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Trust The Doc: Edition 56
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Edition 56: 31st May 2021:  A blog by Neil March

Welcome to Edition 56 of Trust The Doc. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already done so, please visit and ‘like’ the Trust The Doc Facebook page and follow us on Twitter and Instagram. Some 90 reviews this month. By far my most ever!

Once again a big thank you to the Arts Council of England and National Lottery for supporting my activities and helping me to support so many people involved in independent music.

Last but definitely not least, to SUBMIT A TRACK OR VIDEO for radio play; to be on Upstream on Trust The Doc TV or to be reviewed in this blog, please send either:

Either way the correct email account is dptmusicdigital@gmail.com. Please DO NOT send Dropbox or similar links and folders that I have to go fishing in for the right track. A simple MP3 with an email is fine. (Art & Design: PaulFCook)

CONTENTS

Part One: The Month in Brief

Part Two: Reviews of New Music

Part Three: Other Commentaries

What is this Yacht Rock nonsense? (Page 32)

Oh dear, BBC !!! (Page 34)

And Finally …. (Page 36)

PART ONE: THE MONTH IN BRIEF

LIVE MUSIC RETURNS TO SOUTH EAST LONDON: WHAT A NIGHT !!!

It was my incredible privilege to lead the return of live music to South East London on 6th May with my outdoor evening Vanishing Point @ AMP Studios and what a night we had. The event had arrived on the back of a fair degree of hype, much of it from me! Despite this, it still exceeded expectations thanks to the collective efforts of the four amazing artists, our late replacement sound crew, the wonderful people at AMP Studios and a fantastic audience.

So a massive thank you to Dido Hallett, Maria Perez-Manrique and all the team at AMP Studios/Maverick Projects; to Igor (aka Vaat) and Robyn from the band Tantrumzentrum who stepped in when our normal sound engineer announced he was spending the week in Scotland; the audience who were so enthusiastic and respectful of the COVID roadmap requirements and the four amazing acts - Richard Sanderson, [Felix] Tigersonic, Hannya White and Helefonix. I have written a longer report on the Vanishing Point Facebook Page. Felix deserves an additional mention for bringing both her own gear and her technical expertise to the rescue when everyone was struggling to get their heads around a complex digital mixer.

Tickets are of course on sale for the next one in 3 days’ time involving Logan J Parker; Pixi Ink; Rosie Bergonzi and Fast Trains (Solo Acoustic Set). To buy tickets for £6 each, click here.

TRUST THE DOC MEDIA: UPDATE

The Trust The Doc Radio show grew even quicker in May, passing the 17.5K milestone on the podcast (about 25K including live listeners) and has become more interactive than ever with two polls (Track of the Week & Show Closer), a brain teaser (What’s The Word?) and the insanely fast-moving Twitter thread! It is also dominated by new music. 50% of content is by new and emerging artists and about 35% is new music by more established acts with a few classics linked to the regular features. It is also an absolute blast to present every week thanks both to the wonderful community that gathers for the show, the hundreds who make the effort to listen to the podcast and the amazing artists whose music I get to play.

The pre-recorded one-hour Trust The Doc Extra show (8PM, Wednesdays) also continues to grow, passing 7K on the podcast (about 8.5K including those listening at the time of broadcast). It is a show predominantly for playing brand new tracks by new and emerging artists before they have been played on the Saturday show. Most will not make it onto Trust The Doc Radio simply because there is not enough time or space for that to happen but at least I am able to give them a spin midweek instead.

As always here is how the two shows work.

Sat  5 - 7PM

Trust The Doc Radio

Live & interactive with shout outs, Track of the Week poll, regular features etc. 50% new & emerging acts, approx 35% current tracks by more established acts.

Wed 8 - 9PM

Trust The Doc Extra

Pre-recorded show mainly introducing new & emerging artists’ latest offerings.

The Trust The Doc TV channel continues to host the twice-monthly magazine-style music TV show Upstream and May saw another two top-notch editions of the show, accompanied by lively and supportive live chat rooms. And I can tell you that I am super excited by the line-up on Ed 26 tomorrow (Tuesday 1st June). The reason for the shows being so good is, however, not down to my curating or presenting skills but to the number of talented artists allowing me to share their videos. Check out editions 24 and 25 if you have not seen them yet. The diversity of material was stunning and there were cool interviews with Tobisonics (Ed. 24) and Post Coal Prom Queen (Ed. 25).

Also on the Trust The Doc TV channel is the weekly Thursday night edition of Sparkly Spookay’s Life & Music of … show in which she takes viewers on adventures in her unfolding career as a music artist, video maker and artist-designer. Look out also for Edition 26 of Upstream which has another mouth watering line-up of the hottest new music artists and an interview with the amazing Pixi Ink. It will go out with a live chat room at 8PM (BST) on Tuesday 1st June.

TOMORROW CALLING FESTIVAL: First Acts Unveiled

As previously reported, Tomorrow Calling will take place on Sunday 5th September at AMP Studios (897a Old Kent Road) with the two identical former railway arches housing the two stages while the beautiful courtyard area will enable local creative folk to set up stalls selling food, drink, merchandise etc. Doors will open at 1PM with the first live act on stage at 2PM and the last one finishing just before 10PM. 16 artists will perform across the day. Tickets prices will be partly dictated by what restrictions remain on numbers I can legally sell. It will be equally dictated by the desire to provide value for money. It should be a wonderful day of futuristic, spacey, sparse and experimental music and sound.

The following artists are all provisionally on the bill:

Hannya White: Cholly: Pimlican ft. Josie: Soricah: Richard Sanderson: Daughters of the Desert: Esbe: Tigersonic: Lines of Silence: Pixi Ink: Operation Lightfoot ft. PaulFCook & Dorothy Bird

GM NETWORK PARTNERS WITH THE F-LIST

We were delighted to be able to announce earlier this month that our Royal Society for the Arts Manufactures & Commerce (RSA) facilitated Grassroots Music Network has partnered with the inspirational The F-List For Music. The F-List was set up by the amazing former BASCA CEO Vick Bain to enable and sustain female musicians building careers in music. We are proud to endorse this fantastic organisation. Big thanks to Sue Oreszczyn and Vick Bain for making this happen.

TRUST THE DOC LIVE: @ THE AMERSHAM ARMS

A reminder that tickets are still selling for the return of Trust The Doc Live @ The Amersham Arms, New Cross (opposite New Cross Station) on Thursday 10th June and we have an incredible line-up of Wild Horse; Amey St Cyr; Staarks & Tantrumzentrum.

It should be a very special night.  Where else can you find a live bill consisting of two barnstorming teenage Alt Rock bands (one more traditionally Rock, the other at the poppier end of the spectrum) plus a Soulful House artist and an experimental Punk band?

Use the above link to buy tickets for just £6 each.

PART TWO: REVIEWS OF NEW MUSIC

Pop Noodles

I don’t bandy terms like outstanding about too liberally even when I have this many artists to review but this is not the first time I have been knocked for six by the talent of Rosie Frater-Taylor. On Just my type she mixes a chord and instrumental arrangement that has elements of Everything But The Girl in a jam with Burt Bacharach and Margaret Glaspy and puts it together with her effortlessly agile and jazz-edged vocals and melodic sensibility.

This is sophisticated, light-textured and full of ideas that go that extra mile to make the difference between good and great. It is no surprise then that she has drawn lavish praise from such luminaries as Jimmy Page and our [Fresh on the Net’s] own Tom Robinson [on his BBC Radio 6 Music Show]. She is also playing venues like The Jazz Cafe and Ronnie Scott’s to enthusiastic crowds. Rosie Frater-Taylor is on a mission and I have the sense that it will be a long and successful one.

Well I called Rosie’s track outstanding and said I don’t throw superlatives out too liberally but honestly, the new track by Cache Cache ft Alice Grace & Ken Masters from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is breathtaking. Pantomime is like some delicious hybrid of Brand New Heavies, De La Soul (albeit with a Geordie rapper) and Steely Dan (in terms of the exotic jazz-infused chord changes that are straight off The Royal Scam) with a bit of The Anchoress and London Grammar on the bench.

Distinct, agile and rangey vocals from Alice Grace deliver a whirling acrobatic melody and killer hook before adding goose-bumping ad libs as the song reaches its climatic final stretch. Ken Masters’ rap is pure Geordie (he even uses the term ‘pet’ at one point, lol!) and the musicianship of the band is polished, pristine and perfectly produced. There is a parallel universe somewhere in which, on the equivalent of Earth, Rosie Frater-Taylor and Cache Cache are international chart toppers. At least there should be!

Wow the standard of this month’s Pop Noodles section is proving to be exceptional as next we have a new single from March entitled A Change. The London-based singer-songwriter never makes boring or predictable tracks and she is at her inventive best here once again. March’s (Kitty O’Neal) songs are characterised by contrasts of mood, texture and often tempo too, packed with ideas and displaying a great dynamic awareness.

The gradual crescendo in the opening chords is a case in point as is the immediate change when the voice comes in over sparse backdrop that warms as picking guitar intertwines with resonant keyboard and an understated beat begins to impose itself. Kitty’s nimble vocals are soon fortified by overlapping harmonies and call and response. The hook, which adds a further contrast, is beautiful and only needs a single word to announce itself. A series of changes and unexpected shifts enable this to build to epic proportions. What can I say? It is simply stunning. 

Cardiff’s Foxxglove is an artist known to Fresh on the Net readers and her latest single Bad Timing is a dynamic pop ballad that could be [early] Kelly Clarkson mixing it up with I like Pom Poms while Lana Del Rey provides extra ingredients. It builds from soft synth and piano chords and yearning vocals through gradually added layers of instrumentation and a vocal performance that is goose bumping as she manages the increasing intensity. All the while her rich, emotionally-charged voice swoops and soars above the mix. The chorus is the rich topping on this delicious feast. I told you the standard was super high this month!

Continuing this wave of high quality pop, we have Northern Irish singer-songwriter Bea with a slow-burning slow anthem of a pop ballad called In Circles. Deep piano chords, rich legato synths, slightly syncopated beat and lush harmonies all accompany Bea’s instantly distinct and penetrating voice. Accordingly she delivers an emotionally powerful song but does so with the discipline and controlled dynamism that seems to emphasise its melodic strength and sense of foreboding. Bea is an exciting young artist with a sound and style that is refreshingly individual. Let’s hope this stunning track gets some support.

18 year old Syrian singer-songwriter Ammar Hassan is a nice surprise discovery with his single Truer Self, a collaboration with Vassamo. Based mainly around his appealing, expressive voice and guitar, adorned by lively string arrangement and crisp beat, this is pop with a dash of melancholy. The verses bring to mind Ed Sheeran and Lewis Capaldi mixing it with James Blake while the chorus has a Gary Barlow-esque descending chord sequence, especially the minor subdominant but also nods distantly to John Lennon. This is intelligent, thoughtful Pop that is made for daytime radio. I do hope he gets the opportunity of a wider platform to demonstrate his talent. Being this good at 18, his considerable potential is indisputable.

Wellington, New Zealand is the home of  whose song Origami is a slow-burning, intense slab of synth-soaked pop balladry that makes copious room in the mix for her (Zowie Jay) forceful and impressive alto voice to dominate. In terms of mood and build-up, it has shades of Halsey in a mash with Callum Scott while London Grammar throw in some key ingredients. Dark, daunting but epic in terms of how it builds, this is quality pop delivered by a talented singer.

The link will take you to the Soundcloud page for MBM Music Management but actually it’s the artist, rather unfortunately not even named on their page (though they thankfully did put her name on the Fresh on the Net submission form) Bailey Tomkinson whose single Bright Red Master is a three-time slice of Soul, Rock and Pop sharing the same space along with a rueful but sweet melody, some cool instrumental play and, most importantly, Bailey’s big soulful and striking voice. This combination is a winning one as far as I am concerned, resulting in a song that has clear retro references (from Dusty Springfield to Pixie Lott and from Olivia Newton-John to Zoe) but has mixed them up to create something essentially new and thoroughly engaging. Pop that pulls at the heartstrings.

Paige Kennedy’s song Crush may be essentially Pop but it has significant elements of Funk, Synth Pop and Cinematica and an arrangement that Prince would be pleased with, especially when it switches from minor into a sudden major ninth and slides down a semi-tone which is the absolute sweet spot in an exciting, energetic track. It showcases Paige’s versatility and vocal range while bringing to mind some kind of mash between St Vincent, NZCA Lines and Porij while Wendy and Lisa drop in to add seasoning. Sounds good to me.

Alt Rock & Indie

Brighton brotherly-led band Barbara are blazing a trail in 2021. As we just about get over the outstanding quality of tracks like BRB and Don’t send me messages, they hit us with These New Communications. It is trademark Barbara with great melodies that seem to flow effortlessly from their creative imaginations while they surround them with sophisticated chord and key changes, close harmonies and unexpected shifts that dip unashamedly into a melting pot of music that was around long before they were born - Wings, Pilot, 10CC, Alessi Bros etc. - and put that together with a more modern sound and style. Perhaps more recent purveyors of such smart timeless pop like Ben Folds and Scissor Sisters might merit a mention too.

While there does seem to be some momentum behind a kind of retro Pop that is heard in the music of artists from BC Camplight to White Denim to Laura Mvula (all occupying different stylistic takes on their use of the past to stoke up the present), there is no-one out there that really sounds like Barbara. If there is any justice, they are going to go on to achieve amazing things. Time is on their side. So too is their indisputable talent.

Manchester’s Lucigenic featured in the last edition of this blog and they have a new single and video for the song Hope which also featured on my online music TV show Upstream this month. The band, fronted by Lucy Wyatt-Davies, are something of a Post-Punk supergroup with Mike Bennett (The Fall & others) producing, Simon Wolstencroft, long-time drummer with The Fall and a musician with an impressive CV, Mike Refoy (Spiritualized & Spacemen 3) on guitar and, on 2 tracks on the forthcoming EP, former Adam & the Ants and Bow Wow Wow drums legend Dave Barbarossa. Lucy has also mentioned the possibility of London dates in the offing so I hope I may get to see them live too.

A slower start this time as Lucy delivers an instantly appealing melody in her strong but soothing voice. The band behind her picks up the baton and the song moves from half time into a rockier tempo. Shades of Garbage and Pixies in a jam with Drab City. It is melodic, building in layers and maximising the band’s dynamic range. A spy movie-ish guitar figure comes in towards the end to round off another excellent track.

They may hail from the South East English coastal town of Hastings in East Sussex but Al Mitchell & The New Born Sinners have a sound that takes inspiration from recent American Alt Rockers like Grandaddy, The Eels, Beck and others. That is certainly evident on Payment to the Shaman. A chunky guitar riff (that could be reaching back even further to Steve Miller and Grand Funk Railroad) punctuates a mid-tempo pop-rocker that opens with almost doo-wop harmonies (albeit treated with very modern filters) before Al’s gritty baritone-range voice takes over. The verses are chugging and understated leading into a busier chorus with a cool hook. It is at once refreshing in its individuality and nagging in its echoes of the past. A real stand-out track. Fresh on the Net readers agreed, voting it emphatically into our fresh faves.

D-Gee Mono ft. Lisa Mottram are an intriguing act. Lisa is featured on all the tracks on their Soundcloud page to I am assuming, for now at least, that this is a permanent collaboration. On the track So Cold, we have a slow triplet time backing track that reminds me oddly of James & Donna’s song in Twin Peaks. Lisa’s voice is high-pitched and strangely alluring much of the time but then she drops down into Alto range and shows a completely different quality. If all the vocals are her, she is one versatile singer. It is trippy, dreamy, part throwback to Rock and Roll High School days and partly a thoroughly contemporary post-Psych Pop ballad. It is certainly original and powerfully performed. A very pleasant surprise in this month’s intake.

Newcastle Upon Tyne is the home of Churchy who performs as Yes Chef. His new track Name Again has definite shades of Suede in a mash with Ride while White Denim keep watch. Fast, spiky with trebly guitar figure playing an appealing switch between minor and major third and harmonised upper register vocals. A tune to blow some fresh air into the room while passing on some much needed energy.

I nearly reviewed London duo Naz & Ella’s stunning track Exotica in the Folk & Country Fare Section because it is such a perfect alloy of Alt Rock and Indie-Folk. The strumming steely sounding acoustic guitar and their intertwining harmonies are almost in Staves/First Aid Kit territory while there is, at the same time, an underlying 90s Grunge sensibility that brings to mind The Breeders in a mash with Throwing Muses. Whatever the precise ingredients that meld together to create their sound, the results are refreshing and stood out even within a Fresh on the Net in-box packed with talent, making me immediately want to know more about Naz & Ella. An infectious chorus and clever lyric adorn a track in which strength and fragility both appear to show themselves at times. It is ultimately those harmonies and shimmering guitar chords which keep occupying the spotlight on this excellent track.

Since writing this review I have also now received the track Flux which is more in Folky singer-songwriter territory but again has a fine melody, enhanced by their harmonies and some sweet guitar picking. I am really pleased to have subsequently booked Naz & Ella to play Vanishing Point @ AMP Studios on 2nd September. I can’t wait to see [and hear] them play live.

The ever prolific Sussex youngsters Wild Horse continue their fine form with new single Heartache St. It kicks off with a piano intro before the guitar, bass and drums combine to drive things forward and, as usual, powerful and distinct tenor range vocals occupy centre stage. Strong melodically with infectious backing vocal hook and an irresistible momentum, this is modern Rock at its best. It even saves one last surprise for almost last with a scorching sax solo taking us into the chorus finale. Energetic, executed with precision and passion in equal measure. I can’t wait to see them play live for Trust The Doc Live at the Amersham Arms in New Cross on 10th June.

Also on the bill for Trust The Doc Live @ The Amersham Arms in New Cross, South East London on 10th June are a band, as chance would have it, from the town of Amersham! That’s the one in Bucks [or the top left corner of the tube map] for those who are not sure! Teenage Alt Rockers Staarks are enjoying exam season just coming to an end and coinciding with their inclusion on the Indie compilation Brits and Pieces II. They are yet to release a single in 2021 but they have produced a lockdown [Zoom] video for the song All of your love and I was able to include it in a recent edition of Upstream where it brought the house down in the live chat room when the show first went out. You can check out their previous single Another Lover on their Soundcloud page.

Since originally writing this review they have also sent me a new track called Giving Up which is a confident and well-executed slice of Alt Pop with another great melody and all the same features that mark out their sound.

Fronted by singer and sometimes rhythm guitarist Anna Zakis whose expressive voice is distinct and instantly appealing, Staarks play driving melodic Alt Rock that brings to mind Dream Wife in a mash up with Public Practice while The Primitives add flavour. Guitarist Harry Whiting has a style that interchanges between agreeably fuzzy chordplay and smart three and four note figures (such as the sequence of 3-note quavers that lead into the chorus of All of your love). Peter McAuley anchors the music with his energetic, rock-solid and melodic bass playing and drummer Rocco Barbuti is a sizzling hotplate of energy with more fills and flourishes than Blondie’s Clem Burke in a drum-off with The Damned’s Rat Scabies. It’s a combination and chemistry that really works and I hope that the interruption of University will not prevent the band continuing to meet, rehearse and take their joyous sound out into the live arena. In the meantime, catch them live on 10th June at a truly iconic venue in South East London.

So what do you get if ‘... a Brit, an Italian and an Indian walk into an art class … and form a band’? Well apparently you get Birmingham’s Lyon Tide; a band savvy enough to choose a name that isn’t already on google as 250 other hits but is easy to remember. They also have a breezy, melodic Alt Pop style that brings to mind Willie J Healey in a mash with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever while Teenage Fanclub provide guidance. Shimmering guitar-driven Pop with appealing male vocals and memorable hooks as on Believe me, I’m a liar. New single Someone builds from a quiet piano intro as the full band begins to add layers and the vocal delivers an epic, anthemic slow burner of a track. You won’t find either of these tracks on their Soundcloud page though you will find the more introspective Gold. They are certainly a band bringing fresh air and fresh ideas to a timeless genre.

It is hard to be individual in today’s overcrowded, oversubscribed Indie or Alt Pop market but young Leeds quartet Green Gardens, on the evidence of Home in the books, appear to have carved out a niche for themselves based around interesting chords and rich, appealing vocal harmonies. Their sound is essentially driving Alt Rock with powerhouse drums, deep solid basslines and guitars intertwining to create cool inversions and extensions while those voices carry appealing melodies. It is Pop as much as Rock though and that ability to scoop up influences from across the decades is part of what makes their music so distinct. Another fine band from a leading contender for the English North’s capital of new music.

London-based artist Roxanne De Bastion has a track called Molecules which mixes a driving Alt Rock foundation with a vocal style that verges on conversational at times and suggests a wryly laconic humour. Shades of Deap Vally mixing it with Charlotte Gainsbourg while Samantha Crain adds flavour. Energetic, tongue-in-cheek but in a cutting kind of a way and blessed with a memorable hook too.

Hertfordshire act Stratton 5 describe themselves as an up and coming Indie Rock band but, on the evidence of new track Alibis, they sit more in epic cinematic pop territory. A distinct, appealing female voice is accompanied by big synths, guitars that veer from rock lead and power chords to funky triad-play and a solid rhythm section that drives the whole thing along. This is all about the gigantic gesture and the agreeably loud production values that perfectly fit their ambitious pop sensibilities. A nod here and there to the past but the sound is very contemporary. If Dua Lipa, Billie Marten and Everything Everything got together with Chvrches, hmmm. Well hopefully you get the picture. Spirits-lifting pop with attitude.

Tayne are a new name to me and there is little information on their Soundcloud page beyond them being from London and playing Noise/Art/Pop. On the track Silence we have, in fact, the polar opposite of silence! It kicks off as full on electro-art-rock with banks of synths, slowly pounding drums replaced by four-to-the-floor beat midway through, enigmatic male voices swathed in echo and some lovely harmonies. There is a rock undercurrent that could almost be Slipknot in a jam with Pop Will Eat Itself but the overall sense is synth-driven electro-rock with a psychedelic edge. Certainly they have combined some unusual bedfellows as influences and duly created a striking art pop canvas upon which to paint their ambitious ideas. Good to hear.

South London two-piece Broken Bear keep popping up on my radar courtesy of their consistency as a band delivering inventive, slightly intense Alt Pop that brings to mind Garbage in a jam with Death Valley Girls while Kristin Hersch provides ingredients. The track Voices in a hurricane is in three time with a subtly swinging [or should that be ‘rocking’] feel. The alto range female vocal is strong, dynamic and hits certain emotional pinch points in a lovely but unsettling way while the guitars mix acoustic chord play with electric exploration. The track builds nicely and balances a pop sensibility with a dark sense of foreboding. It is no accident that Broken Bear keep on hitting the spot with the quality of their work.

Zoe Durrant is Little Majorette and this is the second time I have blogged about her. The new single is Les Chasseurs Et Les Cueilleurs (hunters And Gatherers) and it is a glorious mix of warm buzzy synths, resonant guitars, big beats and Zoe’s excellent voice delivering an inventive and original melody that dances between the instrumental parts with effortless agility. Imagine Chvrches in a song-off with Hot Chip and Everything Everything while Dream Wife and Blondie pop in for good measure. Melodic, sizzling with energy and surrounded by relentlessly smily synth lines. The middle section where it changes mood is the absolute icing on the cake. And it’s a cake I want to eat with seconds, thirds and fourths.

Wow is the word for Bath’s Art Rock duo Four Legged Fruit and their single Sister Years. The duo, consisting of Elise Elston and Rosa De Korte, have a sound that blends a quite [contemporary] classical piano style with some bluesy jazz chords and riffs, sumptuous harmonies, epic songwriting and arranging and a sinister air of darkness that hangs over the whole song. Described on their Soundcloud page as having an ‘... eccentric noir sound’, it kicks off with spy movie piano chords (Dorian in fact) and unusual drum part with the pair singing in unison. A story develops about a mystery female and soon the chords become more interesting, the mood changes and the piano plays a two-part semi-classical texture with mild dissonances commensurate with the macabre subject of the song.

Fuzzy guitar now joins and the vocals open out more as the story continues to take on a more morbid tone. Again the jazzier syncopation gives way to lighter piano but this time, the dynamics intensify with cool vocal harmonies that tease, taunt and switch between sugary sweet and disarmingly dark. An upper strings Bass Guitar melody plays off against piano chord quavers. More dissonances creep into the piano part and the mood shifts again. Still the dynamics are taken up a notch with power chords, heavier drums and haunting vocal harmonies. The final stretch gives way to solo piano with a distinctly modal foundation; the calm after the storm but, at the same time, a fittingly eerie end to a deliciously disturbing song. Outstanding.

Dubliners Three Underneath have doubly or perhaps even trebly hit the spot with Tell me it’s okay. To clarify, it kicks off with an agreeably heavy sense of driving Alt Rock energy and jangle, then modulates into an absolutely irresistible chorus before adding intervening passages of subtle, intimate instrumental invention and brief reductions in volume and texture that elevate a really good song into a great one. Shades of early Kaiser Chiefs in a mash with Snow Patrol while Bloomers bring the trimmings.

The depth and power of the bass and drums that underpin the main theme are visceral and exhilarating while the guitar parts are unfussy but spine tinglingly rhapsodic. The [baritone range] vocals are passionate, distinct and perfect for the continuous melodic strength of the track. A win win win then. And moreover a track that, despite a tablespoon or two of melancholy and yearning, manages overall to wear a smile as well as its heart on its sleeve.

Friends and followers of Billy Brown, Phil Hendriks, David Philps and Neil Frost will be well aware of their views about streaming and now the quartet have combined to record a song about the subject under the name UK Collective. Daylight Robbery is a rallying cry for the ongoing campaign for fairer remuneration of artists by streaming platforms set to a swinging Glam Rock meets New Wave backdrop that could be a mash-up of Dr & The Medics and The Glitter Band with screenplay by The Headboys. The verses set the scene with shared vocals and lyrics that sound out their simple message while the chorus is catchy and built on long notes and harmonies. It has the right kind of anthemic feel and makes its point with humour and a collective smile on its face. Nice loud energetic playing and production too.

There is also a new solo single by Happy SomethingsHappy As You Like. Rocket Science has a sparse acoustic backdrop and a melody and chord structure that actually recalls Madness’s In the middle of the night but not in the same swinging feel. Instead the vibe is that of a late summer evening, dusky and warm with echoes of Paul McCartney perhaps despite the [possibly unintentional] Mike Barson influence. Happy’s voice suits this laid back vibe and the melody develops nicely into a quietly wholesome and satisfying late evening feast.

Urban Flavas

London artist Omar Walton-Jeffers records under the moniker of The Artful Cloud and, if the thoughtful Hip Hop of Gotta keep looking up is anything to go by, it is an appropriate name. A Disco-Soul style backing track provides the backdrop for intelligent, reflective and ultimately optimistic lyrics which Omar delivers with a rhythmic flow and rapidity that has echoes of Loyle Carner in a mash with Common. Unmistakably London but with a nod to a New York tradition too. The Artful Cloud could be about to precipitate a quiet storm. An instinctive and appealing talent.

Bournemouth’s Nave is a songwriter and producer whose output seems to be pretty diverse. On The Wolf he is in Trip Hop territory with programmed beat, piano chords and little melodies accompanying a Tricky-style deep-voice rap. Definite nod to Massive Attack here but the production is very contemporary and the translucent production and haunting mix of synth chords and looped wordless voice add to the ambience of it. All in all, an impressive piece of work.

Another artist whose music is hard to pigeon-hole is Londoner Evie Asio (aka Evie Asio-Okwalinga). Her Soundcloud page describes the song Available as R’n’B & Soul but it is just as much a brooding cinematic slice of future pop with its grand sweeping synth chords, switches between full-on arrangement and sparse syncopated note patterns accompanying rich, resonant vocal harmonies.

There are so many ideas and changes in the one song. And as it progresses we get a series of unexpected chord changes that could have been scored by Stevie Wonder in collaboration with Angie Stone with synth strings arranged by Angelo Badelamenti. Evie’s vocals are soft and soothing one moment, dynamic and disarming the next. We even get a dreamy Rhodes solo late on in the track that has shades of Joe Sample in a jam with Joe Zawinul. An absolutely fascinating song that oozes soul, quality and originality.

Middlesbrough’s Jister raps in a refreshingly unaffected Teesside accent over atmospheric ambient sounds, synths and drum programme and his track Normal Island manages both to pull no punches but still provide a rational, articulate comment on the way the UK has lapsed into a scattergun nationalism and untempered anger manifested through insane social media posts and dissemination of unhealthy and unhelpful ideas. He has a great rhythmic flow too that enables him to get a lot of words out without getting bogged down in overstatement. A refreshing and welcome piece of unashamedly North Eastern Grime.

Cariss Auburn returns with a richly arranged slice of R’n’B-Pop entitled Call me up. It sits in mid-tempo range with a crunching echoing beat, lovely overlapping backing vocals and swirling synth strings. A repeating semi-quaver pattern on the synth keeps resurfacing while Cariss shows us every side of her versatile and nimble vocals, soft one moment, forceful the next, rangey both in terms of tones and dynamics. The production is carefully handled to ensure nothing interferes as she takes centre stage and dominates the track. Quite right too.

It is always good news when there is new material from the self-styled ‘Black Yorkshireman’ and, in my opinion, undisputed King of Northern Grime and Hip Hop, Chiedu Oraka. If you are familiar with Chiedu’s catalogue you will know that Ave Life refers to 21st Avenue, the street he grew up on in the North Hull Estate. One of Chiedu’s strengths is that he has always rapped about where he comes from and has done so in an unabashed Hull accent and dialogue, instantly marking him out from the pack. That, coupled with his innate talent both in terms of his powerful and rhythmically diverse delivery and the astutness of his lyrics, has made him an exciting talent for a long time now and one it is time the urban mainstream took notice of. He is chipping away though, getting airplay and reviews on a more frequent basis.

This is another superb track with a clean radio edit ready for the likes of BBC 1Xtra and 6 Music to use if they wake up to his uniqueness. Like all his tracks it has a sparse and haunting backdrop and a sense of it being late at night as he delivers another sermon, in the non-religious sense, with trademark toughness but spoken from the heart. Top-notch as ever.

It has been a while since we had new material from Reuben aka Ruinz Ason, equally talented brother of fellow FOTN moderator Jay Flames. Last time I heard from him he was in Germany and doing very well by all accounts. Well wherever he is based right now, new track Ang3ls finds him in Grime territory, a rapid-fire rap over a sparse backdrop of wailing semi-operatic soprano voice and crisp beat. It is a welcome reminder of his ability both to create rhythmically free flowing rhymes and intelligent lyrical content set against imaginative backdrops and spacious production. Another leading UK urban talent and one who remains unpredictable and fresh.

And then we have a complete contrast courtesy of Bronx Slang, a New York act that sounds like it may be two rappers and possibly others involved in the production and sampling. The vibe is Old Skool with a mid-tempo funky groove and poppy hook while the lyrics are observational and clever and the style is more 90s Gangsta rap than anything more recent but there is enough individualism there for it to sound refreshingly youthful and upbeat. And very New York too.

Staying on the Old Skool tip, we have Chima Anya with Kings which places his thoughtful lyrics and free flowing rap style over a slow mid-tempo beat with whirling strings and funk-infused chord pattern. There is a definite hook that repeats on which his vocals are multi-tracked and, in between, it could almost be Dizzee Rascal in a mash with Will Smith in Fresh Prince days while Dr Dre adds the finishing touches. Engaging and enjoyable Hip Hop in a more traditional style.

Soulful Sensibilities

I have written previously about Sugarcane and, having had the privilege of including the video for their song Blondes have more fun in the last edition of Upstream, I had to review it here. Robin French, an accomplished guitarist and bassist from Birmingham who has worked with some impressive people formed the band with two Brazilians living in London Klaus Stahr (Double Bass) and Xande Olivera (Drums), both of whom have also worked with some impressive names and steel pan player, percussionist and dancer Claire Niestyo-Bame. All contribute to their vocal harmonies which are a key element of their sound. The combination of voices in the chorus of Blondes have more fun is genuinely goose-bumping as are Claire’s octave unison double-ups with Robin.

That ‘sound’ is a joyous hybrid of Samba, Bossa, Soul and Caribbean flavours all informing Robin’s fine songwriting skills. He is also a wonderful singer as Blondes have more fun demonstrates. Sometimes the band is augmented by BAFTA-winning actor Antonia Thomas but not on this track. The song tells two stories involving alleged events where certain well-known stars got together in specific scenarios. Robin has explained the lyrics to me but I think thesy are fairly self-explanatory so I won’t name them all here. The use of the two iconic hooks from Rod Stewart’s Do ya think I’m sexy gives a clue as to at least one of them as is the song title (if you know your Rod album titles that is!). And it is nice to hear Howling Wolf referenced in a modern track too. Moreover, the song is catchy,  upbeat, uplifting, sassy and puts us in instant party mode.

This is one of those times where each section of the song is genius and so instead of one killa hook in the chorus, we have three - verse, bridge, chorus and then a clever reworking of the chorus and bridge together in a fitting finale that ends on a single chord. It is so beautifully done and the band look like they are having an absolute ball in the video, much of which is shot on a boat going down the Thames. Did I mention that I have not stopped singing it in my kitchen for days on end?!

London-based artist Byron Gold has a voice like beautifully refined brown sugar, sweet but full of flavour and he adds rap to the party on Daydreaming. The song has a retro feel that recalls artists as diverse as Al Green, Lynden David Hall and Donnell Jones with a touch of Angie Stone thrown in for good measure. Built around a funky beat and upper strings guitar in a style not dissimilar to Lenny Kravitz on It ain’t over …, the song is uplifting and tuneful from the word go, an excellent template on which to place Byron’s light-textured, acrobatic vocals. Music like this is timeless and Byron Gold brings a fresh perspective to what is a delightful slice of Soul music.

The new single by Carrie Baxter is another collaboration, this time with the silky soulful voiced Jack Tyson Charles and is so close to Disco that it almost made it into my Club Culture section. Their voices combine really well, hers edgy and powerful, his acrobatic and sugary including a spine-tingling falsetto. The song is catchy and upbeat with a hook that will grab you first time and an arrangement that sits nicely between radio friendly and floor filla. Very nice indeed.

Also in slightly funky but traditional Soul territory is Gizelle Smith. The London-based singer is pulling no punches on Better remember (they’re controlling you). An intriguing track, it has a throwback element that recalls the likes of Aretha Franklin and Jean Knight with a touch of Mary Mary thrown in. But she cleverly mixes that vibe with wobbly synth patterns and lyrics that have a distinctly contemporary bite. This is all delivered in a voice that is dexterous, powerful and rich in quality. Impressive, individual and electric. Truly modern Soul.

The Natural Curve is a producer so I am not sure who the female vocalist is on the song Don’t you cloud my sky but it is such a classic sounding and well-written Neo Soul-infused track that I had to double check that it wasn’t a cover (and I mean that as a compliment). Subtly funky, rich in part-acoustic instrumentation and spaciously produced, it allows the mystery singer plenty of room to deliver an agile but powerful performance, helped by a great melody and arrangement. Uplifting and impressive.

Club Culture

London-based artist Zizzo World returns with another seriously catchy chunk of EDM goodness entitled Vertigo (ft. Nick Sadler). I assume Nick is the vocalist whose slightly accented voice lends this an additional aura of class. It is essentially a really good House track whose big washes of loud octave synths and syncopated single note riffs lean towards the Euro end of Trance too. Very radio-friendly but tailor made for the summer clubs scene, this is a dream for DJs as they check which Mediterranean destinations are on the red or green lists in July and August.

I am reviewing the new track by Norwich’s Hipology Sounds in this section as their Soundcloud page describes Last Orders it as House. I suppose it is in the sense that it has a slightly funk-edged House beat running throughout most of the track. However, like all the tracks I have heard by Hipology Sounds, it is also a jazz-infused exploration with sax and keyboards duelling at times over repeating chords and clever changes of texture and mood. Trippy, almost psychedelic in parts, it is not exactly a typical club or dancefloor anthem but it will nevertheless sound amazing over the big speakers in the right venue. Great stuff.

Hatty Keane has a massive voice that is gritty one moment, smooth the next with echoes of everyone from Whitney Houston to Chaka Khan, Ashanti to Beverly Knight. On Sing it she combines that full-on joyous sound and delivery with a four-to-the-floor Disco’d up slice of Soulful House that should be filling floors across whichever islands are open for nightclubbing business this summer. Hatty is part of the BGM roster and will hopefully get some clout behind this ready-made dance smash.

Zurich label Sirup Music claims to be Switzerland’s premier dance music label and they certainly release some great material. The latest is MilkBoi Jnr. ft. Rebecca Helena with the track One Night. Melodic, powerfully produced and performed and driven along by bendy deep synth lines, tough beat and Trance-influenced keyboard waves, Rebecca Helen’s appealing voice is the icing on this most enjoyable cake. A floor filla with the potential to be a radio hit too.

Mort Cohen strikes again in his recording moniker as The Vic C Project. Dark Carnation is essentially a hypnotic piece of pulsating Electronica. But it is also very much a dance track and it is easy to imagine a packed floor at an Ibithan super club going nuts to this as the relentless groove and note pattern sucks them in and keeps them engaged. Perhaps this year, however, it might need to find its way into the equivalent club capitals of Portugal, Italy and Greece (depending whose info you believe!). Either way, it further underlines Mort’s versatility as an artist.

DMP Tunes probably holds the record for the number of reviews in this blog for one artist! But he does keep delivering big epic floor fillas like The Joker. Huge loud production, tidal waves of Trance-oriented synths, pulsating machine gun beats and a soulful female vocal to boot, this has everything including the kitchen sink thrown in, even switching between 4/4 and 6/8 time without losing its thread. It jumps out of the speakers at me and suddenly my office resembles a massive Mediterranean club! You just can’t hide from dance music as good as this.

There is no real information on Soundcloud or even on the Simulated Paradide label website about who Promis3 are [other than a picture of two people] or where they are from which is a shame and a frustration because the track Future Funeral VIP is a high tempo pulsating piece of Euro Trance with lovely big waves of staccato synths and frantic House beat with quiet spoken word in the background that will sound awesome over the big speakers in clubs where that proves possible this summer.

Singer-Songwriters

London-based artist Laky has grabbed my ears and attention with the song Saving me. A 3-time Pop ballad with undercurrents of Celtic Folk and some clever production and arrangement ideas, it is lovingly crafted and constructed. But the real icing on the cake with this smouldering, scorching track is Laky’s voice which is so distinct, yearning and full of character. That voice draws me in and I am hooked like a helpless fish on a line. It happens to be a lovely song too. Discovering artists I wasn’t previously fully aware of is one of the reasons I love what I do. I did wonder whether Laky might be an artist I could book to play Vanishing Point but, looking at her social media and agency site, I think she is already too big for that. But hey, that is good. That is how it should be for a talented young artist like her.

Teesside-based Jay Moussa-Mann has been on my radar for a while. The Stockton-born singer-songwriter is versatile and genre-defying, helped perhaps by having lived in such a dazzling array of different countries. Her new single Tell me is a sparsely arranged (mainly acoustic guitar, piano and synth strings) ballad that gives Jay’s nimble, expressive voice plenty of space to build the melody and dynamics of this sad but lovely song. Shades of Ariana Grande in a mash with Dawes while a softer-toned Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Swift add colour. It’s a song that grabs my attention and holds it throughout as Jay controls the intensity and demonstrates her skillful songwriting and appealing voice.

I am really pleased to see that [London-based] Alice aka With Sun has released the excellent Night And Day as a single. I featured a video of Alice performing the song live in lockdown in a recent edition of Upstream and the response from viewers spoke for itself. A thoughtful track that comments on the COVID pandemic and the relationships between opposites, it demonstrates both her skill as a guitarist with picking figures and gorgeous chords and the quality of her voice which is so clear and expressive. Shades of Tracey Thorn in a jam with Laura Marling while Joni Mitchell keeps score. In other words, classy and goose-bumping.

A new name to me is Edward Randell. His Soundcloud page lists his music as Folk but I would place Wild Garlic in broad singer-songwriter territory, fusing a clever and interchanging alloy of Soul, Blues, Folk, Rock and Pop influences that, at varying times, bring to mind Paul Weller, Traffic, Cream and John Martyn but probably a lot more besides. At times the chords are jazz-infused and the mood and tempo both change, creating clever contrasts and allowing Edward to demonstrate both his obviously accomplished musicianship and his gritty earthy vocal style. He also manages to make a melting pot of retro influences into a recipe for a refreshingly modern sound. Top marks then.

I nearly reviewed London-based Solis and her track Fake in the Pop Noodles section since it is, in essence, a really good modern Pop choon. But I also felt there was enough about the jazz-tinged chord structure, close and clever harmony and instantly engaging melody to place it more in Singer-Songwriter territory. All these qualities are enhanced by her voice which is yearning and full of individual character. With material as strong as this, Solis has a potentially bright future. In the meantime, Fake is a dream for radio programmers at 2 mins 46 secs of Pop perfection. Also check out 11:11, another dynamic Pop track that underlines her talent and versatility.

It is always a good thing when Cornwall-based American singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid puts out a new track and Rabbit Hills is another from her St Buryan Sessions recorded in a church with all its acoustic properties providing the perfect backdrop for Sarah’s hauntingly beautiful and instantly recognisable alto voice. In this case, it is piano that provides a gorgeous accompaniment to her melancholy tune and reflective lyrics. Shades of Joni Mitchell in a jam with Karen Carpenter and Lana Del Rey. Her voice is crystal clear and holds the centre stage with effortless power and grace. The melody is sad but sweet and there is even a distant echo of Natalie Merchant about the way Sarah’s voice seems to hang on the descending piano figure and stay in the air even after the song has left the room. Absolute class.

Synthematic

Birmingham and Norwich based ‘nostalgic bedroom pop project’ Liv's Bandana describe their track Sisyphean Dreams as ‘indie’ on their Soundcloud page but I would place it more firmly in the region of Cinematic Synth-Soaked Epic Pop. Dreamy, ethereal and slightly melancholy, it is punctuated throughout by snappy and soulful synth chords playing a syncopated figure offset by the reverberant, understated male vocals. There is an unmistakable element of homage to dreamy summer 80s Pop but the uncluttered, resonant and crisp production is thoroughly modern and it is that clash of influences (Chvrches and Roisin Murphy in a jam with The Flaming Lips and Low perhaps while New Order and Scritti Politti referee) that enables them to have their own distinctive and appealing sound. Sisyphean Dreams will grab your ears, albeit gently, and entice you into its astral netherworld whereby you will not want to leave.

Derry’s ever-consistent Kid Apollo returns with an upbeat, harmony-soaked slice of epic Synth Pop in the form of By a thread (hangin’ on). Tunes galore both in the agreeably yearning vocals and in the synth parts. Shades of eighties artists like Talk Talk and even a hint of Blancmange maybe but it also has a refeshing modernity that nods to Django Django and Tame Impala among others.

Born in France but resident in London Geiste had been building quite a reputation prior to lockdown and, it seems, has been using the time since to hone her creativity as witnessed on the brooding, slow-to-mid tempo Synth Pop of Twig. Deep synths, steady but unobtrusive beats and waves of sustained sound provide the foundation. On this sits Geiste’s vocals, dynamic, sometimes multi-tracked leading to some clever use of open fourths and fifths lower in the mix, other times octaves apart and always brilliantly produced to maximise the effectiveness of her vocal timbres. This is pop that is both instantly engaging and excitinglyu futuristic. There are no links on her Soundcloud page but go to her website where you will find some bio and all the links to socials. An exciting artist who I hope to see live in the months ahead.

MPXX is described on Soundcloud simply as ‘vocaloid producer from Bristol’ which tells us very little, not even gender. The vocal on Clouds (feat. Charlotte Hatherley & Hatsune Miku) is female and the track is frantic synth pop with a plethora of sharp-edged synth lines interweaving melodically and harmonically over an uptempo programmed beat and electronic bassline. I am not sure who is doing what on the track but, once used to the slightly stressed nature of the sound war apparently taking place, it is all rather appealing and energetic. Definitely a track that deserves praise for originality and inventiveness as well as an innate melodic sensibility.

Manchester’s Lower Loveday are back with another epic piece of uplifting, pristine pop full of big melodies in the form of Seeing you around. We get big synth figures and a driving energy that carries it along with joyous momentum. The vocals are bright, soaring above the agreeably loud mix, fortified by harmonies and hooks aplenty. Another belter.

London-based Irish artist Pixi Ink (aka Carla Jane Duffy) has spent part of the lockdown period making interesting covers of older tracks, one of which made it onto my Upstream programme but now she returns to original works with Ripple. The song is a comment on sexism and mysoginy but one that also reminds us that women can hit back at discrimination without having to be labelled nasty. Music-wise it is dreamy synth-based pop with a distinct R’n’B undercurrent. Carla’s voice is, as ever, soft and soothing but in no way lacking in power or authority. The melody is striking and the track builds through translucent layers of sound, kicking off with spoken word samples (which continue, referencing the ‘Me Too’ campaign) before the reverberant vocals sit atop sparse synth and unimposing beat. The long legato backing vocals add an additional note of quality to a really lovely track.

Pixi Ink holds the record for the artist I have put on at the most gigs over the past three years. Come and see her playing live for Vanishing Point @ AMP Studios on Thursday (3rd June) if you can be in the South East London area.

Londoners Zkeletonz are on characteristically energetic form with Not your fault. They like their music to be known as Post-Pop which is not a bad description. Synth-soaked and a little cinematic too, Not your fault speeds along atop a buoyant backdrop, carried forward by strong male vocals. There are plenty of nuanced moments that break up the flow just long enough to keep us guessing and emphasise the increases in intensity. All helped by the quality of their songwriting.

Surrey-based duo League of Lights make tuneful, energetic Synth-Pop with big melodies and epic choruses as demonstrated on Ghosts. Musician/producer Richard West (of Threshold) provides the backing track with layers of synth and driving programmed beat. Farrah West provides the vocals in a distinct and rangey voice that lifts dynamically into the belter of a chorus, reinforced by harmonies. Catchy and uplifting Art Pop with plenty more where it came from too. Since I first wrote this review they have hit us with another track called Twenty Twenty One which starts off slow and reverberant before picking up the pace and dynamics. It has an epic quality, helped by cool contrasts of mood and style, all held together by lovely spacious synth-dominated backdrop and Farrah’s big, rangey vocals.

… and that was followed by the excellent With You, a mid-tempo slice of subtly Discofied Synth Pop with warm keyboards, attractive piano figures, a crunchy beat and another epic vocal performance from Farrah, reinforced by exquisite harmonies and call and response backing vocals. More than sufficient evidence that League of Lights are a band we need to take notice of.

The consistently excellent Lunar Bird keep on turning out such great tracks accompanied by classy videos. The Italian-Welsh duo received funding from Help Musicians UK for an album and video project that has enabled them to build on their already [both audibly and visually] strikingly recognisable style. New single Second Circle is in a slow three-time with synth arpeggio quickly becoming an accompaniment to echoing multi-tracked harmonies allowing Roberta to utilise the softer tones of her rich alto voice to set the scene. As the track builds and more sounds appear, the vocals go through contrasts of staccato and legato phrases with trademark layers of harmony and spacious reverberant production. Roberta and Francis have built an impressively distinct sound and look in an era where that is no mean feat. Once you lose yourself in their ethereal, expressive and enthralling universe you may never fully escape.

Young Decades stormed into the FOTN Listening Post with the track Sinner. It is a seriously epic slab of brightly produced, loudly mastered full-on synth and keyboard dominated Pop with big male vocal and driving band energy across all the instrumental players. It is so joyously uplifting and has a chorus that you will find yourself in danger of drowing in, such are the size of the waves of music coming at you relentlessly throughout. This is what Pop was invented for. Young Decades hail from the North West of England. I hope they will be getting out and about across the UK in the not-so-distant future.

May also saw Nature of Wires (aka Gary Watts) from Hereford, a seasoned remixer and solo project, team up with Machina X from Sheffield and Myanmar (Burma). Of course, regular readers and listeners to my radio show will know that Machina X are not just prominent members of our ever-expanding grassroots music community but were recipients of my New & Emerging Act of 2020 award on my end of year show. It is a great collaboration too. The song is more explicitly Synth Pop than Machina X’s usual brand of futuristic Electo-Alt-Pop. The staccato octave synth bass and crunching beat provides the foundation upon which Annie’s instantly recognisable voice soars with expressive intent in a lyric that comments on the exploitation and objectification of women in a cynical media and associated industry.

The melody is infectious and the hook of ‘You look at me from the outside not the in’ leading up to the line ‘3 - 2 - 1 ready or not/Cause we’re both as guilty as sin’ is inspired and has the makings of a hit single given the exposure it deserves. I hope at least that it might catch the ear of certain BBC 6 Music and BBC Introducing folk who could give it the opportunity of a wider audience. I cannot overstate just what a fine track this is.

Electronic & Ambient

London-based artist Ana Rita di Melo Alves performs as Anrimeal (a hybrid of her names in case you hadn’t worked that out!) and she has released an EP entitled Could Divine, Remembered from which the final track and the one that came into Fresh on the Net first is Elegy for an empty ocean (the Silver Field Mix). It brings together overlapping echo vocals, warm and swirling synths, patiently building ambience and distant electronic gunfire sounds. The result is a trippy but strangely tranquil soundscape and a mystical beauty that it is easy to lose myself in. The EP is a reworking of tracks from a 2020 album entitled Could Divine.

Hearing such a compelling track led me to explore the remainder of the EP which has spoken word, strummed guitar, fragile but assured vocals and some attractive picking figures on Hello and a half (ft. Butterfly Child). Encaustic Witches as an ambient track to help me sleep is all about gradually evolving ambience with spacy sounds, drone synth and a steady arc of sound. Again it is mystical and beautiful. The intriguingly titled I am not an old rehearsal starts off sounding like it is an out-take from an old rehearsal, people talking and then an idea developing around a guitar arpeggio and 3-time drum figure before it stops very suddenly just a little way in.

Anrimeal has truly captured my attention with this original, unpredictable and, at times, gloriously beautiful EP. A real stand-out work even in a strong month for new music.

The new single by London-based Project Concubine is another dark synth-driven piece of electro-pop. Fuck Daddy places Colombian-born German fashion muse and songwriter Jera Diarc’s semi-spoken singing style atop a mid-tempo groove with a beat that incorporates some striking sounds and a deep register, deliberately wobbly synth drone courtesy of Hanja Martes (who you may know under another name!), while the overall soundscape is translucent and resonant. Imagine Mark E Smith’s distinctly continental cousin in a mash with Faithless and Bright Eyes while Skinny Puppy provide the backdrop in a jam with Front Line Assemnbly. Project Concubine are on a mission to subvert protocols and conventions; while proving this is possible to achieve without losing an innate pop sensibility that lurks beneath the darker surface.

Ragland is, according to the band’s Soundcloud blurb, ‘... an island of compositions and collaborations’. We are not privy to who is collaborating on The Flood but it is otherworldly sounding spoken word set against repeating electro-synth pattern and enigmatic sounds. Like most of the tracks on their page, it is defined as Soundtrack music and it certainly sounds like it would fit the backdrop of a movie or documentary. An intriguing act and good to hear [electronic] library music that is fresh and individual.

The ever-consistent Dave Dark & The Sharks return with another slightly trippy and uptempo slice of electronica entitled Tarantallus in which bendy sounds descend in the distance while fluid synth chords and arpeggio patterns play over a syncopated beat and unusual rhythmic configuration. This is more experimental than some of Dave’s more straight ahead floor filla tracks but it is also inventive, engaging and ethereal. And you never know what to expect from Dave which is one of his many strengths.

Former [and maybe future] Fresh on the Net moderator Debs McCoy has been quiet in recent times dealing with health matters. So I was really pleased to see that the North East-based artist has teamed up with Leeds-based producer How To Use This Manual (aka Stephen Ward) who has remixed her track For David No. 1. A slow-burning instrumental piece, written by Debs for a friend who suffered from Motor Neurone Disease. Stephen tells me that he met Debs at Art College 25 years ago and reconnected after coming across her music which she kindly allowed him to work on.

For David No. 1 builds from soft keyboard chords through a repeating electro-synth bassline and deep, quiet spoken word put through some kind of sound filter (vocorder-like). The overall feel with the chords appearing and disappearing in the upper register and sustained synth tones responding to them, is cinematic or filmic to be more precise. Incidentally there is an accompanying video. Atmospheric and full of detail. Well done to Stephen Ward for such loving work on the track. I hope it proves to be a precursor to the talented and most likeable Debs’s eventual return to action.

Bristol collective Ishmael Ensemble are a septet led by saxophonist Pete Cunningham. Latest track Morning Chorus is dreamy laid back electronica with some beautifully harmonised saxes gradually looming over the almost meditative voices and ambient synths turning the final section into something more jazz-infused and climatic, a complete contrast to the slowly unfolding serenity of the first two thirds of the track. A clever and carefully crafted piece that marries the otherworldly electronic and chanted material with the dynamism of the organic sax attack that carries it off into a more turbulent but ultimately triumphant finale.

The prolific Hertfordshire-based artist Helefonix has a new single out featuring spoken word vocals by BBC Radio 3 presenter Ian McMillan. It has the wonderful title of Teaching darkness how to fly. Ian McMillan’s thoughtful, evocative poetry is perfectly complemented by Helen’s deep register, slightly Baroque-influenced [or perhaps neo-classical] string arrangement and sweet minor key piano figure which evolve gradually in tandem. Meanwhile the sound of birds singing, initially adorned by distant church bells, recorded live by Helen, introduces the track and remains a central element throughout. The result is a serene and pastoral soundtrack to imaginative wordplay, long enough to allow ideas to flourish but short enough not to outstay its welcome. It ends as it began with the sound of the singing birds.

Originally from Croatia, now resident in Ireland (Dublin to be precise), Kristian K is an intriguing artist if the track Time is any indication. It is described on his Soundcloud page as Rap/Hip Hop but it is really neither. This is quirky electronic pop with dub-style echo vocals occasionally surfacing above the waves of synths, squeaks and beats that drive this unusual and striking track along. I love music that stands out on account of its uniqueness and this track certainly does. The bendy chords grabbed me instantly on hearing it and the rest fell perfectly into place.

Continuing the same theme of loving a quirky individual track up pops Blaydek with I hope you don’t feel too bad, an intriguing piece of electronic and synth exploration filled with familiar ambient sounds, deep buzzes and bleeps, horn sounds (and I mean motor ones, not brass instruments) interspersed with keyboard chords and little melodies, a real pot pourri of ideas that are a long way from the standard fare most electronic tracks. Blaydek is from Birmingham, an experienced touring musician who moved out to New York and built a career there before ending up in London and now performs with an ever-revolving live band line-up [as Blaydek]. He lists an eclectic array of influences on his Soundcloud page which explains the range of ideas in this excellent track.

Manchester’s Garsa appears to be an artist with several major strings to his bow including Indie and Folktronica but on Pelargonium the vibe is slow-building electronic ambience in the tradition of Brian Eno in a mash with Hannah Peel (without her more recent dance beat tendencies) while Floating Points add spice. It has a drone-like undercurrent, a single chord increasing in dynamic, texture and breadth as he constructs a sonic arc of sound, sticking with few diversions from the central tonic structure but crafting the shifts in sound to create something compelling and comforting.

Contemporary Classical & Sound Art

Montreal’s Syrel is not strictly speaking a classical composer or a sound artist and some of his material falls well outside either but the haunting drone notes, modally inflected harmonic language and beautifully scored instrumental arrangement on the slowly evolving but dynamic So fucked up dreams seemed to belong here rather than Electronic & Ambient which would be the alternative. Either way it is daunting and yet rather triumphant in its own sparse but stately demeanour. Evocative and satisfying. It may represent some twisted dream experiences but it concludes with a reassuring serenity. Truly skilled writing and arranging.

A week or two later Syrel followed this with The Doomed Lighthouse, a dynamic piece of orchestral composition that has a distinctly soundtrack aura and would fit perfectly in a dramatic movie scene. Again, such skilled part writing and use of light and shade with some gorgeous dissonances too.

Maybe it isn’t strictly classical but the composing and arranging skills in Luke Moore’s Sojourn are so accomplished and orchestral in style that I felt it belonged here. The Operation Lightfoot supremo and collaborator extraordinaire is one of the most hard-working people I know and manages to approach every project he takes part in with such high standards of creativity. This track is stunning, building through crystal chords of strings and synths swirling galactically, creating such colours and patterns in my mind. How the harmonic language changes and brings us from one textural state to another is gracious and subtle like the gradual way time evolves across the day, the week, the ages. It is beautiful, ethereal and futuristic. Contemporary space music almost. Another reminder of Luke’s considerable talent.

Bristol-based experimental acoustic ensemble Spindle Ensemble are difficult to place genre-wise given the fluidity of their music but classical is more or less right for the track Chase which mixes a dazzling array of acoustic sounds including tuned percussion, strings, keys etc. switching between an almost Borodin-like oriental neo-classical theme built around staccato and uptempo stabs and scales while a dreamy jazz-infused mid-section offers a total contrast. It is an intriguing cocktail of influences drawn from classical, jazz, folk and other tendencies and added carefully into an exotic melting pot of ideas. Original, interesting and helped more than a little by the ensemble’s excellent musicianship.

Possibly Solihull’s Christof R Davis and his track Departure should be reviewed in the Electronic & Ambient section but it is borderline between that and Classical. This is essentially soundtrack music, slow building around one central chord but with an approach to part writing and use of little melodic figures that pushes it more towards being a ‘composed’ work rather than a piece of electronic or synth exploration. Either way this is skilled contemporary library music writing, elegantly arranged and produced to perfection.

Jazz & International Journeys

Sometimes you just can’t beat pure class and inventive musicianship and that is what you get with Emma Johnson's Gravy Boat on new track Sun Stones. The Leeds-based saxophonist and composer leads her musicians through a series of contrasting tempi and moods, sometimes quick and syncopated, other times slow and punctuated by rich chords and effortless chemistry between what sounds like Tenor [but could be Alto given the powerful upper register] Sax and Piano while the drum part is fluid, busy and frantic even in the slower passages. Some of the solo piano work is particularly interesting harmonically, offering a semi-modal language that is mildly dissonant in parts and certainly extends normal major-minor key barriers. The bass part, which is understated but cleverly constructed, affords the pianist the freedom to play chords in the left hand and improvise with the right. The guitar is subtle but picks out some perfectly placed single notes.

All in all, this is a stunning jazz exploration in which the ideas and thematic material underpinning the track provide the perfect foundation upon which the instrumentalists weave a web of magical interplay.

Interestingly Glasgow-based Bassist and Composer James Lindsay very definitely describes his music as Folk (albeit with an experimental basis) but, for me, the track Electroreceptor sits more in Jazz territory with strong elements of Folk and Prog. The accordion, acoustic sounds and folk-infused melody that repeats at times certainly do suggest a more Celtic style but then the rich chords, instrumental explorations and fluid changes that develop take it much more into contemporary jazz territory while some of the extended riffs and figures have a distinct Prog influence too. There is a dreamy quality to it too that is pastoral and evocative.

Perhaps, if you will, imagine what might happen were you to put Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, The Strawbs and Flook together in a jam! Well, that might not be quite right but hopefully you get the picture! Full of ideas, inventiveness and fine musicianship, whatever category this belongs in, it is worth taking the time to check out.

Another new name to me is Rafiella B whose song My Imperfections is a slow, sparse and sultry slice of Jazz-infused singer-songwriter material dominated by her classy, slightly edgy and individual vocal style, spine-tingling guitar chords and a haunting minor key melody. There is precious little in the way of info or links on her Soundcloud page and a google search throws up 2 Instagram accounts, 1 private and 1 that doesn’t seem to relate to her. Oh well. Perhaps more will be revealed in due course. In the meantime we have this excellent track to enjoy.

Murillo Squillaro is London-based artist Muca Music and he has teamed up with Roberto Menescal and an uncredited female singer on the track Until me meet again which more than nods to Antonio Carlos Jobim when he had Joao and Astrud Gilberto in his band. Similarly lilting Latin Jazz vibes, major seven and nine chords, switching up a semi-tone here and there etc. along with a slightly smokey dinner jazz vocal feel to boot. Shades of Everything but the Girl too. The songwriting is classy and skilled and the music is lovingly arranged. Music from the late night bar in heaven!

Yaatri are a fascinating band. The quintet are coy about where in the UK they are based but their song Gold is a fluid, syncopated and highly jazz-influenced slice of soulful sophisticated pop with impressive instrumental interplay and delicately dexterous female vocals. I opted to put this in the Jazz & International Flavours section since some of the evolving passages of semi-improvised explorations and the fluid chord structure seem to go beyond what would usually be expected of a ‘pop song’ in the broader sense. Not that it really matters what section it is in so much as I have the opportunity of sharing with readers what an unexpected and satisfying discovery they have proved to be.

The ever-consistent Josephine Pascoe returns with a mid-tempo smooth Jazz instrumental entitled Yellowtail which, I think, is another collaboration with Neil Thom. It certainly has trademark deliciously extended chord progressions, appealing synth melodies, great guitar work and spine-tingling Rhodes improv as elements in a highly satisfying slice of contemporary Jazz Fusion. Like everything Josephine writes and records, it exudes class and musicianship.

Folk & Country Fare

 

The inimitable Delila Black has possibly exceeded even her own already high standards with new single Accountability. Featuring pedal steel legend B.J. Cole, it is a song that reminds us why she is such a special talent. The song is essentially Country but has a raw Bluesy Soul element to her vocal style and a killer chorus both in terms of melody and lyrics. The song breezes along in a joyous waltz time as Delila’s agile voice rises from a gutsy alto to an upper register yodel with harmonies reinforcing the hook. There are four accompanying musicians on the track, double the number we usually see in footage of her live performances. Talking of which, I am thrilled that Delila will be playing my Trust The Doc Live gig at the Amersham Arms in November.

I could easily have reviewed Polar Caps (aka Owen Hughes-Holland) and his song The Hillside in the Alt Rock and Indie section. Shimmering and picking acoustic guitar reverberates throughout a well-written and arranged track in which Owen’s vocals have shades of Tame Impala in a mash with Bon Iver. The melody is mystical and striking and the dynamics are perfectly directed throughout, enabling the track to achieve contrasts of loud and quiet, full-on and sparse. All in all a fresh and engaging slice of Indie-Folk that deserves to be heard.

If you close your eyes and listen to Hayley McKay’s Wild West with its uptempo Country swing and bluegrass violin accompanying her gloriously edgy vocal, you would think you were in Nashville. But actually Hayley is from Durham in the English North East. The style is somewhere between Dolly Parton and Stevie Nicks with a dash of Bonnie Bramlett maybe. Definitely steeped in Country & Western tradition but refreshingly well written and performed. I bet she is great live.

There is neither info nor any links on the Soundcloud page for Rachel Redman but her song Ready, waiting for me is a refreshingly melodic, breezy and well-produced piece of Country Pop in appealing but edgy voice with cool harmonies and shimmering guitars. Shades of Carrie Underwood in a jam with Kacie Musgrave while Maria McKee drops by. One to watch I feel.

The Oxford [and formerly Paris-based] label Upcycled Sounds puts out an impressive array of innovative new music thanks to their unique collective model. The latest to catch my ears and eyes comes from Folkatron Sessions and is called An Bonnán Buí (Yellow Bittern). Despite the Celtic sounding title, based on an 18th Century Irish poem, it is sung in English by Hannah Jacobs in her warm alluring alto voice adorned by a beautiful mix of picking acoustic guitars, sweet violin, gorgeous and unexpected chord changes and a melody to die for, all arranged by Joe Woods.

This is Celtic Folk mixing it with subtle elements of Jazz, Soul, African Folk and even a little Prog. I am struggling for references that make sense here but thinking shades of The Staves, The Chieftains, Bhundu Boys and Natalie Merchant after listening to Van Morrison’s Avalon Sunset album. The band take inspiration from a variety of sources including Congolese music (of which there is a huge amount of great stuff). Regardless of precisely how they have configured this glorious clash of flavours, the end result is a real delight.

PART THREE: OTHER COMMENTARIES        

What is this Yacht Rock nonsense?

In the past few years, the term Yacht Rock has seen increased usage as a catch-all definition of popular music that is sophisticated, polished and pays due care to issues of musicianship and detail. One might say artists who can be bothered to work on making good tracks into great ones instead of being satisfied with the minimum of effort! Oh yeah, not very Post-Punk eh?!

What has particularly irritated me about this term, aside from the frankly ridiculous associating of good musicianship with wealth and decadence, has been the attempt to retrospectively represent a group of artists with no collective connection, operating four decades ago, as having constituted a scene. The very idea is utterly absurd. A scene, by definition, is something that people are consciously and deliberately involved in - Punk, Mods, Northern Soul, 2-Tone etc. - and not something that they only discover four decades later that they were unknowingly part of! A scene cannot be invented after the fact to bring people together in a theoretical sense who were never actually brought together whilst such an act were still possible. Hey dude, remember that amazing Yacht Rock all-nighter we were all at in L.A in 1978? No, of course you don’t. There wasn’t one and, even if there was, none of us knew that was what we were attending! I believe that is what psychologists call False Memory, the imposition of fabricated events as ‘memories’ on an individual during therapy, hypnosis etc.

Last year I watched a BBC 4 documentary about Yacht Rock. It was presented by Katie Puckrik. Katie Puckrik is a genuine lover of music and an experienced broadcaster. Nevertheless I was appalled that the BBC would commission a ‘documentary’ in which Katie attempted to lump together every polished [predominantly white] US band from the nineteen-seventies (Little Feat, Steely Dan, The Eagles, Toto, Hall & Oates, Dr Hook etc.) as part of a Yacht Rock ‘scene’ when, in reality, there was no such scene and, other than all exuding great musicianship and sophisticated writing and arranging skills, there was no common musical tradition and certainly no ‘scene’ placing them in a unified category.

Steely Dan, who Katie dubbed ‘the ultimate Kings of Yacht Rock’ on account of her [fully justified] reverence for the album Aja, came from a primarily Jazz-influenced background and that informed all their songs. The Eagles were a Country Rock band who crossed into mainstream AOR. Toto were a ready-made Stadium Rock supergroup who used more sophisticated structures for their songwriting compared to heavier rock bands. Hall & Oates were essentially a Soul act playing Pop. Dr Hook were a West Coast-styled Softrock band. There was no ‘scene’ built around these bands. Nor could there have been. They did not ultimately even play a similar brand of music!

A ‘scene’ is primarily about the fans, the look, the culture. There was no army of Yacht Rock devotees walking around in identikit clothes with Steely Dan, Eagles and Toto logos adorning their attire. There was no scene involving scores of young Yacht Rock hopefuls making music influenced by all the aforementioned bands. There were no Yacht Rock all-nighters in Blackpool’s Top Rank, no Yacht Rock radio shows or stations, no Yacht Rock media of any description! She might just as well have lumped together Kate Bush, Joan Armatrading, Janis Ian and Rickie Lee Jones and claimed they were part of a female singer-songwriter ‘scene’ on account of their being women who wrote great songs and played instruments!

This Yacht Rock nonsense has even found its way into the narrative of those who should know better like Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie on their otherwise excellent BBC 6 Music Weekend Breakfast Show Radcliffe & Maconie. Radcliffe and Maconie are also great lovers of Steely Dan and Hall & Oates. However their frequent attempts to claim Yacht Rock tendencies in tracks they play on the show are random and vague in terms of definition.

Now Yacht Rock is being applied to current artists who display influences from the same vaguely mid-seventies/early eighties period such as BC Camplight, Tame Impala, Haim, even Thundercat! But these artists are no more part of a connected scene than Dr Hook and Hall & Oates ever were.

What I am seeing, in my Fresh on the Net and Trust The Doc media roles, is a growing number of young British artists who are delving deep into a past that happened long before they were born. This has led to what I would, until recently, have considered some quite unlikely influences on new music such as 10CC, Wings, Pilot, Andrew Gold, Hot Chocolate and others. The important factor is that these young artists, including some reviewed in recent editions of this blog such as Barbara, Palace Cats, Owen Duff and others, are cherry-picking the elements they like from that era of music and fusing it with contemporary ideas to create something genuinely fresh. It would be a nonsense to call them a new wave of Yacht Rock when there is nothing whatsoever associating them with wealth or decadence in the way that the Yacht Rock tag implies. I wouldn’t even call them Rock. They are sophisticated pop artists.

I hope that Pop Music historians and musicologists will roundly reject any notion of there having been a Yacht Rock scene. They should also reject the idea that the aforementioned past bands were even part of the same musical tradition. In future, when we are educating younger generations of popular music students about the history and evolution of our art, I suggest we base our teachings on what actually took place and not a history that has been re-imagined for the sake of misguided romanticism.

OH DEAR, BBC !!!

For the sake of balance, if nothing else, let me begin by defending the BBC. There is a very worrying anti-BBC tendency whose fires are being stoked by the far right. They would love nothing more than to put all dissemination of news, information and culture in the hands of ruthless tabloid profiteers. We often fail to appreciate how fortunate we are in the UK to have a public service broadcaster that provides such a breathtaking range of programming; not least four popular music radio stations where, in pre-digital times, there was one trying to accommodate an ever-expanding spectrum of genres and interests. The idiots, and they are idiots, who go along with the #DefundTheBBC nonsense on social media platforms need to be called out and challenged about the implications of what they are proposing. In those respects, I remain a loyal supporter and defender of the BBC and the license fee, particularly in times like these where trusting a hawkish right wing government to find the funds from alternative sources with no detriment to programming is an obvious recipe for disaster and to suggest otherwise is foolish, naive and disingenuous.

It is frustrating therefore that the BBC continues to so frequently be its own worst enemy; confirming the claims of those who take pleasure in calling it an elitist organisation. We saw this with the ridiculous decision to cancel untold hours of specialist radio shows that provided vital support for grassroots and non-mainstream music artists because a wealthy 99 year old died of old age following a very charmed and happy life. For many artists, their one chance of national airplay went up in smoke before their eyes and they may never get another one. At best, they will but it may be a year, two years etc. before that happens. If they had even bothered to ask, they would have realised that some 95% of listeners did not want this imposition of a mope-fest. I conducted a poll on Twitter of my own and nearly 600 people responded. Given that it was indeed 95% who voted that the idea was ridiculous, that can be deemed to be a representative sample. Even if I had added 400 more to match opinion poll norms, it is inconceivable that the figures would have materially altered. Furthermore, in broad terms, my followers are fairly typical of the demographic of BBC 6 Music.

This month I have seen another side of the BBC’s snobbery. On the weekend immediately following the Vanishing Point outdoor evening gig on 6th May, I asked on both mornings for a shout out from Radcliffe & Maconie (BBC 6 Music weekend breakfast show) for everyone who either participated in or attended the event. On both occasions it was ignored. So, when a week later, during their music news slot, they claimed some mega-rich event in June was the first post-lockdown open air gig, I pointed out that actually it wasn’t because Vanishing Point had already happened on 6th May. Again this was ignored.

Could it simply have been down to the volume of messages they receive? Actually no. Because they happily read out all the other tweets and texts I tag them in or send to them on a more or less weekly basis. So the only three they did not comment on were the three that all referred to an event they were clearly backs up against acknowledging, even a week and a half after it had happened. Yet they are happy, every weekend without fail, to give free publicity to mega-rich events taking place across the UK. What does this say about their priorities and their attitude to the grassroots? Do Bestival, Creamfields and End of the Road need the free publicity more than struggling grassroots venues and promoters? Maybe that is how it looks from the BBC bubble.

In the last edition of this blog, I wrote an article about the general goings on within BBC Radio. There I pointed out that the decision both to axe Tom Robinson’s Saturday night show and to move the Mixtape show to 4AM on Monday, the ultimate graveyard slot, would severely reduce the audience for new and emerging artists on BBC 6 Music. There is now no connection between the Mixtape and a show in a prime time slot. In fact there is no connection between the Mixtape and any other show on the station. So a conscious decision has been made by Samantha Moy and the new team in charge to have less grassroots music on the station. It hardly played a lot in the first place.

As I write this, I am bracing myself for another BBC-wide Slow Sunday. The last one was pain-staking. Even the affable Mark Radcliffe [half] joked on the weekend breakfast show that it was quite tiresome having to affect a soft, serene speaking voice and that it was not his nor the other presenters’ decision to have to do so. Perhaps that was also a retrospective dig about what he was forced to do when the BBC instigated the royalist mopefest a few weeks earlier.

The only time I have ever enjoyed any aspect of Slow Sunday was when Tom Robinson used it as an opportunity to present an Ambient/Contemporary Classical themed Now Playing show in 2020 and, although even then it was frustrating to see bland Classical Pop like Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds and Max Richter chosen over world class contemporary composers like Sofia Gubaidulina, Mark Anthony Turnage and Errollyn Wallen, at least there were moments of absolute magic like Emily Hall’s Mantra and Hannah Peel’s Sunrise through the dusty nebula. Otherwise the rest of the day’s programming consisted of the usual excuse to cancel the specialist music programming and replace it with blandness.

It is genuinely puzzling that the BBC, on the one hand, recognises and acts on the need to create channels to accommodate such a range of interests (i.e. Radio 1, 1Xtra, Asian Network and 6 Music for pop music alone) but then sees nothing wrong with imposing blanket blandfests like the Royalist Dirge and Slow Sunday on every one of its channels. Surely it is not rocket science to understand that the vast majority of 6 Music fans listen to the station precisely because it is not just another middle of the road, mainstream pop channel. I am sure fans of less commercial urban and dance/club oriented genres who listen to 1Xtra would echo those sentiments as would fans of specialist shows on the Asian Network.

The BBC needs to take a raincheck. Since Tim Davie’s appointment as Director General, the news has also taken a worryingly conservative turn with far too much uncritical presentation of the government’s performance on COVID, post-Brexit economics and the usual hypocritical attacks on the pay and conditions of those whose tireless work has helped get Johnson and his cronies out of a deep hole. That same desire to make the BBC more sanitised and middle England-oriented is now eating into its attitude to music programming and the hiring and firing of presenters from BBC in the North and the West to 6 Music and Radio 1.

As I have argued recently, these developments all underline the growing importance of internet-only radio stations like Amazing Radio, Exile FM, Calon FM, Big City Radio, Cumberauld FM, Radio Dacorum, Radio Scarborough, NCCR, XRP, Eagle Nest and many more not to mention more established alternative radio channels like Resonance FM, Resonance Extra and NTS.

What makes a license fee and public purse funded broadcaster such a cultural asset in this country is precisely its ability to look beyond commercial pressures and ensure it is able to meet the needs of a sophisticated, diverse and challenging scope of people and communities. We can forgive the BBC when it doesn’t always get those things 100% right because the size of that challenge is enormous. But it is harder to forgive the BBC when it indulges in two-tier elitism, dumbing down and needless interference in specialist areas by people who know nothing about them or their audience. If I was marking BBC 6 Music’s end of term report this summer I would give it a B minus with the overall conclusion being ‘a lot of good quality work when it makes the effort but nevertheless must focus more and try harder’. And right now, it must do both. The problem, however, is much wider than one station. It is the BBC itself that needs to put its house in order.

AND FINALLY .......

So let’s end on a more upbeat note as usual. On the day this is published, we will be three days away from the second Vanishing Point to take place as an outdoor event at the magical AMP Studios on Old Kent Road. The first one was a wonderful experience. See my comments in Part One about why it was so good. We will also only be 10 days away from the return of Trust The Doc Live at the iconic Amersham Arms in New Cross. Both gigs offer fantastic and eclectic line-ups with Vanishing Point taking on a more chilled, translucent vibe while Trust The Doc Live is more full-on with two great teenage Alt Rock bands on the bill alongside one Soulful House artist and a more experimental band to kick the night off.

So it is great news that live grassroots music is back. Now we need people to come out and support these events. Both my events cost a mere £6 per ticket and are taking place in COVID-safe environments. Ticket sales mean I can pay the artists a decent fee for their efforts and they also mean a great atmosphere, buzzing because so many lovers of new music are gathering in one space.

In the meantime, I would like to thank everyone who came to the last Vanishing Point and everyone who supports my radio and TV shows, both of which have seen further audience growth in May. And of course a big thank you to all of you who take the time to read this blog. I know it is long but I hope it continues to provide a uniquely wide-ranging summary of what is happening just beneath the shiny mainstream surface across the spectrum of new music. And if you believe you are an artist I have overlooked, send me your tracks so I can consider you for review and airplay too.

So it just leaves me to say thanks for reading, have a great month ahead, stay safe and keep on enjoying new music. Until the next time.

Neil xxxx