So For Real –  Ed Hale (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There is a real skill to being able to make music that simultaneously sounds like you have been listening to it all of your life but also the newest, freshest music to waft through the airwaves and it is a skill that Ed Hale appears to possess in no small amount. I guess it is what happens when you combine a wonderful musical imagination with a template that has served songwriters so well for the past 50 years. But just because someone takes the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix out approach” that doesn’t mean that they can’t give it a fresh lick of paint, re-shape, refine, have fun with and add new and exciting sonic detail to it. And that again is something that Ed Hale revels in. So For Real is definitely a case of evolution rather than revolution.

Summer Flowers kicks things off majestically, a veritable heatwave of retro-pop vibes, a flex of rock muscle and some wonderfully psychedelic moves and it is these corner stones that define the album’s personality. But this isn’t plunder, plagiarism or pastiche, for all its backward glance to past glories, songs such as Gimme Some Rock ’n’ Roll chime in tune with bands such as Flaming Lips or Wasuremono as readily as it does anything from previous generations.

Continue reading “So For Real –  Ed Hale (reviewed by Dave Franklin)”

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Scene and Heard – CCLXXXII: Holy Now – Wasuremono (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

30124726_2059927200886379_8876759167665854144_nYou can trust Wasuremono to be both right on the current zeitgeist but still way out ahead of the pack when it comes to any video that accompanies their gloriously beguiling music. So only a day after watching Ready Player One I find my screen filled with retro gaming shenanigans and music which sits somewhere between 4AD style, shimmering, post-punk dreamscapes and strange futuristic oriental infused experimentation.

Something Left Behind, their most recent album that spawned this track, presented the listener with everything from groove laden alt-pop, to minimalist slices of musical understatement. Then again they have always been a band to cover a lot of sonic ground and Holy Now seems to encompass a whole swathe of what they are about neatly into one song. It plays with tribal electro-beats, ethereal and disembodied vocals, 80’s synth-pop lines woven into Vangelis-esque soundtrack vibes, brooding and ominous undercurrents and a wilful disregard for song structure and traditional pop penmanship. And if you can’t find something to love amongst all of that creativity and otherness, I would suggest than new music might not be for you and perhaps those Oasis CD’s were a good investment after all!

Paper Cranes –  Cherry Coloured (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

25073329_1508419472561063_6913838846274581775_oThe wonderful Cherry Coloured is back with a song which blends the usual dreamy, ambient soundscaping with something slightly more driven, slightly more tangible. Without abandoning the washed ambience and tentative tones, Paper Cranes is instead built on a throbbing, hypnotic, motorik beat and some lovely and exotic, skittering chiming charm. It is this walk between the previous understated nature and a new found musical confidence and solidity which shows real evolution.

That restrained and smoke- like musical beauty is still present but now it shares the space with more robust and well-rounded sounds and it is this dynamic which creates the charm of the song as it drops down into near silence, reaches for noisy crescendos and explores every combination in between. Alongside bands such as the ever exploratory Wasuremono and dream-dance of Himmel, Cherry Coloured is helping to add a wonderful new genre to the modern musical canon, one that sits between post-punk dream scapes and modern ambient dance, that revels in space and a new sound palette, which doesn’t seek to conform but in not doing so is being picked up by a whole new alternative pop and indie audience.

Commercial success is not something that should be sought ahead of creativity, but stumbling over it on your way to writing the opening paragraph in a whole new chapter in the history of music is a very happy accident. It is something Cherry Coloured and the bands mentioned in the same breath are doing without even trying. How cool is that?

 

Something Left Behind  –  Wasuremono (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

26904049_2023652194513880_4030976319304872504_nI always approach writing about new music from Wasuremono with a mix of joy and trepidation. Joy, because immersing yourself in their strange, musical world, one which seems to mix musical whimsey with clever sonic choices, left-field approaches to the job at hand and a genre-hopping …well, otherness is always time well spent. Trepidation because trying to truly convey how great, mercurial, beautifully strange and truly original their music is with mere words is one hell of a job.

Even before you get to delving into the way they make music, the first thing that jumps out at you is the sumptuous approach to the vocals. Rich, sharp edged, slightly disembodied and often a beautiful blend of oriental exotica and occidental charm. This is both the voice as lyrical communication and as an instrument in its own right adding additional layers ranging between the soft and sonorous, the deft and the dynamic.

Musically there is no point playing the genre game, they seem to have long ago fashioned their own and then immediately set about knocking down its musical boundaries to push ever further into new musical landscapes and possibilities. It is pop, of sorts, but pop that refuses to play by the rules, instead ricocheting between eighties experimental post-punkery, 4AD influenced sonic dreaming, feel good psych-pop, acid laced avant-gardening and a whole host of sounds and styles which you might be hard pushed to actually put a name to.

Heads Will Roll is a wonderfully meandering song which seems to hang strange chattering harmonies and skittering drums on to the one constant of a gently wandering bass line which acts as its spine whilst Cold Tadpole revels in a dance floor groove – albeit of a club which is so exclusive you are never going to get in anyway. England’s Slave sees the band making maximum musical use of the available space whilst Soft Lullaby sounds like a haunted piano from an abandoned music hall.

And that’s the problem really, though it is a wonderful problem to have as a reviewer. That even if I tried to describe every song, words really don’t always cut it. Damn them! Maybe we should try an analogy…Abba doing karaoke with Talking Heads? Flaming Lips writing a new album for Soft Cell? No, that doesn’t really help either. Best you just buy the album.

Lies! Lies! Lies! –  Nick Harper and The Wilderness Kids (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

83c58c068c83f6253dfc4892e6eec3a8In a world that seems to be brimming over with guys with guitars, pop troubadours and fey, indie-folksters it would be very wrong to place Nick Harper anywhere amongst their ranks. Yes, he is a guy. Okay, he has a guitar. But that is where the similarity ends to the new kids on the singer-songwriters block (and whilst we are at it, it’s not a genre!) Over a 12 album career to date he has constantly defied and re-defined what that term means and what it can be, wilfully trampling generic boundaries, switching styles and probably inventing a few of his own along the way. History notes that he met the “Wilderness Kids” at a record store day jam and the sonic potential of a more permanent musical relationship was obvious to everyone. It comes as no surprise as you listen to the album that the “kids”in question are members of Port Erin and Wasuremono, two bands with a similar wide ranging and hard to pigeonhole approach towards rock and pop.

“350 reasons why, written on the side of a bus” is the opening salvo of the album, and straight away you realise that Nick, as always, has something important to tell you. Colours are nailed to masts, sides are chosen and lines are drawn in the sand. Essentially Lies! Lies! Lies! is a comment on the state of the western world, from the manipulation of the masses for political gain to the ugly consumerism of Black Friday, the rise and increasing normalisation of right wing attitudes, to religion, globalisation and everything in between. Lyrically and poetically he just says what many of us think, though the likes of Big Tony who drinks in The George and Dragon may well find himself seething into his pint of John Smiths!

And if the words are as honest as they are challenging, then musically it is just as groundbreaking. Nick has always had the ability to capture a massive sound with just an acoustic guitar, one loaded with rock intensity, folk infectiousness, jazz creativity and classical dexterity, well now he has a band to push that into even wider sonic realms. Leaving The Club is a bluesy groover, Tiina is a lilting ballad with brooding undertones, We Keep Turning Right is built on funky-jazz rhythms and Dark Forces is a fluid and mercurial post-rock growler. It’s a triumph of an album, musically exploratory, lyrically direct and the perfect musical product for our times.

There is an obvious point that if a vote or decision doesn’t go your way, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop making the argument, if that is the case then this is the most pointed and poignant musical debate I have heard in a long time and 48% of the country should buy it immediately.

Songs of Praise, Swindon – My 12 favourite gigs of 2016 – part 1 (by Dave Franklin)

12376559_918068144947598_1890568069506145317_nI don’t get to go to many gigs that I am not involved in promoting these days, but whilst I am always present in more of a work than a punter capacity, I still get to watch, work and hang out with some wonderful bands and a set of people who are imaginative, affable, mad, crazy, creative, visionary and unlike anyone you’d meet in normal walks of life. With that in mind I thought that I’d pick my top twelve gigs I have been part of this year.

Polar Front, Lionface and Honey Trap – 7th January @ The Victoria

Polar Front are the local success story of the last year from fledging steps towards a sassy melding of R&B grooves with shimmering indie-pop to becoming soundscaping leviathans. Not only do they build massive sonorous dreamscapes and towering sonic cathedral in Sophie Goldsworthy they have the voice to back it up.

Lionface have similar draw dropping qualities, twisted electronic pop, jagged guitars and brooding melodies and one of the most mesmerising performers you will ever witness fronting the musical package.

 Gaz Brookfield and Ben Wain, Nick Parker and George Wilding – 18th February @ The Victoria

 It’s always a fun night when Gaz and his right hand man Ben head back to the town of the formers, formative musical years. Now commanding massive audiences but somehow still able to deliver an honest, often poignant, sometimes just plain fun set that still feels intimate and accessible, that’s one hell of a trick.

Nick Parker is one of my favourite people from this strange musical world to spend time with and just as big a Waterboys fan as me. His set of quirky stories, kitchen sink narratives, and sing-along rhymes defy anyone not to join in.

Opening the night was George Wilding who may look like Nick Drakes drug dealer but whose command of gutter poetry, back street operas and strange urban mythologies are second to none….except Joseph Porter. (Oh, go look him up.)

 SNDubstation and The Hat Club – 18th March @ The Locomotive

 This one was so memorable not only for the class of the bands who both take reggae and ska and blend them into wonderful, euphoric and unique musical shapes but the fact that the venue, normally known for homing a smattering of speed addled, budget lager drinkers who try to ignore and find fault with whatever music was programed that week were invaded by a party crowd who proceed to blow the roof off the place.

 The Black Feathers, Jonny Payne and The Thunder and Phil Cooper – 7th April @ The Victoria

 Anyone who doesn’t like The Black Feathers can’t be my friend. I’m sorry, those are the rules and there is nothing I can do about it. As they wander country, soul and folk musical roads they manage to lay waste any competition via the sublime way their vocals harmonise. The song crafting is great and they have an amazing stage charisma, add to that the fact that they are thoroughly nice people to hang about with and the attraction isn’t hard to see.

Jonny Payne does a neat line in Americana – country, folk, soul and gospel all find their way into the mix and the fact that The Thunder who make up the rhythm section are also two thirds of The Black Hats, one of the first bands I put on in Swindon sparks a few nostalgic conversations.

No one does accessible, acoustic pop like Phil Cooper; imagine Neil Finn with an English accent…and a hat.

 White Lilac, Wasuremono and Neverlnd – 21st April @ The Victoria

 I grew up musically with all the independent labels of the post-punk era and this gig was like a journey back in time. Sadly White Lilac is no more, as far as I’m aware, but like Wasuremono before them they blend post-punk boundary pushing, pastoral dream-pop and shimmering shoegaze into interesting new forms. The headliners take a more raw-edged approach though tempered when needed by some haunting cello lines, their support pulling at more bucolic, and atmospheric strings and garnering strange sounds from an array of retro technology.

Opener Neverlnd take the more commercial approach but still manage to walk that difficult line between radio play and cult status.

 Don Gallardo and Luke Tuchscherer – 8th May @ The Beehive

 We don’t get to put on many gigs at The Beehive but when one of East Nashville’s finest comes looking for a show you beg, borrow or steal to make it happen. Thankfully it only took a phone call.

There is quite a market in this country at the moment for music labelled Roots, Americana, or even British Americana, but when the real thing comes to town you sit up and take notice. You know how the music score of shows like “Nashville” just sound different to anything we produce on this side of the water, well, that makes a good point of reference as some of that music for that show was supplied by Mr G.

That said Luke Tuchscherer is one of our own and not only did he play the perfect support he then jumped on the drums and backed up our colonial cousin.

Kaboom – Wasuremono (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

14925674_1818218881723880_3642941709165935402_nI often find that music dictates the way you write about it. Music full of boast and bombast evokes muscle bound descriptions, commercially loaded pop often results in over-egged efforts to sell its style rather than its substance and most conventional indie music leaves me appropriating descriptions I have used before, for better deserving bands. Where I am most comfortable, where the words flow most freely is when presented with dreamy, smokey and sonorous soundscapes and intangible washes of creativity. It is why releases by Wasuremono are so looked forward too.

And if the opening salvo, Dog, kicks off by laying down a sub-Cure backbeat (and check out Alligator for more Simon Gallup bass references…and by the way, I’m not complaining), any thoughts of pastiche are immediately dispelled with their unique vocal approach, a neat one-two between conventional deliveries and distant falsetto washes. And whilst songs such as Part of You do nothing to dispel the dreampop tag, Kaboom proves that they so much more than that. For whilst they tick all the right boxes of that genre – haunting, melancholic and otherworldly, effects driven and ghostly, there is something far too tangible and solid at their core for them to be pigeon-holed quite that easily.

The title track shows just how cleverly they can collect, harness and alchemise genres, shift moods and subvert expectations not only from one track to the next but within the songs themselves. In this respect the track Kaboom is a triumph of meandering intent and slow burning dynamic build, employing enough groove and skittering beats to catch the ear of the alt-pop mainstream and more than enough cool elegance and detachment to create a cult following.

With bands such as Warpaint proving that such heavenly sounds can appeal to both highbrow and commercial markets simultaneously, the release of this album sees Wasuremono in the perfect position to break into a bigger league, one that both buys records in decent numbers and also appreciates the fact that records this good don’t just come about by chance. Imagine that!

The Cadbury Sisters @ The Victoria, Swindon – 27th May ‘15

11258146_830265647026925_3397918784734402972_nFor a town locked into its nostalgia-fest of tribute and cover bands, there is still the occasional gem to be found amongst the denim clad purveyors of classic rock and the Ellie Goulding wannabees, and The Cadbury Sisters coming to town is a show that stands out from the pack immediately. And so there I was, at The Vic, a wonderful line up of music in front of me and a pint in my hand, watching music the way god intended…live, not via the wonders of the Internet or TV.

Opener, George Wilding, looks every inch the rock start before he has even done anything. Tall and painfully thin, with a tousled mane and Chelsea boots he looks like someone put Marc Bolan on the rack and stretched him out. But past the image he quickly proves that he has the goods to back it up and what follows is a set of wonderfully poetic songs put to some very talented guitar work. And with his immortal words “ He thinks he’s Edgar Allen Poe, but he never stole a traffic cone” still ringing in my ear, the first full band of the night launch their first song.

Wasuremono make music that sits between the gossamer side of shoegazing and the more intricate side of progressive pop, an intricate weave of subtle bass lines, chiming guitars, fluid keyboard washes and melancholic vocals that could be the missing link between Ride and Arcade Fire. When they want to really drive a song they can pull out all the stops but their real selling point is the sky-scraping ethereality and otherworldly atmospherics that exists between the notes.

Having always been tarred with a folk brush, the Cadbury Sisters announcement of a new, more commercial direction must have had the “folk-police” up in arms, but this show proved that it was clearly the way for them to go. Still retaining their core sound of beautifully complimentary harmonies, their more rustic undercurrent has now been replaced by beats, bass lines and backing track and the result is nothing short of glorious. Revelling in a sound that is obviously closer to their heart, they head into territory occupied by the likes of Bat For Lashes and even re-interpret some of their older songs via their new sound. It’s a sound that should see them shift from fringe festival favourites to a bankable dream-pop concern.

But if this all seems too exotic, too left field, too far outside your comfort zone, don’t worry, remember that this is Swindon and there will be a slightly above average Green Day tribute act along any moment.

Wasuremono – Wasuremono (The Wilderness Records) reviewed by Dave Franklin

1908299_1494864237392681_3698759133126956133_nWith the emergence a few years back of a new My Bloody Valentine album and bands such as Ride and Slowdive seemingly falling over each other to hitch themselves to a shoegaze revivalist bandwagon, Wasuremono seem perfectly placed for when the powers that be coming looking for their slice of the action.

The album is actually a compilation of two e.p.s recorded a year apart and whilst there is a clear evolution into a more soundscaped environment over that time, the step seems like a natural progression, a band making itself more comfortable in a familiar environment rather than a conscious change of direction.

Falling very much on the dream-pop side of the genre, theirs is more of an ambient drift, a sound that washes over you in shallow waves and often then recedes back into a Cocteau Twins world of fading vapour trails of sound and half heard vocal shapes. William The Conqueror, from the newer side of the album, is not only a one-hit, sound bite of what the band does best, if one is even needed, it is a beautiful song built of intangible threads and sounds that hang like mist in the air.

Wasuremono are a band that allows us to forget the bombast and blatancy of the modern age but neither do they advocate a return to purest, Luddite approaches to making music (though the rootsy groove of Dead Man’s Opera might just undermine the argument.) Generally speaking, the have the ability to take all the technology the modern era has to offer but use it to create gossamer layers of music, unique textures that when overlapped create subtle, kaleidoscopic patterns that shimmer but seem to carry no weight.

Effects heavy bands often use their technological building blocks to bludgeon the listener, to try and convey the grandeur of the new musical age or possibly soundtrack its destruction. Wasuremono sit somewhere between; sculptors of hypnotic dreamscapes and sonorous bliss in an apolitical age. Ecstasy…but without the clubbing!

 

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