple guitar rhythm, the plaintive piano lines, the jaunty mandolin, they may all sound familiar but the cliche that suggests that this might breed contempt certainly isn’t appropriate in this case. Sometimes familiarity breeds commendation. There’s a new cliche to stick in the book for you.

And the advantage of having an unfussy and sleek tune, one that is happy to just get the job done rather than showboat is that the listener can then focus on the lyrics and this is something that you really need to do here. Trio of Awesuhm offer up a call to arms to all those who think that the challenges that lie ahead of them might be too much, who are afraid to tread new pathways, break new ground, to push at the boundaries and barricades. In its own supple and subtle way it’s a poignant, important and relevant message, it always has been but it somehow seems the perfect time to underline it in these dark days.

Cool Pop Thursday : This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

41yXHeTcCXL._SY355_Does Kate Bush actually make music that can be simply categorised as pop? Although it is an idea that has been levelled at many artists, normally out of some act of promotional hyperbole, Kate Bush is one of those few who makes music that only ever sounds like herself. With the exception of a few acolytes in later years, most notably the exquisite Bat For Lashes, Kate Bush conjures songs which are so original, so of the artist herself as to defy generic pigeon-holing. But pop will do as good as any.

This Woman’s Work is a masterclass in emotion, in space, in atmosphere and anticipation, of how so much can be done with so little. The art, of course, is editing just the right bits of “so little” and that was always been where she left everyone else behind.

 

Scene and Heard – CCCXCIII: Cool Ride –  Peter Senior (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

39957139_474972783004192_6081965620063109120_nThere is very little new under the sun, as they say, especially when it comes to guys singing about cars. But as is always the way it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. Anyway, that’s enough cliche’s for the time being, you know what I am saying. And whilst Cool Ride is a guy singing about a car, it is the music that Peter Senior uses to deliver the message that justifies going over such well trodden territory again.

Blending a country rock ’n’ roll groove with more soulful textures, –  plaintive piano notes and melancholic trumpets with a bluesy backbeat –  the song might swerve away from the usual cliches, but the video certainly doesn’t. I like to think that the images use are knowingly obvious, that it is self-deprecating, delivered with a wink and it does indeed remind us that there is more to life than cars and girls (sorry another throw away reference). It is also about cars and boys!

The track is taken from On The Edge, an album which acts as a showcase for Senior’s myriad styles and musical interests skipping between country and rock, Motown and pop, an almost as live recording and his first solo album to date.

But despite, or perhaps because of, the playful innuendo found here you shouldn’t dismiss the song as a past pastiche or rose tinted glance back to past musical glories. Okay, that is part of what’s going on here but it is also a song for today, a modern update on simpler musical times and blending oil stained Americana with sassy late night jazz vibes. And the more you play it the more you find to like about it.

Between the more obvious beats and the straightforward intent, subtle and supple textures emerge, the odd percussive groove here, a Mariachi blast there, perfectly poised harmonies and some clever arrangements. It would be easy to take so many different sonic elements, throw them into the mix and end up with a cluttered sound, one where one instrument steps on the toes of another but the production here allows everything to breath, even to the point that you can hear some of the “live-ness” of the recording, something I thoroughly approve of.

So to conclude, it is a song that you need to get to know, one that you need to spend some time with,  take for a spin a few times and understand how it handles. And like most great cars you will find that what you find when you lift the hood of this sonic beast may very well surprise you.

Young Waters – Young Waters (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

01-417106Stick the label “twisted neo-folk’ on something and I’m in. It already ticks three important elements for me. Folk music, or at least that music which beats at the heart of your particular cultural traditions, is where music begins. Someone much older and wiser than me quite rightly pointed out that “all music is folk music; I ain’t never heard no horse sing a song.”  Well, quite. Neo, because even the most tried and tested of genres have to move on. Twisted because, well, expectations are there to be dodged. And in this case that box is ticked or not depending on your view of what twisted is, not that it really matters.

For what Young Waters have created here is an album of songs very much rooted in traditional sounds, sounds that are deft and delicate, spacious and emotive, harmonious and intricate but which manages to update those traditions whilst using the very same building blocks. Arrangements follow unexpected twists (there you go) and turns, the lyrics are often deep and exploratory and the whole affair feels less reverential, less tied to the sounds of the past but more like a new chapter written in the same sonic handwriting.

Twisted might imply a mad overhaul of the folk sound, strange gene-splicing in night time music laboratories and wild genre-hopping. But the twists are more supple and subtle than that and act to steer things through interesting waters rather than let things run wild. The result is a charming blend of familiar sounds used to new ends, of soft and gentle string washes, of a creeping darkness filling the space between crisp and clear acoustica, of exquisite harmonies, of the family silver getting buffed up for a new batch of visitors. Twisted? Perhaps not so much. Gorgeous, well-crafted, dexterous and awe-inspiring? Absolutely!

Indie Wednesday : A Gang Called Wonder – Siblings of Us

37390815_993850477463211_8742275497146187776_oIndie? Possibly not but their music is so weird, genre-hopping and changeable that I’m not really sure where it fits in so this is as good a place as any. Most of my postings in this category have been real blasts from the past so far but as these splendid people are currently on tour and they remind me at their most intense of things like The March Violets and James Ray’s Gangwar, that’s excuse enough to post them here.

Industrial strength synth exploring rock territory? A pop band armed with keyboards and a bag of amphetamine? A trio who don’t care about fad, fashion or where genres start or end? I suspect that they are all of the above.

Check out music and tour dates at – Siblings of Us

 

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