TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS

by Neil March (Edition 7, 16th July 2018)

FESTIVAL SEASON: EXPOSURE FOR NEW MUSIC

So it’s Festival Season and, as I try not to feel a pang of envy for the new round of artists playing the BBC Introducing Stage at Latitude this year [and I was one of them this time last year!], I also feel proud that some of the artists I have personally championed in my Fresh on the Net role have been unveiled as this year’s new acts. More of that later though. So what do we have in store for Trust The Doc readers in Edition 7?

✦ KALI MALONE: New Perspectives on harmony, texture and digital synthesis

✦ NITIN SAWHNEY & ANOUSHKA SHANKAR: Eastern promise on Radio 3

✦ CHIEDU ORAKA: More Stonking Tracks from the King of Northern Grime

✦ ELMZ XIX: Nottingham’s Midlands Main Man adds new flavours to his sound

✦ SIMON D JAMES: 5-Track EP showcases his distinctiveness and talent

✦ GAIKA: Uniquely futuristic and inventive and refusing to be pigeon-holed

✦ STRICTLY BANTER: Blazing a trail on streaming platforms and social media

✦ JAZZ SPECTRUM: Brigida HB, The Death Particle & Josiel Konrad tracks

✦ ENVIRONMENTAL SOUND FOUNDATION: Live & Free in Ladywell Fields

✦ ANGRY BABY MUSIC: My hot news that I am now working for Angry Baby

✦ LUCKY HORSES: Ethereal Electro-Psych from enigmatic new band

✦ BLACK MIRROR: Beautifully crafted Folk-Pop from Tenerife’s finest act

✦ LAURAN HIBBERD: Driving upbeat Punk Power Pop from the Isle of Wight

MY NEW ROLE WITH ANGRY BABY

I have some exciting news to share which I hope will prove to be good news for bands and artists too. That is my appointment by the excellent and popular online music platform Angry Baby as their A&R Manager and sometimes reviewer too. My principal role will be to identify exciting new and emerging artists suitable to be featured by Angry Baby. Needless to say it fits perfectly with my existing roles with Fresh on the Net and Trust The Doc. Inevitably not all the music I cover here will work with Angry Baby too but it does mean I want to hear new music and I have been given a wide brief in terms of genres and scenes. Hopefully this will prove to be beneficial for lots of artists and bands over the times ahead.

CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL & LEFTFIELD

The endlessly amazing Nick Luscombe hosted Late Junction (BBC Radio 3) for the opening week of July and kicked off with the intriguing musical sound art of Kali Malone with the track Arched in Hysteria from the Cast of Mind album. It is an odd title for a piece that builds so calmly and achieves something akin to a serene intensity! The album, it turns out, is full of compelling pieces in similar vein.

It’s no flash in the pan either. The more I delve into Malone’s catalogue and look at videos of her performances the more I find myself being drawn into her mystical and disarmingly measured and calm soundworld. Salutations is described as “... a collection of three isorhythmic canons for pipe organ tuned in the Kirnberger III temperament presented spatially over a 29 channel speaker dome”. The description goes on to talk of minimal melodic variation but nevertheless there being variation of an unpredictable nature which is compared to the spokes of a bicycle wheel going through endlessly altering cycles. It is interesting that, despite the obvious [post] minimalist references, her use of isorhythms and perpetually developing cycles places her in wider Modernist territory throwing up commonalities with composers like Ligeti, Xenakis and Varese and, in the sense of the evolving refractions and multiple unique cycles, Brian Eno too.

Malone is a young American composer and artist who has lived and worked in Stockholm since 2012. Her solo debut explores the use of harmony in psychology, making extensive use of a Buchla 200 Synthesizer and acoustic wind instruments. She experiments with post-minimalist methods and digital synthesis. When not engaged in solo work, she is a member of several experimental groups. Read more about this exciting talented artist at https://www.cafeoto.co.uk/events/kali-malone/

EASTERN FLAVOURS IN NEW MUSIC

In recent editions of Trust-The-Doc I have moaned about the lack of musical diversity and support for new music on BBC Radio 3 and, while one might argue that putting music on at 11PM on a Friday hardly reflects a desire to make the station’s prime time output any less dated and weighted in favour of long-dead composers, at least it shows there is some willingness within the station to embrace diversity. I refer to the decision to invite accomplished British-Indian composer and artist Nitin Sawhney to present a two hour show with Anoushka Shankar as guest artist.

The edition of Music Planet not only enabled Sawhney to showcase Shankar’s virtuoso Sitar playing through a session she recorded with Manu Delago and Danny Keane but also through a compelling duet with Sawhney paying tribute to their respective fathers. Sawhney did not restrict his playlist to Indian or British Asian music though. We were treated to several tracks by Nigerian Jazz icon Fela Kuti, some other flavours from Europe and the Middle East and even some Darius Milhaud, one of my favourite composers from the twentieth century. It was, in every sense, a lovingly and imaginatively programmed show. Listen to the podcast of the show at https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/b0b8bmsk

The following edition of the programme saw Kathryn Tickell hosting with guests Master Musicians of the Aga Khan. It proved to be another excellent, informative and diverse show. So credit where it’s due. Well done BBC Radio 3.

ALL THAT JAZZ

I have been particularly pleased to see an increase in the number of jazz tracks beginning to arrive in the Fresh on the Net Uploader in recent times. I would like to think my championing [and Fresh Faves reviews] of Bristol Jazz Futurists Hippo has inspired others to have a go.

Those others include Brigida HB (https://soundcloud.com/brigida-hb) whose clever and progressive fusion arrived via a track entitled Brexitentialism. For once a track that lived up to its striking tongue-in-cheek title. Brigida HB are from Dublin and describe their sound as electronic music but this track seemed to me to fall under Jazz Futurism. We also had Welsh jazz experimentalists The Death Particle (https://soundcloud.com/thedeathparticle) whose similarly futuristic take on Jazz courtesy of Like stems into the sky is brilliantly and unexpectedly broken up in the mid-section by a semi-classical interlude whose almost pastoral style is a marked contrast to the jagged groove either side. The track is taken from their excellent EP The Tangent Universe. At the opposite end of the spectrum we also had Brazil’s Josiel Konrad (https://soundcloud.com/josielkonrad) whose more traditional South American style on Gafieira Jazz is lifted by scintillating syncopation and Konrad’s breathtaking trombone playing.

SINGER-SONGWRITER DELIVERS IMPRESSIVE EP

It was a pleasant surprise to be contacted by the talented Simon D James (https://soundcloud.com/simondjames) offering me an advance copy of his new EP to review. Songs from a dream long forgotten will surprise those who have only heard the odd recent track by Simon which may have placed him in folkier territory. But a few bars into opening track Burn the man reveals a totally different side, steady beat supporting an appealing chord progression, guitar strumming against robust piano and a dreamy quality to the vocals. It darkens as it leads into the chorus though and the instruments snarl more menacingly. The layering of sounds and building of climaxes is so impressive and engaging. It’s a great start and the right choice for track 1.

Take your time with its long synth notes, female backing vocals and slow tempo is a beautiful slow burner of a song. Dearest Lovely World sees Simon and his female vocal counterpart harmonising in almost Simon & Garfunkel vein. This is a more traditional Folk-Pop track but very melodic.  How do you do? is slower and continues the male-female harmony approach. The little breakdowns work really effectively and the instrumental arrangement is quite exquisite. Lyrically these two tracks share a quiet optimism and appreciation of beauty. 

The 5 track EP ends with In the fields which introduces a chugging livelier backdrop, some simple but tasteful major seven chords that are contrasted by the Celtic Folkiness of the strings and keys. Vocally the theme is reflective but there is an unidentifiable air of melancholy. There are so many flavours here. Folk and Country are among them but it reminds me of so many other artists whose music I have loved over the years. Shades of everything from post-Gabriel era Genesis to Ed Sheeran, shades of Jackson Browne mixing it up with The Wofletones and Danny Wilson. There’s a hint of Bread in there too. I would be interested to know who Simon sees his influences as.

Overall then, a beautifully played and arranged set of songs which a great deal of thought has gone into and for which high standards of musicianship and expression have been maintained. Simon also has a voice that is very easy on the ears and has an appealingly retro quality. Needless to say Songs from a dream long forgotten gets the thumbs up from me. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

REGIONAL RAP ATTACK!!!

Actually that’s a terrible sub-heading for which I apologise because, if there is one thing I can definitely tell you about the artists whose work I am highlighting here, it is that they are much more than just good rappers. Regular Trust-The-Doc readers will know I am a serious advocate of Hull’s King of Northern Grime and Brit Hop Chiedu Oraka (https://soundcloud.com/chiedu-oraka) and his latest track to be produced by his partner-in-grime Deez Kid is an absolutely stonking slice of Electro-Rock infused Brit Hop entitled Grown Up which places Oraka’s defiant and power-driven delivery against a superb backing track and a great echoing hook. As ever Oraka brings his Hull accent and dialect to the forefront. I described him to someone recently as ‘harsh but humorous’. Deez’s production is outstanding too. You seriously should check this out if you want original stand-out artistry and refreshingly Northern Urban vibes.

Meanwhile similar superlatives can easily be thrown the way of Nottingham’s King of East Midlands Grime and Brit Hop Elmz XIX (https://soundcloud.com/elmzxix). His new track Passa Passa sees Elmz bring a Reggae and Calypso undercurrent to his unique style. It has a lovely lilting feel and he mixes up the rapping and vocalising, sometimes accelerating his delivery before returning to a more laid back vibe. It’s an impressive piece of work and underlines his versatility as an artist.

BUOYANT BANTER

I mentioned the excellent debut single by teenage Tring duo Strictly Banter (https://soundcloud.com/user-570135517) in a recent edition of this blog and I am delighted to share the news that their eponymously titled single is released and has already been blazing a trail on Spotify and Applemusic. The excellent video (https://soundcloud.com/user-570135517) is also up on YouTube and is well worth a watch. The track is a collaboration between singer India Foskett and singer-songwriter Josie Featonby-Roberts. Both are 19 so to produce a track that is so well-written, humorous and produced with maximum power and energy is impressive. Josie is off to University in September where she will be studying popular music writing and production so expect to hear plenty more from this talented youngster as she masters even more elements of the whole process from writing to recording to mixing and mastering.

STRIPPING DOWN STEREOTYPES

It is always good to hear artists who are vocal about refusing to slot into convenient pigeon holes designed for them by others. So it is with the unique and engaging talent that is Gaika (https://soundcloud.com/gaikasays). It was actually in a 2016 interview with The Guardian that Gaika made the comment: “If you’re a black guy, you’re supposed to make grime, reggae or coffee-table music”, a statement that neatly spelled out where the Brixton boy was coming from as an artist and writer. His desire to test boundaries and bring unusual elements into his futuristic style was further reinforced by the quasi-gothic imagery and vulnerabilities on display in the video for his first single Blasphemer.

Wind the clock on to 2018 and Gaika has the album Basic Volume coming out on 27th July courtesy of the excellent Warp label. It is a showcase for his versatility, inventiveness and fascination with the different characters he can become and the flavours that ensue. It also involves a number of others in production roles, The preview tracks I have heard bring ambient sounds and intense vocal effects to play, immediately bringing an unsettling intensity to his passionate vocal delivery. The breadth of ideas across his work is exciting and suggests this is going to be an album worth seeking out. I look forward to having that opportunity in a couple of weeks’ time.

FESTIVAL FUN

So it’s time for Latitude 2018. Having played at Latitude myself last year, part of me wishes I could be there again but I’m delighted to see included in the line-up for the BBC Introducing Stage this year artists I have supported through my role with Fresh on the Net in the past eight months such as Ruby Francis, Lewis Bootle, Sam Eagle, Robocobra Quartet, The Recks and Tom Myles. The festival starts on Friday 13th and ends Sunday 15th July so will have just finished when this edition of Trust The Doc is published. There has been a steady stream of tweets and pics from the Introducing Stage since the moment it all got underway and it looks like it has been another fantastic weekend of innovative new music.

Meanwhile one festival I am playing this year is Good Hope Festival in Ladywell Fields on Saturday 21st July; performing as Environmental Sound Foundation (https://soundcloud.com/environmental-sound-foundation/sets/disunited-nations-ep) on the main stage at 1PM.  It’s a charity event and it’s FREE so come down if you are in the area. There will be food and activities as well as live music from 11AM until 8PM. What’s not to like?!

POP SCENE

As always I am going to highlight a few of the interesting artists and bands who have come to my attention via the Fresh on the Net/BBC 6 Music in-box in recent weeks. That is to say artists and bands in addition to those already covered elsewhere in this edition such as Chiedu Oraka, The Death Particle Brigida HB, Josiel Konrad etc.

One band that has certainly caught my ears recently is the enigmatic Lucky Horses (https://soundcloud.com/lucky-horses-963570416) with their irresistible Electro-Psych track Terraces and Discos. It has a dreamy feel to the vocals which repeat their main theme (Hitachi Boys/2-Tone Girls) afloat on a fluid wave of sounds that swirl and interplay all the while driven by a solid echoing drum pattern. I say the enigmatic Lucky Horses because there appears to be precious little about them on the internet other than this fine track. There is a video though (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_C9K69NB5SQ). However no band members appear to be in it so we are none the wiser! Perhaps this review will tease them out of the shadows and we will know more soon. It’s certainly a mightily impressive start.

One band who don’t hide their light under a bushel are Tenerife’s Black Mirror (https://soundcloud.com/blackmirror-music). Serial submitters to the Fresh on the Net in-box, they make lovely, sensitive Pop-Folk with soft female vocal [replete with appealing accent], sweet harmony and beautifully played picking acoustic guitars. Their latest track I’m looking backwards made the Listening Post this weekend which is good news as it is quite beautiful and improves with each listen. Paper House is from earlier in 2018 and sees these qualities adorned by subtle synth lines. My Innocence introduces piano, synth and clever guitar interplay while a male vocal assumes lead duties. There is a great deal of material on their Soundcloud page. If you like mystical Folk-Pop, organic but clever arranging and the aura of vast mountain ranges, they are a must for you to seek out.

Last but definitely not least I am going to talk about Lauran Hibberd (https://soundcloud.com/lauranhibberd). The Indie Rock Pop singer-songwriter from the Isle of Wight has fashioned a sound that is direct and punky (shades of Fuzzbox, Popinjays and others) but melodic and uplifting too. Her latest track Call Shotgun fits this description like a glove and has a simple but undeniable hook. The production is appropriately loud and bristling with energy. Fun like this is slower and has echoes of the Cranberries with its semi-yodel style of vocal and clanging open guitar chords.

The amusingly titled Hunny is this what adults do? is jaunty and more minimalistic, allowing plenty of space for Lauran’s distinct and superbly delivered vocals. Eliza has an almost Rock and Roll drumbeat and is driven along by bright vocals, cool harmonies here and there and guitar chord play occasionally reinforced by vibrato organ.

So plenty to get your teeth into. Lauran has a voice and sound that are distinct and will appeal to fans of energetic melodic Alt Pop and Punk Pop. Check her music out.

CONCLUSION

Well that’s it for Edition 7. Edition 8 will be out on 31st July by which time I hope to have a load more new music to share including a very exciting collaboration involving the super-talented Chloë March. Until then …… Neil xxxx