Give Me Faith – Jesse Morgan ft. Israel Houghton (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

GiveMeFaithSingle_coverJesse Morgan is nothing if not versatile. With his previous single, Here We Stand, the drive behind his expansive and soulful voice comes from a more rock environment with guitars providing chiming motifs or explosive energy. Give Me Faith, however, has a more R&B feel to it, a pop sense and a soul heart. The former is also more of a shout it from the rooftops anthem whereas this time around the song feels more like a one on one conversation, an intimate confessional, a personal message but with universal resonance.

As always harmony is high on the list of boxes to be ticked, close multiple harmonies hang on his every world building in passion and power as the song heads towards it’s crescendo; pianos build, strings sweep forward and the song becomes as vocally intricate as it does musically hypnotic.

Jesse Morgan is the epitome of the modern gospel singer, obviously the message is the driving point, the whole reason he is performing but the skill is also to move with the times. Here, he wonderfully acknowledges the musical traditions of his chosen genre but the fact that he is so able to weave them through contemporary pop, soul and dance vibes keeps them musically relevant as well as lyrically poignant. Never has a message been so wonderfully wrapped.

Available on iTunes: http://bit.ly/GiveMeFaithiTunes

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The Collection – Nelson King (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

005357988_500There was a point a few songs in to The Collection, possibly somewhere around Always You that I recognised the same battered style and ragged glory of one of my favourite musical cult heroes, Nikki Sudden. In my book, it doesn’t get better than that. The same loose and slightly louche approach, the same street gutter observations, the backstreet mythologies being woven, the broken guitar-slinging poet. And that is the thing I am finding that I love about Nelson King’s music, each song reminds me of fallen musical heroes or underrated and under the radar torch bearers. The key word here is remind, not replicate.

 

Yes, there is a lot in his sound which you can trace back to classic sounds of previous eras but those sounds are called classic for a reason and after all they do say that familiarity breeds content…or at least they should. But as I have pointed out before, it isn’t enough to unpick your favourite threads from the existing weave of musical history, it is all about the design you fashion them into next. The Collection seems to lean more into an acoustic driven place, electric guitars do little more than embellish the existing motifs or add interesting detail and the bass is happy to wander a root note route through the background. But as always the combination of old blues emotions, dark sleazy grooves, understated rock dynamics and country rock licks works to perfection but the new trick being pulled out of the bag here is space. Space that allows atmosphere to linger between the notes, anticipation to hang between the words.

 

It is this sort of rock music which is timeless, fashions come and go but this flavour of British heartland, small venue, underground, in the know rock seems ever present. It links the old folk heroes to the stolen blues scene of the 60’s to the sleazy and emotive outpourings of the likes of Messrs. Sudden and Kusworth. All of those have known that it isn’t about what you steal; it is what you then do with those references. Some miss the point, some wish to merely emulate, Nelson King uses it to write his own footnote in the underground musical history books.

Posted in acoustica, alt-country, blues, country rock, folk rock, retro-rock, rhythm and blues, rock, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Chip Shop E.P. – Tex Pistols (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

18057997_287607811686489_242250923111314227_nWe are not normally that big on straight out covers here at Dancing About Architecture, but there were a number of reasons, musical and otherwise, why we wanted to give this cheeky little release some room. Firstly the lead track is recently reunited heroes Tex Pistols take on Kirsty McColl’s sublime wonky pop classic There’s A Guy Work’s Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis and anything which reminds us of that lovely lady and her music is always going to get our vote. Here it is rendered into a twangy Cajun-country groove and it works brilliantly.

Secondly the EP has been released as a fund and awareness raising effort in support of UK prostate cancer, which obviously is something the male half of the population at least should get behind.

But mainly, and I guess that I should have led with this, its bloody great. Not only the aforementioned Kirsty classic, and fans should also note that co-writer Philip Rambow is one of the howling guitar-slingers on the album, but a string of great songs from the country canon given the Tex Pistols’ jaunt and jig.

There is an added bonus for the music historians out there in that the people who make up the band are nothing short of musical royalty and their musical heritage past and present takes in the likes of Nick Lowe, Mick Ronson, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Stray Cats, Jeff Beck, Elvis Costello, The Penguin Café Orchestra and many more famous names. Tex Pistols were also pretty much the country-punk house band at the iconic Break For The Border for many a year.

If you can’t find a reason to love and support this great little E.P. then I’m sort of guessing that music isn’t really for you!

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Stronger in Numbers – Chris Tye (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

chris-tye-stonger-in-numbers-album-coverPlaying a note on a guitar or singing a lyrical line is a fairly straightforward job. These days it seems as if you could blindly throw a stone and not fail to hit some over-entitled, gap-year troubadour treating us to his accumulated life experience since leaving home six months previous. Thankfully people like Chris Tye understand that it is all about getting just the right note, the most effective chord, the resonant lyric, anything else is just getting in the way.

 

His core sound is wonderfully sparse and even when he ups the musical stakes, such as with Love on The Line, the drama is as much a result of the space between the musical punches as the impact as they land. Obviously Chris is following in a long line of classic songwriters from Neil Young to John Martyn but of course they are regarded as classic for a reason and if the familiar template here is justified, what he brings to the table moves it into interesting new areas.

There is a resonance with Damien Rice’s drifting approach found in many of the songs, particularly the title track and sweeping grandeur of No Sing but he is also able to move in more ambient pop directions such as with Low on Time. Fans of the singer-songwriter style will find a lot to like in his self-described Urban Folk Music; the combination of iconic songs styles and his own creative and emotive agenda will find new fans heading his way in droves.

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The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur – The Veldt (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

The_Veldt_-_The_Shocking_Fuzz_of_Your_Electric_Fur_(cover).jpgThe Veldt has always been a fascinating concept. Two black school kids in 80’s Raleigh, North Carolina dressing like European New Romantics and listening to the underground releases of London’s infamous 4AD label. A bold stance to take but one which led to the gathering together of like minded individuals and the result of course was The Veldt; a mercurial blend of the sonorous dreamscapes drifting in from across the Atlantic and more soulful and jazz infused homegrown grooves.

If the Old World evolution of dream-pop led to a less tangible, less structured form, The Veldt’s hazy, neo-psychedelic New World echoes were always grounded in a soft r’n’b groove, something which added warmth to what can often be a clinical and non-organic sound.

 
The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur EP sees them still exploring this gene splicing of the soulful and the sonorous, resulting in a sound somewhere between a lucid dream, half heard, half remembered and alien soul music picked up from the depths of outer space. Moody soul built from blissed out shoegaze…now there’s a concept, one which modern listeners would associate more with the likes of The Weeknd than its originators. At its most solid, And It’s You, weaves Marvin Gaye’s progressive reinvention through chiming guitars and slow electro dance grooves, at its most transient, Sanctified is distant, smoke-like and skittering.

 

And whilst the originality of their sound has gained them admirers in all the right quarters from Rudy Tambala (A R Kane) to Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins), they have also acted as a beacon for other like-minded souls looking to break out of the existing conventions. None other than Doc McKinney (The Weeknd, Drake, Estherio) said,

For black artists, doing anything outside of the bubble, beyond what’s derivative of what white kids are doing, being able to express yourself honestly, is not celebrated at all. So when I heard these guys, it gave me confidence.”

Some bands make innovative and artistically important music, others break down cultural barriers, others still thread together ideas, which up until then weren’t even on nodding terms. It isn’t often that you find a band that stands for all of those things.

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Ethics for Enemies – Fennr Lane (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

19748369_1134791326624724_4710435874346388700_nFennr Lane has always been about getting the point musically speaking, simple classic rock lines built around a slow and relentless drive rather than any quick pay off or gimmickry. Here they distil that rock and roll essence down ever further but balance it with a deeper push into the dramatic Wagnerian territory that comes naturally to them.

They have always worked well with light and shade, understood how to play the slow build dynamics card and if this is an example of what they can do on the limited budget I know they have available, imagine the big screen sonic writings they could produce if time and money were less of an issue.

Gothic soundtrack, end of set anthem and symphonic rock stripped down to the bone all rolled into one and proving  yet again that the most straightforward of ideas are all you need if you delivery them with passion and panache.

 

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Ursa Minor – Fassine (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

19748870_1582635118454764_5000260728514237771_nThere are many perks of being in a band, one of the less obvious ones is being perfectly equipped to pay tribute to your musical heroes, those who shaped your formative years and who may have even been the reason for you taking up musical arms in the first place. Fassine are no strangers to the idea of paying tribute your heroes, their cover of XTC’s That Wave saw them merge the original’s acid-tinged, hazy psychedelic vibe with their own future-pop sound to great effect. Here they set their sights on an even bigger figure.

 

Ursa Minor sees the band write their own musical love letter to David Bowie’s Berlin years and the ambient nature of the songs found on the albums Low and Heroes in particular. This feels like a drifting neo-classical passage built from a collision of cool technology and warm instrumentation with cellos drifting through electronic landscapes and celestial vocals weaving their way through the backbeats, softening the edges like a dusting of snow.

 
I’m always amazed at the Fassine‘s ability to create music that feels wonderfully chilled yet so dynamic at the same time, ambient yet anthemic, a quality which is built from clever choices of space and texture rather than merely where you set the volume control. Yet again they have set a benchmark for nu-pop, ambient dance or whatever it is they do….the Ursa may be minor, but what they have created here is major achievement.

 

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The Drunken Buddhist – Nick Driver (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a2086147176_16It isn’t often that you stick an album on only to find track one being a cross between an advert for the music to follow, an admonishment of the listener about the cultural effects of not paying for music and a musing about the availability of prescription drugs. Once that sinks in it is difficult to imagine what is going to follow, but you are certainly thinking that is not going to conform to the usual musical templates. And you’d right….sort of.

Musically it wanders between smooth r’n’b and pop infused folk, rather than the musical avant-gardening that the opening rant-o-mercial might have suggested, but it is all about context really. If the likes of Captain Beefheart had grown up on hip-hop or Zappa had sought out a commercial pop career, the result may not have been too dissimilar to this. Sure, it’s musically different, the product of an altogether different evolutionary path but the same attitude and off kilter sense of humour beats at the heart of The Drunken Buddhist that they would have warmed to, especially lyrically.

Don’t Spit in My Food is a tongue in cheek tale right out of the Zappa songbook but updated for the Tinder age, I’m Gonna Party is (hopefully) a parody of the cliché the runs through the centre of contemporary music and the fact that the brilliantly named The Not So Noble Truth’s Voicemails Interlude is a collection of weird messages and mumbled conversations is just a strange added bonus.

The joy of the album is that it is so well done that you lose sight of where the line is, the one between its more serious moments and its parody of modern music. But then again, satire works best when it walks such a fine line.

Posted in alt-dance, alt-pop, hip-hop, pop, r&b, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

New Music of the Day – CXCVIII: Channel to Id – Screens 4 Eyes

18814539_812171892280964_1659115907586623366_oThings I like: Strange dystopian fantasy. Dream-pop. New music coming at me from unexpected places. Strong and emotive female vocals. Narrative videos (even if I’m not sure what they really mean it beats a dance routine or a performance any day of the week.) Lists.

 

With so many boxes ticked, me loving Screen 4 Eyes most recent release was never really in doubt. Taken from their EP Behind These Doors it matches the drifting ambience of the dream-pop canon with the vocal confidence of a more modern commercial alt-pop sound. It is musical territory I find myself in more and more of late, there is a real resurgence in this less structured, less guitar driven sound, one that has seen a wave of bands reference the sound and a wave of bands reform.

 

But Screens4Eyes are neither retro plunderers nor band-wagoners but instead a whole new take on the genre, one that this time around catches the ear of the mainstream popster as well as the underground movers and shakers. And rather than such music being confined to small independent visionary record labels, as it was in the past, such an alignment of the cool and the commercial, the accessible and the otherworldly will have the musical powers-that-be fighting to sign the band in no time. You mark my words.

 

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Pratfalls and Curtain Calls – Bob Pepek (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

18447049_10155365908384459_7179221236589081933_nAs the title of the album suggests, Pratfalls and Curtain Calls is autobiographical in nature, an artist reflecting on the world around him in all it’s honest and gritty glory, its intimacy and loneliness, its ultimate highs, its desolate lows, love, loss, life and everything in between. But then the stage as a soapbox and the recorded medium as mass communication provide the ideal way of presenting your take on the world around you. Quite frankly anyone not taking such an opportunity to add something thoughtful to the collective discussion is really missing an opportunity. Not here though.

Thankfully Bob Pepek’s most recent album is full of wonderful narratives which are both intimate in nature and universal in appeal, the ideas may come from personal experience but to be honest, we have all been there, we can all relate. It might be argued that the slickness of production such as found here can sometimes blunt the central message, that a stripped down and grittier approach is often a more effective medium. I would argue that we have probably had enough earnest indie-kids in wide brimmed hats sporting their first beard, telling us how the world really is and the lushness and rich textural qualities found here actually reinforce the message.

It’s a tidy mix of pop-R&B and acoustic led rock; it is melodic, wide-screen, exquisitely arranged and tasteless to a fault. It also covers a lot of ground musically. Take Me For Me is a slow building ballad which walks us from simple economy to anthemic crescendo with an acoustic take on the song included for those on a musical diet whilst Ship Me Away is heartland rock destined for a bigger stage. Between these parameters Bob weaves deft lyrics through addictive melody, blends the simple and direct with the detailed and the wonderfully embellished and walks a fine line between restraint and extravagance. But the song is always what is on show here and no matter how grand he gets with weaves of dexterous flamenco or washes of orchestral strings it never overpowers the song itself, something other artists should take note of.

Mainstream music doesn’t have to be a dull and predictable affair, Pratfalls and Curtain Calls certainly plays to a mainstream audience but one less concerned with fickle fashion and flavours of the month and offers, not only a collection of great and well crafted songs but a lesson in how to dress, enhance and present them to the public. The middle ground has never sounded so cutting edge!

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