TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS
by Neil March (Edition 24, 15th April 2019)
Welcome to Edition 24 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. In this month’s issue no less than seven album, EP and single reviews by bands kind enough to send their new releases to me. And as ever a wide spectrum of styles and scenes. #SaveLateJunction
✦ VANISHING POINT: Preparing for a night of Electronic & Experimental Vibes
✦ CHOLLY: What a month her EP has had for radio play & a film festival
✦ NEIL MARCH: Yes it’s my first solo album in four and a half years!
✦ EDMUND FINNIS: Exploring the timbres and textures of the Violin
✦ JAZZMEIA HORN: Grammy nominee in session on BBC Radio 2
✦ TAKAHASHI YUJIRO & KATAKURA YAKIJI: Japanese Folk Journeys
✦ VASHTI BUNYAN: DIscovering a classic album by a Folk legend
✦ MORNING MYTH: TTD Dream-Pop favourites release new album
✦ SAD MAN: New album release by explorative electronic masters
✦ LOUIS MARTIN: All-encompassing Alt Pop of the uplifting variety
✦ MUGEN: Appealing and expertly constructed Alt Pop from Leeds
✦ SISTER GHOST: Driving Alt Rock energy from Derry and Belfast
✦ LOYLE CARNER & EZRA COLLECTIVE: When great talents collaborate
✦ GREZZER: Thoughtful intelligent and moving UK Hip Hop
✦ FREYA ROY: Summer Soul vibes with jazz source and a great vocal
✦ ROSIE TEE: Continuing from Ed. 23 with a review of the now finished EP
✦ SIRENSONG: Penetrating vocals in a sea of guitar explorations
✦ JYLDA: Bendy synths and striking female vox plus dreamy pop textures
✦ MURIEL & BLAZQUEZ: Extraordinary Leeds duo back with stunning single
✦ ROOKERY: New album from South East London Avant Pop Experimenters
✦ IVAN BLACK: New album acknowledges German Electronic tradition
✦ BLEDIG: Ethereal electronic ambience & haunting voices from Brighton
✦ DANIEL AVERY: Mixing up some futuristic electronic ambience on 6 Music
The Vanishing Point (https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point) gig at the beautiful Ivy House in Nunhead/Peckham on 4th April was a cracker. It featured recent Fresh on the Net ‘fave’ Luvia (https://soundcloud.com/luvia_music), TTD favourite Yvonne Hercules (https://soundcloud.com/yvonnehercules) and my own duo with Dilara, Environmental Sound Foundation (https://demerararecords.com/environmental-sound-foundation). The gig was live streamed on the internet by the awesome bndr Music (https://bndrmusic.com) and videos of the individual artists’ live sets will be available to watch soon.
The next Vanishing Point is on Thursday 2nd May at the beautiful Ivy House in Nunhead/Peckham. It will be a special night of electronic, ambient & experimental music & sounds featuring Smallhaus (https://soundcloud.com/smallhaus); HMS Loss; Slow Loris (https://www.instagram.com/slowlorissounding/) and Richard Sanderson (https://soundcloud.com/bagrec1) of Linear Obsessional (https://www.linearobsessional.org). It is only £4 a ticket (or £5 on the door). Book yours at https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point
It has actually been something of a full-on half month since Edition 23. Cholly (https://soundcloud.com/chollyhappymusic) has had a fantastic run of airplay including two BBC Regional shows, Exile FM, Conquest Radio and Union Jack Radio most of whom have played tracks from her EP twice or three times. Then her new video (for the song Adores) was screened at the Swindon Film Festival. This is great news and speaking as her manager, although she is currently on my label Demerara Records (https://demerararecords.com), we are talking to other labels about the prospect of her signing with them if the offer is right. Exciting times. You can check her out including the video and new EP at https://demerararecords.com/Cholly.
CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL & LEFTFIELD
Obviously I am not going to review it myself (!) but I wanted to share the fact that, amongst all the other things I’ve been doing as an author, promoter, manager and one half of Environmental Sound Foundation, I have found time to finish work on and release my first solo album in four and a half years. So if you want to check it out it’s a broadly contemporary classical work with 16 tracks divided into three distinct stories and it has a whole heap of other flavours infusing the music and sound art. And of course it makes extensive use of recordings of real environmental noise, some transformed into instruments of harmony. It’s called Three Short Stories and it’s available from https://demerararecords.com/bandcamp.
There was a particularly memorable edition of Late Junction (BBC Radio 3) earlier in the month. Presented by Verity Sharp it took us on a mad trip through a helter skelter of genres and flavours. Among the highlights was a peformance of London-based composer Edmund Finnis’s (https://soundcloud.com/edmund-finnis) Elsewhere, an exploratory piece for solo violin. Helped in no small part by a superb performance by contemporary violin virtuoso Eloisa Fleur-Thorn (https://www.eloisafleurthom.co.uk/). It held my attention on account of the delicate and yet quite unusual notation, contrasts of the violin’s timbres and its concentration on the upper register. I recommend seeking it out for a listen.
I will be completely honest and say that Grammy-nominated jazz singer Jazzmeia Horn (https://concord.com/artist/jazzmeia-horn/) is not an artist whose style is one I particularly choose to listen to. She is quite traditional and her rapid-fire scat-oriented delivery is very much a throwback. But when she appeared in session on Jamie Cullum’s show on BBC Radio 2, I decided to listen on the podcast and the two tracks she performed, East of the Sun (and West of the Moon) and the more frantic Au Privave were a really good demonstration of her undeniable talent, impeccable timing and vocal dexterity. So I have a newfound respect for her ability to infuse a traditional style of jazz with her own unique character.
WORLD IN MOTION
Takahashi Yujiro (https://www.allmusic.com) & Katakura Yakiji (no links) are a duo who play Japanese Folk music combining acrobatic vocals in a mode that resembles [but is not] Indian Raga scales. This is set against light-textured but percussive and tremelo plucked strings and light percussion. Late Junction aired their track Akita Nikata Bushi which has all these characteristics and an abundance of frenetic energy.
I am unable to unearth much information about either of these artists but if you are able to check out the podcast of Late Junction before it expires it is a great place to start.
The closure of Fresh on the Net for the first part of the month meant I was struggling to hear much Folk music that really grabbed my interest. That was until I heard the soft tones and striking melodic sensibilities in a track by English Folk legend Vashti Bunyan (https://www.fat-cat.co.uk/artist/vashti-bunyan) on Mark Radcliffe’s Folk Show on R2.
It turned out that Diamond Day was the opening track from her classic 1970 album Just another diamond day. Well, yes I know it isn’t new music and she is now 74 but it is new to me and probably to a great many readers too. Although her 2014 album (and only her third in a career spanning five decades) was announced at the time as her finale, she may still perform live from time to time and it is never too late to discover her music.
Alternative Rock & Indie
It’s a bumper month for bands kindly sending me their new albums to review. See the sub-section entitled Electronic & Avant Pop for Rookery’s latest set. In the meantime two bands who just about come under the broad sub-heading of Alternative Rock and Indie are TTD regulars, the incredibly consistent Dream Pop duo Morning Myth (https://soundcloud.com/morningmyth) and another good friend of TTD, the Electronic Alternative outfit Sad Man (https://soundcloud.com/user-861961628).
Morning Myth follow up on a year of very fine singles with the album Glass Sky and from the moment the resonant Cocteaus-like chords kick in at the start of Halo the intention is clear. Aimee and Ross make reverberant, enigmatic Dream Pop that blends some mouth watering influences with Aimee’s haunting voice, Ross’s poetic guitar playing and combined ears for an unusual and affecting melody. They also display a great sense both of how to maximise the impact of a rich harmonic language and to utilise the textures and timbres of the instruments while allowing for plenty of space between sounds.
All rivers flow to the ocean is an outstanding track which I have not been able to get out of my head since I first heard it months ago (and included it on a Spotify playlist that was aired at the gig I performed at and promoted earlier this month). The vocal harmonies and little semi-tone descent in the chorus are stunning and the mid-section is pure Liz Fraser (albeit when she began referencing Kate Bush).
The album continues in this vein with plenty of contrast and echoes, at different times, of John Martyn, early Fleetwood Mac and Todd Rundgren while, at others, it reminds me of the Cocteau Twins (obviously) but also Mazzy Star, Low, The Sundays and Julia Holter. The John Martyn influence is certainly evident in the guitar intro of Heart’s Cry although Aimee’s vocal delivery recalls Virginia Astley too.
The Story in your eyes is another example of their rich arranging skills and obvious songwriting skills coupled with an innate ability to play to their strengths. That of course can be said about the whole album. This is such a high quality of inventive, handcrafted Post-Dream Pop with Psychedelic Folk undercurrents. A real winner. It isn’t up on Bandcamp just yet but keep looking. It is worth the wait. My understanding is that it will also be available on CD soon.
Sad Man’s new untitled album is a fascinating hybrid of Alt Rock undercurrents and mind-spinning Electronic and Ambient explorations. They may sound, on surface level, like strange bedfellows but actually these are just the opposite ends of the Sad Man spectrum which is united in robust beats and basslines, pulsating electronics and rock-solid foundations.
It has 21 tracks, mostly with single word titles, kicking off with the futuristic Walsemen and the equally edgy Type C. This is electronic music as you have never quite heard it, the intensity of the music sounding out a dark message, the breadth of ideas and starkly contrasting timbres and texture.
Tide is pure trippy electronica, The Prodigy without vocals or just a pulsating but syncopated backdrop to a futuristic, quasi-dystopian theme. Gull is a real delight. The diversity ot flavours is really impressive throughout.
There are 21 tracks so we are talking value for money too. Andy and co have really delivered on a musically and sonically ambitious and progressive soundworld. You can find it at https://sadmanband.bandcamp.com/album/untitled-album with an official release date of 1st May 2019.
Louis Martin (https://soundcloud.com/louismartin1) is a young singer-songwriter from Yarm, Teesside whose Facebook page tells is he is ‘influenced by everything’ which is perhaps a rather good place to begin! Actually, on the strength of Just like we used to his music is highly melodic guitar-driven pop with lovely simple guitar figures, strong vocals and no shortage of melodic flair. It is broadly Alt Pop (or Indie depending upon who you ask) and, while it does wear a whole canon of influences on its sleeve (from the Beatles and Who through the Buzzcocks, early U2, The La’s maybe, possibly the Magic Numbers, Dandy Warhols, maybe a touch of Bunnymen, oh well you get the picture hopefully), it is so well-written and performed I could not ignore it. As his writing develops Louis Martin looks like one to watch.
I mention Leeds no less than three times in this edition and this time it’s the city’s Alternative Rock and Indie scene in the spotlight courtesy of an excellent track by MuGen (https://soundcloud.com/whoismugen) entitled Fool Pt. 3. Syncopated guitar chords decend in semi-tones in a manner that one might [slightly ambiguously] describe as like Josek K or perhaps Close Lobsters playing Burt Bacharach (and let’s see if that becomes the next of my quotes to end up on social media, lol!). The deep male voice (in bass baritone range as us classical types might have it) swoops and slurs upwards and downwards like a very expressive human portamento. The voice is striking and appealing too while the band’s playing is as tough as it’s tight. This is a really good standard of everything - writing, arranging, singing, playing and production.
Naturally I expected to find parts 1 and 2 of Fool at the band’s Soundcloud page but actually didn’t. However I did find an engaging piece of chugging Alt Pop adorned with attractive guitar figures entitled Honeymushroom. The half time breaks add an extra touch of quality and the enigmatic vocal effect is great.
Sister Ghost (https://soundcloud.com/sisterghost) is Shannon Delores O’Neill and she hails from Derry and Belfast (that’s what her Soundcloud page says, not me hedging my bets!). She has been involved in bands since she was young and formed Sister Ghost as a vehicle for her songs which are influenced by Seattle scene Post-Punk bands, The Gits, Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, Kate Bush and Thin Lizzy among others. Actually that’s a pretty cool combination which goes some way to explaining her talent for mixing strong melodies, appropriate harmonies and driving guitar-driven arrangements with plenty of instrumental interplay and movement.
These qualities are present in abundance on the excellent Backwards which arrived in my Fresh on the Net in-box. My enthusiasm for this track in turn led me to check out her Soundcloud page where I discovered the podcasts she has posted in which she talks about her music and plays excerpts from others. Clearly she is an artist worth spending a bit more time becoming familiar with.
Incidentally the band Sister Ghost has supported Shellac, Pussy Riot and Le Butcherettes. Given the impressive infrastructure around new music in Northern Ireland, coupled with what are clearly some amazing songs, Sister Ghost is well-placed to make a real impact on Alt Rock and Indie music in the near future. An exciting prospect.
London Hip Hop artist Loyle Carner (https://loylecarner.com/) has had an amazing couple of years since he first grabbed attention across the piece with the stunning Isle of Arran. His latest release is a collaboration with Ezra Collective (http://ezracollective.com/) entitled What am I to do which places his thoughtful reflective lyrics and delivery against a laid back urban groove infused with funky jazz and synthy vibes and some lovely contrasts between jittery, jagged keyboard figures and sustained distant sounds. Hopefully this will get strong support from UK radio. The fact that it was premiered by Mary Anne Hobbs is an encouraging sign.
I should also mention that his current collaboration with Jorja Smith (https://soundcloud.com/jorjasmith) Loose Ends is absolute dynamite, her stunning soulful voice complemented by his heartbreaking lyrics. An early contender for single of the year.
The past year has seen a lot of thoughtful intelligent and lyrically moving Hip Hop tracks emanating from UK artists and the latest of these to come to my attention via Fresh on the Net is Grezzer (https://soundcloud.com/grezzer_ukhh). The Herne Hill (South East London) artist grabbed me immediately with the track Sunshine on which his courageously honest lyrics deal with the heartbeak of experiencing childhood tragedy and subsequent dark emotions while at times repeating the line ‘I tell myself I have so much to live for’. All this is set against melancholy strings and tough urban beat. He leaves nothing out in telling his tale. It is moving, stirring stuff but ultimately uplifting too and delivered in lyrical free-flowing vocal style.
Grezzer’s Soundcloud page also contains the track Heavyweight which has rapid fire rap and more museful lyrics accompanied by some really appealing keyboard chords, quiet occasional backing vocal and another robust beat. Lonely Path has a dreamy soulful backdrop to another autobiographical lyric. If you like proper London accented rapping with passion, honesty and thoughtfulness playing against inventive, attractive instrumental tracks and punchy beats, I thoroughly recommend that you check Grezzer out. Hopefully we will be hearing a great deal more of this talented young artist.
Freya Roy (https://soundcloud.com/freya-roy) came to notice as part of the Leeds Jazz scene before relocating to Norwich where her style seems to have shifted towards more of a Neo-Soul vibe with echoes of Angie Stone and even early Amy Winehouse (circa Frank). 22 Movements has a breezy summery soul feel perked up by a crisp R’n’B beat, sweet harmonies and Freya’s dexterous, classy voice. I can hear this drifting from car stereos and open kitchen windows as the warm weather descends in May.
Epic & Cinematic
In Edition 23, I reviewed the super-talented Birmingham-based artist Rosie Tee (https://soundcloud.com/rosieteemusic) on the back of receiving the amazing track Chambers. The day the blog was published, Rosie announced that the 5-track EP was now finished and up on her Soundcloud page and, having listen to it once, I immediately knew I had to include it in this edition.
So we already know from Edition 23 that Chambers is an outstanding song full of butterflies-inducing chords, interesting bass figures, exotic harmonies, completely unexpected and brilliant changes plus Rosie’s distinct and magical voice(s). All we are now then announces itself courtesy of unaccompanied and sweet harmony vocals. The mood is dreamier, some really unusual and striking harmonies, gorgeous electric piano chords and a minimalist beat. It doesn’t have that much in the mix and yet it is so impressive and doesn’t feel light at any point. The chords towards the end are to die for!
Wax and Wane is slow and pits Rosie’s voice against some really appealing synth chords. The shift to the flattened supertonic major seven at the end of certain phrases is a lovely touch. Resonant voices and minimal synth lend the track an enigmatic quality with plenty of space and implied changes. This is constrasted by the intro of Watersong which is in three-time with a fuller instrumental arrangement and punchy jazz-infused electric piano chords. The mid-section does strip things down to reverberant voice and slowly crescendoing string chords before normal order is restored except initially swapping between three and four time. All the while Rosie’s vocal is soft but dynamic.
Siren rounds things off, beginning with chords played on what sounds like a musical cash register and Rosie’s voice tracked and sounding slightly ghostly before buzzing synth bass and unusual syncopated rhythms rise in prominent and a drumbeat arrives that is essentially Drum’n’Bass. None of this phases Rosie whose voice continues to sing its legato melody, navigating the complex rhythms and ambient sounds circling around them. There is a growing intensity as the drums become more frenetic and the effects and echoes on the voice increase. It is a fine ending to a fantastic EP. If Rosie Tee doesn’t become a significant name in contemporary music, there is no justice. Hopefully she will.
Merseyside duo SirenSong (https://www.facebook.com/SirenSongMusic/) are vocalist/acoustic guitarist Rachael Dunn (who you may recall was also the vocalist on Lights That Change’s awesome Too close to heaven; see TTD, Ed.23) and guitarist/backing vocalist Shaun Laceley. Their debut single Without the fear was released earlier this month by 72 RPM. Trying to pigeon-hole it is hard because, on the one hand, the way it is dominated by Rachael’s distinct, penetrating voice and Shaun’s lovingly played guitar could easily place it in contemporary Folk and yet the use of resonant guitar effects and the dreamy melody and harmonies are cinematic in quality. What you do need to know is that it is stunning and it builds in intensity as it goes on.
The same can be said of Fade into light, currently earmarked to be the follow-up single (though they are in the middle of recording a steady stream of new material). On the strength of these two tracks, I am seriously excited to hear the rest.
Jylda (https://soundcloud.com/jylda) came to my attention through the just reopened Fresh on the Net in-box with the song Reeled. Bendy synth chords open the track, sounding not unlike Jockstrap. Then a voice comes onto centre stage that has, perhaps unexpectedly for a London act, shades of Cerys Matthews and a touch of Roisin Murphy (and probably others who I have not immediately cottoned onto). It’s a striking and expressive voice which is at times subject to additional harmonies in a dynamic but dreamy Pop track that stands out for both its engaging qualities and its originality.
I was really pleased to be given the chance to review the new single by the super talented and impossible to categorise Leeds-based duo Muriel & Blazquez (https://soundcloud.com/murielblazquez). Moonbeam is a quite extraordinary track. It begins with Lizzy and Lily singing unaccompanied in unison before soulful single stab piano chords arrive accompanying a combination of semi-whispered spoken word and soft vocal ad lib. At first I was wondering whether they had decided to change direction and go for a more direct minimal pop ballad style after the semi-classical sophistication and harmonic invention of Skin/Veil Me.
Really I should have known better! Suddenly the piano changes rhythm taking on a semi-classical style and vocal harmonies arise out of an ascending melody. The track returns to single chords and spoken word but there are more sounds entering the mix. When again it shifts into what is essentially the B Section theme, eventually male voices join and the contrasts between the voices, along with some sumptious harmonies, leads to a truly beautiful and ethereal atmosphere. It is a perfect ending to a piece which has built in subtly added layers, transitioning from transparent to translucent and transforming a simple ballad into something more akin to a SATB quartet.
Muriel & Blazquez are developing their own niche, perhaps continuing an oft-ignored or simply not sufficiently known about lineage from the likes of Virginia Astley and Lisa Gerrard to more recent purveyors of enigmatic part-classical and quite ethereal pop like Julia Holter and Chlöe March. I can’t wait for two things - an album and an opportunity to see them live. In the meantime Moonbeam is out on 19th April.
Electronic & Avant Pop
I was delighted to receive a copy of the new album by my good friends from Crystal Palace, the inimitable Rookery (https://soundcloud.com/worldofsurprises) and, just to really underline the honour for me, the album is recorded live at a gig I promoted - Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House.
Entitled simply Rookery it is a fantastic mix and mastering of what was indeed a fantastic gig that showcases everything I have previously written about Rookery in TTD from Alison’s clever piano chords and clarinet skills to the band’s penchant for mixing a plethora of instruments and sound-related props, all topped off by George’s deadpan spoken word delivery, a sort of more politically focused Southern equivalent to The Fall’s late great Mark E Smith. This is thoughtful, experimental Avant Pop laced with a healthy dollop of improv. And it’s put together by such an impressive group of musicians. Of course, having been fortunate enough to have been at the gig on this album, I still remember just how good it was.
The band’s line-up on the night of the gig was Alison O’Melia (Piano/Clarinet/Accordion/Harmonica), George E Harris (Spoken Word/ Typewriter/Effects/Harmonica), David Rothon (Omnichord/Kalimba/Melodica), Agata Liswoska (Violin), Erik Moore (Bass Guitar) and Mark Hill (Electronics & Radio Effects). The Ivy House’s wonderful and talented sound engineer Hugh Aynsley is also credited as is producer Jono Podmore.
It is hard to pick out highlights on such a consistently good set but at a push, I might single out Vs in the window, Shipping Clerk and The Projectionist (live version of Rookery’s contribution to our Demerara Records compilation album Vanishing Point (Vol. 1)). Find it at https://rookeryensemble.bandcamp.com/
Ivan Black (https://vanguardistarecords.bandcamp.com/album/harmonic-neuism) also alerted me to his new album via some clever tweets linking his style to German Electronic music and ‘Krautrock’ (a term I use in citation as it is considered offensive by a great many German and other musicians). Harmonic Neuism finds him in fine form.
From the Cabaret Voltaire-ish Electrofunk intro to Sharpened Edge, we have beautifully crisp and funky drum programmes, a range of buzzing, floating and popping synths and a hypnotic edge. Floating Tone has a blunter edge but busy drum track. Neuism uses resonant guitars for a deep and appealing ambience. Hans and Pieter go cycling underlines the German Electronic music homage being paid and it certainly brings classic German acts like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Neu! to mind. Evening Falls is a fitting finale, kicking off with ambient chords played hammer-style on what could even be a Dulcimer (but probably isn’t!). Enigmatic synths appear on sustained note-drifts as the hammer chord theme begins to build and squelchy synth bass shores up the sound, adding a subtly funky edge.
It’s a clever, creative and highly worthwhile album and if, like me, you enjoy the combination of the edgy and futuristic with the tranquility and ethereal atmosphere, this album is for you.
Bledig (https://soundcloud.com/richardbrincklow) absolutely captivated me with their latest offering And Breathe Reprise. Built around a series of the most spine-tinglingly beautiful and, at times, partially dissonant deep piano chords, haunting distant voices, swirling synths, freeform laid back drums and eventually penetrating saxophone too, this is electronic ambient music of an absolutely life-affirming kind.
Bledig’s Soundcloud blurb says they have expanded into a larger line-up and they cite a bunch of influences which include (but are not limited to) Portishead, Melainie De Basio and GO GO Penguin. Yet another great band from Brighton which is fast laying claim to being the new Mecca for new music in the UK, they are essentially a trio of Richard Brincklow, Hannah Boulton and James Purvis who have supported some well-established acts and have a fair bit of form between them. Various guests appear on specific tracks.
Their single Bruise has been played by Tom Robinson on BBC Radio 6 Music and has a jazz-classical undercurrent courtesy of more deep piano chords and Hannah’s soulful vocal delivery. Meantime has a dreamier, more ambient feel while Hannah’s voice floats atop the slowly building layers beneath her flight. Bledig are making some beautifully inventive and determinedly individual music. A real one to watch.
It was a pleasant surprise to hear the talented Daniel Avery (https://soundcloud.com/worldofsurprises) being interviewed and then performing a live mix of instrumental electronica, ambient and ethereal music and sounds on Mary Anne Hobbs’s morning show on BBC Radio 6 Music. He explained the background to how he ended up supporting hardcore Alt Rockers Nine Inch Nails on a US tour and talked about the satisfaction he experiences when a mix threatens to go off the rails and he hauls it back in to achieve a near-perfect outcome! The live mix was certainly a refreshing departure from what I would usually expect to hear in earlly lunchtime on 6 Music.
AND FINALLY ….
Well that wraps up Edition 24 of Trust The Doc. I will be back on 30th May with another load of new and less mainstream music to write about. In the meantime thanks for reading this and have a great half month! Neil xxxx