TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS
by Neil March (Edition 29, 30th June 2019)
Welcome to Edition 29 of Trust The Doc. Please visit and ‘like’ the Trust The Doc Facebook page - https://facebook.com/TrustTheDoc - and if you don’t already do so, please follow both @Hornetmuziq & @DemeraraRecords on Twitter. I will of course follow you back. Ed. 28 was ludicrously packed with reviews. Ed. 29 has ended up going the same way. Just so much new music I am enthused enough to blog about! Sorry for the indulgence but here goes.
✦ FRESH ON THE NET LIVE: 3 weeks to go to the first ever new music fest
✦ VANISHING POINT: Three more exciting upcoming Alt Pop & Electronic acts
✦ TRUST THE DOC: The New Music Playlist will be a feature at future gigs
✦ LINEAR OBSESSIONAL: Another unique gig in a chilled out park cafe
✦ LARA JONES: Stunning soundscapes and sax loops from Leeds artist
✦ PORTIA WINTERS: Looped harmonies, striking sounds from Hither Green
✦ PADANG FOOD TIGERS: Guitars, Banjo and ambience to lose yourself in
✦ HELEN McCOOKERYBOOK: Treating us to a solo set of whimsical Pop gems
✦ AMI DANG: Bollywave is a new genre and Baltimore’s Ami is its inventor
✦ PAUL TAYLOR: Newcastle pianist & composer with new ambient track
✦ HIPPO: Bristol’s mind-bending Jazz Futurists return with a collaboration
✦ DAKAR AUDIO CLUB: Exeter’s West African exiles bring a hypnotic vibe
✦ KOKOKO: A modern electronically infused take on Congolese music
✦ MARCH: Stunning harmonies, crystal clear vocals and warm synth
✦ SIOBHAN McCRUDDEN: A super return for the Welsh Queen of Folk Noir
✦ BRISA ROCHÉ: Paris-based Californian with eclectic musical output
✦ THE SANDERSONS: Exquisite harmonies and jazz-infused folkiness
✦ TRUST THE DOC CLASSIC: Remembering Soul Family Sensation
✦ VANISHING TWIN: Something borrowed, something blue (and new)
✦ FALSE ADVERTISING: Driving energetic Alt Rock with killer hooks
✦ BLACK PALMS: Dark menacing Alt Rock coming from the Capital
✦ HEALTHY JUNKIES: A young band making a big noise in the big city
✦ GLASS MOUNTAIN: Indie Rock with psych leanings from Bradford
✦ ELECTRIC SHORE: Melodic Alt Rock from the Emerald Isle
✦ WILD HORSE: Alt Rockers are back and in playful mood
✦ LITTLE CRIMINALS: Old Skool Ska & Reggae with a modern twist
✦ DAVID 9 LUNAS: Dub, Breakbeat Rock & more from British Trinididian
✦ LOST RAVEN: A mash-up of urban & EDM from UK producer
✦ LUCY BOOTH: Talented and versatile singer-songwriter drops a new EP
✦ MAYFIELD & TOM WELLS: South Coast sophisticated Pop balladry
✦ FAR CASPIAN: Epic Alt Pop from Leeds swept along on a sea of synths
✦ PURPLE THREAD OFFICIAL: Funky Rocking Pop choons from Leeds
✦ BLOOM DE WILDE: Unique Art Pop from Dutch-Indonesian origins
✦ 10 MILLION ALIENS: A former Red Guitar with a futuristic epic track
✦ INBAL: Harmonies, contrasts of mood and tempo and more from Londoner
✦ BABII: Fresh on the Net regular returns with more stunning electronic pop
✦ DENISE BELL: Simply stunning Electronic Folk from the Scottish Capital
✦ HILDER: Enigmatic ambience and vocal chants from Reading artist
FRESH ON THE NET LIVE
It could be THE new music event of the year. Well, in London anyway since there will be a further Fresh on the Net Live in Liverpool in October and plans are afoot for a third one in Edinburgh. First though, it’s Fresh on the Net Live @ Jacksons Lane Arts Centre & The Boogaloo, Highgate, London N6 from 2PM till 11PM on Sunday 21st July. And, oh yeah, did I mention that I am the lead organiser for it? Our (Team Freshnet’s) first ever one day indoor festival.
We are only charging a tenner for this unique event in which all 16 acts are new and emerging UK-based bands and artists as heard at the Fresh on the Net Listening Post as well as, in most cases, BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Introducing.
There are three performance spaces. The Boogaloo plays host to Blu:m; Little Grim; Alberteen; Soft Sports & Pyx. Jacksons Lane Theatre has Catherine Rudie; M w S; Pip Hall; Luvia; Cholly; Yvonne Hercules & Environmental Sound Foundation and Upstairs in Jacksons Lane hosts the chill-out room with Joe Holtaway; Sya Sanon; Faultress (formerly Autumn Music) & Fergus.
Find out details about this exciting event and get your tickets by visiting https://freshonthenet.co.uk/2019/05/live-july-2019/.
VANISHING POINT @ THE IVY HOUSE
First however we hold another amazing Vanishing Point @The Ivy House in Nunhead, Peckham, South East London. We have three bands and artists including one recent Fresh on the Net Listening Post band. Featured are Desmerelda; HMS Loss & Aros E-V. A really cool night of Indie, Alt Rock, Post Rock and Electronica with three contrasting but exciting acts. Tickets are available for just £6 (£8 on door) from https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point
TRUST THE DOC: NEW MUSIC PLAYLIST
The Trust The Doc New Music Playlist is a playlist that mixes a small number of new tracks by established artists with a great deal more by the kinds of new and emerging artists this blog and Fresh on the Net support. It will play between the live acts at all Demerara Records gigs (Vanishing Point, Demerara Records Showcase etc.) and will enable me to give a little extra exposure to bands and artists regardless of where they are based and whether they are able or unable, for whatever reason, to gig. It will always be published on social media pages too. The first one played at the Demerara Records Showcase at Cafe 1001 on 20th June. Now this version will also play at Vanishing Point at South East London’s Ivy House on Thursday 4th July and is published on our social media pages. Here is the link to hear it on Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4kcR82SK3cJukiZ4xZkkmj You can find the list of artists and tracks on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TrustTheDoc.
LINEAR OBSESSIONAL: REPORT ON JUNE GIG
After the two-weekend festival in May (covered in Editions 27 & 28), it was back to the normal monthly Sunday afternoon-evening Linear Obsessional at the Arts Cafe in Lewisham’s Manor Park. However there was nothing normal about the bill on 16th June even by Linear Obsessional’s standards as I will explain.
First up was the impressive young Leeds-based saxophonist Lara Jones (https://soundcloud.com/larajonessax) who played a stunning single twenty-minute piece. It started off with Lara using the sax to make wind-like sounds before she began looping long sustained tones and then cleverly adding short figures in different parts of the register that both utilised the textural aspects of the instrument and resulted in the appearance of an evocative modal harmonic language. Her control and precision in building this gradually intensifying soundscape with such understatement and clarity were breathtaking. Then, having conjured up a considerable resonating sonic aura, she deconstructed the entire piece back to the wind-like sounds she had started with. Not quite a circular score or mirror form work given that one assumes this was largely improvised [to a plan] but certainly one resulting in an exotically colourful arc.
Next up it was local Hither Green-based artist Portia Winters (https://soundcloud.com/portiawinters). Portia’s music makes for an intriguing blend of instrumental and sonic experimentalism with songs that lean towards the English Folk tradition. We were treated to four such songs, all of them brand new and never previously performed live. Plucking what she later told me was a child’s harp, using a small mixing desk and a range of effects units to loop and alter sounds, she cooked up a dazzling soundscape, used her voice both for echoing yelps and looped circular harmony whilst the lyrics were from a Ginsberg poem. Amid this remarkable soundscape she banged some handheld device against her abdomen to create synthy chords too.
Her second track began with unaccompanied voice and soon evolved into quite exquisite vocal harmonies before returning to single voice, punching out unison and octave additional voices. This was duly followed by further delightful harmony. Track three had more looped voices but this time an acoustic piano was brought into play with lively chords hammered out against the hypnotic swirl of the gathering soundtrack. Her final track was mostly sparser, single tones accompanying the song which, surprisingly, brought The Doors’ Jim Morrison to mind here and there. A mystical aura dominated this enigmatic and inventive finale.
Third to perform were South London duo Padang Food Tigers (https://padangfoodtigers.bandcamp.com/). Richard [Sanderson] had introduced them as a duo who make ‘lanscapey, rather beautiful’ music and he certainly was not wrong. Spencer and Steve (who I think are, in the main, Banjo player and Guitarist respectively so apologies to both if it is the other way around) immediately grabbed my ears when Spencer used an electronic device to produce long ambient tones while Steve began playing skillful acoustic picking slide guitar that was simultaneously folky, bluesy and semi-classical in style. The soft but compelling sound and lightness of texture had the aura of drifting pleasantly through clear skies over picturesque landscapes. Spencer’s repeated single-note melodies and subtle chord play on the banjo provided the perfect contrast to the guitar and between them they created a soothing, comforting aura. Steve also introduced different bottleneck devices that enabled him to produce long, vibrating tones.
Towards the final third of the performance, Steve switched to conventional acoustic guitar and delivered more of his skillful finger-picking figures while Spencer continued to provide perfectly understated Banjo and ambient long tones. A beautiful contemporary tone poem. If you get the opportunity to see them live, take it.
The biggest surprise, in the context of what Linear Obsessional regulars are used to, came from headline act Helen McCookerybook (http://mccookerybook.com/). Richard referred to the days when members of his [and my] generation would sit listening to the John Peel Show with finger on the record and pause button capturing all the best bits and live sessions. He mentioned Helen and the Horns (who, incidentally, still reconvene from time to time) but he could also have mentioned The Chefs, the band with whom Helen played Bass and sang and whose 24 Hours was a popular track in the early eighties and one of a number of songs that helped introduce a lighter-textured whimsical pop influence into the ever-expanding Post-Punk canon.
I called Helen McCookerybook’s appearance at Linear Obsessional a surprise. What I meant was that, compared to the usual focus on leftfield experimental and electronic music and sound art, it was refreshing to see Richard make room for some breezey, lightly jazz-tinged Pop involving a singer with semi-acoustic guitar and no accessories.
Helen treated us to four songs, kicking off with the lyrically clever and poppy Bad Apple with shades of Marine Girls and early Everything but the Girl in the use of major and minor seven chords played with thumb and fingers accompanying a summery melody. She continued in broadly similar vein but the highlight had to be when she managed to get the usually slightly serious Linear Obsessional audience to sing along with her song about a bathing pond in Hampstead. After explaining how she had managed to get a ‘hairy buch of rufty tufty Punk Rockers in Brighton’ to sing along the previous week, there could be no excuse for a group of experimental music loving [adoptive] South East Londoners not to do the same. I imagine it may be the first time this has ever happened in the history of Linear Obsessional! A thoroughly enjoyable end to a relatively short but nonetheless entertaining set. I hope she will come and play again soon.
CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL & LEFTFIELD
Ami Dang (https://www.amidang.com/) is a Baltimore-based composer and artist of South Indian Sikh origin who plays Sitar and fuses North Indian Classical music with noise and ambient electronics plus some ‘beat-driven pych and experimental dance-pop’. I was fortunate to hear her new single Raiments VIII when the amazing Tom Ravenscroft (whose dad, for those who don’t know, was the aforementioned John Peel) sat in for Marc Riley on BBC 6 Music. Her music is the eiptome of the term unclassifiable. Should I review her under Contemporary Classical and Leftfield, World in Union or Electronic and Ambient? Well I don’t suppose it actually matters. What you need to know is she is has dubbed her mash-up of influences Bollywave and, not unreasonably, is laying claim to having fashioned a new genre. Certainly the striking mix of unmistakably Indian classical and traditional influences, highlighted by the sound of the sitar plays intriguingly against the more vague and icy electronic soundscapes. It’s a lovely mix and, on the strength of the single, I want to hear more.
I am familiar with the music of Newcastle-based pianist, composer and improviser Paul Taylor (https://soundcloud.com/paul-taylor-x) as he is a friend who recorded for a compilation album I released back in 2015. Paul is a mesmerisingly skillful pianist who can play complex scored music and can improvise entire solo pieces with equal confidence. So it is interesting to see that he has written and recorded two new pieces that show other sides to his approach.
The Green Language is somewhere between ambient classical and sound art, building a mystical sonic arc from what could be pre-recorded bells and other field recording elements. It is very skillfully done and the construction and deconstruction approach works really well.
Asunder is essentially jazz; explorative and possibly improvised piano playing off against what sounds like mellow Tenor Saxophone in an interesting, understated instrumental track that works precisely because neither musician over-eggs the pudding. It is good to see Paul stretching out in terms of his solo repertoire and producing fine results
Hippo (https://soundcloud.com/hippobristol), Bristol’s mind-bending Jazz Futurist maestros are back with another stunning piece of epic Jazz Fusion incorporating gorgeous synth melodies, some incredible guitar work but, as always, none of the self-indulgence inflicting some instrumental jazz combos. It has their trademark blend of the electronic with the organic, cool rhythms, lovely playing and the addition of collaborator Joe Turner who I am guessing is the guitarist. The track is called DAK and it is up there with all the material on 2018’s 5-track EP. Hippo are back and I can’t wait to hear more.
WORLD IN UNION
TTD favourites Dakar Audio Club (https://soundcloud.com/dakar-audio-club) are back with a new track called C’Est Folu which finds the Exeter-based West and South West African collective on fine form. As usual they have managed to strike a balance between slightly funky Afro-groove and characteristically lo fi production which has very much become their own unique sound. This track has a more hypnotic aura and the vocals, which only enter the fray late on in the track, are chanted so it is mainly an instrumental.
They have also recently put down an Afro-Reggae track called We need more time which has the same lilting lo fi quality accompanying a catchy song that mixes an essentially Reggae beat and offbeat chords with a very West African Jazz sensibility, especially the sweet harmonies and arpeggio instrumental themes and guitar melodies.
Regular readers of TTD will know how much I love the Congolese-British band Kongo Dia Ntotila. Well KOKOKO (https://www.kokokomusic.com/) are a different kettle of fish. They are from the Democratic Republic of Congo and their writing, vocals and percussion bear the hallmarks of Congolese tradition but they are set against an electronically infused vision of buzzing tuneful synth. It’s an upbeat joyous sound and refreshingly contemporary. Check out the fantastic Buka Dansa.
Wow there has been some seriously enjoyable and original Folk-influenced music in the in-box this past half-month. None more so than the amazing March (https://soundcloud.com/marchofficialuk) who joins the excellent Chlöe March as the second highly impressive UK singer-songwriter to arrive on my radar who shares my surname but is no relation! Her song Wear me down is an ethereal and striking blend of crystal clear voices, adorned by the most mystical harmonies and accompanied by long warm synth chords. The aura created is simultaneously organic with something of highland seaviews and vast open scenery about it and yet electronic rather than being about acoustic instruments. So it’s Folk and then it’s not Folk! What it is however is stunningly beautiful.
The more minimal thing on a Monday (and the absence of a capital T is not an error) is intriguing, electric piano the main instrument but more sweet harmony. Snowglobe is quiet, initially just a capella harmonies before synth strings add a translucent layer of sound and more BVs float into the background, low in the mix. Untitled is more like a folk track with tasteful picking guitar and mostly single voice though she can’t resist bringing more of her trademark harmonies into play. March hails from [or at least is based] around the South Coast where she has had support from BBC Introducing in Solent. She is one very talented and interesting artist and I intend keeping a watch on her career.
It is always a reason to smile when the wonderful Exeter-based indie label Hungersleep Records hit us with a new track by Welsh Folk Noir singer-songwriter Siobhan McCrudden as they have done with her new song Iron Goddess (https://soundcloud.com/hungersleep-records/siobhan-mccrudden-iron-goddess). It finds Siobhan in slighty dark and daunting mode, the song swinging gently in minor key acoustic guitar accompaniment as her vocals begin low and understated before gradually climbing the range both of her register and dynamic spectrum while building a haunting but compelling melody as the backdrop remains relentlessly consistent. Skillfully done as always, another belter of a choon from Siobhan.
Brisa Roché (http://www.brisaroche.com/) is actually from California but moved to Paris at 18 when her father died and took up busking in the Paris Metro. Her style, based around sometimes dark, suspended acoustic guitar chords, ambient synth notes and her distinct alto voice, is folky but veering into Indie territory. Lyrically intelligent, personal and observational, she has shades of Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley and perhaps a little of Bon Iver while her switch from minor to major even brings Judee Sill to mind. Her slightly drawling delivery also has shades of Alanis Morrissette.
Anyway, enough comparisons. Her 2018 album Father just came to my attention [a little late obviously] and its dry earthy quality struck me sufficiently to want to mention her in TTD. Her Wiki page tells us she has also recorded Psych, Garage and jazz-infused Punk music so clearly a versatile writer and performer whose music is worth getting to know.
The Sandersons (https://soundcloud.com/thesandersons) make harmony-filled folk songs with a strongly Celtic feel as witnessed by their track Time. A quintet (two women, three men) who describe themselves as Folk with Jazz leanings, their sound is organic and the production it earthy with an almost live feel which works well when the voices are so crystal clear. Danced with Dionysus is bouncier but remains in sparsely organic style and again the female vocal harmonies take centre stage though there is a distinctly jazzy double bass solo in the middle of the song. There isn’t a whole lot of information about The Sandersons on their Soundcloud page and it could do with some links but I did some digging and discovered they are London-based and they also have a band Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/thesandersonsmusic/. Check them out.
TRUST THE DOC CLASSIC
So this is the third edition in which I have included this section and, as the first two were both broadly Post-Punk bands from the first half of the nineteen eighties it was important to take a different route this time. But sticking with concentrating on artists who have been under-rated or even largely forgotten in the continuous rewriting of popular music history, I have opted for early nineties band Soul Family Sensation.
Soul Family Sensation were fronted by Jhelisa no less who went on to become a significant artist on the Acid Jazz, House and UK Garage scenes, particularly due to the many remixes of her solo hit Friendly Pressure. She was also, of course, one of three female vocal artists from the US-born, UK-based Anderson family along with her sisters Carleen and Pamela (no, not that Pamela Anderson obviously!). Jhelisa also had a spell singing with The Shamen.
Soul Family Sensation, a trio with a name clearly paying homage to the classic Soul and Funk collectives of the mid-seventies, were Jhelisa Anderson, Johnny Male and Gut Batson. Their music was hard to pin down simply because they were so eclectic and it may, ironically, have been that inability to be too samey that cost them the chance of greater success. They were around from 1990 to 1992, were signed by leading independent label Rough Trade and released three fine singles, two of them being the more Soul-influenced I don’t even know if I should call you baby and the poppier Perfect Day. They also cut the 1991 album New Wave, a title that probably caused further confusion about their musical identity!
In a way they were ahead of the game, anticipating the increasing crossover between Pop, Urban and Dance music that would be a feature of the ensuing decade. Whether they directly influenced any of the main beneficiaries of that development is hard to say but they certainly contributed to its evolution alongside others who fared only slightly better like Definition of Sound, PM Dawn and Jhelisa’s sister Carleen’s band The Young Disciples. Their songs were most famously covered by Dance music artist Rozalla and an Australian singer called Wendy Matthews.
The day you went away (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9nY8fXOXkg) is the one that got away. The ultimate tearjerker precisely because, rather than bask in overt sentiment, it presents a heartbreakingly matter-of-fact chorus of ‘Hey there’s not a cloud in the sky/It’s as blue as your blue goodbye/And I thought that it woud rain/On a day like today’. It has a laid back feel with spine-tingling piano, a popping drum programme and almost cheesy synth melody dominating the backing track as Jhelissa sings soulfully in her lower range helped by sweet harmonies. The melody is gorgeous but it’s so unequivocally sad. Despite their name it isn’t Soul but more a minimalistic slice of otherworldly Pop. It has a killer coda too which puts the final nail in the heart. Just so beautiful. Shame the only video I could find is one made by a fan (presumably) which bears no relation to the song but at least it means we are able to listen to it.
Alt Rock & Indie
Now before you ask there is no connection between the Alt Pop band Vanishing Twin (https://soundcloud.com/firerecords/vanishing-twin-magicians-success) and my Vanishing Point live event! What’s that? Oh you weren’t asking! Okay whatever! This track Magician’s Success is getting a lot of airplay on BBC 6 Music and I can hear why. It’s like The Sundays in a jam with Mazzy Star working to an arrangement by Angelo Badelamenti! The guitar is upper strings inversion sevenths in eighties style while the synth is just lush and the female lead vocal is so melancholy and full of character. It also has a tune from which there is no escape my friends. Vanishing Twin have somehow taken a whole heap of retro and created a song that is cutting edge!
After writing this review a friend told me she had seen them live and they were great. She also said they reminded her of Stereolab. The following day, in a conversation with another friend, I discovered that they include at least one former member of Stereolab so perhaps that explains the comparison! It also transpires that they have similarly direct connections to Neon Neon and Floating Points. Having now listened to the whole of their 2017-released Dream By Numbers EP, I can now see/hear that they have a more synth-electronic and experimental edge too. How much Magicians Success signals a shift in direction to a much poppier sound remains to be seen.
It was great to be on the BBC 6 Music Mixtape alongside a band who had already had an airing on the wonderful Monday Night Ride Out. False Advertising (https://soundcloud.com/falseadv2) are an Alt Rock band from Manchester who are fast gaining a reputation for their exciting music and this track You won’t feel love has lodged itself so deep in my brain that I can’t stop singing it. It is a great balance between fast power-driven rock and energised pop with such a killer hook that there is simply nowhere to hide. They are getting amongst it with a busy live itinerary. All bodes well.
Black Palms (https://soundcloud.com/blackpalmsmusic) are a new name to me but their hard-edged and inventive Alt Rock with powerful female vocal puts them somewhere between the post-Grunge Britrock of Skunk Anansie and the tuneful Rock of Milk Teeth. Their song Turned to ash really allows singer and bassist [who I think is Bri] to show off her upper range and maintain a busy bass part while the guitar is provocatively fiery and the drums add a powerful rhythmic foundation. I hope I haven’t got the names wrong but, whichever individual is which, they are Chris Sarantis, Tally Fathalla and Bri Macanas. They also describe their music as soulful epic rock which sounds like a pretty accurate definition.
Sticking with London-based bands, Alt Rock quartet Healthy Junkies (https://soundcloud.com/healthyjunkies) burst forth into my new cordless headphones (a Fathers’ Day Present from my very thoughtful 19 year old son no less!) and nearly knocked me over with the power and momentum of Just a fool with its agreeably punky female voice (courtesy of Nina Courson) in the forefront and a lower-mixed male one (courtesy of guitarist Phil Honey-Jones) responding in the background while the instruments roar forth like a pride of lions. It is catchy too which adds to the sum of its impressive parts.
To give a quick bit of background, Healthy Junkies were formed nearly a decade ago by Parisian singer Nina and British guitarist Phil and they are the creative force behind the band. They became a quartet in 2013 and their current line-up is augmented by bass guitarist Dave Whitmore and drummer Pumpy. Their Gigmit page (https://www.gigmit.com/healthy-junkies) has two videos which have had over a quarter of a million plays and if you watch them you will see why and see that they are a must-see live band. Nina and Phil also run the monthly gig Punk & Roll Rendez-Vous at The Unicorn in Camden and the band maintains a punishing gig schedule. Find out more about all of these things by visiting their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/healthyjunkiesband).
Destination Angel is therefore something of a surprise, kicking off with laid back chords and guitar picking while the vocal is in very precise French. And if you are thinking that any minute it will burst into a full English Wreckfest of Rock joy, think again. The arrangement does thicken a little and there’s a rock-influenced guitar solo at the end but otherwise it remains in this Parisian late night vibe throughout.
This is not a suicide however is much more in Punk territory, recalling the heady days of The Slits and X-Ray Specs in a mash-up with LA Witch and Dream Wife! The Wa-Wa guitar is delicious while the vocal is full-on in-yer-face contemporary Punk. The sound of my guitar is decidedly poppy by comparison, melodic and driven along by mostly major chords while harmony vocal turns things up a notch in the second verse. The tune is almost hymn-like. The lead guitar bending notes over the chords has more than a touch of The Pixies while the track itself is closer to Throwing Muses perhaps. Some seriously mixed influences going on with Healthy Junkies, all of them good and pointing in a very promising direction.
Glass Mountain (https://soundcloud.com/glass-mountainband) hail from Bradford and play melodic Indie Rock that leans into psychedelic territory on Autumn Jam. On the one hand it has the epic spacious production, big resonant guitars, power drums and bass and heroic vocals all of which place Glass Mountain broadly in the kind of territory associated with the likes of Bloomers, Elbow and Arctic Monkeys but then the half time final section and deeper vocals have shades of Bunnymen and others. It’s an uplifting track and one that suggests a band who are probably great live too.
Electric Shore (https://soundcloud.com/electric-shore), who I have written about in a previous edition, burst through my headphones with their track Hurricane which is melodic Alt Rock with a killer hook. The band are from Ratoth, County Meath in the Irish Republic and have a definite commonality with other joyously tuneful Indie and Alt Rock bands from Ireland including The Thrills, Ash, The Devlins etc. although they do not list any influences on their Facebook page so I cannot comment on who they look to for inspiration.
The approach on Hurricane is attractive guitar, chugging bassline and minimal drums accompanying a distinctive upper register male voice in the verse before everything kicks in with a big tuneful chorus that has a classic Rock tinge to it. Darkness of you is slower with a bright bass sound, a driving feel and another killer chorus. These boys know how to write a great hook as well as making inventive Alt Rock. They seem to have no shortage of great tracks that have the energy and attitude of the best Indie music but also such catchy choruses that they are made for radio.
It is only a few editions since I last featured Wild Horse (https://soundcloud.com/wildhorseofficial) but they are back with another energetic new track called The Kids are on drugs. It starts off slow and lazy-voiced, taking the piss a little out of dreary pretentious songs (I assume) before bursting into a more characteristically energetic slice of Alt Rock with unison guitar and bass riffs, frantic vocals, clever stops and driving drums. It even goes into a punky Reggae pastiche at one point. The ‘ah ah’ backing vocals are straight out of the Buzzcocks school of chorus writing while the song itself is somewhat rockier. So another belter and one of 13 tracks on a thoroughly entertaining playlist from Burwash’s second most celebrated sons (the first, as the band recently pointed out to me, being a certain Roger Daltrey).
Little Criminals (https://soundcloud.com/user-184432543) appear to have either forgotten or made a deliberate decision not to say who they are on their Soundcloud page so I only gleaned it was them through a pic. This track was submitted to Fresh on the Net [and presumably to the BBC 6 Music Mixtape] under the name User 184432543! It was then withdrawn before we got to complete the moderation of tracks so I will never know whether my fellow moderators would have shared my enthusiasm for it. I’m sure the band had their reasons for pulling the track anyway.
So all very enigmatic but the Mike TV Dub Mix of their track Running is a joyously earthy slice of tuneful Ska-leaning Reggae (in the sense that they play single offbeat chords) helped by some bendy sound effects and an infectious hook. Busy beat and booming bass keep the track afloat. It strikes a really good balance between the organic sounds of classic Ska and early Dub including the echo on the voice, the tuneful organ and spy movie guitar and the appliance of contemporary production techniques. The Guitar solo is straight out of the Junior Marvin text book. A breath of fresh air but with an Old Skool vibe.
I was unsure whether to review this next artist in the Urban Flavas sub-section. To be honest there is no convenient pigeon hole. But I am fascinated by David 9 Lunas (https://soundcloud.com/lunas_david) who appears to have been under contract to a couple of major labels but has been released and is now recording independently. His track Mushy Dub blends some of the elements of dub - echoing vocals, instrumental drops and resonant drum fills - with other more psychedelic and rock-infused sounds in a dreamy dub choon.
There is a substantial biog on his Soundcloud page talking about his roots in a family of musicians and entertainers from Trinidad and Tobago. David himself specialises in slide and picking guitar and has had a No 1 in Ireland back in 1990. He has also played in an intriguing array of bands and worked with some well-connected musicians. Sunshine in the rain is a slow dreamy Pop ballad with strings and keys prominent in the mix while Hand of Angels is described as Breakbeat-Rock and does have a breakbeat undercurrent in the beat. It also has a subtle Reggae vibe and moreover some great harmonies in fourths lending the track an unusual vibe.
There is a lot of diverse material on here and clearly David 9 Lunas is a versatile writer and artist. It will be interesting to see what he does next.
Lost Raven (https://soundcloud.com/lostravenmusic) is a UK producer who has honed her talent through learning to create electronic music before subsequently deleting her entire catalogue and starting over. She now makes dreamy tracks that mash up elements of Drum’n’Bass, House and R’n’B with mystical vocal harmonies, tough syncopated beatz, thick strings and ambient synths plus plenty of interesting effects and drops. Her track Step Back displays all these features as does the excellent Space. Prisoner is more circumspect and uses sampled spoken word but still has some soft enigmatic female voices floating amid the busy concoction of sonic and musical ingredients.
Not surprisingly, given the quality and originality of her music, Lost Raven has had copious support from BBC Introducing and coverage in a raft of magazines. Don’t be surprised to hear more of her in the very near future.
I have mentioned the excellent female-run and supporting Yorkshire-based PR people HER and I was pleased to hear from them in relation to singer-songwriter Lucy Booth (https://soundcloud.com/user-839962991) who writes thoughtful songs with organic but clever accompaniments to her impressive voice which is rangey, dexterous and full of both raw expression and subtle switches in timbre and dynamic.
The title track to her new EP Melancholy Blue has a classic feel with a breathtaking vocal performance backed by tasteful piano. It recalls a long lineage of great singer-songwriters. Second track Purple Sky is a stark contrast, more R’n’B-tinged with synth, tough beat and big harmonies especially in the chorus. Butterfly is buoyant with a crisp echoing beat, minimal backdrop where synth bass accompanies an almost folky vocal and harmonies in thirds. The overlapping backing vocals lift the infectious hook to greater heights. Jam Sandwiches is a nostalgic song about childhood and has a nostalgic feel too, again echoing a long tradition of singer-songwriters stretching back from Ellie Goulding and Lana Del Ray to Carole King and Joni Mitchell plus all stops between.
It is an impressive and stylistically diverse EP that sends out a positive signal for what we can expect from this talented artist. Watch this space.
Epic Pop & Cinematic Soundscapes
I am not sure where to place this track but the ever-consistent Portsmouth-based Mayfield Records House Band have teamed up with Tom Wells (https://soundcloud.com/tomwellsmusicsync) to record a ballad entitled Merry-Go-Round that sees his distinct voice in the forefront accompanied by cleverly crafted piano and string synth backdrop. It is another example of Mayfield’s versatility as a label and band with their background in Soul music. It also showcases Wells’s growing maturity as an artist. Although it’s billed as Mayfield’s House Band, the instrumental track is dominated by Dominic Elton’s keyboard work and the horns were able to have the day off. The ending is particularly nice as Tom’s voice delivers one final hook line and a single synth note plays out.
Far Caspian (https://soundcloud.com/far-caspian) are from Leeds (yes folks, another fine band from Leeds; what a scene there seems to be forever growing in that cool city) and have an infectious slice of synthy Alt Pop out called A dream of you. An agreeable upper range male vocal floats on a sea of tuneful, friendly synths and spacious production. It breezes along driven by its melodic strength and forward momentum. A little bit (or maybe not so little!) of a nod to the big synth-led epic pop of the mid-eighties (and shades perhaps of the amazing China Crisis) but with enough about its soundworld to be genuinely contemporary.
Purple Thread Official (https://soundcloud.com/purplethreadofficial) are another interesting band from Leeds. Their track I’m all about you is like Funk-Rock-Pop with a retro feel, made all the more so by rocky guitar licks and a touch funky backdrop that acknowledges Funk but is a far cry from it in sound or style. The female voice is appealingly edgy and dexterous but it’s the chorus with its undeniable hook and superb harmony BVs that nails this as a track I want to keep returning to.
I was really pleased to be contacted by the talented Bloom De Wilde (https://soundcloud.com/bloomdewilde) who has a new single and video entitled Soul Siren. Bloom’s music is cleverly arranged Pop which begins as relatively sparse and translucent before drums and chords lift things up a notch. The way she uses the different timbres of her voice and the music switches between bell-like sounds and tasteful trumpet to full on band are all done to great effect.
Bloom De Wilde originally hails from the Netherlands, the daughter of a Dutch artist mother and Indonesian father who led his own Gamelan orchestra so quite a heritage. It also partially explains her synaesthetic approach to writing, something she has in common with artists and composers as diverse as Lorde, Messiaen and Mary J Blige!
She came to London as a student at St Martins and has remained since. She lists as her influences Jeff Buckley, Tom Waits, Radiohead, Bjork, Ella Fitzgerald, Robert Wyatt, Miles Davis, Erik Satie, Joanna Newsom, Kate Bush, Nirvana, the Beatles, Moondog, Toxic Chicken, Indonesian Gamelan and Drum’n’Bass. I might dare to suggest tinges of Tori Amos and St Vincent too but these things are both subjective and subliminal so can never be entirely accurate.
Most important is that she has created a unique sound world which, along with her quirky but fun video, has real impact and demonstrates her skill as a writer and artist.
I am honoured to have been contacted by former Red Guitars guitarist John Rowley about a forthcoming album by his new band 10 Million Aliens (https://vimeo.com/341072744?fbclid=IwAR0Mbc6oGrYPpNEBHmVFkImgPofQ2nSrm1VSv98TT4eRTpefrcFOskjB5vg). They have a single and video out called This Working Life which places an enigmatic Eastern-influenced female vocal figure against swirling electronic sounds, a cool beat and epic arrangement. It is an impressive piece with a nagging melody and aura of mystique. The production is bang on and the picking guitar, syncopated chord changes and voice-as-instrument approach are really lovely. Anyone expecting Red Guitars Mark 2 will be in for a surprise. This is futuristic, funky and works in some spoken word and chanting as it progresses. Classic horns enter the mix late on in the song, taking it towards something Fatboy Slim might want to work on before the hypnotic vocal returns and whisks us off into an ambient finish. All in all a fine piece of work.
Londoner Inbal (https://soundcloud.com/inbalofficial) describes her new track We just said it all as ‘Pop’. I suppose it is but its combination of synths, clever chord changes, handclaps and harmonies are a long way from Pop Charts fodder. She also has a striking and expressive voice and the ability to pen a top tune. Best of luck is from 2018 and has a sparse arrangement, syncopated feel and quirky harmonies sometimes interrupted by a sea of louder chords. A contrasting slow mid-section flirts with classical style strings before the main theme returns. It is original and shows she is happy to be explorative and bring in different dimensions to her style and sound. There is a darkness and intensity to parts of the track too. All very enjoyable.
Electronic Pop & Ambient Sounds
I was delighted to see the return of Babii (https://soundcloud.com/babiibabiibabii) with a new track Poison. Poison is splendid, kicking off with a translucent electronic backdrop while her dreamy vocals take centre stage. But then the whole track lifts and suddenly it has an epic quality. Some of Babii’s harmonies, especially when she sings in fourths and fifths and adds a contrapuntal contrast lower in the mix, are absolutely stunning. This is what I want from contemporary pop music - originality, thoughtful writing and a spine-tingling vocal performance.
Denise Bell (https://soundcloud.com/denisebellofficial) is from the Scottish Capital City of Edinburgh and describes herself as an Electronic Folk artist and she certainly produces a refreshingly unusual blend of organic acoustic guitar chords with warm synth and a striking vocal style that is actually almost slightly bluesy. Maybe this time has a subtle intensity [if that isn’t a contradiction!]. Maybe brooding intensity wuld be more accurate! Anyhow, Denise’s voice has an American sounding edge, kind of Maria McKee or Natalie Merchant territory. And the track builds with more layers of synth and vocal harmonies. It’s really engaging.
Denise Bell cites ‘five decades and beyond’ of influences including Scottish traditional music, James Blake, Paulo Nutini and others. Tokyo with its gorgeous synth ambience and whispery vocals suggests a few more; perhaps a touch of Brian Eno, Julia Holter and Emily Fairlight. But these things are always hard to pin down. I should possibly have reviewed Denise in the Folk Law section but it doesn’t really matter what label we stick [or don’t stick] on her music. What matters is that she is producing a body of really good quality, highly original work. Why blame others with its clever vocal arrangement, exposed at just the right moment, utilising quintal-quartal harmony the next, is another example of her fine songs and stunning voice.
Hilder (https://soundcloud.com/iamhilder) is from Reading and while her Soundcloud page depicts two young women singing on stage and describes her as a singer-songwriter, the track she sent in to Fresh on the Net War Cry is a lengthy piece of ambient electronica mixed with almost medieval chanting (with some hint of Eastern influence) that becomes more dramatic and powerful as the track develops out of a quiet, enigmatic beginning.
There are three versions of the track and then the next newest is Tripping on lies which is literally nothing like the new material and is in more traditional Pop Rock style that reminds me a little of Anastacia. So something of an enigma. It will be interesting to see whether War Cry signals a new direction for her or is just a one-off.
AND FINALLY ………
So that’s it for Edition 29. Another crazy packed one after the crazy bumper Ed. 28! What can I say? There is so much great new music around and this is just half a month’s worth of the best tracks. Two great live events coming up. It would be great to see you at one or both of these. And you can find links to all our events by just going to https://demerararecords.com and checking the menu.