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.


Help Ummagma navigate the globe

24131053_1854569074572207_7594776925912384490_nCanadian – Ukrainian duo Ummagma have just launched a crowdfunding campaign for their next original album on vinyl and CD on Indiegogo. Their’s is an eclectic yet harmonious potpourri of sublime resonance, beats and rhythm, with McLarnon’s delicate airy gossamer-like vocals  often compared to Liz Fraser (Cocteau Twins) with glimmers of Stereolab, The Sundays, Lush, Curve, Nathalie Merchant and Slowdive. Kretov’s spellbinding potion of guitar, vocals, synths, beats, programming & effects create impeccable soundscapes with elements of Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Bill Nelson and Brian Eno to help the listener take flight.

Their music is always evolving, never staying too long in one place, an eternal quest for new musical landscapes, new sonic pastures, new sound textures and new creative horizons and their current position on the musical map can be found on their third, forthcoming album Compass.

“We’ve poured our souls and channeled our hopes and worldview into this release over five years. But it will take you only a few minutes to support this wonderful project! Please share our vision and journey. Pre-order our new album and access merch, experiences, updates and more.”

Please share this link via all your social media tools so that they can can reach page 1 on #Indiegogo (your tweets, pledges and comments all boost Ummagma in their #GogoFactor algorhythm.)

Thank you for your time.




Going around in circles

shoe_gaze_best_songsMusic is cyclical, we all know that, 30 years seems to be the recognised time span for music to drop off the fashion radar long enough to seem cool or cult and be rediscovered and reinterpreted by a new musical generation. Brit-pop was a re-discovery of sixties guitar bands, punk was the distilled spirit of rock’n’roll for generation feeling similarly lost and even grunge had its roots in the garage rock and nascent metal scenes of a previous generation.

My own musical future-nostalgia moments, however, lie in an altogether more ambient place. Once the punks had shown us that making music was not just something for the dedicated, or indeed talented few, a whole movement of back bedroom aspirants began rewiring cheap keyboards and running battered guitars through homemade effects pedals and the result was glorious.

The sonic landscape that they described was one of drifting beauty and sharp angles, of raw guitars and delicate minimalism, of ethereal atmospheres and of industrial noise. It was supported by fledgling record labels such as 4AD and Sarah Records and was gathered into journalistic gangs and given names like dream-pop, shoe gaze, new-wave, underground-pop and new romanticism.

And if the likes of Kate Bush was proving that such new and defiant approaches could sell records via the more traditional model, bands such as The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and even The Birthday Party where the street corner punk hustlers pushing their own, more confrontational but no less beautiful sonic dreams.

And today, the circle has turned and those once lost, sweet sounds are finding their way into modern music once more as musicians discover that same acoustic beauty in the dusty corners of parents record collections and incorporate them into their own musical visions. Torchbearers such as Shameless Promotions gather and collect both new takes on the past as well as bands that have been carrying the flag for all these years. The Veldt’s reverb soaked soul, Ummagma’s chilled delicacy, the cavernous majesty of Tombstones In Their Eyes and Black Needle Noise building music for movies you haven’t dreamt of yet are the centre of that new exclusive universe.

Bands such as Fassine come at these sounds from another angle, one which links chilled ambient dance with futuristic pop, which is both massively commercial yet effortlessly cool, a chart headed Trojan horse to spread subtle influences through a musical charm offensive.

The one advantage of staying close to music for so long is that you get to see a new generation get excited, deconstruct and redefine the sounds that made you fall in love with music in the first place.

This new wave of bands both pull nostalgic heartstrings and point the way towards a bright new dawn and for that I can’t thank them enough.


Winter Tale – Ummagma + A.R. Kane (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

ummagma-a-r-kane-winter-tale-cover-artworkTo say that this is a single built around cross pollination, across time, geography and style is still under selling how collaborative and encompassing of long distanced and disparate strands this is. Ummagma are a Canadian-Ukrainian dream-pop act of this generation; A.R. Kane were UK pioneers of the genre from back in the heady days of the emerging 4AD label, but it is definitely the common ground not the differences that is celebrated here.

In it’s original version Winter Tale is a heady swirl of dreamy-pop vibes, built very much on beat and melody, which ticks many of the same boxes as The Cadbury Sisters do, that perfect blend of pop accessibility and simple, bucolic beauty.

It is what happens when the aforementioned dream-pop soundscapers gets there hands on things that the song finds itself going down the rabbit hole. Those rigid structures and consistent beats are replaced with a warped template that connects dots between the experimentalism of the 4AD ethic and its re-emergence as post-rock. The music shimmers and collides, soars and trembles as if it scares itself, thankfully between the original and the extremes of this remix there is also a radio mix to act as a wonderful compromise.

It is the present being informed by the past, young acolytes putting themselves in the hands of past masters and whether you opt for the straight forward delivery or revel in A.R. Kane doing a spot of avant-gardening, it shows that oddly enough what is the most fragile and inconsistent of all musical genres is also one of the most long-lived and consistently mercurial, if that isn’t indeed too mutually exclusive an idea.


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