The Songs of Chantitown (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

28576657_155410868490908_7154192027187769019_nThere is a grace at the heart of Chantitown’s music which has rarely been seen amongst modern artists. It harks back to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Carol King and a small number of artists who were part of that wave of rootsy pop and folk-revivalists who are still seen as the golden age of the art. But, thankfully, she is also well aware that mere pastiche or copy-cat plagiarism doesn’t cut it in the modern age either and the skill she employs to fashion her songs means that although they beat with a quietly nostalgic heart, they also sparkle with modern sass and deftly wander all points in between.

The real charm is this seamless blend of an ambient acoustic vibe with seeping electronica, of majestic but distant atmospherics, of intrigue and anticipation, of restraint and understatement. Even when the textures and sonic layers are writ large they are done so in a water-colour style application rather seeking to make their point through vibrant, thick oils. (Not the best of analogies but I’m sure you understand the point I’m making.) The result is a series of windswept and gossamer like sounds hanging around the lead lines rather than anything more intrusive or bombastic.

Truth immediately draws comparison with Natasha Khan’s gorgeous electronic balladry, the same ethereality meets electronica, emotive ancient sentiments evoked through cutting edge musical technology. And Bat For Lashes is not a bad reference point, sharing the same eclectic approach, the same blend of past and present, the same genre-hopping, musical gene-splicing and, in the case of this track in particular, the same exotic blend of eastern spice and western bite, of occident meeting orient.

At the opposite end of the dynamic spectrum Prince of Pain is the most dominant of the four songs presented here, but even then it still works more in an ambient surrounding than a pop one, yet like all of Chantitown’s songs it walks a fine line between the cool and cultish, and the accessible and commercial, and that is a trick that most artists never master. But here it is done so skilfully that you could almost use this as a template as to how to blur the lines of those two, often conflicting, worlds.

But it isn’t just the music which is tantalising and enticing here, Cause and The Cure in particular is spacious enough to showcase what an astonishing voice she has, weaving narratives which take in the personal and the poetic, which shift from direct, almost spoken word deliveries to the harmonious and cinematic, a style which runs through all of her songs but which for my money is epitomised best here. The final song found in this showcase of music is Mother of Sun, an epic, slow burning thing of haunting beauty, though, to be honest, that is a phrase which could apply to anything which has gone before.

In Chantitown I think we have found someone truly important, someone game changing, someone who sits on a line that links Joni Mitchell to Kate Bush to Portishead to Natasha Khan and who shows that music can be accessible, infectious and beguiling and also (fingers crossed) commercially successful, without being obvious and cliched.

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New Music of the Day – CCVI: Palio – Fassine

18922842_1549791551739121_6760479845550914864_oFassine has been teasing us with chilled and sophisticated tracks accompanied by intriguing videos for months now as they pave the way for Gourami, the latest, long awaited full album. This last chapter before the big reveal sees them at their most minimal, a beat cloaked in whispers and anticipation, the trip-hop vibe of the fledgling Portishead, the fragility of Warpaint and the ethereality of SPC ECO meeting in a loving embrace.

Neo-classical charm is threaded through futuristic beats, plaintive electronica washes through vocal delicacy, dance floor culture is turned into smoke and anagrams and dream-pop vibes soak into a wholly new sensual and understated EDM sound. This minimalist vibe even runs through the video, a hypnotic monochrome affair, again just lyrics and (hoof) beats, hypnotic and understated matching the slick and spacious music that drives it.

We have known for a long time that the pending album is going to be well worth waiting for, what has been floated out into the world so far has been wonderfully enticing, their track record has revealed impeccable taste and musical finesse, and if that isn’t what the world needs right now I’ll eat my Kate Bush albums.

 

Eye To Eye – Polar Front (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

13043712_493238694207552_350930946300062164_nWhen I first caught Polar Front at last years Swindon Shuffle Festival in the compact and bijou surroundings of The Beehive, they were a fledgling band taking their first steps. The sound in their heads was only just making itself known in their live performance, but the impression that they left on me more than anything else that day was one of great potential and an unwritten promise. Today they have delivered on that promise.

 

After a year that has seen them constantly up their game, deal with a thinning of the ranks, have their music used in a national advertising campaign and receive both celebrity and industry endorsements, Eye To Eye sees them finally arrive. Glitchy vocals kick off a song built on a slow burning dynamic where atmosphere and haunting technological textures are laid down before the band finally goes for it, weaving their way between soaring highs and shimmering subtleties.

 

Polar Front is the sound of today, a merging of traditional playing and tech savvy studio creation, cool yet commercially viable, elegant and soulful, pop music for people bored with the mainstream offerings. But the more I listen to this, the more I hear an unexpected spectre flitting, half hidden, through the song, an intangible quality that I can only sum up as sounds from a parallel universe where Portishead had eschewed a life invented trip-hop and instead dedicated themselves to subverting the cause of rock music. Well, whatever next? Frankly I can’t wait to find out.

Neptune Estate – King Krule

1381267_634143343292318_1376266563_nThe Zoo Kid is back! Well, I guess he never went away. It’s just with ever shifting stage names to match the differing styles he has explored, it is sometimes difficult to join up the musical dots in his career so far. So although ‘Neptune Estate’ is a teaser for what is only his debut album, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon, Archy Marshall, to give him his off stage moniker, is certainly no new kid on the block.

Blending lazy trip-hop back beats with spatially aware piano riffs and occasional brass intrusions, the elbow room afforded by the music puts the lyrics right at the front of the song. In their poetic Estuary English, the vocals conjure a picture of a long walk home under a sulphurous street light glow through midnight’s deserted alleys and desolate, shadow land estates; the songs bleak emotions matching the empty streets.

Representing the contemporary end of a thread that runs back through artists such as Cuttooth, Portishead and Massive Attack, what King Krule does is refresh the template to match modern times – the detached romanticism and broken dreams of the botched and the bungled, the bored suburbs and the broken inner city, the soundtrack to a modern teenage life. He should know, for Archy Marshall is a barely 19-year-old London lad which makes his achievements so far all the more impressive, especially when you hear the musical territory he explores on the aforementioned debut album. A one trick pony he is not.

Whilst other 19-year-old artists are taking more obvious routes, Justin Bieber for the X Factor crowd and Jake Bugg for the mainstream who want to appear slightly cooler but who are essentially reformed Bieber fans, artists such as Archy Marshall and his many aliases are offering a viable and infinitely more credible alternative.

Neptune Estate – King Krule

1381892_634140856625900_331972082_nThe Zoo Kid is back! Well I guess he has never been away, it’s just with ever shifting stage names to match the differing styles he has explored it is sometimes difficult to join up the musical dots in his career so far. So although Neptune Estate is a teaser for what is only his debut album, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon, Archy Marshall, to give him his off stage moniker, is certainly no new kid on the block.

Blending lazy trip-hop back beats with spatially aware piano riffs and occasional brass intrusions, the elbow room afforded by the music puts the lyrics right at the front of the song. In their poetic Estuary English, the vocals conjure a picture of a long walk home under a sulphurous street light glow through midnight’s deserted alleys and desolate, shadowland estates, the songs bleak emotions matching the empty streets.

Representing the contemporary end of a thread that runs back through artists such as Cuttooth, Portishead and Massive Attack, what King Krule does is refresh the template to match modern times, the detached romanticism and broken dreams of the botched and the bungled, the bored suburbs and the broken inner city, the soundtrack to a modern teenage life.

And he should know for Archy Marshall is a barely 19 year old London lad, which makes his achievements so far all the more impressive, especially when you hear the musical territory he explores on the aforementioned debut album. A one trick pony he is not. Whilst other 19 year old artist are taking more obvious routes, Justin Bieber for the X Factor crowd and Jake Bugg for the mainstream who want to appear slightly cooler but who are essentially reformed Bieber fans, artists such as Archy Marshall and his many aliases are offering a viable and infinitely more credible alternative.

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