TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS
by Neil March (Edition 2, 5th May 2018)
WILL THERE EVER BE ANOTHER BIG WAVE?
Every so often I find myself involved in a message thread or conversation in which the question is posed: When and from where will the next great musical wave come? Almost always, it is asked by someone broadly of my generation who is having a dewy eyed moment about living through the incredible experience of Punk in the mid-seventies. Perhaps, if they are thinking more broadly, they may also be recalling Hip Hop’s arrival from the USA at the start of the eighties.
The Case for the Prosecution!!!
So the argument goes, the conditions in which Punk came about [in the UK; Hip Hop in the predominantly black projects of New York & Baltimore) - youth disillusionment with mainstream music and politics, a stagnant pop scene in which there is little evidence of change year on year set against rising violent crime and tension and a growing gulf between rich and poor - are resurfacing. Surely it’s time for an explosion of underground music and counter culture. Well, sorry to pour water on such a romantic notion but I think another punk-style new wave is highly unlikely to materialise. Why? Because in 1976, pop music and associated fashion were the indisputable primary focus for youth culture and activity. 42 years later that is no longer the case. If there is going to be any kind of street level cultural revolution in this country it is far more likely to have its roots in mobile and digital technology and social media. And it won’t necessarily involve music other than as a side show
The Defence’s Right of Reply!!!
All the same there is at least one of the above conditions which I would want to call into question. Yes, if you take your lead on the state of contemporary pop music from what’s in the charts and what gets played on the mainstream Pop channels, you could be forgiven for believing there is a lack of invention and change happening year on year. But the charts are not that important anymore. The role of Top of the Pops as the weekly national showcase for current music died a death more than a decade ago. It was already dated then.
One need not look far to discover a wealth of talent out there. Start with more or less any combination of the following radio shows - Late Junction & Unclassified on BBC Radio 3; Tom Robinson (Saturday evening show & the BBC Introducing Mixtape Show), Freak Zone (with Stuart Maconie), Tom Ravenscroft and a clutch of others on BBC 6 Music; Flomotion (with Nick Luscombe), Adventures in Music (The Wire magazine), Is Black Music, The Other Woman, Pull the Plug and others on Resonance FM plus whatever interesting [especially local] shows you can get your hands on. Marc Ainscough’s Get fresh for the weekend on Radio Dacorum is highly recommended too. Additionally, check out the stations and shows that obviously reflect your key areas of interest.
What’s coming from Leftfield?
Plenty of intriguing new music emanating from leftfield this month. Among them Laura Cannell’s masterpiece of modal strings on Breathe Now as heard on a recent edition of BBC Radio 3’s Unclassified with Elizabeth Alker and the mindboggling Hatis Noit’s Anagram C.I.Y (from the Illogical Dance EP) complete with disarming breaks in the sound, searing harmonies and hypnotic counterpoint as heard on Late Junction courtesy of Verity Sharp. Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone on BBC 6 Music continues to throw up some delights, old new and obscure. One highlight was the shivering experimental soundscape of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani with Closed Circuit. If you like to explore the adventurous end of the electronic and related music spectrum I recommend listening to the aforementioned Flomotion with Nick Luscombe (also of Late Junction) on Resonance FM and Resonance has a host of intriguing and unique shows so check out their schedule. More on this in the next edition.
And of course visit the freshonthenet.co.uk Listening Post every weekend (Friday afternoon to Sunday evening), check out the new tracks we have selected and have your say on them …… which brings me neatly to this edition’s bands and artists focus. Once again I have chosen four who I have been fortunate to come across in my role as a moderator and reviewer for Fresh on the Net.
Four Exciting Bands & Artists!!!
The four are Lincolnshire’s sassy soulful and talented Pop chanteuse Chloey Rose, Bristol’s mind-spinning Jazz Futurists Hippo, Indie-Dream Pop duo Morning Myth and Nottingham’s premier voice of East Midlands Grime & Brit Hop Elmz XIX .
Morning Myth (https://soundcloud.com/morningmyth) have been regularly submitting tracks to the FOTN Listening Post without joy though I keep voting for them! When a band consistently sends in tracks as strong as theirs, it thoroughly deserves to be championed by someone and that someone is going to be me. Morning Myth make reverberant, ethereal music in which the lead [female] vocal floats effortlessly on a wave of resonant guitars, distant synths and a solid bedrock of bass and drums. Songs like Blurred Lines and Mysteries and Halo showcase these aspects while Beyond the Blue demonstrates a darker more reflective edge.
I have to admit to being more than a little chuffed that, having compared them to the Cocteaus and Sundays, it turns out they are actually influenced by both. They also cite another favourite of mine, John Martyn, all of which explains the dreamily drifting aura aided by plenty of reverb and open chords. This brainchild of singer Aimee Herbert-Smith and guitarist Ross King needs to be heard by a wider audience. Let’s hope that happens for the pair soon.
Elmz XIX (https://soundcloud.com/elmzxix) have fashioned a distinct and engaging sound that blends deep-voice rapping [with unmistakably East Midlands brand] and tongue-in-cheek lyrics with minimal electronic backdrop; simple sub-Bass and synth riffs, broken up and funky beatz, occasional doubling up of vocals, spoken word BVs and lots of individual sounds coming in and out of the mix. The excellent Penny to the Pound was my favourite track at the Listening Post a couple of months ago and Do not feed the animals underlines the strength of their expanding repertoire. Hopefully it will not be long before they catch the ear of mainstream radio programmers and begin to build a more visible [or audible] platform for their talents.
Going off in a completely different direction we find West Country trio Hippo (https://soundcloud.com/hippobristol), who mix musicianship in spades with clever control of live electronics. That’s not an easy trick to pull off when the core of your music is improvised modern Jazz. But Hippo pull it off with consummate ease on the amazing Gromet. The sax melody sets the scene as the band interact with swirling electronic notes. This added layer of discipline does not undermine the loose funkiness of the drums nor the impressive improvised passages from sax and synth. At the same time though, Hippo avoid self-indulgence and accordingly keep the listener with them at all times. If this is the future of Jazz [at least for a time], that is more than fine with me.
Last but most definitely not least we have Lincoln’s Chloey Rose (https://soundcloud.com/chloeyrose) who epitomises the hard working and good natured artist who truly deserves a big break. Not just because she’s such a good person and so supportive of fellow artists but because she’s also a top-notch singer and performer. Her current single Lungs sees her occupying that territory that is, in essence, Pop but which dips into R’n’B and Electronic influences here and there as she layers her fine voice with harmonies and double-ups. Chloey has been working with none other than Gary Clark of the Scottish Pop Sophisticates Danny Wilson whose second album Be Bop Mop Top dominated my stereo for large parts of the early nineties. If she continues to keep such talented and accomplished company it can only help her get to where she wants to be.
So this edition suggests some artists, tracks and radio shows you can chill to and enjoy at your leisure. Look out for near future editions that will feature, among other things, a new album by Somerset singer/songwriter Sharon Lazibyrd and other deserving recipients of BBC Introducing attention. Meanwhile I hope to see lots of you voting and leaving your comments at the freshonthenet.co.uk Listening Post. You know where to find us.