TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS
by Neil March (Edition 8, 31st July 2018)
SUMMER SIZZLER: THE TUNES KEEP COMING !!!
Summer here in London, and I imagine most of the UK, has reached the level of searing heat accompanied by sticky humidity. Of course that combination can leave us all feeling a little lethargic. But there is no sign of any negative impact on new music. Whether it’s the Fresh on the Net uploader, direct messages and track submissions or new artists on key radio shows, the new tunes just keep on coming. Aren’t we the lucky ones! :) So what do we have for Trust The Doc readers in Edition 8?
✦ DEMERARA RECORDS PRESENTS: The first night is just two days away
✦ ANGRY BABY MUSIC: Dakar Audio Club & Chiedu Oraka are featured artists
✦ FRESH ON THE NET: What’s happening during the month of August 2018
✦ PAUL F COOK: Fenco’s male half makes moving tribute to his mother
✦ SUZANNE CIANI: Buchla Quadrophonic Improvisation at the Albert Hall
✦ CHLOË MARCH: Collaboration with Todd Tobias. New single. Album soon.
✦ BEATS’N’PIECES: Taking the Big Band concept where it’s never been before
✦ KONGO DIA NTOTILA: Latitude’s latest stars set breathtaking standards
✦ THE FUGUES: Uplifting Indie Rock from the rainwashed N. Ireland coast
✦ CHLOE JOSEPHINE: Soulful Pop from Portsmouth’s Mayfield stable
✦ SPEE SIX NINE: British Hip Hop brewed and served up in Yorkshire
✦ THE RECKS: Sark’s self-styled Kings of Schizophrenic Folk play Latitude
DEMERARA RECORDS PRESENTS … @ IVY HOUSE: OPENER IN 2 DAYS !!!
Yes I am going to begin with a plug for my own event. Not only because of the amount of work I [and others] have put into preparing for and promoting it. But also because it’s a really exciting event with three BBC Radio 6 Music featured artists and a lovely endorsement from Tom Robinson to boot. So instead of going on once again about it in this edition of Trust The Doc, you can find all the details at https://www.demerararecords.com
ANGRY BABY MUSIC: FEATURED ARTIST STATUS FOR DAC & CHIEDU
It has been a great privilege to see how, in my new role as their A&R Manager, Angry Baby Music have shown such faith in my recommendations. As a consequence, the latest two featured artists on their website and membership database have been two I have blogged about here at Trust The Doc. Namely Senegal’s Dakar Audio Club (https://soundcloud.com/dakar-audio-club), now resident in South Devon of course, and Hull’s Chiedu Oraka (https://soundcloud.com/chiedu-oraka).
Dakar Audio Club received a glowing review from Angry Baby’s Tim Brookes and then, with Tim heading to Poland in his musician role to appear on Balcony TV, it was yours truly who stepped in and wrote the review of Chiedu Oraka. Check them both out at www.angrybabymusic.co.uk.
FRESHNET IN-BOX CLOSED FOR A MONTH: WHAT WILL HAPPEN INSTEAD?
Yes it’s true. The Fresh on the Net/BBC 6 Mixtape in-box will be closed for the month of August 2018 while Tom and the moderators take a break from the relentless sorting through weekly track submissions. But fear not if you are a Fresh on the Net fan. In its place will be a series of blogs written by those moderators who are such gluttons for punishment that we cannot even take a break seriously! And yeah you guessed it, yours truly is one of them. To read the various contributions just go to https://freshonthenet.co.uk as you would normally.
Actually I am pretty stoked to have the opportunity to provide a four-part weekly blog entitled Emerging from the Mist which provides a chance to flag up some of the bands and artists I think the FOTN audience might want to look up and also to write about other things. Part One picks out five bands and artists across a wide spectrum of contemporary pop genres. Part Two leans towards the leftfield and veers into contemporary classical, jazz futurism, Afrofusion, filmic ambient music and leftfield improvisatory vibes. Part Three focuses on radio shows that are providing a platform to less mainstream musical interests and Part Four? Well that’s something of a secret for now.
CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL & LEFTFIELD
If you had said to me even a year or two ago that the name Paul F Cook (https://soundcloud.com/paulfcook) would be synonymous with contemporary classical music I would have looked at you with slight bewilderment. Now I say that with quite some authority since Paul is one of my two oldest [as in longest standing, not eldest!] friends. We grew up in the same street and have been close friends since pre-school years. We have also been musical partners-in-crime many times and were songwriting partners and fellow band members from junior school years through to our early twenties.
But where I was a classically trained musician, Paul was not and where I have been more proactive on the contemporary classical scene than any other in recent years, Paul has generally tended to work in broader Alt Pop and similar territory.
This year Paul lost his mum who was very special to me too. And when he presented his friends with the tribute he had composed, we were all knocked for six. From the opening church bells recorded outside the house where she spent her final, mostly very happy years, to the blending of that ambience with a gradually layering, expanding classical guitar arrangement, Mater Gloria is simply stunning. I don’t know whether Paul will continue exploring this combination of delicate guitar skills, innate writing ability and use of environmental ambience but this wonderful tribute to a very special lady could not possibly pass without comment here in Trust The Doc.
Check out his Soundcloud page as it also has tracks by his excellent Folk-Indie [and related] duo Fenco, a track by Casgliad (which I am on along with other friends) and some of Paul’s fine solo tracks that sit very broadly in Alternative Pop territory.
Anyone who knows Paul knows he is not the kind of character who is fussed about stardom and recognition. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t receive recognition for the considerable talent he has and the intelligent, sensitive and inventive way he always approaches music.
I was grateful to my long-time friend and serious Soul music talent Kevin East for alerting me to one of the highlights of the 2018 Proms. The Pioneers of Sound concert not only celebrated the enormous contributions made to the development of electronic and ambient music by Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram but it also saw a breathtaking piece of Buchla-driven electronic improvisation by Suzanne Ciani entitled Improvisations on Four Sequences. Her patient command of the complex set-up and her ability to bring out such amazing contrasts of texture and mood were so impressive and demonstrated an acute understanding of the connection between the technical application of the Buchla with all its elements and its relation to harmony and rhythm.
Chloë March has been a favourite of mine ever since I first heard her unique music on the Tom Ravenscroft Show on BBC Radio 6 Music. That was a few years ago and, in the time since, she has continued to write and record engaging, ethereal music that is difficult to categorise, drawing on classical, psychedelic, prog, folk, eastern, jazz and other flavours united by her otherworldly voice, soulful brooding melodies and clever impressionistic arrangements. All these qualities are strongly in evidence on Lallulow, the single she has released with ambient producer Todd Tobias which I have had the privilege of receiving as a pre-release promo. It’s a taster for their collaborative album due out in September and on it Chloë gets to take the ‘voice as instrument’ concept a stage further with warbles, rattles and invented words that add to the aura of the track and hint at a Cocteaus influence which is music (sic.) to my ears. Set against synth chords, evocative strings and an overall sense of breaking waves and drifting white clouds, her voice floats effortlessly and occasionally soars too. Excited about the album? You bet.
Sometimes when I am intercepting the new tracks coming into the BBC Radio 6 Music Mixtape/Fresh on the Net in-box in my moderating role, I am hit immediately by a new track and instantly know I am facing something a bit special. So it was this month with the Manchester-based Beats & Pieces Big Band (https://soundcloud.com/beatsnpiecesbigband) and, as luck would have it for the band, it coincided with it being a week when Tom Robinson was writing up the reviews of the Fresh Faves. So not only did Tom brilliantly capture what is exciting about a big band who are, in their own words, taking ‘... the big band sound where it has never been before, embracing modern textures and techniques while acknowledging and celebrating their big band lineage’ but he posted their track on Twitter too. Now that is some endorsement.
The group came together at Manchester’s Royal Northern College; the same fine institution that brought the ground-breaking Manchester Composers trio of Peter Maxwell-Davies, Alexandr Goehr and Harrison Birtwistle together just over half a century ago. B&PBB take their brief very seriously too. Their brassy sound is offset by fuzz guitar, power-driven Bass and Drums and a wide spectrum of chords and counterpoint. The contrasts of texture (opaque one moment, translucent the next) and the dynamism of their playing are phenomenal. I can only marvel at the level of detail that has gone into the arrangements and the individual parts which, ironically, must be so well-rehearsed in order to sound so spontaneous. Start with their Soundcloud page and take advantage of the links to their other pages.
WORLD MUSIC VISION
2018 saw another group of artists unveiled on the BBC Introducing Stage at Latitude and whilst, unlike 2017, I wasn’t among them this time, it was fascinating to see how many were artists I have championed at Fresh on the Net and blogged about right here. However I was not previously aware of Kongo Dia Ntotila so it was great not only to hear their infectious music but also their interview by the wonderful Max Reinhardt on Late Junction (BBC Radio 3). There was also a discussion between Max and Tom Robinson about the band and Tom featured them on his Saturday Night show on BBC Radio 6 Music.
Kongo Dia Ntotila’s (https://soundcloud.com/kongodiantotila) origins are in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) but they are based in London and have a multi-ethnic, multi-national line-up that includes Eastern European as well as African and British players. The core of their music is Congolese and, in a more general sense, African Jazz but they mix up a panoramic spectrum of flavours and spice it up with an improvisatory element. Rhythmically they are so dexterous and effortlessly freeform it is quite stunning. This is where absolutely amazing musicianship is channelled into exciting, invigorating experimentalism without a hint of self-indulgence. And events are so fluid, textures altering suddenly and new themes appearing and disappearing. It takes some incredible level of communication to be able to subvert structure with such joyous abandon so that every track sounds like an elaborate medley of great tunes, rhythms and concepts. It’s not often that I am this genuinely blown away by a new band or artist but Kongo Dia Ntotila’s music and live performance has knocked me completely for six. Check them out because you simply won’t believe it until you hear it for yourself. Absolutely outstanding. Honestly.
As always Pop Scene offers the opportunity to flag up a diverse group of artists and bands who have caught my attention as I continue my relentless exploration of all things new music!
This time I have gone for Chloe Josephine (https://soundcloud.com/chloejosephine), the super-talented young singer who I previously talked about in a feature about the fantastic Mayfield Records & Studio in a recent edition; Northern Irish Indie Rockers The Fugues (https://soundcloud.com/user-32910111); Yorkshire Brit Hop artist Spee Six Nine (https://soundcloud.com/speesixnine) and Sark’s self-styled “Kings of Schizophrenic Folk” The Recks (https://soundcloud.com/the-recks).
Chloe Josephine has been on my radar for a while now and I was delighted that she put her faith in the excellent team at Mayfield. Judging by the reaction to her latest track at Fresh on the Net, both from my fellow moderators and the Listening Post audience, she has made a good choice. Having worked with Mayfield’s Dominic Elton on a soulful piano-accompanied ballad entitled Once More which allows all the space for Chloe to showcase her dexterity and quality as a singer, she is picking up plenty of support and positivity. As it’s my turn to review the Fresh Faves [which I will have done by the time this is published], I am hoping the votes keep coming in for her. It certainly looks like her dynamic performance and Dom’s thoughtful jazz-tinged piano have struck a chord (oops, no pun intended!) with the fans.
The Fugues caught my ear with their recent FOTN submission Stephen. The song is melodic and fluid. A busy male vocal and pleasant mix of unison and harmony chorus are juxtaposed against jangly guitars and tasteful lead playing that is dreamy rather than rocky. It begins with a Smiths-like edge but the chorus takes them into more Psych Pop territory. In truth there are so many familiar Post-Punk flavours milling about in the mix that it is actually difficult to pin any down though the otherworldly guitar after the second chorus reminds me of fourth album Psychedelic Furs. James are another band who pop into my head as I listen to that irresistible chorus. Listening to more of their material on Soundcloud, there is a tangible Beatles influence and even some shades of mid-seventies Pop. Gosh, could we even be talking Gallagher & Lyle, Sutherland Brothers & Quiver? Well let’s not get carried away. The Fugues are essentially an Indie band with plenty of great melodies, smart lyrics and a fine ear for contrast and arrangement. Check them out.
Spee Six Nine is another artist, like TTD favourite Chiedu Oraka, who has fashioned a very British Hip Hop style and infused it with a large dose of Northern dialect and attitude. Working on a regular and long term basis with producer Bigg Taj (a relationship whose history is charted by the wealth of material on his Bandcamp page https://spee69.bandcamp.com/), he pits intelligent, self-reflective lyrics in Yorkshire accent and dialect against quite melancholy and musically diverse backdrops. The excellent Rear View is all these things and is punctuated by endearing ‘la la la’ BVs that appear and disappear at various points in the track. Spee Six Nine is determinedly ploughing his own furrow in an increasingly diverse Brit Hop scene. Look out for more news about this intriguing artist soon.
Last but not least then we have The Recks. Hailing from Sark in the Channel Islands, the self-styled ‘Kings of Schizophrenic Folk’ have been building their reputation and sound for some time now. This month saw them play the BBC Introducing Stage at Latitude to an enthusiastic crowd. They have concocted a veritable melting pot of Folk, Indie, Rockabilly, Ska and other ingredients driven by a robust but organic instrumental line-up in which guitar and trumpet often interweave and strong vocals are made even stronger by almost terrace chant harmonies and memorable hooks. New track In the Garden is a great representation of their music but there is so much more where that came from. So look them up and experience their unique style for yourself.
… And Finally
Well that is it for Edition 8. While the Fresh on the Net in-box closes for the whole of August, I have a busy month ahead with four weekly blog articles for FOTN, A&R duties and one review for Angry Baby and of course another two editions of Trust The Doc. The new music keeps on coming. Here’s to another month of new discoveries. See you all soon. Neil xxxx