Rock Back: Stronger Than The Storm –  Various Artists (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Rock_Back_-_Stronger_Than_The_Storm_(cover)It has a been a difficult year for those living in coastal regions and areas prone to flooding and other climatic backlashes, and that certainly applies to those communities that found themselves in the path of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria which devastated the Caribbean and the American gulf coast this year. In response to those tragedies, Philadelphia based Patetico Recordings have renewed their altruistic efforts and gathered a host of like minded musicians, record labels and supporters from the creative world to help raise funds to aid those affected.

The concept of the Rock Back compilation series was born in 2011, when disaster hit Japan, and Tom Lugo, Patetico Recordings’ label owner, acted upon his empathy for charitable causes and non-profit organisations by reaching out to the community of artists he had in his network. Rock Back compilation albums have gone on to raise money for devastated communities around the world as well as for notable non-human charities.

The result this time around is a collection of 56 tracks from artists across the globe which represent some of the most interesting acts to be found working in the musical fringes today. They lean towards genres that start with suffixes such as alt- and post- but then so many of the bands pushing the right creative agenda and generally moving music forward have always been found in such places. Obviously any such a collection of songs is far too vast an array to cover effectively in a review but even on an album of wonderful, new, exciting and challenging music there are a few stand out moments.

Ummagma contribute Human Factor, a song which punctuates muscular alt-rock urges with a downtempo groove and chiming Dave Gilmour-esque guitar motifs with buzz saw blues and Sounds of Sputnik take things into a darker dreamscape with Shades of The Cosmos. But if nothing else it is an album of light and shade and My Favourite Things deliver a hazy, Neo-psychedelic wash with A Little Closer and The Raft channel an almost retro pop vibe as they wander sub Beatlesque landscapes and 90’s alt-pop climes with Glad I Don’t Know.

Parson Rocket Project also wander similar paths as The Sundays or Mazzy Star blending dense musical texture with pop accessibility as shoegazing and stargazing clash on Exit Launch and the whole affair rounds off with the dark and majestic, eerie and effervescent sound of Panaphonic and the suitably named After The Storm. As I said, this is not an album which is quickly or easily captured in written review form but it is an album you should buy not just for the fact that all money goes to a good cause but also because if ever you wanted a sampler of what new music you should be watching out for, which bands are really challenging the status quo…and indeed Status Quo…who will be making the headlines amongst the discerning bloggers and tastemakers very soon, this is basically a road map, a check-list to keeping one step ahead.

Never have worthy causes and excellent music been more in harmony that on this must have record.


Fly I Will, Because I Can – My Favourite Things (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

My_Favourite_Things_(cover).jpgIf dream-pop is a genre built from musical soundscaping and layers of sonic textures, My Favourite Things sonorous pop seems built upon the dreams themselves. It is an album forged of lullabies and half-forgotten memory, of hazy nostalgia and imaginary friends; nothing less than a portal between the adventures of childhood reality and the fantasy realms that they represented in your own mind.

Musically what seems to make this a dreamy pop album rather than a dream-pop album in the generic sense, is the way it is woven together. Rather than take a few standard building blocks and manipulate them through the possibilities of studio technology to create their finished sounds, My Favourite Things seem to use a much wider initial musical palette, create myriad finished sounds first before weaving them together. Perhaps it is the difference between printing a design on a woven rug and actually weaving that design from as you go,  one acoustic thread at a time.

Because of this the album continues to unravel more and more musical secrets with every listen as you slowly appreciate the complex nature of their sonic weave. It reveals brooding cellos and angelic harps, resonant accordions and chiming glockenspiels and all manner of exotic instruments alongside the more expected shimmering guitar patterns and pulsing bass lines.

My Favourite Things use sounds in the way that watercolour painters use colour, sparingly, gently blending one musical hue with another, merging them together often by washing them out and just as often leaving space so that a blank canvas of atmosphere and expectation sits in their place.

If you miss albums full of innocence and music woven from lost summers, fairground wonderment, the power of dreams and fairy-tale expectations, then this is certainly the album for you.


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