J.D. Hangover –  J.D. Hangover (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a0757221983_10At a time when music is recorded as disconnected musical fragments which are then meticuluously put together to a perfect set of rules, it is great to come across musicians who are brave enough to return to basics, stick a microphone in a room and capture things just as they happen, the players and tube amps, drum machines and creaking chairs, shuffling feet, feedback, fuzz and everything in between. Recording as god intended! What was originally going to be a free give away to underground press and like minded musical souls, fans and friends excited those awfully nice chaps at Annibale Records so much that the end result actually became a fully paid up CD release.

This self titled e.p. delivers 6 songs which ricochette between cavernous blues and the dissonance, noise and atonality of the New York no-wave scene, it is primal, visceral and dangerous, it snarls and seethes, bullys and bruises….this is not music that you would want to find yourself stuck in a dark alley with.

It resonats with echoes of The Gun Club minus their rockabilly back beat but shares the same ritualistic voodoo vibes of their deranged world, the rythmns are relentless, the riffs open wounds and the words threatening and the whole thing feels like a dark and groovy punch in the face. Sometimes you just want to be used, knocked down and threatened just to feel the adreneline rush take over, J.D. Hangover are the musical equivelant of that illicit thrill.

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Blue Room (re-mix) –  Jonathan Cavier (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

BlueRoomRemixCoverFinal_previewIf previous releases such as When You Come Around and Comes a Moment have shown Cavier to be the master of accessible, expertly wrought, commercially viable pop-rock, this re-mix of Blue Room from the recent album of the same name introduces something else into the musical arsenal. Bite! You could never accuse him of writing songs which are in anyway fey or twee, but renowned engineer Nico Essig’s contribution is to throw in a whole layer of muscle, this is pop-rock fresh out of a few months intensive gym training. It worked for The Goo Goo Dolls, who Essig also worked with, it works perfectly for Johnathan Cavier.

Inspired by The Picasso painting of the same name, Cavier muses on the woman depicted within and does so via a wonderfully big sound. It is a sound which takes his well honed skills at writing textured, guitar pop and bolts on shimmering undercurrents, fierce electric riffs and a relentless beat. It is great to hear Jonathan Cavier let loose like this, to play a more rock card and revel in its more muscular tones. We knew he was capable of making brilliant pop music, now we know that he can rock out with the best of them as well. Good work sir!

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Universal Joy –  David 9 Lunas (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a1098660841_10You can always rely on David 9 Lunas to be able to deliver soulful and smooth vibes, songs which beautifully drift and glide, gently pulse with wonderful restraint and are cleverly woven. We knew that, but what makes Universal Joy so great is the lyrical component which more than matches such sweet and dexterous music. Across ten songs he explores a range of subjects from the personal to the universal. From the trials and tribulations of moving house to attempted government control, from mental health issues to spirituality, love, depression and even a fantastical aside inspired by the novels of Anne Rice.

I spend a lot of time moaning that music has forgotten that it has a self made platform, a place from which it can speak to a wide and attentive audience, but thankfully David has not forgotten. We are not talking about preaching, this isn’t a soapbox but if you have the opportunity to send a message out to the world then make it a poignant and important one. Universal Joy is just such a message, a series of thoughts and musical musings which hopefully will make people consider the world around them and the people who pass them on the street every day.

But it is a message, or a series of messages, wrapped up in some gorgeous music. In The Name of The Father comes from a very personal space but is universally relatable and the title track is a blissed iece of pop-soul and Movin ‘Ouse Blues is the light relief of the album, a breezy, bluesy knock along song with fun to the fore and tongue pushed firmly in cheek. It swoops and soars with lush strings, jingles with jaunty banjos, shimmers with acoustic picking and drips with soulful vocals.

Like Mushroom Tea from a couple of years ago, David 9 Lunas again shows his ability to wander through popular music genres – folk, soul, pop, blues, rock and country –  tipping hats, referencing classic sounds, acknowledging past greats and using these sounds to build his own gentle, meticulously wrought but formidable musical identity. Music is sometimes deep and insightful, often it is accessible and infectious, rarely is it both. Universal Joy is one of those rare occasions.

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Long Wind –  Mat Caron (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a0352234565_16I have been listening to and writing about Mat’s music for a while now from the skittering acoustica of Moths to the scuzzy blues of Bookclub and finally on to music released under his own name and We Are Lovely Things, an album where it all really started to really come together where you can hear him finding his own sound, his own place in the musical scheme of things. Long Wind takes that honing down of his musical identity even further for never has he sounded more focused, together and singularly of himself.

It is an odd thing to say about a song whose lyrics seem to be at once a stream of consciousness,  a confessional and simultaneously struggling with the age old worries of the human condition and a  musing about the state of the world. And whilst musically it is set to very basic lines, something he self-deprecatingly references, it is because the lyrics are so engaging that the hypnotic simplicity that it drives on seems more than adequate as a delivery system.

The half-sung, half-spoken directness and conversational nature makes this feel like a chat over a beer, something wonderfully at odds with the modern approach to music where impact is all, big is best and more is more. It sounds like a lost gem from a past alt-folk scene or underground country movement which got lost in time but it also sounds like a wonderful new direction. Forget following fashion, lets just have the honesty.

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Hiccup –  Cup (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

CUP - Hiccup (cover)Hiccup is many things. A seventh album with all the energy and swagger of a debut release, a guitar driven musical blast built of slabs of sound rather than the intricacies and detail which the instrument usually loves to bathe in, punk urgency soaked in fuzzy, psychedelic washes, a sucker punch and a hug, an inward looking and reflective odyssey which just happens to sound like it wants to pick a fight with the world. Juxtapositions are wonderful things when used correctly.

And it is this warped blend and belligerent non-conformity which means that this album could have been the product of the hidden underground movement of almost any musical era to date from 60’s garage rock experiments to 70’s psychedelic scenes, from post-punk explorations to the dark under belly of 90’s college rock or grunge and on into the mix and match post-genre approach of the 21st century.

If bands like Sonic Youth explored similar territory by lacing their music through with intricate but primal guitar riffs and meandering but memorable hooks, Tym Wojcik, the man behind Cup takes a simpler route, building a wall of noise which is more about a presence than necessarily a tune in the more accessible sense. So much so that his musings which in their subject matter often seen mutually exclusive to the bluntness of the music – anxiety, existence, meaning and communication – often get a bit lost in the musical maelstrom that he conjures up.

Challenging, uncompromising, brutal and direct, it is an album which isn’t about making an initial connection, it is more about increased rewards over successive plays, once you get your head around how his unique musical world works, understand its rules, self-imposed limitations and modus operandi. Once your ear is in you will find a gem of an album, a rough and unpolished gem, but a gem none the less. So go and play it, play it again, and again, once more, keep going, don’t stop, again….

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Scene and Heard –  CCXXVI :  Circles – Blue Apollo (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Blue_Apollo_EP_CoverMost music that is doing something new, nudging the ball forward, exists at a collision point of influences. After all a band made up of four Bon Jovi fans  (shudders at the thought) is hardly going to reinvent the wheel, or even the commercial rock song, but thankfully Blue Apollo play with more varied and interesting references. They exist at a point where pop hooks are chilled out by soulful vibes, where gentle, fashion free indie meets a wonderfully accessibility which screams of commercial potential and broad market appeal.

It would be all too easy to mark them down as indie-light, but then not everything has to smash the system, rally against injustice or change the world, sometimes it is enough to want to make the world a slightly nicer place to be in, Blue Apollo do this through an inherent positivity, optimism and just a general demeanour of being likeable. And who ever had a problem with likability? Circles is clean limbed, is threaded together in a well produced and wonderfully defined fashion and speaks of the realities of everyday life, love and relationships. We can smash the system tomorrow, today we are just going to listen to some great music and watch the world go about its business.

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Scene and Heard  –  CCXXV : Black Lotus. –  Noah Archangel (ft. Yeax Majesty, Juskwam, DJ Thruvo –  Band of The Hawk)

albumart_noaharchangel4_200x200Music always seems more convincing when it is backed up with a gang mentality, that, “us against the world” ethic that all the best outfits possess and Southern Hip-Hop collective Band of The Hawk carry just such an attitude effortlessly. Whereas hip-hop, like many genres which come from a more underground place, seems to have been subsumed by commerciality and fashion by chancers and late-comers to its socially conscious musical party, Black Lotus and the Four Horsemen of the Hip-Hopolis who deliver it, immediately feel like the real deal.

East Coast lyrical dexterity meets West Coast swagger, golden age 90’s vibes but laced with the fresh and exploratory sound of the contemporary scene, Band of The Hawk is the perfect blend of familiarity and forward thinking, of knowing your place in musical history and being brave enough to write your own chapter. The lyrics are filled with street philosophy and social commentary and land perfectly on the listener with style and confidence and the whole affair is spacious, allowing every word and every beat room to breathe and so work more effectively. A game raising musical slice if ever there was one.

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Scene and Heard – CCXXIV : Black Water –  Thomas Abban (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Thomas_Abban__Cover_150_DPI_phixrBlack Water is one of those songs which takes you on a journey, I know it is a cliche and I don’t want to be that guy, but it is a sonic journey, one that builds from gentle jazz guitar noodling, through strange, indie-pop landscapes and finally unleashing into big dramatic deliveries before leaving by the musical door it arrived by. Anyone can build a song which runs from minimalism to crescendo, but few do it this organically…sorry, I mean naturally (…I really don’t what to me that guy!)

Abban displays a maturity which belies his young age  and shows too that he hasn’t forgotten the power of the mystic of music. Not just his love of wearing masks and his growing reputation for amazing live shows, but the intricate weaves of his songs and the parallel worlds that he conjures with his lyrics; part reality, part mythology, part a past that never was, part a world which might be, mark him out as something other, someone apart from the regular music scene. Why follow fashion when you can fashion whole worlds?

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Delete The Elite –  Derailer (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

16487468_608337189350368_5473394163418728481_oAren’t you meant to mellow with age? Aren’t you meant to hand the musical baton on to the next generation, calm down and grow old gracefully? Well, when the younger generation seem largely content to write songs devoid of bite or opinion and the world seems to grow even more chaotic, ill-balanced and self-serving day by day, what is an old punk to do? They do what they have always done, write fired up music about the state of the world around them, remind people that once music had something to say, thats what Derailer do anyway and boy do they sound pissed off.

Derailer are a motley bunch of musicians whose collective family tree runs through a whole raft of local agitator rock and viseral punk bands, including The Chaos Brothers, The Boys From County Hell and and Nobody’s Heroes but Delete The Elite pushes beyond merely punk roots and splices garage rock, swamp blues, scuzzy alt-rock and a snarling commentary which seems equally content to put things right or pull things down.

And if songs like Prohibition are happy to play the high octane, punk groove card, the gothic-country wasteland shiver of Creepin’ Jesus and the raucous roots salvos of Hands of The Healer position them closer to the tribal psychobilly blues of The Gun Club, never a bad band to find yourself sharing a vibe with.

Somehow, Derailer have mastered the art of writing songs that represent every disenfranchised musical subset in history…well, a fair slice of them anyway. In 12 surly and uncompromising musical slices Delete The Elite manages to embrace the sneering punk, the slick haired rock and roller and any number of beligerants wandering the musical fringes. The jagged riffs will speak to blues heads and hard rockers alike and the brooding undertones are a place even the estranged goth can find solace. Call it what you will but for my money this is garage rock at its finest.

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Memories of Stars  –  Astrobal (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a2005119360_16Matching lyrics which are poetic, scientific and philosophical to music which is hypnotic and mercurial, Astrobal’s Memories of Stars falls somewhere between a new wave of underground dance culture and Carl Sagan’s iconic Cosmos reimagined as music. It is full of electronic soundscapes, psychedelic meanderings and slow pop grooves and whilst we think of electronic music as being very much a recent form, here the echos of early pioneers such as the Enid, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, who incidentally get namechecked, can clearly be heard. But as is always the way with the cyclical nature of music, looking back is the same as looking forward, sort of, and as much as this music tips its hat to those originators, it also blazes its own, fairly gentle, trail into its own future.

The title track is the briefest of encounters, a spoken word delivery over a slow but relentless beat, fading out like a broken signal just over a minute down the line and at the other extent of the musical brief is Belle Comme La Nuit whose glitchy grooves steer closest to what you could concieve as a converntional dance track. Within these two parameters, the pace is wonderfully smooth, the tone warm and engaging, the lyrics scattered between spoken, sung or robotic and the overall effect is as intriguing and digitally otherworldly.

For those who need to order their life in such ways you can file this under, dance, alt-pop, progressive, cosmic soundtrack, cinematic, ambient or experimental, depending on just where in the sonic water you dip your toe. Those who care less about such things just file it under wow!

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